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“My point, once again, is not that those ancient people told literal stories and we are now smart enough to take them symbolically, but that they told them symbolically and we are now dumb enough to take them literally.”
John Dominic Crossan, Who Is Jesus? Answers to Your Questions About the Historical Jesus
“. . . I still hold two truths with equal and fundamental certainty. One: the British did terrible things to the Irish. Two: the Irish, had they the power, would have done equally terrible things to the British. And so also for any other paired adversaries I can imagine. The difficulty is to hold on to both truths with equal intensity, not let either one negate the other, and know when to emphasize one without forgetting the other. Our humanity is probably lost and gained in the necessary tension between them both. I hope, by the way, that I do not sound anti-British. It is impossible not to admire a people who gave up India and held on to Northern Ireland. That shows a truly Celtic sense of humor.”
John Dominic Crossan
tags: irish
“sadly, the book of Job was but a speed bump on the Deuteronomic superhighway. The delusion of divine punishments still prevails inside and outside religion over the clear evidence of human consequences, random accidents, and natural disasters. This does not simply distort theology; it defames the very character of God.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“If an audience kept complete silence during a challenge parable from Jesus and if an audience filed past him afterward saying, 'Lovely parable, this morning, Rabbi,' Jesus would have failed utterly.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus
“Throughout the biblical story, from Genesis to Revelation, every radical challenge from the biblical God is both asserted and then subverted by its receiving communities— be they earliest Israelites or latest Christians. That pattern of assertion-and-subversion, that rhythm of expansion-and-contraction, is like the systole-and-diastole cycle of the human heart.

In other words, the 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 violent retributive justice. And, of course, the most profound annulment is that both assertion and subversion are attributed to the same God or the same Christ.

Think of this example. In the Bible, prophets are those who speak for God. On one hand, the prophets Isaiah and Micah agree on this as God’s vision: “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, / and their spears into pruning hooks; / nation shall not lift up sword against nation, / neither shall they learn war any more” (Isa. 2:4 = Mic. 4:3). On the other hand, the prophet Joel suggests the opposite vision: “Beat your plowshares into swords, / and your pruning hooks into spears; / let the weakling say, ‘I am a warrior’” (3:10). Is this simply an example of assertion-and-subversion between prophets, or between God’s radicality and civilization’s normalcy?

That proposal might also answer how, as noted in Chapter 1, 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. It is not that Jesus the Christ changed his mind, but that in standard biblical assertion-and-subversion strategy, Christianity changed its Jesus.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“The past is recorded almost exclusively in the voices of elites and males, in the viewpoints of the wealthy and the powerful, in the visions of the literate and the educated.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
“On the one hand, the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century European Enlightenment (that’s a metaphor, by the way) correctly “enlightened” us on the necessity of observation and experimentation in the physical sciences and the value of reason and debate, proof and repetition in science and technology. In that process, the dead hand of inquisitional power and the cold gaze of ecclesiastical control were removed from spheres about which they knew too little and claimed too much. That was a magnificent achievement and must always be appreciated as such.

On the other hand, the Enlightenment also dramatically “endarkened” us on metaphor and symbol, myth and parable, especially in religion and theology. We judge, for example, that the ancients took their religious stories literally, but that we are now sophisticated enough to recognize their delusions. What, however, if those ancients intended and accepted their stories as metaphors or parables, and we are the mistaken ones? What if those pre-Enlightenment minds were quite capable of hearing a metaphor, grasping its meaning immediately and its content correctly, and never worrying about the question: Is this literal or metaphorical? Or, better, what if they knew how to take their foundational metaphors and stories programmatically, functionally, and seriously without asking too closely about literal and metaphorical distinctions?

We have, in other words, great post-Enlightenment gain, but also great post-Enlightenment loss.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope
“We humans are not getting more evil or sinful but are simply getting more competent and efficient at whatever we want to do--including sin as willed violence. And so, we have become, as Genesis 4 warned us inaugurally, steadily or even exponentially better and better at violence. And now, at last, that capacity threatens not just the family or the tribe, but the world and the Earth.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“It is not even accurate to say that Christianity eventually broke away from Judaism. It is more accurate to say that, out of that matrix of biblical Judaism and that maelstrom of late Second-Temple Judaism, two great traditions eventually emerged: early Christianity and rabbinic Judaism. Each claimed exclusive continuity with the past, but in truth each was as great a leap and as valid a development from that common ancestry as was the other. They are not child and parent; they are two children of the same mother. So, of course, were Cain and Abel.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity
“The heart of God’s justice is to make sure that the “weak and the orphan” have received their share of God’s resources for them to live and thrive. Retributive justice comes in only when that ideal is violated.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“Firmly grounded in the divine dream of Israel’s Torah, the Bible’s prophetic vision insists that God demands the fair and equitable sharing of God’s world among all of God’s people. In Israel’s Torah, God says, “The land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants” (Lev. 25:23). We are all tenant farmers and resident aliens in a land and on an earth not our own.

The prophets speak in continuity with that radical vision of the earth’s divine ownership. They repeatedly proclaim it with two words in poetic parallelism. “The Lord is exalted,” proclaims Isaiah. “He dwells on high; he filled Zion with justice and righteousness” (33:5). “I am the Lord,” announces Jeremiah in the name of God. “I act with steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth, for in these things I delight” (9:24). And those qualities must flow from God to us, from heaven to earth. “Thus says the Lord,” continues Jeremiah. “Act with justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor anyone who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the alien, the orphan, and the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place” (22:3).

