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
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
Old & New perspectives on Paul Paul's letter to the Romans is commonly viewed as a theological treatise on the mechanics of eternal salvation.1 Assuming this hermeneutical foundation, Paul outlines in the letter how people are saved from the consequences of sin and how they might attain access to Heaven after death. Paul's answer, under … Continue reading Plundering the nations: justification by tribute
Christians typically ground their vision of the kingdom of God on Jesus' words in John 18:36: "my kingdom is not of this world." The decision to give primacy to this particular text comes as part of a thoroughgoing prioritization of the personal and abstract over and against the political and concrete. So, according to this … Continue reading God’s kingdom is a kingdom: considering the visions of Daniel
Modern historiography has not been kind to the Exodus-Conquest narrative. Not only has this founding myth of Israel proved impossible to verify historically, various archaeological data suggest the story was greatly exaggerated, if not legendary to the core. For some Christians this negative historical assessment of God's word results in a loss of faith. If … Continue reading Does the theology of the Gospel depend on the history of the Exodus?
In an effort to interpret history through a Christian lens the evangelists sometimes indulge in anachronistic portraiture of Jesus; that is, they retroject the experience of the believing community back into Jesus' ministry. John's depiction of Jesus as a master of extended discourse and debate, for instance, is more reflective of the late 1st century … Continue reading The demonized Gerasene and the paganized Greek: eschatological allegory in Mark 5:1-20
Despite the ubiquity of divinely-sanctioned and divinely-orchestrated capital punishment in the Law of Moses and the Hebrew Bible, many insist that Jesus, ever the enlightened reformer, repudiated capital punishment. The argument usually follows one of two lines. On the one hand, many progressives believe Jesus opposed capital punishment because he, unlike the God portrayed in … Continue reading Capital punishment, righteous Israelites, and the redemption of the adulterous woman
Jesus the man of God For the Jewish monotheists who made up the majority of Christians in the first couple of centuries C.E. (i.e. Jews & gentile God-fearers), Jesus came into the world as the human envoy of a familiar deity: YHWH the lord god of Israel. Jesus was, in this way, the anointed son … Continue reading An apocalyptic Trinitarianism
Leading up to and following the overthrow of Greco-Roman paganism by Christian monotheism, Greek-speaking Christian elites gradually transformed Jesus' original apocalyptic message (i.e. the gospel of God's impending and annexation judgement of the nations) into a religion that could sustain the now politically dominant church for centuries to come. Through this process, the New Testament … Continue reading Some hard sayings of Jesus: amputation
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?