Slavery and God’s hierarchical kingdom

Despite numerous attempts to find in Jesus' teachings an anti-slavery ethic, Jesus appears to have viewed the institution in ways typical for his time. By all accounts his apocalyptic message neither challenged slavery in the present evil age nor envisioned an egalitarian eschaton. Consider the following. Jesus honored the Law of Moses as God's word … Continue reading Slavery and God’s hierarchical kingdom

Did early Christians interpret Old Testament violence “through Jesus”?

Christians have long viewed Jesus as a hermeneutical key of sorts to the Old Testament. Because of this, the whole of the Hebrew Bible, and indeed the whole of Israel's story, is made to serve Christian ends. Behind every passage, behind every event in the history of the Jewish people, there must lie Christ's sacrifice … Continue reading Did early Christians interpret Old Testament violence “through Jesus”?

The king who would be god: Jesus as blasphemous pagan king

Was Jesus accused of blasphemy? Those who are committed to a low or human Christology sometimes argue that the charges of blasphemy leveled against Jesus in the Gospels are late and fabricated additions to the Jesus-tradition. Just as claims to deity were artificially ascribed to Jesus, so too were accusations like those found in John … Continue reading The king who would be god: Jesus as blasphemous pagan king

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