Ron: Hello everyone. This is your host, Ron Way, way for Author Talk and the Rising Light Media Group. Today I have the pleasure of bringing back an author that we started interviewing last week, so if this is the first one you've heard, go to the website, authortalk.audio, and listen to part one first because then this whole thing will come together in the way it should. You can listen to hear too. You don't have to worry about that.
We also have the transcripts there too, so you can see the transcripts. If you'd rather read, you can read faster than we speak. That's okay too. We're going to review, pick up on part two of the interview with Trevan Hatch, T-R-E-V-A-N H-A-T-C-H, and we're going to talk about his book. It's called A Stranger in Jerusalem. There's also his subtitle, Seeing Jesus as a Jew, which we spend a lot of time talking about in the first session. Trevan is a biblical studies and religious studies specialist in the Lee library at Brigham Young University and an adjunct instructor in the department of ancient scriptures.
His formal training and primary expertise is in Jewish studies, which is why I picked up his book in the first place, because Jesus was, above all things, a Jew. Is that right, Trevan?
Trevan Hatch: Yeah, that's right. I appreciate you having me back.
Oh, welcome back. It's great fun. I went so fast, didn't it? I mean the first session just went crazy fast and it just does because we're talking about things that interest all of us. All right. Let me scroll down here because I got to pick up where we left off. We were talking about the gospels and the chronology and how they were written, when they were written, and I think I'll just summarize real quickly if you don't mind. Trevan.
The first gospel was written about 70 AD. You got to remember, the Jewish temple had just been destroyed because they mentioned that in the gospels, most scholars think that's about when it was written. The other thing that happened is the Jews had been just utterly destroyed in and around Jerusalem. If there were any Christians still left from the original church, we probably lost them. Either they were killed or they were hauled off, which many, many, many Jews in Jerusalem were hauled off into slavery and we never heard from them again.
Then the first writings we get are from Paul. Paul was writing in the '50s, probably killed in the early '20s in Rome, and so we have the letters and we're trying to piece that together with what came later because 20 years after Paul in about 70 AD we get the first gospel of Mark. Then Matthew and Luke come along and they copy a large hunk of Mark so we know they have the written Mark in front of them because quotes, and then we get John, which is a really what we call high Christology. It has morphed a great deal from the original Jewish humble beginnings of the Jewish faith in the Messiah, to God creature that was there before even there was the beginning of the beginning with God was with Jesus at that time.
I didn't write this down, Trevan, but you might talk a little bit about that because ... Talk about how that morphed from Jesus being born simply to him being ... and not the Messiah, and he was ... In some of the gospels, he becomes the Messiah or enlightenment comes when he goes to the Jordan River. And then again at the later on it becomes from the very beginning of time. Could you just talk a little about the history of this?
Trevan Hatch: You mean when as Jesus, as he see changes ... as it changes in the text of his relationship as a Messiah?
Yeah, the farther away from the original Jewish Messiah we go, to John at the last and maybe even Acts, there's some discussion it could be early second century or late first century. And that was written by Luke. Acts is basically one author. But tell how ... I mean, Mark, we don't even have a beginning and we certainly don't have the risen Christ. So, walk us through the gospels and how they became how we now see him when it started, where he went to the ... and the dove alighted upon his shoulders, to John where it was way before the beginning of time. He was already God.
Yeah, it's a fascinating discussion. It really is a good case study. I use this with my students to show them, with this one example, to show them how things grow and evolve. And so we start with some of the earliest texts and even before, as you mentioned, Paul's writing before the gospels, we start in some of those texts like you get in the book of Romans, even pre-Pauline texts, where we have to ask how do we know that they're pre Pauline? Well it's because he's quoting earlier ideas. And so these traditions have come before, but in some of those traditions, Jesus was not thought of in terms of high Christology or even being like God, right?
He didn't become God's son, is the word language they used, until his resurrection in some of the earliest traditions. Then we move forward in time and then we get to Acts and still there's this language of when he's resurrected, then that's when God says, "Today I've begotten you." And so it seems like what they knew at that time or what they thought is that he wasn't at that status, sort of semi-divine or divine status. And then as we move forward, we get into the '60s and into Mark and he starts right off at the baptism as you mentioned. He doesn't care about the birth.
