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
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
In accordance with their Jewish scriptures, Jesus and his first followers usually identified the spirit that moved among them as the holy spirit of the Lord God, the spirit of Israel's Father. Although Christians came to understand this spirit as mediated through Jesus in some sense (cf. Mark 1:8, Acts 2:33, John 14:26, 20:22, 1 … Continue reading How Jesus became God’s holy spirit
Mary did you know? The Matthean and Lukan infancy stories are the dominant sources for our traditional understanding of Jesus' familial relations. Based on their testimony, we tend to picture the holy family as a harmonious unit; as a family supportive of their son's prophetic and messianic vocation from the very beginning. With the opening … Continue reading Jesus’ family reconsidered
The gospel of the kingdom and the doctrine of the atonement According to the theological models that dominate Christian thought, Jesus came to die as a sacrifice for sin. Although he performed deeds of power, taught concerning the kingdom, and debated issues of Torah observance, such actions were ultimately subordinate to his true mission: to … Continue reading My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Making sense of Jesus’ death
My reading of the parable of the Good Samaritan, outlined here and here, depends largely on two factors. The first factor concerns the alleged inter-textual relationship between the parable and the story of the prophet Oded in 2 Chronicles 28. Does the parable actually invoke the Chronicler's story of the Judean captives and their merciful … Continue reading The Israelite origins of the Samaritans
Seed and soil The people of Antiquity subscribed to what is called the "seed and soil" theory of human reproduction. According to this theory the father conveyed life and form to the child in and through his seed. As with a plant seed then, most if not all morphological features were passed on by the … Continue reading Virgin birth in ancient context: sowing the father’s πνεῦμα
At two particular points in the New Testament narrative the Holy Spirit breaks through the heavenly seal and escapes into the earthly realm. In the first case, the spirit descends upon Jesus at his baptism in the Jordan. In the second case, the spirit is poured out upon believers as they celebrate the feast of … Continue reading When did Jesus and his followers receive the spirit?
Christmas and Theology Theological constructs, while often helpful, sometimes prevent us from hearing what Biblical texts have to say. This is certainly the case with scripture's dual nativity stories. Two theological concerns in particular blur our reading of these stories. Since the two birth narratives are divergent and sometimes contradictory, in our desire to defend the … Continue reading Immanuel: theology or history?
Until rather recently, the Gospel of John has been systematically excluded as a source for the historical Jesus. It has been popularly considered a "concocted Gospel." Accordingly, scholarship tends to understand John as a derivative spiritualization of Synoptic material. As such, the Fourth Gospel contains no viable independent memory of the historical Jesus. This critical … Continue reading John and the Historical Temple-Disturbance