Shortly after Jesus' execution his followers came to believe that their master had ascended out of the grave as an exalted and heavenly man. In order to explain and justify this newfound conviction, these Jewish believers turned decisively to Psalms 2 & 110. These psalms—or rather, prophecies—confirmed what the earliest Christians believed God had done … Continue reading Melchizedek: Davidic priest-king to the nations
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
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
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
ὁ Θεὸς ἔκτισε τὸν ἄνθρωπον ἐπ᾿ ἀφθαρσίᾳ καὶ εἰκόνα τῆς ἰδίας ἰδιότητος ἐποίησεν αὐτόν· φθόνῳ δέ διαβόλου θάνατος εἰσῆλθεν εἰς τόν κόσμον, πειράζουσι δὲ αὐτὸν οἱ τῆς ἐκείνου μερίδος ὄντες. God created man for incorruptibility and he made him to be the image of his own being. But by the envy of the Devil death … Continue reading When Cain was the Devil
Behold, I have appointed you today over nations and kingdoms, so that you might uproot and undermine and destroy and rebuild and plant. (Jeremiah 1:10) Just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 586 BCE, God enlisted Jeremiah as his prophet. Jeremiah was to prophesy concerning all the peoples of the earth. He would decree … Continue reading The prophet like Jeremiah and the wrath to come
Perhaps in part due to the popularity and success of non-violent liberators like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Ghandi, we often assume that early Christian directives regarding love for enemies were motivated primarily by evangelistic concerns. That is, early Christians believed that some of their persecutors would reconsider their actions when confronted with unexpected … Continue reading Why did early Christians love their enemies?
The Biblical authors occasionally attribute to God and Christ the designation "king of kings." Paul names God the Father "king of kings" in 2 Timothy 6:15 and YHWH is praised as "lord of lords" across the Hebrew scriptures (Deuteronomy 10:17, Psalms 136:3). Likewise, Christ rides out to conquer the kings of the nations as "king … Continue reading Who is the king of kings?
The Kingdom and the kingdoms The precise definition of the kingdom of God continues to allude interpreters. Is it the church? Is it a state of mind? A spirit-led mode of living? Is it an earthly kingdom that comes at the end of history? All of the above? Support for each theory can be readily … Continue reading The kingdom as divine judgement
We've discussed before how Jesus' apocalyptic expectations in large part determined his teachings on violence. In light of the wrath coming upon Jerusalem (Mark 13/Luke 24, Matthew 21:1-14) and upon Greco-Roman Paganism (Matthew 25:31-36, Revelation 18, Acts 17:31, 1 Cor 2:6), Jesus considered retribution and self-defense to be acts of disbelief. God was about to … Continue reading Jesus and Violence: The Parable of the Weeds among the Wheat