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

Jesus’ family reconsidered

Mary did you know? The Matthean and Lukan infancy stories are the dominant sources for our traditional understanding of Jesus' familial relations. Based on their testimony, we tend to picture the holy family as a harmonious unit; as a family supportive of their son's prophetic and messianic vocation from the very beginning. With the opening … Continue reading Jesus’ family reconsidered

Sharing spirits: how the spirit moved among the first Christians

Tactile healing Jesus' cures often involved some sort of physical touch. Although he healed the sick with merely a word on occasion, such was the exception to the rule (cf. Matthew 8:5-13). Rather, the normative practice of both Jesus and his followers involved the laying of hands upon the faithful (Mark 1:31; 41, 7:32-33, 8:23, … Continue reading Sharing spirits: how the spirit moved among the first Christians

Theophany at sea or apathetic Jesus?

Mark leaves a curious note in his telling of Jesus' sea crossing that has left interpreters puzzled. Though seemingly uncharacteristic of Jesus, the evangelist writes that he "desired to pass by" his swamped disciples (ἤθελεν παρελθεῖν αὐτούς) (Mark 6:48). For many readers this is troubling. Why would Jesus desire to pass by his helpless friends … Continue reading Theophany at sea or apathetic Jesus?

Did Jesus flaunt the Mosaic purity laws?

After a brief survey of historical reconstructions that pit Jesus against the Jewish purity rites in order to capitalize on a politically relevant Messiah, Paula Fredriksen writes this: [Certain] reconstructions have argued that, as part of his mission to Israel, Jesus took his stand precisely against the biblical laws of purity. Whatever moral content these … Continue reading Did Jesus flaunt the Mosaic purity laws?