Most readers have little trouble identifying the deceptive deed committed by Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). According to the popular reading, this Christian couple sought to obtain prestige among the apostles through an act of extraordinary and costly generosity—freely relinquishing the entirety of their property and its value for the good of the church—while at … Continue reading Last days in Jerusalem: The unfortunate eschatological sin of Ananias and Sapphira
Nations in the hands of an angry God: The political origins of Original Sin
Most readers of the New Testament interpret its texts along individualistic and soteriological lines—assuming, as it were, that Christianity advances a particular system of personal postmortem salvation; the scriptures functioning as a kind of intimate roadmap from sin, through death, into eternal life. The individual reader (i.e. sinner) must therefore decide whether to accept or … Continue reading Nations in the hands of an angry God: The political origins of Original Sin
The temple at time’s end: An insufficient apocalypse
Theological treasures & Apocalyptic thieves The delay of Christ's seemingly-imminent return imperils the whole of the Christian theological project. Indeed, the divine savior myth and all its concomitant parts depend upon the accuracy of Christ, his apostles, and their scriptures. Matters of eschatology are particularly vulnerable in this regard: If Jesus, Paul, and John prophesied … Continue reading The temple at time’s end: An insufficient apocalypse
God’s gospel among the Greeks: Paganism and the exhaustion of divine forbearance
The gospel as conceived of by traditional Christian theology is a divine savior myth of personal postmortem salvation. It is the news that through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of God's Son human beings can escape the fatal consequences of sin and live eternally in a heavenly world. Constructed in this way, so … Continue reading God’s gospel among the Greeks: Paganism and the exhaustion of divine forbearance
The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle
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
Is the Resurrection a proof of Jesus’ deity?
Christians generally regard Jesus' resurrection as a Christological sign, as a marker of his deity. By rising from the dead, Jesus disclosed his true identity, not as some condemned preacher from Nazareth, but as the God of Israel, the only one capable of overwhelming death with life. Now recognized as God, believers turn to this … Continue reading Is the Resurrection a proof of Jesus’ deity?
The prophet returns: Jesus as Elijah redivivus
As the first traditions about Jesus were disseminated through word of mouth and in written documents, they were refracted through a number of interpretive lenses. One such lens was the spiritual experience of the faithful community. Among these first believers, the same Jesus who had been crucified was alive, teaching and working in and as … Continue reading The prophet returns: Jesus as Elijah redivivus
How did the first Christians spread the gospel?
While many are familiar with the ways Christian doctrine has changed over time, few recognize just how novel modern evangelistic practices are. Just as the Christian message developed and evolved, particularly with the blunting of its apocalyptic edge, so too have the ways in which Christians transmit their message to the outside world. This shift … Continue reading How did the first Christians spread the gospel?
Did early Christians associate with idolaters?
God-fearers and idolaters I made the argument last time that Luke's story of Cornelius' conversion is best understood as a narrative apology for Gentile God-fearers. Luke intended to demonstrate that those Gentiles who "do what is right and fear [Israel's] God" by turning from idols have been cleansed of their impurity. Jews therefore need not … Continue reading Did early Christians associate with idolaters?
When did God cleanse Cornelius? The possible literary origins of Acts 10
In Acts 10 the apostle Peter is granted three visions of clean and unclean animals descending from heaven. A heavenly voice tells Peter to kill and eat these beasts. When the apostle objects to this violation of God's Law the heavenly voice responds "what God has cleansed (ἐκαθάρισεν), you must not consider polluted (κοίνου)" (Acts … Continue reading When did God cleanse Cornelius? The possible literary origins of Acts 10