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How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation

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The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire—“the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation” (John Shelby Spong) —grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith. Man The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire—“the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation” (John Shelby Spong) —grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith. Many portions of the New Testament, introduce a compassionate Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But the Jesus we find in Revelation and some portions of the Gospels leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true revelation of the Messiah—and how can both be in the same Bible? How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian explores this question and offers guidance for the faithful conflicted over which version of the Lord to worship. John Dominic Crossan reconciles these contrasting views, revealing how different writers of the books of the Bible not only possessed different visions of God but also different purposes for writing. Often these books are explicitly competing against another, opposing vision of God from the Bible itself. Crossan explains how to navigate this debate and offers what he believes is the best central thread to what the Bible is all about. He challenges Christians to fully participate in this dialogue, thereby shaping their faith by reading deeply, reflectively, and in community with others who share their uncertainty. Only then, he advises, will Christians be able to read and understand the Bible without losing their faith.


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The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire—“the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation” (John Shelby Spong) —grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith. Man The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire—“the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation” (John Shelby Spong) —grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith. Many portions of the New Testament, introduce a compassionate Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But the Jesus we find in Revelation and some portions of the Gospels leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true revelation of the Messiah—and how can both be in the same Bible? How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian explores this question and offers guidance for the faithful conflicted over which version of the Lord to worship. John Dominic Crossan reconciles these contrasting views, revealing how different writers of the books of the Bible not only possessed different visions of God but also different purposes for writing. Often these books are explicitly competing against another, opposing vision of God from the Bible itself. Crossan explains how to navigate this debate and offers what he believes is the best central thread to what the Bible is all about. He challenges Christians to fully participate in this dialogue, thereby shaping their faith by reading deeply, reflectively, and in community with others who share their uncertainty. Only then, he advises, will Christians be able to read and understand the Bible without losing their faith.

1 review for How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation

  1. 5 out of 5

    Howard

    Justice v Judgement I am a Christian; however, I have struggled most of my adult life with the dichotomy of God as described in the Bible. On the one hand we have the loving creator God who gave us everything and whose son preached love and nonviolence. On the other hand we have the avenging God of the flood, periodic wrath against his people, and ultimately the sword wielding Jesus of death in Revelation. "Put bluntly, the nonviolent Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seemed annulled and dismissed Justice v Judgement I am a Christian; however, I have struggled most of my adult life with the dichotomy of God as described in the Bible. On the one hand we have the loving creator God who gave us everything and whose son preached love and nonviolence. On the other hand we have the avenging God of the flood, periodic wrath against his people, and ultimately the sword wielding Jesus of death in Revelation. "Put bluntly, the nonviolent Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount seemed annulled and dismissed by the later Jesus in the book of Revelation." [p 9] John Dominic Crossan has done a masterful job showing how and why that dichotomy repeatedly exists in the Bible. Crossan's compelling argument is that God provides us radical love and distribution of resources but civilization continually subverts His will into our quest for more, more, more. "[W]e see that as in the Old Testament so in the New, as with Torah so with Paul, a rhythm of assertion-and-subversion is emphatically present. A vision of the radicality of God is put forth, and then later, we see that vision domesticated and integrated into the normalcy of civilization so that the established order of life is maintained. Furthermore, both elements are cited from, in one case, the mouth of God and, in the other, the pen of Paul."[p 27] God's will for us is a world of justice. "There are, however, two forms of justice - the justice of distribution and the justice of retribution; a distinction of supreme importance for both the Bible and this book. In fact, I will go a step farther and argue that distributive justice is the primary meaning of the word 'justice' and that retributive justice is secondary and derivative. In the bible, it is primarily about a fair distribution of God's world for all of God's people. For example, when the Bible cries out for justice, can one really think it is demanding retribution? Give justice to the weak and orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Ps 82:3-4)" [p 17] One ramification of this radical idea can be found when re-reading the story of Adam and Eve. The words "'sin', 'disobedience', and 'punishment', let alone 'fall' never occur anywhere in Genesis 2-3." [p 44] When bad things happen to us (short of natural causes such as earthquakes or hurricanes) it is "not external punishment but an internal consequence"[p 116] of our break from God. "[I]f there is no such thing as divine punishments, but rather only human consequences, then there is no such thing as divine forgiveness, but rather only the possibility of human change; and there is no such thing as divine mercy, but rather only the time within which change is still possible before it is too late." [p 126]. Too late, not because of God's wrath but because mankind has become so good at killing and destruction. An important tool Crossan uses is "matrix" - that is, the context of time and culture of the stories. He compares the story