Chilton, Bruce 1949–

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Chilton, Bruce 1949–

PERSONAL: Born September 27, 1949, in Roslyn, NY; son of Bruce D. (a telephone engineer) and Virginia Marie Chilton; married Odile Sevault, July 3, 1982; children: Samuel, Henry. Education: Bard College, A.B., 1971; General Theological Seminary, M.Div., 1974; St. John's College, Cambridge University, Ph.D., 1976. Politics: "Social democrat." Religion: "Anglican/Evangelical/Catholic." Hobbies and other interests: Squash, birds, French culture, detective fiction, dirigibles.

ADDRESSES: Office—Institute of Advanced Theology, Bard College, P.O. Box 5000, Annandale, NY 12504. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: University of Sheffield, Sheffield, England, lecturer in biblical studies, 1976–85; Yale University, New Haven, CT, Lillian Claus Professor of New Testament, 1985–87; Bard College, Annandale, NY, Bernard Iddings Professor of Religion, 1987–; Institute of Advanced Theology, founder and executive director; Church of St. John the Evangelist, Barrytown, NY, rector, 1987–.

MEMBER: Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, Society of Biblical Literature, Akademie der Wissen-schaften, La Courtoisie francaise, Ecumenical Commission of the Diocese of New York, Institute for Biblical Research, British Association for Jewish Studies.

AWARDS, HONORS: Heinrich Hertz Scholar (Germany); Asher Edelman Fellow, Bard College; Bishop Henry Martin Memorial Lecturer, University College of Emmanuel and St. Chad; Evangelical Fellow, Pew Charitable Trusts.


The Glory of Israel: The Theology and Provenience of the Isaiah Targum, JSOT Press (Sheffield, England), 1983.

(Editor and author of introduction) The Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus, Fortress Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1984.

A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible: Jesus' Own Interpretation of Isaiah, SPCK (London, England), 1984.

Targumic Approaches to the Gospels: Essays in the Mutual Definition of Judaism and Christianity, University Press of America (Lanham, MD), 1986.

Beginning New Testament Study, SPCK (London, England), 1986, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1987.

(Translator and author of introduction and notes) The Isaiah Targum, M. Glazier (Wilmington, DE), 1987.

(With J.I.H. McDonald) Jesus and the Ethics of the Kingdom, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1988.

Profiles of a Rabbi: Synoptic Opportunities in Reading about Jesus, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1989.

The Temple of Jesus: His Sacrificial Program within a Cultural History of Sacrifice, Pennsylvania University Press (University Park, PA), 1992.

A Feast of Meanings: Eucharistic Theologies from Jesus through Johannine Circles, E.J. Brill (New York, NY), 1994.

(Editor, with Craig A. Evans) Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research, E.J. Brill (New York, NY), 1994.

Judaic Approaches to the Gospel, Scholars Press (Atlanta, GA), 1994.

(Editor, with Jacob Neusner and Alan J. Avery-Peck) Judaism in Late Antiquity, 6 volumes, E.J. Brill (New York, NY), 1995–2001.

(With Jacob Neusner) Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and Beliefs, Routledge (New York, NY), 1995.

(With Jacob Neusner) Revelation: The Torah and the Bible, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 1995.

Pure Kingdom: Jesus' Vision of God, Eerdmans (Grand Rapids, MI), 1996.

(With Jacob Neusner) The Body of Faith: Israel and the Church, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 1996.

(With Jacob Neusner) Trading Places: The Intersecting Histories of Judaism and Christianity, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 1996.

(With Jacob Neusner) The Intellectual Foundations of Christian and Jewish Discourse: The Philosophy of Religious Argument, Routledge (New York, NY), 1997.

Jesus' Prayer and Jesus' Eucharist: His Personal Practice of Spirituality, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 1997.

(Editor, with Jacob Neusner) Trading Places Sourcebook: Readings in the Intersecting Histories of Judaism and Christianity, Pilgrim Press (Cleveland, OH), 1997.

(With Jacob Neusner) God in the World, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 1997.

(With Craig A. Evans) Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity, and Restoration, Brill (New York, NY), 1997.

Jesus' Baptism and Jesus' Healing: His Personal Practice of Spirituality, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 1998.

(With Jacob Neusner) Jewish-Christian Debates: God, Kingdom, Messiah, Fortress Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1998.

(With Jacob Neusner) Types of Authority in Formative Christianity and Judaism, Routledge (New York, NY), 1999.

(Editor, with Craig A. Evans) James the Just and Christian Origins, Brill (Boston, MA), 1999.

(Editor, with Craig A. Evans) Authenticating the Words of Jesus, Brill (Boston, MA), 1999.

(Editor, with Craig A. Evans) Authenticating the Activities of Jesus, Brill (Boston, MA), 1999.

(With Jacob Neusner) Comparing Spiritualities: Formative Christianity and Judaism on Finding Life and Meeting Death, Trinity Press International (Valley Forge, PA), 2000.

Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2000.

(With Jacob Neusner) Jewish and Christian Doctrines: The Classics Compared, Routledge (New York, NY), 2000.

