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Jesus and the Galilean Crisis: Interpretation, Reception, and History

Ferda, Tucker S. (2016) Jesus and the Galilean Crisis: Interpretation, Reception, and History. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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19th-century attempts to reconstruct the historical Jesus often featured the theory of a “Galilean crisis.” The crisis theory held, in general, that Jesus’ public career passed through sequential stages of friendly and hostile reception, and further contended that growing opposition to Jesus led to certain changes in his theology, outlook, or rhetorical tone. The purpose of this dissertation is to investigate the origins of this idea, its interpretive logic in the Gospels, and the historical value of the hypothesis (if any) for contemporary study of the historical Jesus.

The three main contributions of the project are as follows. First, the study fills a lacuna in the history of scholarship, since the crisis theory is typically treated briefly, if at all, in surveys of Jesus research. What is more, when mention is made of it, descriptions of its background and origin are often rife with misunderstanding. This dissertation will challenge conventional periodizations of Jesus scholarship, and significantly widen the scope of research in pre-modern sources, by arguing that the crisis theory is in many ways a historical “solution” to preexisting interpretive “problems” in the reading of the Gospels.

Second, it will be argued that the interpretive and even historical logic of the crisis theory is still very much a part of current scholarship. The notion that we posit a change in historical context to resolve certain theological tensions in the Gospel tradition—and particularly that we periodize or stratify those tensions in our sources—parallels numerous projects in New Testament studies in remarkable ways. This discussion will enable one to see continuity where histories of research have tended to stress discontinuity.

Thirdly, the project will contend that, although the crisis theory is in many ways a failed hypothesis in the macro, it raises questions that current Jesus research has largely been content to ignore. The final chapters will reflect on the question of the consistency of Jesus throughout his ministry, the notion of a “Galilean spring,” and the suggestion that the tradition is marked by a struggle to respond to growing opposition and the rejection of his message.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Ferda, Tucker S.tsf8@pitt.eduTSF8
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee CoChairAllison, Dale C.
Committee CoChairCreach,
Committee MemberChilson,
Committee MemberJones,
Committee MemberShear, Adamashear@pitt.eduASHEAR
Committee MemberMarcus,
Date: 6 June 2016
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 29 February 2016
Approval Date: 6 June 2016
Submission Date: 8 March 2016
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 509
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Religion (Cooperative Program in the study of)
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Galilean crisis, Gospel, historical Jesus, history of scholarship, history of New Testament criticism, reception history of the Bible
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2016 14:27
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 14:31


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