What happens with Jesus baptism? Well it seems that that's the time when God says, "Today, you know, Jesus says, I've gotten Jesus, he's my son." He's adopted in or he's pronounced to be the, with the status of what later Christians would put him as. But then as we go forward, you get to Matthew and to Luke and John, they keep pushing it back and back. So whereas the early texts have Jesus becoming God's son or becoming like God at his resurrection, by the time you get to Matthew and Luke, it's at his birth and they're using language, you know, "Emmanuel, God is with us," as a baby child ... And then of course, as you said, by the time you get to John, which traditionally is dated the latest, he's pushing Jesus's divine status back into preexistence.
So what we're saying when I show my students this is ... We do this today, all throughout the middle ages and even today, we are thinking through the theology of what is God to us and what does this mean? It's the same thing with the early Christians. Some Christians, many Christians want the text to be a lot more uniform and a lot more clear. But I think that's an unrealistic expectation because even the people at that time are wrestling with their theology and who is Jesus? Well, if he's GOd or they thought he was God, well surely he can't just be God at his resurrection. He has to be God always, and you can see them wrestling and struggling with that idea.
I think we need to be sensitive of that and not impose any sort of rigid theology we have. I mean, it's very difficult for our students and for Christians or anybody to not do that, but I think we have to keep that in mind.
Ron: I want to ask you kind of a dicey question probably for you, because I know in interviewing enough authors now to know you don't like to ... you'll give us your scholarly opinion, but you rarely give us your personal opinions, yet that makes you human. And I think by the way I read this question, you'll understand what I think. It comes clearly, and you can say, "Ron, I respectfully decline," of course, and we'll end the conversation. But don't worry about that. No, here's the question. I'm kidding with you and I want to take you out of that historian's role, which you love to be, is safe. I'm interested in your own personal opinion. You've studied this teacher from Galilee for a whole lifetime, right? Or most of your life.
Trevan Hatch: Yeah, long time.
Ron: Right, and I have too. How do you think that Jesus that walked and taught and talked in the first century and ate with the peasants and talked to them and went to the bathroom there out on the road. He was a part of this Jewish world, which is a peasant world. How do you think he would react when you fast forward to the early second century or third century, even today, if he ran up against headlong into what he became? The John, if you will. He he was God incarnate. I'll shut up. I just want to hear what you think.
Trevan Hatch: That's a big question. Well, the, I guess the way can start ... I'll evade a little bit. I'll answer that question with how I talk through it, just even very bluntly in the book, and a way to get to that question is to consider what Matthew and Mark and Luke and Paul, what they thought and what their writings were. And I use this as a way to talk about how we as Christians ... you know, with my students, because I teach at a religious based university. So I say, "Is it possible?" And this is a kind of a starting point to talk about our faith and how we think through these as scripture and God discussions.
But if we went back in time and we asked Paul or we asked the author of Matthew, you know, were you writing what you thought was scripture? In what you were writing, did you imagine this to be on the level of Genesis or Isaiah that would the text, it would be preserved and revered for thousands of years. And I'm not sure they would say yes. I think they would just say, well no. This is a letter. Paul would say this is a letter to this group of people. Yes, we're talking about Jesus. But they might say that that's pretty surprising that in 2000 years this will be seen as absolute ultimate facts.
So when I start to get my students and even me with them and in a very vulnerable setting and say, "Look, what do we think about scripture? What do we think about God?" Sometimes if we can imagine them being surprised at how we've twisted and spun or, or I don't know, used hyperbole or exaggerated, I think they would be a little bit taken aback. Who knows?
Ron: I agree.
Trevan Hatch: As far as Jesus, I think there are definitely ... Just personally, I think if ... There's a lot of Christians that have asked this question, if Jesus came today, would it be a Christian and would he recognize Christianity?
Ron: Right, right, exactly.