of the Garden of Eden with that of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest written stories from Mesopotamia. Later he compares the story of Cain and Abel with the Sumerian story of "'Dumuzid and Endkimdu: the Dispute Between the Shepherd-God and the Farmer-God'"[p 60]. (Recall that Abel was a shepherd and Cain a farmer.) In the New Testament he compares the words used to describe Jesus with those that describe Caesar. While some Christians may dismiss this look at context Crossan argues "[t]he alternative to matrix meaning is Rorschach reading or inkblot interpretation, which is when an ancient text means whatever your modern mind decides it means." [p 236] We see in the New Testament the stark difference between the Roman world view and the Christian one. Both wanted peace, but the method of establishing that peace could not be more different. "Roman imperial theology was structured around this quite clear and explicit sequence: religion, war, victory, peace, or, in the briefest summary as mantra and motto: Peace Through Victory." [p 190] This is the normalcy of civilization we have seen play out over and over again through thousands of years. God's program, on the other hand is "peace through [distributive] justice." [p 202] Similarly, in the New Testament, Crossan points out, the description of Jesus as "Divine, Son of God, or God Incarnate" matches the words to describe the Roman Emperor Augustus. Context is everything. "Only after you discern what it meant to transfer those titles from emperor to peasant and Palatine Hill to Nazareth Ridge then, can you assert either belief or disbelief now." [p 237] That context also shows how radical the claim of Jesus' divinity was. By walking back through the Gospels Crossan shows how Jesus' vision of peaceful, non-violent resistance, as shown in Mark, one of the earlier Gospels, is subverted through rhetorical violence in the later Gospels of Luke and Matthew and their common source "Q". "[Matthew] puts all of that invective in the mouth of the historical Jesus after having earlier recorded him - the new Moses giving a new law from a new Mount Sinai - as solemnly forbidding agner, insult, and name-calling {5:21-22) and demanding, 'Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you' (5:44). I ask as before for John's Gospel: Did Jesus change his mind, or did Matthew change his Jesus?" [p 178]Crossan demonstrates this heartbeat of assertion of God's plan and the subversion of civilization very clearly in Paul's letters. I think it is settled scholarship that Paul did not write all the letters ascribed to him. "Seven were certainly written by Paul... A further three were probably not written by him... And a final three were certainly not written by him: 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus." [p 24] Paul's views on slavery and the equality of women were subverted by later authors writing in his name. In his original letters it is clear Paul understands that women have every right to be leaders in the movement; in fact, a woman was one of his traveling companions. Likewise, when a friend's slave runs to Paul after being mistreated by his owner, Paul converts the slave to Christianity and tells the owner one Christian cannot own another. In later letters in Paul's name are given over to a set of instructions to both slaves and owners outlining each's responsibilities. Finally, in Paul's name, a letter is written to slave owners only with no direct address to slaves. "Colossians subverted and denied the Pauline letter to Philemon on slavery. That was an early warning of how Pauline radicality on certain basic values would be de-radicalized back into Roman normalcy." [p 216]"Those six letters not written by him [Paul] are not just post-Pauline and pseudo-Pauline letters but are actually anti Pauline letters. They represent the subversion of which the seven authentic letters were the assertion. Jesus, as we saw, was suberted over two stages - by rhetorical violence in the Gospels and by physical violence in Revelation. This happened similarly with Paul: he was de-radicalized and re-Romanized in two stages." [p 220]Now I know that fundamentalists will disagree with this approach loudly and forcefully. And atheists will use the book as an argument for ignoring the Bible altogether. But for me it puts the heart of God's message to us front and center and shows how civilization continually subverts His will for a world of peace through justice. This book has given me a framework to understand what has troubled me for years. I've quoted Crossan extensively, but bear with me and let him have the last word: "If, therefore, you agree with this book that there are no divine punishments but only human consequences... then the challenge to our species is clear. Governed not by chemical instinct but by moral conscience, can we control escalatory violence before it destroys us? Can we abandon violence as civilization's drug of choice? Can we opt deliberately for peace gained through justice and abandon, as a fatally bankrupt option, that mantric chant of peace gained through victory?" [p 244]"Furthermore, if you find the term 'God' or 'civilization' distracting, I suggest you look at that ... as simply the clash between a radical and a normal vision for the future of human life on earth. The radicality of nonviolent resistance versus the normalcy of violent oppression, and the radicality of peace through distributive justice versus the normalcy of peace through victorious force seem to apply equally to the first century then, our twenty-first century now, and all the centuries in between." [p 244] flag 11 likes · Like  · see review View 2 comments Jun 27, 2015 James (JD) Dittes rated it really liked it Shelves: working-man-s-ma-theology, 2015 Hands down the most provocative title of a book that I'll read this year, Crossan here is focused on the Bible's bi-polar approach toward violence. Two singular examples anchor his argument.First, there is the example of Jesus whose "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem four days before his crucifixion featured him riding a peace donkey, winking at the traditions of the conquering hero. Yet in the Book of Revelation, Jesus appears again riding a white horse. Are the writers here describing the same g Hands down the most provocative title of a book that I'll read this year, Crossan here is focused on the Bible's bi-polar approach toward violence. Two singular examples anchor his argument.First, there is the example of Jesus whose "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem four days before his crucifixion featured him riding a peace donkey, winking at the traditions of the conquering hero. Yet in the Book of Revelation, Jesus appears again riding a white horse. Are the writers here describing the same guy/God?Then there is the example of Cain, the first murderer. Following the murder investigation, God puts a mark on Cain that will punish anyone who seeks vengeance for Abel's death, a protection that