Resurrecting the persecuted body: The metamorphosis of Christian shame into Christian honor

A functional approach to early Christian apocalyptic rhetoric attempts to peer beyond the smoke and spectacle, to discover the true aims of the man behind the curtain. A functional approach asks What does it mean, practically speaking, for the Son of Man to appear like lightning in the sky? What does it mean, in concrete … Continue reading Resurrecting the persecuted body: The metamorphosis of Christian shame into Christian honor

God’s gospel among the Greeks: Paganism and the exhaustion of divine forbearance

The gospel as conceived of by traditional Christian theology is a divine savior myth of personal postmortem salvation. It is the news that through faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of God's Son human beings can escape the fatal consequences of sin and live eternally in a heavenly world. Constructed in this way, so … Continue reading God’s gospel among the Greeks: Paganism and the exhaustion of divine forbearance

Jesus hates Edomites: the politics of divine displeasure

Christian theological models tend to personalize and sentimentalize the love of God. Within these frameworks divine love becomes personal in that it pursues individuals and sentimental in that it arouses emotional faculties. Christ's sacrificial death for sins, in turn, sustains this system by generating the personal and sentimental love that satisfies the introspective and existential … Continue reading Jesus hates Edomites: the politics of divine displeasure

Paul the slave-master: how early Christians leveraged slaves and their households

The Classical world of Jesus and Paul was decidedly hierarchical. Individuals depended upon the benevolence of socially-superior benefactors—fathers, husbands, masters, patrons, rulers, and gods—both to meet physical needs and to secure social status. To threaten this order by rebellion or abandonment of one's post meant certain disaster—punishment, shame, exposure. Few could therefore transcend the duties … Continue reading Paul the slave-master: how early Christians leveraged slaves and their households

Plundering the nations: justification by tribute

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

The acts of Paul and the Paul of Acts: a forgotten Apostle

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

The return of the living dead: the purpose of resurrection in the second temple period

At its core, Jewish apocalypticism represents a form of political protest and historical interpretation. It is not, in the first place, concerned with the heavenly afterlife, fantastical beasts, natural catastrophes, or the collapse of space and time. Looks, in this case, can be deceiving. Instead, as I've argued often, underneath the otherworldly spectacle of Jewish … Continue reading The return of the living dead: the purpose of resurrection in the second temple period

How Jesus became God’s holy spirit

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

The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come

Behold, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms, so that you might uproot and undermine and destroy and rebuild and plant. (Jeremiah 1:10) Just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BCE, God enlisted Jeremiah as his prophet. Jeremiah was to prophesy concerning all the peoples of the earth. He would decree … Continue reading The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come

So we will be with the Lord forever

A while ago I put forward the argument that Paul's apocalyptic eschatology was drawn primarily from the social and psychological needs of the marginalized Christian communities throughout the pagan empire. Paul's strange beliefs about the future apocalypse were in this way "functional" rather than speculative or mystical. The parousia and all its imaginative constituent parts … Continue reading So we will be with the Lord forever