Promises and polygyny in ancient Israel

Powerful ancient Near Eastern men competed for commodities like livestock (e.g. cattle & sheep), draught animals (e.g. donkeys & horses), slaves, precious metals (e.g. gold and silver), and, of course, fertile land (cf. Genesis 13:2, 20:14, 30:34, Job 1:3, 1 Kings 10:14-29). It comes as little surprise, therefore, that the promise of just such a … Continue reading Promises and polygyny in ancient Israel

The Lord among lords: Christ’s imperial cult

Proponents of the early emergence of divine christology sometimes appeal to Paul's creedal formulation in 1 Corinthians 8:6. These interpreters maintain that the Apostle attests to the widespread acceptance of Christ's deity just two decades after the death of Jesus. For us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for … Continue reading The Lord among lords: Christ’s imperial cult

Jesus hates Edomites: the politics of divine displeasure

Christian theological models tend to personalize and sentimentalize the love of God. Within these frameworks divine love becomes personal in that it pursues individuals and sentimental in that it arouses emotional faculties. Christ's sacrificial death for sins, in turn, sustains this system by generating the personal and sentimental love that satisfies the introspective and existential … Continue reading Jesus hates Edomites: the politics of divine displeasure

God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

Biblical depictions of divine violence present an ethical problem for contemporary Christianity. For many Christians representations of the warrior God elicit feelings of discomfort and doubt. The prevailing cultural sentiment that violence, especially violence in the name of punishment and vengeance, is morally indefensible only adds to Christian disillusionment with their scriptures. In response to … Continue reading God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

God’s functional word: sectarian Christology in John 1

The traditional Christological discourse surrounding John 1:1 seeks to assess the nature of God's word as it relates to the nature of God the Father. Interpreters involved in this enterprise attempt to understand how the Word can be both God (θεός) and yet distinct from God (ὁ θεός). Early Christians appropriated Greek philosophical terms like "substance" … Continue reading God’s functional word: sectarian Christology in John 1

Prophets of the new Exodus: Loaves and fishes as military provocation

The historian Josephus records that various 1st century messianic leaders promised to perform public Exodus-style signs so as to inaugurate God's powerful reign over Israel and the world. Many Jews were persuaded to follow such figures "into the wilderness," hoping to participate anew in the liberation and founding of the nation.1 For such Jews the … Continue reading Prophets of the new Exodus: Loaves and fishes as military provocation

Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

Most theological systems conscript the Lukan birth narrative, along with its Matthean counterpart, into the service of incarnational Christology. This is to say that Luke's nativity story—the virginal conception in particular—is understood to present the mechanism by which God became a man. In this way the Lukan account fills the lacuna left by the Fourth … Continue reading Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

The Cross at time’s end: Atonement and the crossroads of history

*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

Blasphemy against Beelzebul: Jesus and the worship of demons

During the second temple period king Solomon became a legendary exorcist in the minds of many Jews. As traditions relating Israel's king to exorcism proliferated, Solomon established himself as the archetypal Hebrew exorcist and as the ancient expert in all things demonic. Josephus, for instance, gushes over Solomon's God-given abilities: God also enabled him to … Continue reading Blasphemy against Beelzebul: Jesus and the worship of demons

God’s patriarchal kingdom

I argued previously that Jesus viewed slavery—and human hierarchical arrangements in general—as intrinsic to God's orderly design of the world. When rightly honored, these hierarchical structures were believed to thwart the intrusion of chaos and divine wrath into the body politic. Many of the Israelite law codes, for example, are concerned with the proper upkeep … Continue reading God’s patriarchal kingdom