Trevan Hatch: I definitely think he would be upset at some of it. Not all of Christianity. I don't want to make everybody mad, but you take any different Christian group, Protestant, Catholic, whatever it is, and there's different elements embedded with all of our faith communities where I think he would say, "You got to knock that off. I don't approve of that. I don't like it. It's missed the point."
But I think even stating that makes us, if we can open up our mind and think of Jesus possibly that, or even think of Paul and Matthew saying, "Well, what you've done with my text is not what I anticipated or what I even think is appropriate," allows us to be a little bit introspective and maybe even rein in some of where we might have overreached and it creates some humility and to go back to the drawing board and reevaluate. Not a wholesale, we don't need to throw out Jesus's divinity or anything like that, but maybe be a little bit more humble in our claims, which will then allow us to talk to other groups, other Christian groups, and even other Jews and make a lot more progress even with our own theology.
Ron: You know what surprise ... Just a quick aside, about a quarter to a third of our audience that are going to be listening to this as you and I speak, are Muslim, which fascinates me and I hear from them all the time because we have to remember that there are others listening to this and that's kind of the goal is to make this available for many faiths because, remember, he was a holy man for them. The Christians call him God or God-like and in the Muslims think he was a great prophet, but they're fascinated by the historical Jesus, just like we are.
Trevan Hatch: I love it.
Ron: So open the minds, open our minds. Not everybody's bad and good or black and white. One statement that you made in here ... there are so many. I just can't even ... we're going through. We're half done already again, but I love this sentence you wrote, quote, "many Christians pay lip service to the fact that Jesus was Jewish, which to them means that he was Jewish at a distance." I love that. You state his relationship with Judaism is a bit more complex than the Christian world has understood. You say that the Jews did not reject and kill Jesus and that Jesus did not reject and condemn the Jews. Explain what you mean.
Trevan Hatch: Yeah, that's a great question. I spent a lot of time with people on this and it's hard because when I speak to different groups and usually only have maybe 45 minutes to an hour and sometimes I want to talk about the single question of Pharisees and it takes me 45 minutes to lay out the argument that I don't think Jesus and Pharisees were enemies. And in fact not only that, I think they were very close friends and it's not just some crackpot theory from a scholar who's trying to grasp. We laid out all the passages. We've analyzed every single one of them. I'm a social scientist and a biblical scholar. I have doctoral degrees in both, or almost finished with my second doctorate in Bible and early Judaism, so I approach the world of Jesus with ... and the questions I have are questions that a social scientist asks.
The type of questions of hierarchy, dominance hierarchy, and how people relate to power. And what I'm seeing as I go through all of these passages of Jesus's relationship with Pharisees or even Jesus's relationship with Judas or countryside peasant Jews or the temple aristocrats. Aside from the aristocrats, I'm seeing that he is very friendly. He's with them all the time. He's debating. Jewish debate is typical. They would do this at mealtime symposia. They would do this at temple. When I say that Jesus didn't reject Judaism and Jews didn't reject Jesus, I've gone through the text and I've made notes of every single time there was a positive interaction between a Jew and Jesus or a group of Jews and Jesus or a Pharisee and Jesus, and it blows out of the water the number of times where there's a negative interaction.
Some of those negative interactions like in Matthew 23 where he's just ... it's very bloody verbally towards Pharisees, but those single passages or those single chapters seem to overshadow the dozens upon dozens or even hundreds of positive encounters. And so there's too many details to go through here, but I don't see Jesus ... I even see Jesus as if Pharisaic type Jew. Hee wasn't a Pharisee per se, he was a Pharisaic type Jew. I see him as teaching within a Jewish context, not to shake the beehive and being an iconoclast. He's really trying to teach them what they're used to and the different customs and laws they're used to.
I don't see the Jewish populace trying to kill him. That's very clear that it was a very specific group for a specific reason. And then I'll just add in really quick that in some of my later chapters ... Actually I do this all throughout the book, is I reach ahead a couple of centuries into the rabbis. The writings of the rabbis and I pull out parables of theirs or teachings of theirs that are extremely similar to Jesus's, and even talk about ... they know Jesus, they talk about Jesus, and this is a fact. People have written on this. Jesus is in the Talmud, not always positive, but the fact is they know who he is and the point that I make in the book is that if Jesus was so radical to Judaism, then the rabbis wouldn't be either appropriating or borrowing some of his teachings or echoing some of his teachings and not just a few. This happens a lot.