Cain's grandson, Lamech, will claim is seventy times seven times as strong for himself.Is this the same God who threatens the lives of children and nursing mothers in retribution for their sins as the Babylonians approach later in the Old Testament?Crossan's thesis is that these aren't the same gods--that they demonstrate the recurring theme of radical nonviolence being superseded by community-sanctioned violence. Again and again, within the same book, different writers first challenge social norms and then integrate radical teachings (about women and slavery, as well as violence) into more traditional applications.Crossan is at his best when he is defining the matrices of the cultures in which various books of the Bible were written. The covenants given to Abraham and Israel, he shows, follow the same format as those of the Hittites, giving blessing and sanction in equal measure. The later sanction-heavy Jeremiads of the Old Testament follow the more violent Assyrian covenental forms. The 'son of god' and 'glad tidings of great joy' that elevated Octavian Caesar to a form of god also described Jesus of Nazareth.But in order to prove his point, Crossan takes logical steps that I, personally, am uncomfortable with--dismissing the authority of books like Revelation and Colossians, along with their violent, misogynistic messages.Crossan has a point of hammering his points home over and over again, which I found grating. His scholarship is sound, but his preaching can be overbearing at times.This is an intellectually stimulating, engrossing read from start to finish, worthwhile for all who take seriously their fascination with the Bible, and their commitment to nonviolence and pacifism. flag 3 likes · Like  · see review Mar 13, 2015 Adam Ross rated it liked it Shelves: theology Crossan is one of those scholars who is unspeakably brilliant and endlessly frustrating in equal measure. This book ends up being quite typical in that respect. His thesis is that Jesus is the measure of the Bible; it is Jesus that shows us what is accurate and inaccurate everywhere else, and in that thesis he and I are in agreement. And in fact the first two-thirds of the book, largely concerned with the Old Testament, is full of profound insights. But it is when we come to Jesus and Paul that Crossan is one of those scholars who is unspeakably brilliant and endlessly frustrating in equal measure. This book ends up being quite typical in that respect. His thesis is that Jesus is the measure of the Bible; it is Jesus that shows us what is accurate and inaccurate everywhere else, and in that thesis he and I are in agreement. And in fact the first two-thirds of the book, largely concerned with the Old Testament, is full of profound insights. But it is when we come to Jesus and Paul that he and I have something of a parting of the ways. For him, the book of Revelation is a slander against God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit, full of violence and bloodlust and thus must be rejected. Crossan seems to grant fundamentalists too much power over the text here, as he misses the fact that the violence in Revelation is subversive; John is not surrendering the nonviolent Jesus of the gospels to the violence of empire. He is, in fact, reconciling the ministry and death of Jesus with the violent expectations of the Old Testament, and he turns every one of these violent texts inside out. Revelation is not simply nonviolent, it is anti-violent, and part of its rhetorical genius is its use of violent imagery to communicate a nonviolent reality.Likewise, with Paul. For Crossan, the Paul of the authentic letters (Romans, Galatians, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Thessalonians) is steadfastly against violence and patriarchy. On this we agree. But his discussion of pseudo-Paul (Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thess.) and non-Paul (1 & 2 Timothy, Titus) is rather dreadful. He views these letters as strongly patriarchal and forbidding women from leadership in the church, despite the fact that these interpretive arguments are far less than convincing. In fact, Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 & 2 Timothy strongly advocate for female leadership in the church when their context and translation problems are correctly understood. That does not mean they have to have been written by Paul, but that at least with regard to the women question, they and Paul are of a mind. flag 3 likes · Like  · see review Jan 24, 2018 Orville Jenkins rated it it was amazing Crossan performs his expected thorough and clear, readable analysis of the streams of thought that seem to portray two different portraits of God in the collection of documents over several centuries that now constitute what we call the Bible. Crossan's book was originally published in 1989 and may be available only from used book vendors. I bought it through Amazon.God's Violence vs God's JusticeThe author focuses on the problem of God's violence and conflicts in different portraits of God perc Crossan performs his expected thorough and clear, readable analysis of the streams of thought that seem to portray two different portraits of God in the collection of documents over several centuries that now constitute what we call the Bible. Crossan's book was originally published in 1989 and may be available only from used book vendors. I bought it through Amazon.God's Violence vs God's JusticeThe author focuses on the problem of God's violence and conflicts in different portraits of God perceived in the Old Testament texts. I expect this book will be helpful especially to those who have given up on trying to make sense of the Bible in terms of our understanding of the Bible's deep fairness and justice themes of the Bible.Crossan addresses the problem of character that troubles so many readers by exploring the portrayals of God in regard to violence in the biblical testimony. He examines the writings in light of the eras in which each was written and the prevailing historical and political situation and the major empires of the region used as models for the CVovenant metaphor of Israel with Yahweh. Central to this is the ancient concept of Covenant found among all the ancient peoples of Anatolia and Mesopotamia.Two Imperial CharactersHe provides a very enlightening description of the differences between the the character of the Hittite and the later Assyrian empires as reflected in their Covenants with the rulers and peoples they conquered or related to as conquered peoples or vassals.The Hittites were known for their benevolent character and fairness in relationship to conquered or vassal rulers, while the Assyrians were known for violent and cruel repression and domination. This throws great light on how we see the covenant model reflecting these two different formats of relationship in portrayals of the Israelite tribes' relationship to their God.His outline of key differences between the political, economic and cultural character of two great Empires and how these