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
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
*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
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
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?
The great theological traditions by whose lights we read the Bible tend to prioritize the spiritual and the heavenly over and against the physical and the earthly. Such traditions often distort the Bible's more syncretic picture of the spiritual and physical realms in their commitment to these supposedly higher priorities. Desiring to find Christ's sacrificial … Continue reading What function does the forgiveness of sins serve?
The gospel of the kingdom and the doctrine of the atonement According to the theological models that dominate Christian thought, Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for sin. Although he performed deeds of power, taught concerning the kingdom, and debated issues of Torah observance, such actions were ultimately subordinate to his true mission: to … Continue reading My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Making sense of Jesus’ death