Modern Christians typically resist the idea that Christ is an "earthly" king like other "earthly" kings—a king like David, Ahab, or Jehu. Instead, the Christ of popular Christian conception is a "heavenly" or "spiritual" king, a king who reigns over the hearts of his (voluntary) subjects and over creation as a kind of cosmic sustainer. … Continue reading God’s king is a king: The politics of divine kingship
The apocalyptic imagination that emerged in Judea during the Greek and Roman periods represents a unique socio-religious response to feelings of discontent and resentment engendered by pagan political hegemony. Unable to integrate the Jewish cult into the pagan imperial system,1 an atmosphere of mutual antagonism descended upon colonized Israel. Just as a viral infection prompts … Continue reading When demoniacs win: The triumph of Christ’s apocalyptic spirit
In the previous post I began to make the case that the experience of expulsion from the synagogue (ἀποσυνάγωγος—John 9:22, 12:42, 14:2) sparked the development of the logos christology found in John 1. I suggested that in order to cope with the dissonance caused by their estrangement from mainstream Judaism, Johannine Jewish Christians came to … Continue reading Christology in crisis: Johannine Judaism outside the synagogue
In the columns below I've juxtaposed summaries of the Pentateuchal books as they are understood by two divergent hermeneutical models—the one christological, the other political. The former model, on the one hand, interprets Israel's founding documents so as to corroborate the Christian divine-savior myth—a psycho-religious system according to which humans attain personal otherworldly salvation through … Continue reading A tale of two Pentateuchs: Christian appropriation of Israel’s imperial constitution
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
Christians have long viewed Jesus as a hermeneutical key of sorts to the Old Testament. Because of this, the whole of the Hebrew Bible, and indeed the whole of Israel's story, is made to serve Christian ends. Behind every passage, behind every event in the history of the Jewish people, there must lie Christ's sacrifice … Continue reading Did early Christians interpret Old Testament violence “through Jesus”?
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?
The account of Israel's sea-crossing contained in Exodus 14-15 is a composite text. At least three disparate sources concerning God's activity at the Sea of Reeds were sown together by a priestly redactor for priestly purposes. For this final compiler, Israel's escape at the sea, however it might have been conceived previously, was reflected through … Continue reading Israel’s escape at the Sea of Reeds