are reflected in their covenants is very enlightening. The different character of these two empires and the more violent and repressive character of the Assyrians clarifies greatly the differences we see between different portrayals in biblical writings of Yahweh and his relationship to his people Israel.Covenant CharacterThe Covenant metaphor is a powerful, central concept in the Old Testament writings. The two different Covenant models at the various times can explain much of the dissonance we modern readers see and feel when the Covenant metaphor is used to portray God as the ruling suzerain and Israel as the vassal relating to the covenanted descendants of Jacob.We find in the later developments in proclamations by the high prophets, God's character was a core value in their call back to faithfulness to the Covenant with Yahweh.He explores how later empires, including the Roman Empire at the time of Christ, may be helpful in understanding the themes and images in the book of Revelation, with all its violence.Crossan writes not only as a skilled and able scholar and clear-headed writer, but as a devoted believer and lover of the biblical texts. Crossan's incisive overview of the biblical texts places those texts in their historical and cultural context, bringing them to life.Cultural CharacterThese texts have a historical and cultural character in whose terms they speak. Discernment will enable us to make responsible application to our very different place in history and the unique worldview context in which we live and think. Crossan brings the Covenant and Gospel message to life that makes sense across cultures.This title will be especially appreciated by readers unfamiliar with the broader history of that region and that ancient time reflected in the biblical texts. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Sep 25, 2017 Jeremy added it Shelves: christianity-theology My "zero stars" rating isn't an indication that I thought this was a poorly written book. In fact, just the opposite. This was a highly engaging book and Crossan has an excellent writing style. The contents are thought provoking, and for some perhaps life changing. The problem is, I'm not convinced by Crossan's arguments. But the even greater problem is that I wish I was, which makes it very difficult to rate the book.The insurmountable issue for me is that Crossan bases his thesis on the idea o My "zero stars" rating isn't an indication that I thought this was a poorly written book. In fact, just the opposite. This was a highly engaging book and Crossan has an excellent writing style. The contents are thought provoking, and for some perhaps life changing. The problem is, I'm not convinced by Crossan's arguments. But the even greater problem is that I wish I was, which makes it very difficult to rate the book.The insurmountable issue for me is that Crossan bases his thesis on the idea of the historical Jesus. I say "idea" not because there wasn't an historical Jesus, but because trying to separate out the Jesus of history from the Jesus of faith is a fool's errand. I think Luke Timothy Johnson was correct when he critiqued Crossan and the rest of the Jesus Seminar in his book The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels. For anyone not familiar with Johnson, I think in the context of biblical scholarship he is conservative, but by no means is he a fundamentalist. Johnson's critique of the quest for the historical Jesus is that when we start picking and choosing what we think the historical Jesus actually said then we end up with a Jesus who ends up looking a lot like us. If social justice is important to us, then we find a Jesus who advocates social justice. If we want a radical Jesus who disrupts the temple and the palace, then we'll find him. The historical Jesus, it turns out, is too malleable to be useful.In the end, I finished Crossan's book glad that I had read it, even if I wasn't fully persuaded by his thesis. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Oct 30, 2020 Catrina Berka rated it liked it I enjoy the way Crossan approaches biblical issues but this book was DEEP and I don’t have the right scuba certifications to join him. The summary of the book’s analysis is essentially, “love and justice MUST go hand-in-hand.” I can get on board with that message but feel like I had to slog through a lot of deep theological analysis to get there. flag 2 likes · Like  · see review Mar 04, 2022 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition This book is challenging and really, why should one expect that understanding the contradictions in the Bible should be easy? Crossan is trying to help us come to terms with the mixed messages of violence and love--or the two forms of justice: distributive and retributive that the Bible demonstrates. His answer is that the Bible must be understood in the context in which it was written. "There is a struggle between God's radical ideal for us, which I call the radicality of God, and the standard This book is challenging and really, why should one expect that understanding the contradictions in the Bible should be easy? Crossan is trying to help us come to terms with the mixed messages of violence and love--or the two forms of justice: distributive and retributive that the Bible demonstrates. His answer is that the Bible must be understood in the context in which it was written. "There is a struggle between God's radical ideal for us, which I call the radicality of God, and the standard coercive ways that cultures in fact operate, which I call the normalcy of civilization." "What is at stake is whether the vision of Jesus and God portrayed in the final book of Revelation trumps the other perspectives found earlier in the Bible." Crossan examines the writings of Paul in which his early and authentic letters preach the radical idea that: "there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female, for all of you are one in Christ Jesus..." vs the later writings,probably not written by Paul, in which these radical ideas are subverted and denied. Crossan's explanation is that Christianity was in the process of being acculturated to Rome: "God's radicality is regular dialed back toward civilization's normalcy throughout the Christian Bible." For Crossan, the bottom line is that: "the meaning of the Bible's story is in its middle, in the story of Jesus in the Gospels and the early writings of Paul; the climax of its narrative is in the center; and the sense of its nonviolent center judges the (non)sense of its violent ending." flag 1 like · Like  · see review Apr 05, 2018 Martin rated it really liked it This was a challenging book to complete, and I might have given up had it not been for my target! It was however worth the effort and made me think carefully about the Bible and the historical Jesus within. When read with other works from Crossan and Sheehan it adds significantly to my overall understanding. