“He could do no mighty work”

And [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6) And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58) Matthew's subtle redaction of Mark here and elsewhere has … Continue reading “He could do no mighty work”

Son of David: healer extraordinaire?

Among those Jews in the Greek and Roman periods who expected a Messiah, most expected him to be a son of David. This Davidic Messiah would be a new and better David; he would obey God, judge among the people of Israel, and take control of the surrounding nations. Israel would finally be safe, prosperous, … Continue reading Son of David: healer extraordinaire?

Legion and the revenge of the Giants

A tale of three strong men: Satan, Babylon, and Rome On a few occasions Jesus attempts to clarify what his exorcistic ministry really means. On one of those occasions he claims the expulsion of demons proves that God's kingdom has drawn near (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). On another occasion, Jesus' spiritual success is said to … Continue reading Legion and the revenge of the Giants

Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion

Crises in heaven and earth The coupling of political realities with spiritual realities is a hallmark of Jewish apocalyptic. In such works the heavenly stage is reflected upon the earthly stage. Examples of this relationship are numerous: disturbances in the heavens spell disaster for the earth, the unrolling of heavenly scrolls ensures the pouring out … Continue reading Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion

The Devil and his Demons: the function of the demonic in Revelation

The Dragon and his Beasts In accordance with the overall historical thrust of this blog, I'd like to demonstrate in this post how the spiritual demonic realities addressed by the Biblical authors are ultimately subordinate to and representative of historical-political concerns—not the other way around. Put simply, Satan and his demons personify pagan political power. … Continue reading The Devil and his Demons: the function of the demonic in Revelation

Which Parables go back to Jesus?

All of Them? John P. Meier's excellent A Marginal Jew series attempts to peer behind the curtain of the Gospel portraits to glimpse the Jesus of history. In broad brushstrokes, Meier's restrained and measured work produces an Elijah-like eschatological prophet of the age to come. Scholars like Paula Fredriksen and Dale Allison reach similar conclusions. In his … Continue reading Which Parables go back to Jesus?

Children first, then the dogs: the literary origins of Mark’s Syrophoenician woman

Jesus' interaction with the Syrophoenician/Canaanite woman in Mark 7/Matthew 15 leaves many uneasy, both because Jesus initially refuses to help, and because he speaks of non-Jews as dogs. This behavior seems uncharacteristic of Jesus, who has himself already healed multiple gentiles without question in the Markan and Matthean narratives. Others have suggested that Jesus' behavior … Continue reading Children first, then the dogs: the literary origins of Mark’s Syrophoenician woman