10 March 2014 DVD series “Exploring Open Christianity” Episode 4: ‘Exploring Jesus & Paul’ with John Dominic Crossan

Crossan emphasised that we need to understand the context (Crossan preferred the term matrix) in which Jesus found himself which would have greatly influenced his life and teaching.  The Romans were very intrusive into ordinary people’s lives from which arose a feeling that they were in an eschatological time frame – ie that things were so bad surely God would intervene to save them from this oppression.  The fact that God had not intervened was causing doubt that God really was ‘in overall control’.  When Herold The Great died the Palestinians revolted and the Romans sacked the town of Sepphoris just a few kms from Nazareth; 2 points – Jesus therefore would have known the viciousness of the Roman soldiers and he never made any recorded reference to it.  When Paul wrote he deliberately used the titles applied to Caesar/Emperor (eg The Lord, Savour) to Jesus as a challenge to the power of Rome (insurrection/treason).

Crossan drew our attention to the differences between Roman practice of ‘Peace through Victory’ to Jesus’s ‘Peace through Justice’.  Our present use of the word ‘justice’ implies punitive justice, retribution, punishment eg Department of Justice.  This is not the meaning of Jesus’s use of the word.

Paul’s vision of Jesus at Damascus framed Paul’s theology.  Note parallel to Luke’s view of people being blind but after baptism can see – just as Paul did as recorded by Luke in Acts.  Paul engaged with God Fearers/God Worshippers – gentiles that worshipped in the Synagogues (but who were not converts to Judaism), in his taking of the message of Jesus to Gentiles.  He didn’t stand on corners trying to engage, but went to where people already knew Judaism but could be open to new ideas.  This proved to be very effective and opened up conflict with the Jewish establishment. [Is there a modern day parallel for us in this?]

Crossan concluded by emphasising that we have to break the fallacy of War=> Victory=>Peace as this only leads to ‘lulls’ in conflicts.  We have to promote the alternative vision of Justice =>Peace to make real change (just like the abolition of slavery).  ‘I believe …’ is not sufficient, we must be committed to the programme by never accepting the illusion of achieving peace through victory.

Ian Harris

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