I don't think he's so radical that Jews would find him problematic. I think if it weren't for Christianity becoming a worldwide religion, I think Rabbi Jesus, his teachings would have been preserved in the Talmud the same way Hanina ben Dosa and some of these other other rabbis are in Galilee. Their teachings were preserved. I think Jesus's would have been preserved also.
Ron: I never ever thought about that. I mean, I knew it, but I guess I just didn't put the two ends together. That's great. I find that a lot of the very earliest we know about the Jews from Josephus, right? Tell the audience a little bit about Josephus because he even mentions him in passing. We think maybe that was an altered passage, but at least he mentioned him all the way back in the first century too, which is extra biblical.
Trevan Hatch: Josephus is interesting because if it weren't for him, we wouldn't know next to nothing. And here's a guy who names his oldest son after the old Hasmonean King Hyrcanus, and so he's sort of in a more a aristocratic family, becomes a general in the during the Jewish war, but then later he's commissioned by Rome to write a history of the Jews. So now he's sort of caught between a rock and a hard place similar to what the gospel writers experienced. Here he is trying to say, "Okay. I can't just ..." We don't know if he ... some scholars expected, but we don't know if he's completely pro ... He's a Jew who's pro-Rome or if he wants to favor Jews, but he tries to do both.
He tries to explain, okay, here's the Jewish history, and he tries to tell Rome that Jews aren't that bad or some of the Jews might've been bad and I think he's criticizing Pharisees because he's sort of from a Sadducean family or aristocratic family. He doesn't seem to like Pharisees that much, and on the flip side, he has to explain to Jews that the Romans aren't so bad and it really is difficult to write a history where you're trying to speak to two audiences, and the gospel writers are doing the same thing. They're speaking to Gentiles and Jews, but Josephus is very, very important. I recommend him to anybody to just kind of read through. Or even Steve Mason. He's a scholar who wrote a book called Josephus and the New Testament.
Maybe read that one if you don't want to read all of Josephus's books, and he gives you a sense of how Josephus is important. He knows John the Baptist, he knows about at least a little bit about Jesus, and so it's a good case study to find out what an author ... after the destruction of the temple, how they would write, and also all the details they give us about world of Jesus.
Ron: Right. And that's where we get a lot of the history, the Jewish history, because he really was the first one that we can ... I mean other than in the Bible itself or the Torah and the commentaries. The other one, and we touched a bit about him, but if you could just say a few more words, because there's hardly a more formative individual in the first century, in the first few decades of Christianity than Paul. Can you just talk a little bit about how Paul and how he interacted with the original church? And this is before the gospels. So just give us a little background because most people don't ... I know they read the letters but it doesn't mean anything.
Trevan Hatch: Yeah. Paul is very important. Very interesting too, because here's somebody who comes along who seems to be ... He kind of has seems to have this chip on his shoulder. But here's a big personality. Someone who was a Pharisee, and because he was a Pharisee, we know we can sort of assume that he has a certain understanding of Jewish law and purity and table fellowship. In the rabbinic writings, they seem to emphasize the Pharisees were a table fellowship group, I mean they use that ... That was sort of an extension of the temple and the synagogue, to debate and sit around, kind of like the philosophers.
So this is what Pharisees did and Paul was one of those ardent Pharisees, and he still was even after ... He didn't reject his Pharisees, and in fact he uses ... I'm glad you mentioned Paul because it illustrates a point we already made that he uses his Pharisaic background as a badge of honor and as he was traveling around the Roman Empire, if he's talking to some Jews, he says, "I'm trained as a Pharisee and my teacher was Gamaliel," and he's using this is to say, "Look, I mean, you guys will ..."
