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

Saved by the bell: Noble pagans in Christ’s kingdom

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

Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Ancient peoples dreaded the prospect of improper burial. To die without any burial at all was seen as more terrible still.1 Such a fate, while no doubt humiliating—a sign of divine displeasure (cf. Psalm 53:5)—also carried effects beyond the grave and into the underworld. It is to these postmortem effects that we will turn in … Continue reading Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Israel’s Davidic gospel

The Greek word "gospel" (εὐαγγέλιον) enjoyed popular usage in both pagan and Jewish spheres long before early Christians appropriated it as a summary of their preaching. Though Christians have since emptied the word of its political content—leaving only the gospel of personal, otherworldly salvation—the first Christians chose to deliver their message as "gospel" because of—not … Continue reading Israel’s Davidic gospel

Melchizedek: Davidic priest-king to the nations

Shortly after Jesus' execution his followers came to believe that their master had ascended out of the grave as an exalted and heavenly man. In order to explain and justify this newfound conviction, these Jewish believers turned decisively to Psalms 2 & 110. These psalms—or rather, prophecies—confirmed what the earliest Christians believed God had done … Continue reading Melchizedek: Davidic priest-king to the nations