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Apr 13, 2019 Rachel rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: didn-t-finish, non-fiction, electronic-books, spiritual This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. This book is about reconciling the nonviolent and violent God we seem to see in the Bible. The Bible contains nonviolent teaching and actions by Jesus when he was here on earth the first time, but His return in Revelation has a decidedly violent description of what happens to His enemies. The author has some interesting ideas and makes some good points, but I disagree with his founding principle. The way the author reconciles those two things is stated in the second chapter,"We sometimes say, in This book is about reconciling the nonviolent and violent God we seem to see in the Bible. The Bible contains nonviolent teaching and actions by Jesus when he was here on earth the first time, but His return in Revelation has a decidedly violent description of what happens to His enemies. The author has some interesting ideas and makes some good points, but I disagree with his founding principle. The way the author reconciles those two things is stated in the second chapter,"We sometimes say, in hyperbolic shorthand, that the Bible is the word of God. Actually, of course, we should say more accurately that the Bible contains the word of God." The author's main argument is that God the Father is a nonviolent God of distributive justice and anytime God the Father or Jesus become violent it is because humans have put their spin on it. The radical nature of God's ideas has been tempered by the normalcy of civilization. The biggest problem I have with this is that if that is the case how does one know which is the correct Jesus, the violent one or the nonviolent one? The author raises that point but doesn't really answer the question; at least not right away. I stop reading after the second or third chapter. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Nov 11, 2016 Jon Beadle rated it liked it Good, but not great. His matrix explaining the radicality of God and the normalcy of civilization - world he discovered in scripture itself - is brilliant. His many attempts to write off certain things as historical and others as sheer misinterpretations, are simply the arguments of modernity, making Dom and others like him unable to become part of the solution for western civilization. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jan 18, 2018 Max rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition You better like circular argumentsI usually like Crossan's writing because of the heavy historical influences. But this relied heavily on overly repetitive circular arguments. It made for a very long and boring read. To summarize, which the author chooses to take liberties with far too often, it was meh. You better like circular argumentsI usually like Crossan's writing because of the heavy historical influences. But this relied heavily on overly repetitive circular arguments. It made for a very long and boring read. To summarize, which the author chooses to take liberties with far too often, it was meh. flag 1 like · Like  · see review Jun 18, 2016 Trish Judson rated it did not like it Couldn't make myself read it after gleaning that his answer was to pick and choose what parts of the Bible were true depending on whether on not it agreed with his beliefs about the nature of God and His desire for "distributive justice ". Couldn't make myself read it after gleaning that his answer was to pick and choose what parts of the Bible were true depending on whether on not it agreed with his beliefs about the nature of God and His desire for "distributive justice ". flag 1 like · Like  · see review Feb 05, 2019 John Martindale rated it really liked it Shelves: hope-to-re-read, christian, theology I really like the thesis of the book, seeing within the text of Scripture the assertion (of the good and beautiful) and then the subversion (the return to the negative aspects of civilization) again and again all throughout scripture. In the New Testament what is given with one hand is taken back with the other. Jesus' God is presented as non-judgmental, merciful, unconditionally loving, healing, forgiving and inclusive. The kingdom will come nonviolently, like a seed, through enemy love, servin I really like the thesis of the book, seeing within the text of Scripture the assertion (of the good and beautiful) and then the subversion (the return to the negative aspects of civilization) again and again all throughout scripture. In the New Testament what is given with one hand is taken back with the other. Jesus' God is presented as non-judgmental, merciful, unconditionally loving, healing, forgiving and inclusive. The kingdom will come nonviolently, like a seed, through enemy love, serving and giving, for the kingdom is not of the world. But elsewhere Jesus and how he presents God is envisioned as judgmental, vengeful, unforgiving, conditionally loving, punishing and exclusive. The kingdom can only comes through the greatest act of divine violence, Jesus must embrace the way of the world, brutality and force are the only way to get anything done. The most tragic thing is the subversion wins again and again, it is the fly in the ointment, everything beautiful is smeared in excrement and rendered void. For example we see Paul's inclusion of woman, they're fellow apostles, church leaders, they prophecy in church, etc... but then in 1 Cor, inserted awkwardly, utterly out of context, is a verse that woman are not permitted to speak in church, which utterly contradicts what just went before it (woman speaking in church) and is the antithesis of Paul's constant testimony in the true Pauline letters. This one interpolation over turned and negates everything else, the negative won through most of church history. Some sexist man copying Paul's letter just couldn't stomach Paul's inclusiveness and with a tiny addition overturned everything Paul stood for, it is utterly disgusting. Then the pastoral epistles widely understood by almost all scholars to be forgeries, not only subverted Paul on his stance towards woman, but also towards slaves. So yes, how to read the Bible and still be a Christian, recognize the beautiful and good, adhere to it, and don't allow the subversion and negation of the good which is soon to follow to annihilate it. Instead recognize it for what it is, a the subversion, a return to the ways and mentality of the world, the return to normalcy. This Dr Jackal and Mr Hyde runs through the entire scripture, its not a contrast of the Old Testament God, with the New Testament God, both are presented a bi-polar, good and evil. Also with Jesus' message which is beautiful and good, it is about Being Kingdom people NOW, bringing in the Kingdom, not awaiting for the son of man to come on a white horse and kill all our enemies. One thing Crossan has given me a tiny bit of hope concerning, is maybe I'll find some way of abstracting the leaven of the eschatological violent and apocalyptic Jesus predicting the