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

God’s patriarchal kingdom

I argued previously that Jesus viewed slavery—and human hierarchical arrangements in general—as intrinsic to God's orderly design of the world. When rightly honored, these hierarchical structures were believed to thwart the intrusion of chaos and divine wrath into the body politic. Many of the Israelite law codes, for example, are concerned with the proper upkeep … Continue reading God’s patriarchal kingdom

Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Ancient peoples dreaded the prospect of improper burial. To die without any burial at all was seen as more terrible still.1 Such a fate, while no doubt humiliating—a sign of divine displeasure (cf. Psalm 53:5)—also carried effects beyond the grave and into the underworld. It is to these postmortem effects that we will turn in … Continue reading Hades thrown into fire: corpse desecration at the close of the pagan age

Skeletons in God’s closet: Jesus and the crusader king

To the chagrin of many Christians, the Hebrew Bible occasionally depicts Israel's God as a "man of war" who leads his people into battle, often for the cause of vengeance. Even more troublesome for modern readers are the wars of herem (חֵרֶם) in which God instructs Israel to exterminate the enemy—man, woman, child, and goat, … Continue reading Skeletons in God’s closet: Jesus and the crusader king

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