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

God’s patriarchal kingdom

I argued previously that Jesus viewed slavery—and human hierarchical arrangements in general—as intrinsic to God's orderly design of the world. When rightly honored, these hierarchical structures were believed to thwart the intrusion of chaos and divine wrath into the body politic. Many of the Israelite law codes, for example, are concerned with the proper upkeep … Continue reading God’s patriarchal kingdom

Saved by the bell: Noble pagans in Christ’s kingdom

Prior to the coming of Christ's spirit upon God-fearing gentiles, and before the penetration of Paul's gospel into greater pagan society, Jesus' mission was directed exclusively towards the people of Israel (cf. Matthew 10:5-6, 15:24, Romans 15:8, Hebrews 2:16, cf. Galatians 2:7): "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" … Continue reading Saved by the bell: Noble pagans in Christ’s kingdom

Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Ancient peoples dreaded the prospect of improper burial. To die without any burial at all was seen as more terrible still.1 Such a fate, while no doubt humiliating—a sign of divine displeasure (cf. Psalm 53:5)—also carried effects beyond the grave and into the underworld. It is to these postmortem effects that we will turn in … Continue reading Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Skeletons in God’s closet: Jesus and the crusader king

To the chagrin of many Christians, the Hebrew Bible occasionally depicts Israel's God as a "man of war" who leads his people into battle, often for the cause of vengeance. Even more troublesome for modern readers are the wars of herem (חֵרֶם) in which God instructs Israel to exterminate the enemy—man, woman, child, and goat, … Continue reading Skeletons in God’s closet: Jesus and the crusader king

Suffered under Herod Antipas: Jesus in the hands of an angry king

Christians tend to place the responsibility for Jesus' death upon either the Jewish crowds (as symbolic of fallen humanity) or upon Israel's cultic elite (as symbolic of oppressive and politically-compromised religion). In so doing they follow the general picture offered by the Gospels. Historians, on the other hand, tend to shift the onus in the … Continue reading Suffered under Herod Antipas: Jesus in the hands of an angry king