Modern historiography has not been kind to the Exodus-Conquest narrative. Not only has this founding myth of Israel proved impossible to verify historically, various archaeological data suggest the story was greatly exaggerated, if not legendary to the core. For some Christians this negative historical assessment of God's word results in a loss of faith. If … Continue reading Does the theology of the Gospel depend on the history of the Exodus?
The most successful interpreters of Paul's letters have, for the most part, been thinkers and writers, theologians and scholars. That Paul should appear to us primarily as a man of deep and profound thought is therefore unsurprising. According to Luke's account of Paul's ministry, however, neither letter-writing nor theological exposition were central to the Apostle's … Continue reading The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle
In an effort to interpret history through a Christian lens the evangelists sometimes indulge in anachronistic portraiture of Jesus; that is, they retroject the experience of the believing community back into Jesus' ministry. John's depiction of Jesus as a master of extended discourse and debate, for instance, is more reflective of the late 1st century … Continue reading The demonized Gerasene and the paganized Greek: eschatological allegory in Mark 5:1-20
Despite the ubiquity of divinely-sanctioned and divinely-orchestrated capital punishment in the Law of Moses and the Hebrew Bible, many insist that Jesus, ever the enlightened reformer, repudiated capital punishment. The argument usually follows one of two lines. On the one hand, many progressives believe Jesus opposed capital punishment because he, unlike the God portrayed in … Continue reading Capital punishment, righteous Israelites, and the redemption of the adulterous woman
Jesus the man of God For the Jewish monotheists who made up the majority of Christians in the first couple of centuries C.E. (i.e. Jews & gentile God-fearers), Jesus came into the world as the human envoy of a familiar deity: YHWH the lord god of Israel. Jesus was, in this way, the anointed son … Continue reading An apocalyptic Trinitarianism
Leading up to and following the overthrow of Greco-Roman paganism by Christian monotheism, Greek-speaking Christian elites gradually transformed Jesus' original apocalyptic message (i.e. the gospel of God's impending and annexation judgement of the nations) into a religion that could sustain the now politically dominant church for centuries to come. Through this process, the New Testament … Continue reading Some hard sayings of Jesus: amputation
A number of Gospel stories reveal that Jesus sometimes delayed his healing work. On two such occasions Jesus' failure to appear resulted in death. In one instance, following a summons from Martha and Mary to heal their sick brother, Jesus "remained two days longer in the place where he was" (John 11:1-6). As expected, by … Continue reading Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings
As modern science has advanced, belief-systems that attribute human welfare and suffering to the scheming of angels and demons have retreated in equal proportion. Few Christians today would procure an exorcist to alleviate a crippled spine, for instance. Even in cases of extreme antisocial behavior, activity traditionally attributed to malevolent spirits, most modern Christians are … Continue reading Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness
For theologically-minded readers the question is largely closed: breaking bread and pouring wine, Jesus gave his impending execution sacrificial meaning. Here at this final meal the Eucharist was born—Christ's body broken and blood spilled for the forgiveness of sins. In a word, at the Last Supper, Jesus taught the doctrine of atonement. Critical readings, however, … Continue reading What did Jesus teach at the Last Supper?
I observed in my last post that a man's behavior at a feast served to either maintain his father's honor or incur shame upon his family name. By eating and/or drinking to excess, for instance, a foolish son would publicly dishonor his parents and signal to guests and host alike that his father was unable … Continue reading Inverted honor: resurrection as status reversal