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?
I observed in my last post that a man's behavior at a feast served to either maintain his father's honor or incur shame upon his family name. By eating and/or drinking to excess, for instance, a foolish son would publicly dishonor his parents and signal to guests and host alike that his father was unable … Continue reading Inverted honor: resurrection as status reversal
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
Although early Christian literature rarely alludes to the story of Noah and the destruction of his antediluvian world, interpreters should not discount the singular hermeneutical importance of Noah's tale for the first Christians. The Flood myth provided the primitive churches with an invaluable narrative framework through which Christian identities were shaped, Christian experiences were rationalized, … Continue reading A world wiped away by wrath and time: Noah in early Christian imagination
Christians generally regard Jesus' resurrection as a Christological sign, as a marker of his deity. By rising from the dead, Jesus disclosed his true identity, not as some condemned preacher from Nazareth, but as the God of Israel, the only one capable of overwhelming death with life. Now recognized as God, believers turn to this … Continue reading Is the Resurrection a proof of Jesus’ deity?
In my last post I argued that Jesus initially presented himself as a spirit-anointed prophet rather than as a spirit-anointed king (i.e. the Messiah). The following lines supported this conclusion. Most people thought Jesus was, or at least claimed to be, a spirit-possessed prophet (Mark 6:15, 14:65, Matthew 21:11, Luke 7:16; 39, 24:19, John 4:19, … Continue reading From prophet to king: how and why Jesus laid claim to David’s throne
As the first traditions about Jesus were disseminated through word of mouth and in written documents, they were refracted through a number of interpretive lenses. One such lens was the spiritual experience of the faithful community. Among these first believers, the same Jesus who had been crucified was alive, teaching and working in and as … Continue reading The prophet returns: Jesus as Elijah redivivus