Friday, October 14, 2005

Search for the Historical Jesus 3

Search for the Historical Jesus 3

Before I continue my personal account of the content of Crossan's
book, "Jesus, A Revolutionary Biography," I want to mention a few

1. I don't attempt to cover everything. It would take too much time.
Most people would not be interested in this, and I don't want to put
that much work and effort into it.

2. I don't always agree with or feel comfortable myself with all the
points made and tentative conclusions reached by Crossan.

3. I do think, though, that it is a very valuable book, well written,
but not quick reading. Filled with new information and fresh
insights---at least for me.

Finally in the Prologue to the above book, Crossan says--

"... my endeavor was to reconstruct the historical Jesus as
accurately and honestly as possible. It was not my purpose to find a
Jesus whom I liked or disliked."


"That Jesus was baptized by John is as historically certain as
anything about either of them ever can be." (All quotes are from
Crossan unless specified otherwise.)

John is considered an apocalyptic prophet because he looks towards
the coming time when God will intervene into history and set things
right. Jesus, on the other hand is not seen as an apocalyptic prophet
because his kingdom is not in the future but --- now.

John was an ascetic. Jesus was basically not an ascetic.

apocalypse = the ultimate destruction of evil and the triumph of good.

eschatology= the branch of theology dealing with the last things:
immortality, end of time, resurrection, death, judgment, etc.

There is belief among some that Jesus was ---for a time --- a
follower of John the Baptist. In that case, Jesus may have shared
John's vision of an apocalypse after which the kingdom would be
established by a dramatic act of the deity.

If that was the case, it seems that Jesus' thinking changed.

"An alternative to the future or apocalyptic Kingdom is the present
or sapiential. The term, sapiential, underlines the necessity of
wisdom ---sapientia in Latin --- for discerning how, here and now in
this world, one can so live that God's power, rule, and dominion are
evidently present to all observers. One enters this kingdom by wisdom
or goodness by virtue, justice or freedom. It is a style of life for
now rather than a hope of life for the future."

The above quotation gives an idea how Jesus perceived God's kingdom.
Jesus did not end up sharing John the Baptist's belief in the need
for an apocalypse.


In the Mediterranean world of Jesus' time, the standard family of
father, mother and children plus nuclear extended family lived under
one roof. The father's power was absolute. The children's power was
almost non existent.

Jesus biting statements about the family (Thomas 55; Mark 3:31-35;
Luke 11:27-28 and Luke 12: 51-53) is against the family power
structure and family values of that time. The Kingdom of God will not
at all resemble the traditional family structure. Jesus vision is a
Kingdom, "... an open one equally accessible to all under God."

Crossan gives an anecdote concerning the Egyptian father working in
the northern part of the country, Alexandria, who sent a message to
his pregnant wife that if the child was a girl ---abandon her.

Jesus appears to be opposed to dominions that shackle the freedom of
the children of God living in the Kingdom of God, e.g. the domination
of the patriarchal family of this period; the political, cultural and
religious domination of Rome; and the domination of the priestly
hierarchy in First Century Judaism.


In the Beatitudes we come to a saying "Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20).

However, the Greek word 'ptochos' is not properly translated as
'poor'. The Greek word for poor is 'penes'.

Ptochos means destitute.

Poor (penes) means a family making a bare subsistence. Ptochos means
a family that lacks the necessities of life, often ending up as

Jesus doesn't say that the peasantry (farmers + artisans) are
'blessed'. He says that those without anything are blessed, e.g.

How can he mean this??

The vast majority --- the peasants --- are not blessed because they
are still suffering every day from the "social, structural, or
systemic injustice" of the prevailing political (and to a large
extent) the religious) oppressive, unjust domination system. However,
they are part of the system itself, Part of it very necessary for it
to work as were the slaves in pre-Civil War U.S.

Here ",,, injustice wears a mask of normalcy or even of necessity,
the only ones who are innocent or blessed are those squeezed out
deliberately as human junk from the system's own evil operations."

Jesus is indicting society, the society of his time, and all those
societies with the same or similar characteristics. (To my mind
springs the 'savage capitalism' of today.)

Jesus "focuses not just on personal or individual abuse of power but
on such abuse in its systemic or structural possibilities...."

Jesus' now appears as what we might call a 'social critic' of the
family and the larger governmental, economic and social system in


In Mark 10:13-16 when little children are brought to Jesus that he
might touch them, his disciples are upset and try to stop this.
However, Jesus say, "Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the
kingdom of God as a little child will not enter it."

As I mentioned earlier, children did not have much value, except,
perhaps, male children (for practical reasons) in Jesus' time. "....a
Kingdom of Children is a Kingdom of Nobodies."

When Jesus commands that his disciples allow these abandoned children
to approach him --- he once more is attacking by his kindness the
prevailing mores of his time.

It is likely that these children approaching Jesus were deliberately
orphaned, and that there may have been a debate among the early
Christians of Mark's time as to how they should treat 'orphans' such
as these: adopt them or toss them aside as a type of garbage.


In Mark 4:30-32 we find a familiar parable of the mustard seed, which
though tiny when sown grows into a multitude of large shrubs with many
branches in which birds find shelter and nest.

Jesus said this was a parable about the nature of The Kingdom.

The point of this parable is not just the contrast between the small
seeds and the resulting large number of shrubs of three or four feet
in height --- but that a mustard plant ".... tends to take over where
it is not wanted, that it tends to get out of control, and that it
tends to attract birds within cultivated areas, where they are not
particularly desired."

The conclusion I reach is that this Kingdom of Heaven in the Now
that Jesus envisions and would like to see would be disaster to those
in power and holding tightly to their wealth, possessions, and
privileges. Jesus critiques the patriarchal family; the political and
social system of the Roman; the religious and cultural framework of
the religious domination system. If his vision becomes a reality, and
the peasants begin to have more freedom, more share in power, and
resources---it would not be good for those in the 'driver's seat'.

These three: patriarchal family; imperial Rome; priestly domination
from The Temple are enjoying the 'ownership society' in which they ---
a small minority own and control ninety percent plus of what there is.

(Again, I can't help thinking about the situation today, especially
in the Third World, but even in this 'blessed by God' nation.)

all for now, bob, robert, dad

P.S. Here is some information about John Dominic Crossan:


</x-tad-bigger></fontfamily></bold><fontfamily><param>Times New Roman</param><x-tad-bigger>John
Dominic Crossan is Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies, DePaul
University, Chicago. He has written twenty books on the historical
Jesus in the last thirty years, four of which have become national
religious bestsellers: </x-tad-bigger><italic><x-tad-bigger>The
Historical Jesus</x-tad-bigger></italic><x-tad-bigger> (1991),
</x-tad-bigger><italic><x-tad-bigger>Jesus: A Revolutionary
</x-tad-bigger><italic><x-tad-bigger>Who Killed
Jesus</x-tad-bigger></italic><x-tad-bigger> (1995), and
</x-tad-bigger><italic><x-tad-bigger>The Birth of
Christianity</x-tad-bigger></italic><x-tad-bigger> (1998). He is a
former co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, and a former chair of the
Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature, an
international scholarly association for biblical study based in the
United States.</x-tad-bigger></fontfamily>