No rest for the wicked: Jesus as Satan’s Sabbath-breaking son

As many scholars have maintained, the Sabbath dispute stories in the Gospels lack historical verisimilitude. Few if any 1st century Jews were so strict in their observance of the Sabbath day as to reprimand deeds of healing upon it. In fact, according to the Gospels themselves, most took no issue with Jesus' Sabbath activity at … Continue reading No rest for the wicked: Jesus as Satan’s Sabbath-breaking son

Paul the slave-master: how early Christians leveraged slaves and their households

The Classical world of Jesus and Paul was decidedly hierarchical. Individuals depended upon the benevolence of socially-superior benefactors—fathers, husbands, masters, patrons, rulers, and gods—both to meet physical needs and to secure social status. To threaten this order by rebellion or abandonment of one's post meant certain disaster—punishment, shame, exposure. Few could therefore transcend the duties … Continue reading Paul the slave-master: how early Christians leveraged slaves and their households

Slavery and God’s hierarchical kingdom

Despite numerous attempts to find in Jesus' teachings an anti-slavery ethic, Jesus appears to have viewed the institution in ways typical for his time. By all accounts his apocalyptic message neither challenged slavery in the present evil age nor envisioned an egalitarian eschaton. Consider the following. Jesus honored the Law of Moses as God's word … Continue reading Slavery and God’s hierarchical kingdom

Did early Christians interpret Old Testament violence “through Jesus”?

Christians have long viewed Jesus as a hermeneutical key of sorts to the Old Testament. Because of this, the whole of the Hebrew Bible, and indeed the whole of Israel's story, is made to serve Christian ends. Behind every passage, behind every event in the history of the Jewish people, there must lie Christ's sacrifice … Continue reading Did early Christians interpret Old Testament violence “through Jesus”?

The man who would not be god: Jesus as deified king

I argued last time that when the Johannine Jewish establishment stigmatizes Jesus as a man who "makes himself God" (John 10:33, cf. 5:18, Mark 2:7, 14:67) they do so with certain self-aggrandizing pagan emperors in mind; the king of Tyre (Ezekiel 28), the king of Egypt (Ezekiel 29), the king of Babylon (Isaiah 14), and, … Continue reading The man who would not be god: Jesus as deified king

The king who would be god: Jesus as blasphemous pagan king

Was Jesus accused of blasphemy? Those who are committed to a low or human Christology sometimes argue that the charges of blasphemy leveled against Jesus in the Gospels are late and fabricated additions to the Jesus-tradition. Just as claims to deity were artificially ascribed to Jesus, so too were accusations like those found in John … Continue reading The king who would be god: Jesus as blasphemous pagan king

Israel’s Davidic gospel

The Greek word "gospel" (εὐαγγέλιον) enjoyed popular usage in both pagan and Jewish spheres long before early Christians appropriated it as a summary of their preaching. Though Christians have since emptied the word of its political content—leaving only the gospel of personal, otherworldly salvation—the first Christians chose to deliver their message as "gospel" because of—not … Continue reading Israel’s Davidic gospel

Melchizedek: Davidic priest-king to the nations

Shortly after Jesus' execution his followers came to believe that their master had ascended out of the grave as an exalted and heavenly man. In order to explain and justify this newfound conviction, these Jewish believers turned decisively to Psalms 2 & 110. These psalms—or rather, prophecies—confirmed what the earliest Christians believed God had done … Continue reading Melchizedek: Davidic priest-king to the nations

Plundering the nations: justification by tribute

Old & New perspectives on Paul Paul's letter to the Romans is commonly viewed as a theological treatise on the mechanics of eternal salvation.1 Assuming this hermeneutical foundation, Paul outlines in the letter how people are saved from the consequences of sin and how they might attain access to Heaven after death. Paul's answer, under … Continue reading Plundering the nations: justification by tribute

God’s kingdom is a kingdom: considering the visions of Daniel

Christians typically ground their vision of the kingdom of God on Jesus' words in John 18:36: "my kingdom is not of this world." The decision to give primacy to this particular text comes as part of a thoroughgoing prioritization of the personal and abstract over and against the political and concrete. So, according to this … Continue reading God’s kingdom is a kingdom: considering the visions of Daniel