Bill Arnal Reviews Crossley’s Jesus in an Age of Terror

Check it out at RBL. Readers will recall my own review for The Nashua Public Library blog, and of course there was the colorful review on this blog by Leonard Ridge.

Here’s Arnal’s commentary on Crossley’s Context-Group bashing:

“…Crossley goes after the Context Group for promoting Orientalist scholarship (disclosure: I am a member of the Context Group, though not an active one). It is, in the first place, unclear why this particular group of scholars is being singled out for scrutiny when there are so many potential foci for Crossley’s analyses; the work of the Context Group (as Crossley admits at points) is hardly consistent in its Orientalism, nor hardly the most egregious example of such an approach. Crossley’s point is certainly well taken that broad characterizations of ‘Mediterranean’ culture as, for example, rather timelessly based on honor-shame tend to play into and confirm stereotypes about a contemporary ‘clash of civilizations.’ But does this have any real bearing on the motivations of the scholars who reconstruct such anthropological models? Are such motivations even relevant? Indeed, does the potential misuse of these models (even by their own authors) have any implications at all either for their accuracy or their utility in the analysis of ancient Mediterranean cultural artifacts (which is, after all, what they are being used for)? Crossley needs to provide satisfactory answers to these questions.”

Bill is one of the panelists who will be reviewing Crossley’s book in Atlanta this November (the others being Mark Goodacre, Zeba Crook, and Roland Boer). I’m looking forward to the session. Zeba Crook is a Context Group member and will naturally have some interesting things to say. I didn’t know that Bill himself was a (non-active) member of the group until reading this review.

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8 thoughts on “Bill Arnal Reviews Crossley’s Jesus in an Age of Terror

  1. Given our previous email correspondence, I thought you might be interested to know that, at the past SBL conference, I did leaf through Crossley's book and read his critique of me. In light of the RBL review, I decided to post a brief response on my blog that you might be interested in. I am definitely not interested in generating any kerfuffle over it as you know but felt that a personal response was appropriate for anybody who decides to follow-up Crossley's critique with a visit to my blog.

  2. Thanks for this, Ken. I didn't follow your political discussions (critiqued by James) that closely, but do remember you being a professed libertarian. In light of that (and there are plenty of libertarians here in New Hampshire), I knew you couldn't be anything close to a devotee of George W!

    Of course, as a liberal slightly to the left of center, neither am I, nor are most scholars of the Context Group (some of whom I know to be very liberal and left-wing), and James' point is that models and rhetoric can play into the hands of our “enemies” despite ourselves. I agree with his point, but as I've said before, I think it's mostly irrelevant. We shouldn't be masking truth out of fear of making unwitting allies, and if stereotypes are accurate, as they sometimes are, we need to say so.

  3. Loren,
    nice to see this little thread just after having returned from a twoweek holiday in Tunisia. I fear that me and James Crossley would be at loggerheads which each other about a lot of my views on arabs. It is quite tiresome to see scholars like James bow to political correctness and question the motives of other people who have reached other conclusions than himself. Sometimes stereotypes about a group of people are really not far off the mark. Like the stereotype that arabs generally have a horribly skewed view about Jews and not the least about how things generally work on this planet. Being with arabs many times reminds me of being in a cage with a thousand parrots were all repeat the same refrain that Darwinism is an invention of the Devil and we in the West have got it all wrong. And if James and his likeminded fellows may want to club me in the head for being so straightforward and inpolitically correct I may remind James and the other fellows that I have probably set foot in more Arab countries than James will ever see in his whole life and met more arabs than James can ever dream about 🙂

  4. Hi Antonio,

    And if James and his likeminded fellows may want to club me in the head for being so straightforward and inpolitically correct I may remind James and the other fellows that I have probably set foot in more Arab countries than James will ever see in his whole life and met more arabs than James can ever dream about 🙂

    I often point out the same thing about the Context Group members, one of whom I know lived on the West Bank for years. Living in reality does put things in perspective, doesn't it?

  5. “Living in reality does put things in perspective, doesn't it?”

    It sure does. Unfortunately all too many academics, not the least islamologists in European and American, confuse their theories about how things should be and their wishful thinking with reality. They rather prefer to talk to other academics on conferences than to talk to the common man on the street or in a watepipe café about his views on things on this planet. Among islamologists I think John Esposito and Jan Hjärpe here in Sweden are prime examples of this kind of disease.

  6. Ken IS a devotee of George W. (he defended the Iraq war and Mike Moore's scating indictment of Bush in Fahrenhet 9/11 like a zealot on http://www.filmleaf.net in 2004)

    I should know. I had to endure that horrifying “opinion” in a disgusting debate that is archived for posterity. Read it in full. It's awesome.
    Has Ken “flip-flopped” on Bush since then? Who knew?
    -Jason Shier (Johann)

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