The inimitable Christ: Christian ethics before and after the apocalypse

A conflict of visions Two competing moral visions dominate the modern Christian mind: the patriarchal vision and the egalitarian vision. Patriarchalism The patriarchal vision seeks to maintain certain socio-political inequalities so as to preserve the national identity—understood to be both primordial and immutable. In this task fathers, husbands, and men generally are divinely-appointed to rule … Continue reading The inimitable Christ: Christian ethics before and after the apocalypse

God’s king is a king: The politics of divine kingship

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

When demoniacs win: The triumph of Christ’s apocalyptic spirit

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

My king upon Zion: Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Temple

The Synoptic Gospels relate that Jesus engaged in a violent prophetic sign-act in the Jerusalem Temple on the week of his death. Knocking over tables, upsetting animals, and scourging the money-changers, Jesus signaled the imminent demolition of Israel's sanctuary by Roman armies (cf. John 2:19, Mark 13:1-2, 11:12-14). Indeed, at his trial and execution Jesus' … Continue reading My king upon Zion: Jesus’ triumphal entry into the Temple

Jerusalem witch trials: John’s magician of immortality

John's Gospel provides readers with an eschatological vision that is both peculiar and revolutionary. If the Synoptic Gospels evoke an eschatology of imminence, the Gospel of John evokes an eschatology of immanence. If in the Synoptic traditions God's kingdom arrives in power "before some standing here [should] taste death," in the Johannine tradition God's kingdom, … Continue reading Jerusalem witch trials: John’s magician of immortality

Father, send Lazarus!: Abraham’s son among Israel’s lost sheep

The Jesus of primitive Christianity—and indeed the Jesus of history—was a Jewish prophet sent to the children of Israel's Patriarchs. Much like Amos, Elijah, or John the Baptizer before him, Jesus operated within this particular religious framework as a member of the Hebrew prophetic caste. Accordingly, Jesus acted in a manner befitting the type: he … Continue reading Father, send Lazarus!: Abraham’s son among Israel’s lost sheep

God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

Biblical depictions of divine violence present an ethical problem for contemporary Christianity. For many Christians representations of the warrior God elicit feelings of discomfort and doubt. The prevailing cultural sentiment that violence, especially violence in the name of punishment and vengeance, is morally indefensible only adds to Christian disillusionment with their scriptures. In response to … Continue reading God’s unfailing wrath: divine violence and the cruciform mirage

Prophets of the new Exodus: Loaves and fishes as military provocation

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

Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

Most theological systems conscript the Lukan birth narrative, along with its Matthean counterpart, into the service of incarnational Christology. This is to say that Luke's nativity story—the virginal conception in particular—is understood to present the mechanism by which God became a man. In this way the Lukan account fills the lacuna left by the Fourth … Continue reading Jesus the patriot: Jewish nationalism in Luke’s Christmas story

God’s kingdom among the dogs: Jesus and the gentile beggar

For Jesus' modern admirers the story of the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman remains a stone of stumbling. It is difficult to assimilate a Jesus who denigrates gentiles as "dogs" into the vision of Jesus as the proto-liberal par excellence. John P. Meier pricks at this modern sentiment perfectly: "Christian exegetes would probably have decried the use of … Continue reading God’s kingdom among the dogs: Jesus and the gentile beggar