worldwide genocide that Son of Man would soon inflict upon that generation, from the Synoptic Gospel's dough. It seems an impossible task, but what if Jesus was consistent, what if he didn't contradict and violate every principle and good ethic he gave? What if this was instead the church, especially the writer of the Gospel of Matthew, who in their hatred of the Jews around the fall of Jerusalem, and eagerly expecting the Son of Man to descend and slaughter everyone but the faithful few elect. flag Like  · see review Mar 08, 2020 Cathryn Conroy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Violence. Vengeance. Viciousness. Randomly open a Bible, and chances are you'll find this and more on any given page. But there is also love, forgiveness, and supreme understanding. What a dichotomy!It doesn't take a very close reading of the Bible to realize that God is both violent and nonviolent, and the same goes for Jesus. God got so angry at humanity that he killed everyone—save for Noah and his family—in a great flood. We think of Jesus Christ as embracing nonviolence with the Sermon on t Violence. Vengeance. Viciousness. Randomly open a Bible, and chances are you'll find this and more on any given page. But there is also love, forgiveness, and supreme understanding. What a dichotomy!It doesn't take a very close reading of the Bible to realize that God is both violent and nonviolent, and the same goes for Jesus. God got so angry at humanity that he killed everyone—save for Noah and his family—in a great flood. We think of Jesus Christ as embracing nonviolence with the Sermon on the Mount being an excellent example, but then there is the convoluted Book of Revelation, which is dripping in blood and murder led by none other than Jesus. Jesus rides a donkey on Palm Sunday exuding peace and love and a white horse with a sharp sword in his mouth in the Book of Revelation. Huh? How can this be?Author John Dominic Crossan has attempted to square all this divine violence, largely through extensive historical context, in a cleverly titled book that unfortunately falls a bit short of the promising premise. Heavy with erudite theology, the book is no doubt a seminarian's delight, while the typical layperson may have to struggle a bit as I did. But just enough of it is understandable, if not downright intriguing and thought-provoking, that I'm giving it four stars. Basically, it alternated between being utterly confounding and absolutely fascinating.Bonus: Fun, weird, odd tidbits are sprinkled throughout, such as why "Mary" became a favorite name for newborn females in the first-century Jewish homeland, a succinct and point-on explanation of the confounding Book of Revelation, and a fascinating explanation of which individual the number "666" represents (and it's not the devil).Just know this is not an easy read and will take a bit of work to get through it. flag Like  · see review May 11, 2018 Georgianne rated it it was amazing I read little bits of this book each morning while I had coffee. I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time because I had to really think about what was written. I found the book engrossing and educational and exactly what I had hoped to learn about, but at the same time, some of it was academic -- or theological -- in language so that I often had to reread a page several times. Not because I didn't understand the language/words, but because ... well, okay, fine, maybe I'm a bit slow, but I I read little bits of this book each morning while I had coffee. I couldn't read more than a few pages at a time because I had to really think about what was written. I found the book engrossing and educational and exactly what I had hoped to learn about, but at the same time, some of it was academic -- or theological -- in language so that I often had to reread a page several times. Not because I didn't understand the language/words, but because ... well, okay, fine, maybe I'm a bit slow, but I had to really think about what it all meant. Ask myself if I understood what Crossan was saying. For example: "Sanction as curses takes up about 254 of 674 lines (38%) from Esarhaddon's exercises in dynastic paranoia. In answer to this chapter's first question, those Assyrian-style suzerain-vassal treaties--with their heavy emphasis on Sanction rather than History, and, within Sanction, on curses for infidelity rather than blessings for fidelity--are the contemporary metaphor, model, and matrix for the Deuteronomic vision of covenant." That makes perfect sense if you're in the middle of reading the book, but still, it takes me a few minutes, some back-page turning, and several sips of coffee to fully process that paragraph. I'll probably refer back to this book repeatedly as I read my way through the Bible itself, though. Also, as a side note, I enjoy Marcus Borg's books. flag Like  · see review Sep 10, 2018 Ruth Board marked it as to-read Shelves: want-to-read Crossan's book is an exemplary example of the scholarship for which he is so well known. The first and last parts of the book provide clear explanations of his thesis of the significance of the historical Jesus to an understanding of the Bible. Much of the main body of the work imparts the extensive research which underlies his discussion of distributive justice as distinct from retributive justice, the radical nature of nonviolent resistance versus the normalcy of violent oppression, and assert Crossan's book is an exemplary example of the scholarship for which he is so well known. The first and last parts of the book provide clear explanations of his thesis of the significance of the historical Jesus to an understanding of the Bible. Much of the main body of the work imparts the extensive research which underlies his discussion of distributive justice as distinct from retributive justice, the radical nature of nonviolent resistance versus the normalcy of violent oppression, and assertion of the peace of God contrasted with the normal submission of civilization. Time as a construct is described as centered around Jesus, rather than from beginning to end. In one respect, the extensiveness and expression of Crossan's knowledge of historical material underlying his premises is both a strength and a weakness. That is because the detailed research in Greek and Roman documents, the writings of prophets, and historical literature etc., is so extensive that one can get lost in the documents and yearn to return to concepts he has presented. Nevertheless, the ideas resound with an appeal of rationality and new understanding of the importance of the historical Jesus. flag Like  · see review Mar 07, 2018 Jessie Heckenmueller rated it really liked it Shelves: faith-doubt Crossan is clearly a brilliant guy. The book was challenging to read; however, that was often not a bad thing as it required me to more fully dive into the material. He is sometimes sassy which always made me chuckle and created some comic relief. The summaries at the end of his chapters were immensely helpful to