God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

Biblical depictions of divine violence present an ethical problem for contemporary Christianity. For many Christians representations of the warrior God elicit feelings of discomfort and doubt. The prevailing cultural sentiment that violence, especially violence in the name of punishment and vengeance, is morally indefensible only adds to Christian disillusionment with their scriptures. In response to … Continue reading God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

A light in the dark: Dualistic ideology within and without Johannine community

Last time I attempted to articulate the rhetorical function of logos christology as it pertained to the Johannine community. I argued that the identification of Jesus with God's word represented and at the same time provoked a radical break between John's own dissident form of Judaism and the mainstream Judaism of the synagogues. Once the … Continue reading A light in the dark: Dualistic ideology within and without Johannine community

Christology in crisis: Johannine Judaism outside the synagogue

In the previous post I began to make the case that the experience of expulsion from the synagogue (ἀποσυνάγωγος—John 9:22, 12:42, 14:2) sparked the development of the logos christology found in John 1. I suggested that in order to cope with the dissonance caused by their estrangement from mainstream Judaism, Johannine Jewish Christians came to … Continue reading Christology in crisis: Johannine Judaism outside the synagogue

God’s functional word: sectarian Christology in John 1

The traditional Christological discourse surrounding John 1:1 seeks to assess the nature of God's word as it relates to the nature of God the Father. Interpreters involved in this enterprise attempt to understand how the Word can be both God (θεός) and yet distinct from God (ὁ θεός). Early Christians appropriated Greek philosophical terms like "substance" … Continue reading God’s functional word: sectarian Christology in John 1

A tale of two Pentateuchs: Christian appropriation of Israel’s imperial constitution

In the columns below I've juxtaposed summaries of the Pentateuchal books as they are understood by two divergent hermeneutical models—the one christological, the other political. The former model, on the one hand, interprets Israel's founding documents so as to corroborate the Christian divine-savior myth—a psycho-religious system according to which humans attain personal otherworldly salvation through … Continue reading A tale of two Pentateuchs: Christian appropriation of Israel’s imperial constitution

Prophets of the new Exodus: Loaves and fishes as military provocation

The historian Josephus records that various 1st century messianic leaders promised to perform public Exodus-style signs so as to inaugurate God's powerful reign over Israel and the world. Many Jews were persuaded to follow such figures "into the wilderness," hoping to participate anew in the liberation and founding of the nation.1 For such Jews the … Continue reading Prophets of the new Exodus: Loaves and fishes as military provocation

Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

Most theological systems conscript the Lukan birth narrative, along with its Matthean counterpart, into the service of incarnational Christology. This is to say that Luke's nativity story—the virginal conception in particular—is understood to present the mechanism by which God became a man. In this way the Lukan account fills the lacuna left by the Fourth … Continue reading Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

The Cross at time’s end: Atonement and the crossroads of history

*As the title suggests, this post concerns Christ's atonement—as it was known to the first Christians and as it is known today. But before we turn our attention to the issue of atonement it is helpful to comment on the factors that motivate our contemporary christological discourse. These notes will prove important for understanding how … Continue reading The Cross at time’s end: Atonement and the crossroads of history

God’s kingdom among the dogs: Jesus and the gentile beggar

For Jesus' modern admirers the story of the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman remains a stone of stumbling. It is difficult to assimilate a Jesus who denigrates gentiles as "dogs" into the vision of Jesus as the proto-liberal par excellence. John P. Meier pricks at this modern sentiment perfectly: "Christian exegetes would probably have decried the use of … Continue reading God’s kingdom among the dogs: Jesus and the gentile beggar

Blasphemy against Beelzebul: Jesus and the worship of demons

During the second temple period king Solomon became a legendary exorcist in the minds of many Jews. As traditions relating Israel's king to exorcism proliferated, Solomon established himself as the archetypal Hebrew exorcist and as the ancient expert in all things demonic. Josephus, for instance, gushes over Solomon's God-given abilities: God also enabled him to … Continue reading Blasphemy against Beelzebul: Jesus and the worship of demons