Apocalyptic hope After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the Jewish people witnessed and experienced the conquest of the known world by successive pagan empires. Under these idolatrous oppressors, the Jewish people grappled with confusion and hopelessness as their convictions about the sovereignty of their God were viscerally challenged and subverted. Was YHWH unable … Continue reading Psalm 82 and the Christian apocalypse: the Greco-Roman Ragnarök
How and why did Satan tempt early Christians?
Last time I looked at the ways early Christians conceptualized Christ's example as one who was tempted but without sin. I considered whether the first Christians were interested in Christ's example in a comprehensive sense, or whether their emulation of him fit within a more specific context. I concluded that Christians were more interested in … Continue reading How and why did Satan tempt early Christians?
Was Jesus tempted in every way?
In our affluent modern Western context, Christians and non-Christians alike appeal to the example of Jesus in the process of making various moral decisions. Our ethical questions regarding quagmires ranging from finances, to sexuality, to national policy are often met with the refrain "what would Jesus do?" The assumptions underlying this question are twofold: First, … Continue reading Was Jesus tempted in every way?
Legion and the revenge of the Giants
A tale of three strong men: Satan, Babylon, and Rome On a few occasions Jesus attempts to clarify what his exorcistic ministry really means. On one of those occasions he claims the expulsion of demons proves that God's kingdom has drawn near (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). On another occasion, Jesus' spiritual success is said to … Continue reading Legion and the revenge of the Giants
Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion
Crises in heaven and earth The coupling of political realities with spiritual realities is a hallmark of Jewish apocalyptic. In such works the heavenly stage is reflected upon the earthly stage. Examples of this relationship are numerous: disturbances in the heavens spell disaster for the earth, the unrolling of heavenly scrolls ensures the pouring out … Continue reading Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion
“All of these I will give you”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9) For much of church history—and down to the present day—Jesus' temptation in … Continue reading “All of these I will give you”
The Devil and his Demons: the function of the demonic in Revelation
The Dragon and his Beasts In accordance with the overall historical thrust of this blog, I'd like to demonstrate in this post how the spiritual demonic realities addressed by the Biblical authors are ultimately subordinate to and representative of historical-political concerns—not the other way around. Put simply, Satan and his demons personify pagan political power. … Continue reading The Devil and his Demons: the function of the demonic in Revelation
Which Parables go back to Jesus?
All of Them? John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew series attempts to peer behind the curtain of the Gospel portraits to glimpse the Jesus of history. In broad brushstrokes, Meier's restrained and measured work produces an Elijah-like eschatological prophet of the age to come. Scholars like Paula Fredriksen and Dale Allison reach similar conclusions. In his … Continue reading Which Parables go back to Jesus?
Magic and Misunderstanding in John 8
A paper I wrote examined the dispute between Jesus and Jerusalem Jews recorded in John 8. I began with a well-trodden observation: in John 8:42-58 the typical Johannine misunderstanding motif is afoot. That is, the Jews do not understand what Jesus is saying. Their questions and accusations disclose that Jesus and his opponents are operating … Continue reading Magic and Misunderstanding in John 8