maintain the flow. I was surprised he did not cite more of his sources but assume it is because much of what he talks about is simply head knowledge for him. I read this group with a gr Crossan is clearly a brilliant guy. The book was challenging to read; however, that was often not a bad thing as it required me to more fully dive into the material. He is sometimes sassy which always made me chuckle and created some comic relief. The summaries at the end of his chapters were immensely helpful to maintain the flow. I was surprised he did not cite more of his sources but assume it is because much of what he talks about is simply head knowledge for him. I read this group with a group of people which helped with the difficulty of the material. I am still full of questions and don't feel confident in the answer to Is God Violent, but I really appreciated his thoughtful approach - particularly the idea of assertion and subversion as a heartbeat. I am thankful I read it. flag Like  · see review Apr 04, 2019 Joe Henry rated it it was amazing "Matrix" is a big word with Crossan. He says you have to read and understand the Biblical material against the political and cultural background against which it is written. That's the matrix. That's not a new idea, of course, but he does such a good job of showing how that works from earliest material to the most recent--and not just 1st century CE.The other major idea is the radical God being normalized to the culture. For example:Distributive justice is proclaimed by the radical God, but it i "Matrix" is a big word with Crossan. He says you have to read and understand the Biblical material against the political and cultural background against which it is written. That's the matrix. That's not a new idea, of course, but he does such a good job of showing how that works from earliest material to the most recent--and not just 1st century CE.The other major idea is the radical God being normalized to the culture. For example:Distributive justice is proclaimed by the radical God, but it is normalized to the culture as retributive justice.The "donkey Jesus" in the gospels versus the Jesus on a white horse in Revelation.Insights to keep in mind and build on. flag Like  · see review Oct 19, 2019 Pearl Loewen rated it liked it Shelves: john-dominic-crossan I have always enjoyed Crossan's scholarship and clear style of writing that never leaves you guessing where he has come from and going in developing his thesis. I have long held to the notion that biblical violence was culturally conditioned, including a violent God that was a projection of a people's violence in their time and place, and how their surrounding cultures portrayed their own rulers and gods. Crossan expands this at great length, a little too much in depth for me, but the provocativ I have always enjoyed Crossan's scholarship and clear style of writing that never leaves you guessing where he has come from and going in developing his thesis. I have long held to the notion that biblical violence was culturally conditioned, including a violent God that was a projection of a people's violence in their time and place, and how their surrounding cultures portrayed their own rulers and gods. Crossan expands this at great length, a little too much in depth for me, but the provocative title caught my attention and kept me engaged and able to endure the detail to reach the climax and goal. flag Like  · see review Dec 08, 2020 Margie Dorn rated it it was amazing Shelves: religious-studies This book is Crossan at his best. His conclusion that "Justice is the body of love, and love is the soul of justice. Separate them and you do not get both— you get neither; you get a moral corpse. Justice is the flesh of love, and love is the spirit of justice." (p. 245) is derived from a journey through biblical scriptures via the matrix, metaphor and meaning of both the past and present. In other of his writings I've had distinct problems with certain lapses in research and rhetoric that did n This book is Crossan at his best. His conclusion that "Justice is the body of love, and love is the soul of justice. Separate them and you do not get both— you get neither; you get a moral corpse. Justice is the flesh of love, and love is the spirit of justice." (p. 245) is derived from a journey through biblical scriptures via the matrix, metaphor and meaning of both the past and present. In other of his writings I've had distinct problems with certain lapses in research and rhetoric that did not disturb me here. I learned much from this book, and will no doubt re-read it at some time in the future to settle his information and discussion more firmly in my mind. flag Like  · see review Nov 18, 2017 Eva Winter rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Thought provoking, but not for the average evangelical ChristianI liked the book a lot because I came across it at the right time in my spiritual journey. I especially liked his distinction between distributive and retaliatory justice, and how the radicality of God has been subverted, time and again, into the normalcy of civilization, and that on the very pages of the Bible. But I would imagine that those readers who hold to a literal, verbal inspiration of the Bible in its entirety, will not ge Thought provoking, but not for the average evangelical ChristianI liked the book a lot because I came across it at the right time in my spiritual journey. I especially liked his distinction between distributive and retaliatory justice, and how the radicality of God has been subverted, time and again, into the normalcy of civilization, and that on the very pages of the Bible. But I would imagine that those readers who hold to a literal, verbal inspiration of the Bible in its entirety, will not get much out of it. flag Like  · see review Jun 29, 2015 Aldric rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition Shelves: history, religion, spirituality What a mouthful of a title, huh? In my experience, those who grow up practicing Catholicism express the grandeur and drama of the Church in other ways. Maybe when you try to cover it up, it seeps out through another crack, like a leaky pot. ANYWAY…In hindsight, it might have helped if I had read Crossan’s earlier books before going on to this one. I’ve been meaning to read his The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, but I saw that th What a mouthful of a title, huh? In my experience, those who grow up practicing Catholicism express the grandeur and drama of the Church in other ways. Maybe when you try to cover it up, it seeps out through another crack, like a leaky pot. ANYWAY…In hindsight, it might have helped if I had read Crossan’s earlier books before going on to this one. I’ve been meaning to read his The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, but I saw that this book had just been published this year so I couldn’t resist.Because the ideas Crossan tackles are humongous, I opt to try to summarize the main points instead of critiquing him.The premise