Capital punishment, righteous Israelites, and the redemption of the adulterous woman

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

Some hard sayings of Jesus: amputation

Leading up to and following the overthrow of Greco-Roman paganism by Christian monotheism, Greek-speaking Christian elites gradually transformed Jesus' original apocalyptic message (i.e. the gospel of God's impending and annexation judgement of the nations) into a religion that could sustain the now politically dominant church for centuries to come. Through this process, the New Testament … Continue reading Some hard sayings of Jesus: amputation

Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings

A number of Gospel stories reveal that Jesus sometimes delayed his healing work. On two such occasions Jesus' failure to appear resulted in death. In one instance, following a summons from Martha and Mary to heal their sick brother, Jesus "remained two days longer in the place where he was" (John 11:1-6). As expected, by … Continue reading Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings

Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness

As modern science has advanced, belief-systems that attribute human welfare and suffering to the scheming of angels and demons have retreated in equal proportion. Few Christians today would procure an exorcist to alleviate a crippled spine, for instance. Even in cases of extreme antisocial behavior, activity traditionally attributed to malevolent spirits, most modern Christians are … Continue reading Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness

Inverted sonship: Jesus as prodigal son

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

Jesus, fiend of sinners

The prophets of Biblical legend functioned as conduits of divine energy and might. They conducted God's power, whether that power was to save or to destroy. Moses tore open the waters for Israel but shut them upon their pursuers. Elijah multiplied oil and meal to sustain the lives of his friends but called forth fire … Continue reading Jesus, fiend of sinners

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

Nazareth witch trials: the problem of the returning spirit

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

Jesus: angel summoner?

The Gospels convey two types of information to readers: intentional information and unintentional information. Much of what we know about Jesus is represented by this first type; the evangelists intended to inform us that Jesus was a powerful teacher, an awesome wonderworker, and an obedient son. This is biased information but it is still information. … Continue reading Jesus: angel summoner?

Jesus: homeless homeowner

Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head. (Matthew 8:20/Luke 9:58) Popular perceptions of Jesus' day to day experience are often informed by the above saying. The idea that Jesus was not only poor, but homeless, has become something of an axiom: … Continue reading Jesus: homeless homeowner