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
Food, sonship, & rebellion The Jewish scriptures associate rebellion against parents with excessive eating and drinking. Deuteronomy 21:18-21 is the seminal text in this regard. There, the "stubborn and rebellious son" is brought before the elders of the town where, prior to being stoned, he is accused of "drunkenness" (οἰνοφλυγέω) and revelrous "gluttony" (συνβολοκοπέω) (21:20, cf. … Continue reading Inverted sonship: Jesus as prodigal son
Following the pattern set down by the New Testament writers themselves, Christians often speak of Jesus as the fulfillment and culmination of Old Testament covenant promises (cf. 2 Cor 1:20, Luke 24:27). While the precise meaning of such claims is sometimes difficult to ascertain, the consummation of God's promise to Abraham is usually prominent in … Continue reading What kind of blessings did the churches inherit from Israel?
Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20/Luke 9:58) Popular perceptions of Jesus' day to day experience are often informed by the above saying. The idea that Jesus was not only poor, but homeless, has become something of an axiom: … Continue reading Jesus: homeless homeowner
Mary did you know? The Matthean and Lukan infancy stories are the dominant sources for our traditional understanding of Jesus' familial relations. Based on their testimony, we tend to picture the holy family as a harmonious unit; as a family supportive of their son's prophetic and messianic vocation from the very beginning. With the opening … Continue reading Jesus’ family reconsidered
In the post Was Jesus tempted in every way? I examined Jesus' example as it pertained to the temptations and trials faced by early Christians. I asked: In what ways was Jesus' sinless triumph over temptation relevant to the New Testament writers and their readers? I argued that just as Jesus was tempted to repudiate … Continue reading As I have loved you: Christ’s other example to the churches
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?
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?
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
Two prophetic activities make up the bulk of the Gospel narratives. Jesus healed crowds of Jews in the countryside, in homes, and in synagogues, all while announcing the arrival of the kingdom through powers, teachings, and parables. Jesus debated priests, lawyers, scribes, and Pharisees concerning the Jewish scriptures wherever he met them; in Jerusalem, Galilee, … Continue reading Israel and the gospel of the kingdom