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Jesus' Suicide

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Dissident Heart

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Re: the Kingdom of God

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MA: By saying that the Kingdom of Heaven "is unreal", all I meant to suggest was that it was not intended as something with an actual temporal or spatial locality -- not something that would take on the physical presence of Rome, or with the future promise of something like Israel for the Zionists. It's a view of the Kingdom of Heaven as a kind of divine and ideal pattern to be strived for, even if never fully attained.This may very well be a fruitful starting point for convincing the discreditors of religion that religious folk are vital, active and co-directors in the course of religious history; not simply inert receptacles for offical doctrine. Yet I don't see much evidence in the text itself for such a conclusion. This may be the Jesus you want, in order to provide a credible view of religion; but its not the Jesus we get in the text- who is a terribly incredible enigma...someone consistently espousing the impossible, behaving in outrageous ways, and demanding something far more than a "never fully attained ideal". Instead, Jesus confronts the structures of power and domination and promises their dismantling, acting as though they carry no credibility and lack any legitimacy.There are more than a few instances in the Gospel where Jesus does not refer to a future ideal Kingdom of God, but identifies it in the here and now (back there and then):Quote:Mark 9:1 And he said to them, "I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God come with power."Mark 13:30 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.Matthew 10:23 I tell you the truth, you will not finish going through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes.Luke 17:20-21 Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation,nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you."Luke 11:20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you.I've introduced the enigmatic "Son of Man" in the above selections, and perhaps we should pursue it's complicated interpretations ... something that would fit well into further elaboration upon eschatology. A later time....MA: They're (theories regarding Jesus' motivation) helpful in showing us the various directions available to us, but we're just sort of shooting the shit about the psychology of a person for whom we have no direct evidence.I don't see it as simply psychological speculation, although I agree we lack any "direct evidence". Maybe you can spell out how they can be helpful in directing us, and how to avoid simply "shooting the shit"?MA: When I see people attempt to discredit Christianity specifically, and religion in the more general scheme, by looking for contraditions in the Gospel narrative, those attempts are almost always attended with a) a sort of dual insistence on fidelity and infidelity to the text, and b) an assertion that the only two available responses are full acceptance or total rejection. By the first, I mean that the critics insist that we take certain points as given while brushing other doctrinal assertions aside, as necessitated by their argument. By the second, I mean that such argument imply that, given that we cannot accept the doctrine as stated, we must reject the whole tradition.Walter Kaufmann called this process of exegetical gymnastics "gerrymandering" and identified its use in exactly the same way that Politicians mix, separate, re-draw borders and districts in order to secure electoral control. It's a matter of having your Biblical cake and eating it too. I suspect you'll take steps to call me on such behavior when I launch into an exegetical campaign. I am of the opinion that none of us can completely escape this process: we all pick and choose, highlight and minimize, accentuate and downplay. I am not of the school of thought that identifies Bibliolatry as a virtue; nor do I see Bibliophobia as any useful approach to the text. It is a messy book that requires we get our hands dirty and wade through nonsense and ugliness, as well as confusion and contradiction; thank God, there's more than a few gems along the way.MA: My overarching objective in this thread so far has been simply to demonstrate that religious believers are not inert receptacles for offical doctrine. They are and always have been active interpreters. Beyond that, I'm just enjoying the speculative activity.I fully embrace your objective, and recognize the history of religions to be a river of evolution and revolution, with humans adopting and adapting ideas, texts, images, practices, languages in many extraordinary and often very reasonable ways. Blind adherence to dogma and the most rigid forms of orthodoxy are rarely, if ever, simply continuing the tradition: they are also "gerrymandering" in the sense I used above. The heretic can also be labelled with such offenses. But, suppose Jesus was right about his eschatological vision, and the course of human and natural history are barrelling head-on toward a cosmic collision with the God of all creation, where you will be called to account for your role in the preparation of the "Way"...how do you expect idle speculation to weigh in the scales.... ... .. . Edited by: Dissident Heart at: 12/6/05 12:44 pm
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Dissident Heart