(Editor, with Jacob Neusner) The Brother of Jesus: James the Just and His Mission, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 2001.

(With Jacob Neusner and William Graham) Three Faiths: One God: The Formative Faith and Practice of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Brill Academic (Boston, MA), 2002.

Redeeming Time: The Wisdom of Ancient Jewish and Christian Festal Calendars, Hendrickson Publishers (Peabody, MA), 2002.

(With Craig Evans and Jacob Neusner) The Missing Jesus: Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament, Brill Academic (Boston, MA), 2002.

Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2004.

(With Jacob Neusner) Classical Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism: Comparing Theologies, Baker Academic (Grand Rapids, MI), 2004.

Mary Magdalene: A Biography, Doubleday (New York, NY), 2005.

(Editor, with Jacob Neusner) Altruism in World Religions, Georgetown University Press (Washington, DC), 2005.

(Editor, with Craig Evans) The Missions of James, Peter, and Paul: Tensions in Early Christianity, Brill Academic (Boston, MA), 2005.

Contributor to The Ethics of Family Life: What Do We Owe One Another?, Making an Honest Living: What Do We Owe the Community?, and The Life of Virtue: What Do We Owe Ourselves?, all edited by Jacob Neusner and published by Wadsworth/Thomson Learning (Belmont, CA), 2001.

SIDELIGHTS: Bruce Chilton is both a professor of religion and a priest who has written and edited numerous works that explore difficult theological issues, including how Christianity emerged from Judaism and how it intersects with other world religions. His scholarship frequently focuses on the original, Aramaic teachings of Jesus and on giving historical perspective to the events of the New Testament. He frequently collaborates with Jacob Neusner, a prolific and renowned scholar of rabbinic Judaism, and some of their best-known works include Altruism in World Religions and Judaism in the New Testament: Practices and Beliefs, which Journal of Ecumenical Studies reviewer Regina A. Boisclair said "explores a fresh approach to Christian origins."

Chilton once told CA: "Each of my books represents a question addressed or an idea tested. Sometimes it has been necessary to work in a technical idiom, and especially to wrestle with the original languages. But common sense is often the best idiom for historical work, and several of my books are semi-popular. Over time, several basic themes have emerged which amount to a new approach to the New Testament. First, Jesus understood the Kingdom of God as in the Targums, Aramaic paraphrases of the Bible: the kingdom was God's presence among his people. Second, these same Targums are the background of many of Jesus' teachings. Third, the gospels took shape much as Rabbinic literature did. Fourth, the Judaic concept of purity is pivotal for the understanding of Jesus. Fifth and finally, Jesus envisioned a comprehensive transformation of human relations."

In Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, Chilton develops these central themes. He writes that Jesus was radicalized by the social disapproval he endured as a child conceived out of wedlock, and that he was inspired to new thinking about purity by the teachings of John the Baptist. Many critics noted the unconventional aspects of Chilton's depiction. In National Catholic Reporter, Arthur Jones observed that Chilton's argument is challenging, but added that the author's portrayal of Jesus as a "wild and scruffy and hungry" teenager and an "edgy" adult is ultimately "enthralling" and "one heck of a good read." Library Journal reviewer David Bourquin found the book "bold and fascinating" and "wonderfully fresh." Contributors to Publishers Weekly and Booklist, however, considered Rabbi Jesus more speculative than convincing—an argument also made by Los Angeles Times Book Review contributor Zachary Karabell, who commented that "Chilton is a fluid writer of great erudition," but complained that the author's authoritative stance precludes alternative interpretations of his material. Deeming it "a stimulating study," Matt A. Jackson-McCabe observed in Journal of Religion that Chilton's earlier book, Pure Kingdom: Jesus' Vision of God, "also reminds us that doubts regarding our ability to definitively recover the 'historical Jesus' from the extant sources—whether 'fashionable' or not—are well-founded." By contrast, in the Jerusalem Post, Jacob Neusner characterizes Rabbi Jesus as a "masterpiece of religious narrative" which deliberately "marks a genuinely new and important step beyond the now-faltering historical Jesus movement…. [Chilton delivers] an alternative to the positivist lives of Jesus that pick and choose and come up with a minor figure. But in his independence of mind and imagination, he also transcends the harmonies of the Gospels and the constructions of fundamentalism."

Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography serves as a companion volume to Rabbi Jesus, and Chilton uses the letters Paul wrote to the early churches as the basis for his research. Along the way, Chilton creates portraits of Peter and James, Paul's primary competitors, and delineates the complicated history of how the early Christian church evolved from the Jewish traditions of the day. "Getting a handle on the quixotic Paul is a monumental job, but Chilton hangs on quite well," wrote Ilene Cooper in Booklist, who also admired the way Chilton discusses Paul's inconsistencies, especially his ungenerous attitudes toward women. In examining Paul's strengths and prejudices, Chilton becomes "speculative at times," according to a critic for Kirkus Reviews, who ultimately concluded that the book is "illuminating." According to Patrick Marrin, a reviewer for the National Catholic Reporter, the book gives evidence of Chilton's careful research and his high regard for the man who was a monumental force in the transition of the church.