is that the Bible seems contradictory. On one hand, Jesus rides to Jerusalem peacefully on a donkey; on the other, Christ slaughters a beast while mounted on a violent warhorse. What should we believe as readers? Should we pick to believe that God is always one way or the other, or should we be content with that old platitude about how “God works in mysterious ways”?Crossan’s solution is to analyze the Bible through a matrix of contextual history. He examines a handful of key stories and themes in the Bible through this matrix, from creation and original sin in Genesis, to land distribution, law and retribution, slavery, and what a covenant is. Here’s one example:Jesus the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount preferred loving enemies and praying for persecutors while Jesus the Christ of the book of Revelation preferred killing enemies and slaughtering persecutors.Is Jesus inconsistent? Does Jesus just have massive mood swings?Here’s one of the book’s central claims:The nonviolent Jesus is the Christian Bible’s assertion, acceptance, and affirmation of the radicality of God while the violent Jesus is its corresponding subversion, rejection, and negation in favor of the normalcy of civilization.His preferred metaphorThe heartbeat of the Christian Bible is a recurrent cardiac cycle in which the asserted radicality of God’s nonviolent distributive justice is subverted by the normalcy of civilization’s retributive justice.Radicality of God: God’s ideal vision for us as humanityNormalcy of Civilization: Human civilization messing up that vision with greed and powerThroughout the Bible, Crossan posits, is this rhythmic “heartbeat” of the assertion of the Radicality of God (via the nonviolent Jesus) and the subversion by the Normalcy of Civilization (via the violent Jesus). In other words,[The Bible] contains both the assertion of God’s radical dream for our world and our world’s very successful attempt to replace the divine dream with a human nightmare.…The struggle is not between divine good and human evil but between, on one hand, God’s radical dream for an Earth distributed fairly and nonviolently among all its peoples and, on the other hand, civilization’s normal dream for me keeping mine, getting yours, and having more and more, forever.The tension is not between the Good Book and the bad world that is outside the book. It is between the Good Book and the bad world that are both within the book.Do I find Crossan’s argument compelling? Yes, perhaps. The book’s argument makes sense to me, and Crossan paints his narrative with intriguing metaphors.Although, I don’t feel like I had enough background to make an informed critique. This is only the second book on biblical analysis I’ve read, the first being Marcus Borg’s Reading the Bible Again for the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously but Not Literally I read 5 or 6 years ago. Needless to say, I have much to learn, and I’m going to start by reading Crossan’s earlier works, as well as Peter J. Gomes’ The Good Book: Reading the Bible with Mind and Heart, recommended to me by a friend who actually understands studies theology.Read How to Read the Bible if you’re interested in biblical scholarship. It can a tougher read if you’re not used to the rigor of academic writing in this field, but the organization of sections and the repetition of themes will help guide you along the way. If you read it for leisure reading (like I did), you may, like me, have up ending to remain ignorant of large swathes of ideas you aren’t familiar with, but that’s okay. I still got something out of the book, I think. flag Like  · see review Jan 22, 2019 Margaret Kantz rated it it was amazing A powerful guide to sorting through conflicting messages about the nature of God without "cherry picking" and just discarding the parts I find uncomfortable. I can finally breathe and read the Bible at the same time. I can find and keep the Good News without having to choke on all the violence and dehumanization of others. A powerful guide to sorting through conflicting messages about the nature of God without "cherry picking" and just discarding the parts I find uncomfortable. I can finally breathe and read the Bible at the same time. I can find and keep the Good News without having to choke on all the violence and dehumanization of others. flag Like  · see review Apr 23, 2019 Richard Worden rated it it was amazing The author's classical background is very important for this study. Dr. Crossan's knowledge of the Roman world, ancient history, the Bible, poetry, and ancient non-Christian literature illuminate the thesis of the book: "How to Read the Bible". The plea to view the material under study with fresh eyes brings amazing results such as Dr. Crossan's analysis of the Book of Revelation. The author's classical background is very important for this study. Dr. Crossan's knowledge of the Roman world, ancient history, the Bible, poetry, and ancient non-Christian literature illuminate the thesis of the book: "How to Read the Bible". The plea to view the material under study with fresh eyes brings amazing results such as Dr. Crossan's analysis of the Book of Revelation. flag Like  · see review Feb 22, 2021 B Dohle rated it it was amazing What an excellent upper view of scripture. If you're wondering how does scripture fit together, this book is for you. Just a warning... you may need to use a dictionary for some of his words. It is written with theologians in mind. But it is priceless to put the historical Jesus together with the Christ of Recelation and sadly sometimes the church. What an excellent upper view of scripture. If you're wondering how does scripture fit together, this book is for you. Just a warning... you may need to use a dictionary for some of his words. It is written with theologians in mind. But it is priceless to put the historical Jesus together with the Christ of Recelation and sadly sometimes the church. flag Like  · see review Apr 11, 2022 Kylee Baker rated it really liked it What a brilliant mind. This is exactly the book I needed at this point in my faith journey. It was a little over my head but I still gained so much knowledge and insight from this book. Highly recommend. flag Like  · see review Apr 27, 2018 Dimmy-jimmy rated it did not like it too much theology ,he made the seem like you need phd to understand it flag Like  · see review May 25, 2018 Fred Heeren rated it really liked it Good reasons from a historical understanding to be people of the Person (Jesus), not just people of the book. flag Like  · see review Aug 23, 2019 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition Always fascinating and challenging, Crossan stimulates deep thinking and feeling about Christianity and its place in both the individual and in the world. flag Like  · see review Oct 15, 2019 Maria Siracuse marked it as couldn-t-finish Just too heavy for me.could not finish it flag Like  · see review « previous 1 2 next »

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