A Christian fluke I'm currently watching a Great Courses lecture series entitled The Fall of the Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity with professor Kenneth W. Harl of Tulane University. Dr. Harl spends much of the course tracing the development of Christianity from a marginal and marginalized Jewish apocalyptic kerygma under the first Christians to … Continue reading Like a thief in the night: Constantine and the sudden death of paganism
While many are familiar with the ways Christian doctrine has changed over time, few recognize just how novel modern evangelistic practices are. Just as the Christian message developed and evolved, particularly with the blunting of its apocalyptic edge, so too have the ways in which Christians transmit their message to the outside world. This shift … Continue reading How did the first Christians spread the gospel?
Apocalyptic hope After the destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, the Jewish people witnessed and experienced the conquest of the known world by successive pagan empires. Under these idolatrous oppressors, the Jewish people grappled with confusion and hopelessness as their convictions about the sovereignty of their God were viscerally challenged and subverted. Was YHWH unable … Continue reading Psalm 82 and the Christian apocalypse: the Greco-Roman Ragnarök
The kingdom among Jews I previously made the case that the kingdom of God as understood by the first Christians was not fundamentally a place, a polity, or a period of time; it was rather a process by which God's will became manifest on the earth in history. This process would at first be sudden … Continue reading Another look at God’s kingdom in second temple context
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?
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
Multiple independent layers of tradition remember Jesus as an exorcist, a healer, a raiser of the dead, a multiplier of food, and a calmer of storms. These deeds of power, more than simply displays of God-given authority, conveyed in themselves the kingdom message. They too were parables of the kingdom; or as the Fourth Evangelist … Continue reading The parable of the stilled storm