Christians tend to place the responsibility for Jesus' death upon either the Jewish crowds (as symbolic of fallen humanity) or upon Israel's cultic elite (as symbolic of oppressive and politically-compromised religion). In so doing they follow the general picture offered by the Gospels. Historians, on the other hand, tend to shift the onus in the … Continue reading Suffered under Herod Antipas: Jesus in the hands of an angry king
The most successful interpreters of Paul's letters have, for the most part, been thinkers and writers, theologians and scholars. That Paul should appear to us primarily as a man of deep and profound thought is therefore unsurprising. According to Luke's account of Paul's ministry, however, neither letter-writing nor theological exposition were central to the Apostle's … Continue reading The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle
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
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
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through arid regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along … Continue reading Nazareth witch trials: the problem of the returning spirit
God-fearers and idolaters I made the argument last time that Luke's story of Cornelius' conversion is best understood as a narrative apology for Gentile God-fearers. Luke intended to demonstrate that those Gentiles who "do what is right and fear [Israel's] God" by turning from idols have been cleansed of their impurity. Jews therefore need not … Continue reading Did early Christians associate with idolaters?
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?