Obviously using this because he thinks his audience will respond positively to it, but then there seems to be ... The reason why he has a chip on his shoulder is because there's people from Jerusalem who goes out and we don't ... he doesn't say specifically who these are, but we can infer that they're probably Pharisees because in Acts 15 Pharisees are in Jerusalem. It says some of them are followers of Jesus and they're involved in discussions in the early church about whether people should be ... "You converts, Gentile converts should be circumcised. Should we bring them in and should they be Jews or should they just stay Gentiles and be followers of Jesus?"
And the thing about Paul's relationship with Peter and James and John is it gets a little dicey. It gets a little contentious because he talks about this in Galatians and Philippians where he seems to be upset that they're not helping him teach Gentiles the way he wants to and bringing them in. And so even though he's a big personality, even though he adds a lot to Christian theology, it's not without some controversy or even scandal where he's upset with Peter, James and there ... People can read about this in Galatians, they can read about it in Acts 15, of these big debates in Jerusalem on what role Paul plays, what role Peter and James play, what direction should the church go into? Whether we stay Jewish or bring Gentiles in and what type of person, what type of a follower a Gentile should be. So this is why Paul is very important. Again, big personality and doesn't see eye to eye always with the Jerusalem establishment.
Ron: Right, and I think that sometimes the big arguments that you read about in these letters, because again, remind everybody that these were written to a specific church for a specific reason because they were having contention in the church, within the people. And because the followers, the Judaizers, he says were following in his trail right behind trying to bring them back into the Jewish side of the faith.
The other contentious thing, I think, with Paul is ... I mean he's very blunt in saying, "I didn't get this from any teacher. I didn't get this from ... I got this direct knowledge from God, from Jesus or God and, I have the vision. You didn't. And so this is the new faith," which I think would have riled anyone from the original church who walked and talked with the man called Jesus the rabbi.
Trevan Hatch: Yeah, and as a sociologist, I love looking at this and, the politics of it because yeah, Paul is upset and it's kind of strange that when he's going out and he's several hundred miles away from Jerusalem, it seems kind of strange if he's saying, "Look, I didn't go to Jerusalem except for once in 14 years, and when I finally went, I only saw two people and I only stayed for 15 days." It's like he's trying to prove something. He's trying to pander to his audience, saying, "Don't worry, I'm not one of them. I'm on your side."
And so then we have to ask, "Well, why is he saying that? And why does he think his audience cares about that and what's the whole issue anyway?" Well, you have a riff. You have the problem starting to happen within the early church, and so there's a ... I just thought of this, there's a real quick ... your readers can probably ... or your listeners can probably check out a book called When Prophets Die. I forget the author, but a scholar looks at when Muhammad dies or when Jesus died and other other types of prophets. He shows that there's a rift and there's a fracturing, and in any group.
And so when Jesus dies, it's expected that there's going to be a bunch of spinoff and debates on law and authority. It's exactly what we see in the early Christian movement in the decades after Jesus' death.
Ron: And Trevan, I apologize, but we've gone through another whole session and it's gone so fast.
Trevan Hatch: Darn.
Ron: Darn is right. We could go on and have taped four or five of these. Folks, that's it for today. We've run out of time, and so I want to take this opportunity to once again thank you, Trevan Hatch, for your fascinating book called A Stranger in Jerusalem, and now you can see this is fascinating stuff folks. And Trevan, I have to tell you, you write so that the layperson can read this and understand it. It isn't footnotes up the yin yang so that ... you know, that scholars tend to write. This is made for you and me, folks. So if you get the book, A Stranger in Jerusalem, Trevan Hatch, you'll thank me and you'll thank him for writing it. Thank you, Trevan. I really appreciate you showing up and doing a double here for me. I'm very grateful. Thank you.
Trevan Hatch: Thanks, Ron, it was fun. I appreciate it. Thank you.
Ron: Until next time then, folks, I'll take this opportunity to thank you all for tuning in and listening to another exploration into the mind, the fascinating mind of a man studying the very beginnings of the Christian faith. Don't hesitate to look through our extensive list of authors on our website because they're fascinating. They're all fascinating people to me. Anyway, I appreciate you taking the time today to listen to us, and I hope that you tune in again. For now, this is Ron Way for Author Talk and Rising Light Media saying goodbye.