On Splitting Wood and Lifting Stones

Finding Jesus in Australia


  • Sean Winter University of Divinity




Jesus Christ, Reception History, Australian Culture


One early Christian gospel attributes the following saying to Jesus: ‘I am the light who is above all things… Split a piece of wood—I am there. Lift the stone, and you will find me there’ (Gospel of Thomas 77). The aphorism suggests both the possibility of finding Jesus in ordinary, and therefore surprising, places, and the human labour that might lead to revelation. As such, it stands as a suggestive metaphor for the scholarly industry and instincts of this issue’s articles that chart the Christ-figure in Australian imagination. Drawing on biblical reception history and the arguments and strategies of these articles, I suggest that while Christian theology traditionally affirms Christ as universal redeemer (‘the light who is above all things’), these articles are a reminder that it is only inside and under the highly particular trees and rocks of locality, land and culture that Jesus will be found.

Author Biography

Sean Winter, University of Divinity

Sean Winter is Associate Professor of New Testament Studies and Head of College at Pilgrim Theological College, University of Divinity. He researches in the areas of biblical hermeneutics and the theology of Paul.


Bond, Helen K., Chris Keith and Christine Jacobi (eds) 2020 The Reception of Jesus in the First Three Centuries. 3 vols. T&T Clark, London.

Deacy, Christopher 2006 Reflection on the Uncritical Appropriation of Cinematic Christ-Figures: Holy Other or Wholly Inadequate? Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 13(1). https://doi.org/10.3138/jrpc.13.1.001

Downing, Christine 1968 Typology and the Literary Christ-Figure: A Critique. JAAR 36(1): 13–27.

Gadamer, Hans-Georg 1989 Truth and Method. Translated by Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall. 2nd edn. Sheed & Ward, London.

Gathercole, Simon J. 2014 The Gospel of Thomas: Introduction and Commentary. TENTS 11. Brill, Leiden.

Goroncy, Jason A. 2019 ‘A Pretty Decent Sort of Bloke’: Towards the Quest for an Australian Jesus. HTS Teologiese Studies/Theological Studies 75(4): e1–e10.

Jauss, Hans Robert 1982 Towards an Aesthetic of Reception. Translated by Timothy Bahti. University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis.

Kozlovic, Anton Karl 2004 The Structural Characteristics of the Cinematic Christ-figure. Journal of Religion and Popular Culture 8(1). https://doi.org/10.3138/jrpc.8.1.005

Lieb, Michael, Emma Mason, Jonathan Roberts and Christopher Rowland (eds) 2011 The Oxford Handbook of the Reception History of the Bible. Oxford University Press, Oxford.

Thompson, Martyn P. 1993 Reception Theory and the Interpretation of Historical Meaning. History and Theory 32(3): 248–72. https://doi.org/10.2307/2505525

Williams, Rowan 2018 Christ: The Heart of Creation. Bloomsbury, London.



How to Cite

Winter, S. (2022). On Splitting Wood and Lifting Stones: Finding Jesus in Australia. Journal for the Academic Study of Religion, 35(1), 112–120. https://doi.org/10.1558/jasr.22420