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Prophetic Imagination

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MA: I haven't seen much to convince me that it (Kingdom of Heaven/Reign of God) was a utopic ideal -- that is, a pattern for an ideal society with any real expectation of it coming to fruition. It looks to me more like the assumption of a particular moral relationship, an assumption that I (any given I) relates to (any given) him or her, in a particular way, because that relationship is so ordained or made possible by the God of the Judaic religion.I think this is half correct. There is undoubtedly a moral imperative and ethical ideal expressed in Jesus words, as well as performed in his deeds. And, this ideal/imperative is the will of God: seek peace, pursue justice, love your enemies and pray for them, turn the other cheek, give up you cloak when asked for your coat, go the extra mile, etc. because this is how God loves us, so we must love one another.Where I think it is half incorrect is that this "love ethic" of Jesus is not simply a personal moral code directing relationships according to religious decree; it is preparation and celebration of the kingdom to come, where God's will is on earth as it is in heaven. And, I think this utopic vision is more than simply Jesus' moral imagination unrestrained in its envisioning the extreme alteration of an immoral society: it is the fruit of a long line of Prophetic hopes and promises finding fulfillment in the name "Emmanuel", or "God with us". Emmanuel is the rejection of Ceasar. This "love ethic" is tied to a political/social/religious/familial analysis that rejects the systems of domination and oppression. This includes individual, interpersonal moral obligations between particular individuals; as well as a radical revaluation of the power structure that maintain the codes of priviledge, status, wealth and dominance.MA: I personally wouldn't feel justified in interpreting such an obviously fictional account (Matthew 25) as any sort of prognostication about a coming events.Walter Bruggeman utilizes the term "Prophetic Imagination" in his book by the same name to describe a process whereby a marginalized person, living within a largely politically impotent sub-community, creates a voice of socio-ecomonic analysis/critique through the highlighting of certain texts. These ancient texts are creatively transformed into contemporary commentary through a Prophetic imagination that works to shape a future world. This imagination gives voice and power to a vision of how the world should/ought and will be. Dr. King's "I have a dream..." speech is a good example of such "Prophetic Imagination".I think in relation to the many texts I've offered, there is sound justification in identifying Jesus as one who was filled with a "Prophetic Imagination" and was utilizing these parables and ancient texts to prepare/celebrate the radical transformation of the world into something more than an idea or metaphor.... the actual Kingdom of God. Something radically opposed and antithetical to the Empire of Ceasar.I think this is an answer to Mr. P's initial query into the mistaken notion Jesus committing suicide. Jesus was not commiting suicide. He was participating in a long tradition of Prophetic imagination that threatened the Imperial structures of Palestine, and he was executed for offering an alternative way and vision of life. I argue he was motivated by the overwhelming certainty that God was bringing the entire course of human and natural history to a fabulous conclusion; that it was already beginning as he taught and acted; and that his death would play a crucial role in the process.
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Re: Prophetic Imagination

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Dissident Heart: Where I think it is half incorrect is that this "love ethic" of Jesus is not simply a personal moral code directing relationships according to religious decree; it is preparation and celebration of the kingdom to come, where God's will is on earth as it is in heaven.The point of disagreement seems to fall on whether to read "kingdom" literally or as a symbol for the sort of relationships held by followers of Christ. Personally, I haven't seen much reason to read it literally; at least, not when reading the Gospels in isolation from Pauline and Apocalyptic tradition. At least two things lead me to incline towards the symbollic reading: one is the loose way in which the Jesus speaks of the Kingdom ("the Kingdom of God is within you"); the other is Jesus' general stance towards earthly kingdoms, which seems far more tolerant than you would expect of someone hastening and expecting within the generation the radical and literal overthrow of the current order.That Jesus may have expected this symbollic and interpersonal change to result, eventually, in a change of social order, I wouldn't argue against. But it doesn't seem to me that he is anticipating any particular social order to follow -- it looks like he first and foremost interested in the character of interpersonal relationships.Walter Bruggeman utilizes the term "Prophetic Imagination" in his book by the same name to describe a process whereby a marginalized person, living within a largely politically impotent sub-community, creates a voice of socio-ecomonic analysis/critique through the highlighting of certain texts.Walter Bruggeman may have a point worth considering. He may also be reading a great deal into the parables in order to arrive at the conclusions he favors. I'm not willing to take his word for it. So far as I have seen, there's no solid reason for taking the parables as anything more than what they appear to be.Dr. King's "I have a dream..." speech is a good example of such "Prophetic Imagination".It also bears some marked differences to the parables of Jesus. John had a dream; Jesus didn't talk about his dreams.I argue he was motivated by the overwhelming certainty that God was bringing the entire course of human and natural history to a fabulous conclusion; that it was already beginning as he taught and acted; and that his death would play a crucial role in the process.And I'm arguing that Jesus probably was not omniscient and had reason, sufficient or not, to think that surrendering to the Roman authorities would not necessarily end in his execution.
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Re: Prophetic Imagination