Chilton's Mary Magdalene: A Biography was one of his first books written especially for a broad audience, many of whom were fascinated anew with religion following the success of Dan Brown's novel The Da Vinci Code. Mary Magdalene has been deemed by many as "the apostle to the apostles," and her role in the early years of Christianity has been reevaluated by historians of the Bible, who are now giving her more credit for her influence and teachings than did scholars of previous centuries. Gone is the idea that Magdalene was a prostitute, and in its place is her significance as a healer. Though hard evidence is scant, Chilton paints a portrait of Mary Magdalene as a poor woman, possibly a hairdresser, who was initially possessed by demons and who came to occupy a unique spot in the male hierarchy of the day. Jesus apparently appreciated her strength, but after his death she was shunted by Peter and the other apostles into a minor role. As evidence, Chilton explores the Gnostic Gospels and other documents of the early and medieval churches, in a book described as "straightforward" and "bold" by a critic for Kirkus Reviews, who likewise appreciated how "the author's careful survey serves as a useful corrective to Dan Brown's fiction." Yet Karen A. Barta, writing in America, took issue with much of Chilton's speculation about Magdalene, stating that his conclusions strain the knowledge of what is actually known of the woman and will have trouble finding support from other experts, but concedes that "Chilton is an eloquent, erudite, insightful and pastorally sensitive biblical scholar."

Chilton more recently told CA: "Since I wrote Rabbi Jesus, now past its tenth printing, my work has taken a fresh turn. Before then, I had not appreciated two features of current thought in the United States in regard to religion. In the first place, many otherwise educated people think Christianity is simply a matter of what they can read in the New Testament. They ignore the rich development of the religion, which has always been dynamic and is usually well documented. They then, in the second place, project whatever they have been taught Christianity is (belief that Mary had to have been a biological virgin at the time of Jesus' birth, for example) into the New Testament, dismissing as 'speculative' the clear evidence that contradicts their projections.

"As a result, what I first intended as a single book, bringing into narrative form the results of scholarly research, has expanded into a project—involving multiple volumes—of detailing history as a matter of critical inference and Christianity as a developing religion. Fortunately, I have found this shift in my trajectory rewarding on many levels, especially because it has made writing enjoyable to me. Before the present phase of my writing, I realize that I treated language as merely instrumental, a means to convey data and ideas. Although words certainly can do that (and should whenever critical inquiry is concerned), for me, whether written by another scholar or myself, words also now form upon the page and in the ear and mind in a way that relates intrinsically to the insight the author pursues. In the best of cases, the author even manages to convey that insight, providing the reader an opportunity to share a critical perspective on religious traditions that, whether we know it or not, shapes our responses to others and our understanding of ourselves."



America, March 7, 1998, Daniel J. Harrington, review of Pure Kingdom: Jesus' Vision of God, p. 23; January 30, 2006, Karen A. Barta, review of Mary Magdalene: A Biography, p. 34.

Booklist, October 1, 2000, Ilene Cooper, review of Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography, p. 298; August, 2004, Ilene Cooper, review of Rabbi Paul: An Intellectual Biography, p. 1878; October 1, 2005, Ilene Cooper, review of Mary Magdalene, p. 22.

Catholic Insight, May, 2002, Ann Wilson, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 38.

Choice, March, 2001, P.K. Moser, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 1288.

Interpretation, January, 2000, Gary Yamasaki, review of Jesus' Baptism and Jesus' Healing: His Personal Practice of Spirituality, p. 92.

Jerusalem Post, February 15, 2001, Jacob Neusner, review of Rabbi Jesus.

Journal of Ecumenical Studies, winter, 2000, Regina A. Boisclair, review of Judaism in the New Testament, p. 83.

Journal of Religion, July, 1998, Matt A. Jackson-McCabe, review of Pure Kingdom, p. 425.

Kirkus Reviews, October 1, 2000, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 1404; July 1, 2004, review of Rabbi Paul, p. 613; September 1, 2005, review of Mary Magdalene, p. 952.

Library Journal, November 1, 2000, David Bourquin, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 87; August, 2004, Wesley A. Mills, review of Rabbi Paul, p. 87; January 1, 2005, Sandra Collins, review of Classical Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism: Comparing Theologies, p. 118; November 1, 2005, Carolyn M. Craft, review of Mary Magdalene, p. 80.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, December 23, 2000, Zachary Karabell, review of Rabbi Jesus.

National Catholic Reporter, January 5, 2001, Arthur Jones, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 11; May 26, 2006, Patrick Marrin, review of Rabbi Paul, p. 4.

Publishers Weekly, September 25, 2000, review of Rabbi Jesus, p. 109; September 23, 2002, Jana Piess, review of Redeeming Time: The Wisdom of Ancient Jewish and Christian Festal Calendars, p. S16; July 12, 2004, review of Rabbi Paul, p. 61; August 22, 2005, review of Mary Magdalene, p. 60.

Religious Studies Review, January, 1998, review of Jesus' Prayer and Jesus' Eucharist, p. 81; April, 1999, review of Jesus' Baptism and Jesus' Healing, p. 191.