Giovanni Bazzana

Giovanni Bazzana

Professor of New Testament
Giovanni Bazzana

Giovanni Bazzana

Education

  • PhD, International School of Modena, Italy

Profile

Bazzana’s research and teaching focus chiefly on the critical study of the early Christ movement and of early Christianity in the context of Second Temple Judaism and of ancient Mediterranean history, religions, and material cultures. Bazzana’s writing is centered on gospels and apocalypses (both those who became canonical and those that were ultimately excluded from the canon). The research on these texts is conducted in constant reference to the broader social, political, and economic developments that impacted the Mediterranean world between the Hellenistic period and Late Antiquity. Ultimately, any study of the past originates from interests and passions of the present. Thus, Bazzana’s work does not strive only to interrogate ancient texts and practices in order to address current issues, but it is mindful of the ways in which our understanding and even imaginations of antiquity are profoundly shaped by present concerns.

Bazzana has a secondary interest in papyrology, which is reflected in his first book, Kingdom of Bureaucracy: The Political Theology of Village Scribes in the Sayings Gospel Q, 2015. Papyrology discloses a wealth of largely neglected evidence on the early history of the Christ movement and of Christianity, ranging from the origins of Christian books to crucial information on the socio-economic location and practices of the earliest groups of followers of and believers in Christ.

Bazzana’s latest book, Having the Spirit of Christ: Spirit Possession and Exorcism in the Early Christ Groups (Yale 2020), starts form the observation that the earliest Christian writings are filled with stories of possession and exorcism, which were crucial for the activity of the historical Jesus and for the practice of the earliest groups of his followers. Most critical scholarship, however, regularly marginalizes these topics or discards them altogether in reconstructing early history of the Christ groups.

Having the Spirit of Christ approaches the study of possession from a different methodological angle by using a comparative lens that includes contemporary ethnographies of possession cross-culturally. Possession, besides being a harmful event that should be exorcized, can also have a positive role in many cultures. Often it helps individuals and groups to reflect on and reshape their identity, to plan their moral actions, and to remember in a most vivid way their past. When read in light of these materials, these ancient documents reveal the religious, cultural, and social meaning that the experience of possession had for the early Christ groups

Bazzana is currently pursuing two long-term research projects. The first one is focused on apocalyptic literature broadly conceived and the influence of its ancient motifs and ideas on contemporary popular culture, political discourses, and art. The persistence and success of apocalyptic imagination is particularly evident in current events and invites one to reflect on themes such as the ethics of resilience in the time of the end or the ambiguous value of catastrophic prophecy in a world facing the existential threat of climate change.

Bazzana’s other project deals with the economic thought and practices of early Christian groups. Most scholarship on these themes in New Testament books has traditionally repeated the tropes of ethical exhortation to the “good use” of wealth. However, it seems that time is ripe for a more apt historical appreciation grounded on the evidence provided by papyrological sources, the theoretical paradigms elaborated by scholars of the ancient economy, and a renewed interest in critical political economy. This may generate not only a more adequate historical knowledge, but also more effective tools to face the serious ethical and socio-political challenges of late capitalism.            

Full CV

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