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MA: I haven't seen much reason to read it (Kingdom of Heaven/Reign of God) literally; at least, not when reading the Gospels in isolation from Pauline and Apocalyptic tradition.This is an important point in the discussion, in that it requires (for your argument) to lift Jesus out of the Apocalyptic trajectory from John the Baptist to Paul. As I see the text, in historical context, Jesus followed John in his apocalyptic expectation, which was in turn carried forward by Paul in his description of the Parousia. But, as you argue, Jesus rejected John and Paul got it wrong. You choose to ignore the apocalyptic context of John and Paul, and as a result Jesus' Reign of God is a metaphor for a particular type of morality. I argue it should be read as a radical vision for how God will transform the world. I think Jesus understood it the way I describe it, although I would like it if he agreed with your interpretation. Jesus would be far less radical, dangerous, uncontrollable, and enigmatic if he just kept to personal beliefs and interpersonal relationships; instead, I argue the text gives us something much more difficult to manage or make sense of. The text provides something much larger and confrontational; and anybody saying to Ceasar, "This is not your Kingdom, but God's"...that person knew how deeply personal and political and religious that statement was; as well as how dangerous.MA: Walter Bruggeman may have a point worth considering. He may also be reading a great deal into the parables in order to arrive at the conclusions he favors.Bruggemann is a Christian, and never hides that in his work. He is also a highly respected scholar and theologian of the Hebrew Bible; most notably in relation to the Prophets. So, his case regarding "Prophetic Imagination" is certainly in the context of Christian hope; but is never separate from the words of Micah, Jeremiah, Hosea, Isaiah, and the rest of that ancient crew of rabblerousing instigators.MA: there's no solid reason for taking the parables as anything more than what they appear to be.What do the parables appear to be? Crossan argues they are verbal dynamite planted in the minds of peasants under assault: they are examples of some the kinds of peasant revolt that goes on consistently under oppressive occupation. They work to demystify the peasant whose mind is clouded by colonized notions of identity and solidarity; and they offer pungent examples of the occupied rejecting their occupiers. They unravel knotted belief systems bound together with imposed ideas of status and power. They shake up, startle, agitate and encourage the listener to consider: who is in charge and why isn't it God?
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Re: Prophetic Imagination

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Dissident Heart: As I see the text, in historical context, Jesus followed John in his apocalyptic expectation, which was in turn carried forward by Paul in his description of the Parousia.When I say John, I mean the Gospel author and the John of Apocalypse, not John the Baptist, which seems to be the John to whom you're referring.As for Paul, whether or not he "got it wrong" is beside the point to me. What is of interest is the great amount of interpretation that goes on in Paul, as well as the introduction of a great deal of material that is not native to the Gospel traditions. I see no particular reason to assume agreement between Jesus and Paul where there is no direct correspondance between the texts.You choose to ignore the apocalyptic context of John and Paul, and as a result Jesus' Reign of God is a metaphor for a particular type of morality.No, I recognize a very distinct apocalyptic vein in John, and a slightly divergent tendency in Paul. But we have not been, so far, talking about the doctrines of John and Paul, and as they are both a number of years removed from not only Jesus as a person but also the earlier writings from which they diverge on matters of doctrine, I can't see a strong reason for assigning them more weight than the other canonical traditions.What do the parables appear to be?That, as I'm sure you well know, differs from case to case.
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Re: Prophetic Imagination

