Scholars of religion are not in the fortune telling business, but the comparative study of religion does provide multiple examples of how social, economic, and political crises have contributed to the transformation of cultural and religious systems in the past and can help us understand and anticipate how contemporary crises might be navigated in the future. Whether a crisis is envisioned as testing-by-trial, a punishment for disobedient violations of a covenant, the cause-and-effect results of karmic suffering, a convenient opportunity to transfer blame onto a scapegoat, a call invoking the need for “sacrifice,” or the apocalyptic solution of a battle between the forces of good and evil, it is to the language of religious discourse that we can turn to make sense and meaning of religion(s) in a state of crisis. This talk will briefly survey the study of religious crisis and provide an exploratory, illustrative example of how different social groups respond differently by focusing on the catastrophic destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, and how different responses to this particular crisis ultimately facilitated the construction of rabbinical Judaism and Christianity.
Dr. Simon J. Joseph is Lecturer in Early Christianity at the University of California, Los Angeles. He holds a Master’s degree in Religious Studies from New York University and a Ph.D. in Religion (New Testament) from Claremont Graduate University. He is the author of four books and over two dozen scholarly articles. His work has been published in the Harvard Theological Review, the Journal of Biblical Literature, New Testament Studies, Dead Sea Discoveries, the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and History of Religions. In addition to his scholarly work in religion and biblical studies, Dr. Joseph is also an award-winning documentary filmmaker.