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I think it important to identify the Apocaplyptic thread from John the Baptist to Jesus and then to Paul, as this historically precedes the textual comparisons you suggest, and it places Jesus apocalyptic notions in proper context. Jesus had actual contact with John the Baptist, was baptised by him, and kept in contact with him up to the death of the baptiser. Nowhere in that history of exchange and accompaniment does Jesus reject or denounce John's notions of the forcefully advancing Kingdom of Heaven. Furthermore, being baptised in the River Jordan was a deeply political act: a symbolic re-enactment of the days when Israel crossed the Jordan and gained control of their Promised Land.I don't understand why so easily dismiss this very crucial part of the equation.MA: What is of interest is the great amount of interpretation that goes on in Paul, as well as the introduction of a great deal of material that is not native to the Gospel traditions.Paul undoubtedly leaves his fingerprints all over the Gospel and shapes it in ways unique to his own agendas and vision for God's promise to the children of Abraham. There are entire libraries that contain the history of the interpretations of Paul's interpretations. I think a return to NT Wright might be a helpful guide at this point; highlighting Paul's continuing of the Prophetic lineage that finds fulfillment in Christ; while not neglecting the nuance and uniqeness we find in Pauline theology:Quote:Paul's Gospel and Caesar's Empire Paul's most frequent language for Jesus, then, remained rooted in his Jewish traditions, asserting on the one hand that Jesus was the Messiah, long promised in the prophetic scriptures, bringing Israel's destiny to its god-ordained climax, and on the other that Jesus was Lord, both in the sense that he had embodied God's appointed destiny for the human race and in the sense that in him Israel's unique God had become personally present, accomplishing that which in scripture only God can accomplish. Simultaneously, and precisely because of the inner dynamic of just this Jewish tradition, Paul was announcing that Jesus was the true King of Israel and hence the true Lord of the world, at exactly the time in history, and over exactly the geographical spread, where the Roman emperor was being proclaimed, in what styled itself a "gospel", in very similar terms. The mainstream Jewish monotheistic critique of paganism, of all its idolatry and immorality, found in Paul's day a more focussed target, and in Paul's theology a sharper weapon.Paul's place in our discussion is crucial in understanding the apocalyptic lineage that starts with John the Baptist, follows through Jesus, into Paul, and finds its most expressive, inordinate and flourid expression in the book of Revelation.
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Re: Prophetic Imagination

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Dissident Heart: I think it important to identify the Apocaplyptic thread from John the Baptist to Jesus and then to Paul, as this historically precedes the textual comparisons you suggest, and it places Jesus apocalyptic notions in proper context.It would if we could be sure of the continuity of that thread. As it stands, I see very little evidence to suggest that the Apocalyptic thread passed directly from the Baptist to Jesus to Paul. If you can substantiate that connection, then I'll be inclined to revise my opinion.As it stands, Paul may have gotten his Apocalyptic leanings from a very different source -- it may not have come to him from Jesus at all. Maurice Goguel's analysis, for instance, seems entirely plausible to me. To wit, he suggests that Paul adopted an Apocalyptic perspective for the simple reason that he found it difficult otherwise to reconcile continued belief in Jesus as the Christ with the fact of Jesus' death and apparant failure. The success of Jesus' mission was thus transferred to some indeterminate future time. I see no evidence of that belief in the recorded sayings of Jesus himself, although it's pretty clear in Paul. To me, this implies not a continuity of Apocalyptic perspective, but a disjunction between the Baptist and Paul, and the revival of an Apocalyptic view, albeit different in character and intent.Nowhere in that history of exchange and accompaniment does Jesus reject or denounce John's notions of the forcefully advancing Kingdom of Heaven.That's an argument from silence, the kind which tends to confirm beliefs already held, but doesn't often persuade. For all we know, Jesus may well have denounced or amended John's teachings, though the record was lost or suppressed by later redactors. Jesus doesn't seem to have denounced the prostitution of Magdalen either, although we don't thereby assume that he approved of it.Furthermore, being baptised in the River Jordan was a deeply political act: a symbolic re-enactment of the days when Israel crossed the Jordan and gained control of their Promised Land.You seem awful confident of the intent behind certain actions. You ought to feel the burden of poof on any psychological interpretation which is not explicitly backed by the text. It may very well be that onlookers interpreted the Baptism in a political vein. Without more telling evidence than I've seen, though, I see no particular reason to assume that the act was contrived for its political implications.Paul's place in our discussion is crucial in understanding the apocalyptic lineage that starts with John the Baptist, follows through Jesus, into Paul, and finds its most expressive, inordinate and flourid expression in the book of Revelation.That would make for an interesting discussion about the history of traditions regarding the reading of those documents in conjunction with one another. But that's not the discussion we're having right now. So far as I can tell, we still haven't answered the question of why we should read those texts together and interpret their cumulative content as the implied content of the historical Jesus' belief and psychology.(And yet again, a thread about religion becomes one of the longest threads on the site.)
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