“Justice and righteousness” is how the Bible, as if in a slogan, summarizes the character and spirit of God the Creator and, therefore, the destiny and future of God’s created earth. It points to distributive justice as the Bible’s radical vision of God. “Ah, you who join house to house, who add field to field,” mourns the prophet Isaiah, “until there is room for no one but you, and you are left to live alone in the midst of the land” (5:8). But that landgrab is against the dream of God and the hope of Israel. Covenant with a God of distributive justice who owns the earth necessarily involves, the prophets insist, the exercise of distributive justice in God’s world and on God’s earth. All God’s people must receive a fair share of God’s earth.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope
“The ecstatic vision and social program sought to rebuild a society upward from its grass roots but on principles of religious and economic egalitarianism, with free healing brought directly to the peasant homes and free sharing of whatever they had in return. The deliberate conjunction of magic and meal, miracle and table, free compassion and open commensality, was a challenge launched not just at Judaism’s strictest purity regulations, or even at the Mediterranean’s patriarchal combination of honor and shame, patronage and clientage, but at civilization’s eternal inclination to draw lines, invoke boundaries, establish hierarchies, and maintain discriminations.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
“This is my working definition of history: History is the past reconstructed interactively by the present through argued evidence in public discourse. There are times we can get only alternative perspectives on the same event. (There are always alternative perspectives, even when we do not hear them.) But history as argued public reconstruction is necessary to reconstruct our past in order to project our future.”
John Dominic Crossan, The John Dominic Crossan Essential Set: Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity, The Power of Parable, and The Greatest Prayer
“And how does one know that God is just? Because God stood against the Egyptian Empire to save some doomed slaves. God does not simply prefer Jews to Egyptians. God does not simply prefer slaves to masters. The only true God prefers justice to injustice, righteousness to unrighteousness, and is therefore God the Liberator. That very ancient Jewish tradition was destined to clash profoundly and fiercely with Roman commercialization, urbanization, and monetization in the first-century Jewish homeland.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity
“When a metaphor gets big, it is called “tradition”; when it gets bigger, it is called “reality”;”
John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus
“To obtain and possess the kingdoms of the world, with their power and glory, by violent injustice is to worship Satan. To obtain and possess the kingdom, the power, and the glory by nonviolent justice is to worship God.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope
“I glimpse again that biblical rhythm of expansion-and-contraction, assertion-and-subversion. As that rhythm becomes ever clearer as the very heartbeat of the biblical tradition, we will see the basic solution for How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian. Read it all carefully and thoughtfully, recognize radicality’s assertion, expect normalcy’s subversion, and respect the honesty of a story that tells the truth.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“It is impossible to avoid the suspicion that historical Jesus research is a very safe place to do theology and call it history, to do autobiography and call it biography.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
“Still, as one ponders that progress from open commensality with Jesus to episcopal banquet with Constantine, is it unfair to regret a progress that happened so fast and moved so swiftly, that was accepted so readily and criticized so lightly? Is”
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
“That is, by the way, an introductory definition of a parable: a story that never happened but always does—or at least should.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Power of Parable: How Fiction by Jesus Became Fiction about Jesus
“The divine origins of Jesus are, to be sure, just as fictional or mythological as those of Octavius. But to claim them for Octavius surprised nobody in that first century. What was incredible was that anyone at all claimed them for Jesus.”
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
“The rebel general Calgacus describes the Roman Empire just before his fatal encounter with its military might in northeastern Scotland: Robbers of the world, now that earth fails their all-devastating hands, they probe even the sea: if their enemy have wealth, they have greed; if he be poor, they are ambitious; East nor West has glutted them; alone of mankind they covet with the same passion want [poor lands] as much as wealth [rich lands]. To plunder, butcher, steal, these things they misname empire: they make a desolation and they call it peace.”
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
“There were always historians who said [historical Jesus research] can not be done because of historical problems. There were always theologians who said it should not be done because of theological objections. And there were always scholars who said the former when they meant the latter.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
“[C]ontemporary Jesus research is still involved in textual looting, in attacks on the mound of Jesus tradition that do not begin from any overall stratigraphy, do not explain why this or that item was chosen for emphasis over some other one, and give the distinct impression that the researcher knew the result before beginning the search.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant
“The first and fundamental question of this book is this: How do we Christians know which is our true God— our Bible’s violent God, or our Bible’s nonviolent God? The answer is actually obvious. The norm and criterion of the Christian Bible is the biblical Christ. Christ is the standard by which we measure everything else in the Bible. Since Christianity claims Christ as the image and revelation of God, then God is violent if Christ is violent, and God is nonviolent if Christ is nonviolent.

This is even given in what we are called. We are called Christ-ians not Bible-ians, so our very name asserts the ascendancy of Christ over the Bible.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“Now, what on earth does that mean, especially if one does not spiritualize it away, as Matthew immediately did, into “poor [or destitute] in spirit”—that is, the spiritually humble or religiously obedient? Did Jesus really think that bums and beggars were actually blessed by God, as if all the destitute were nice people and all the aristocrats correspondingly evil? Is this some sort of naive or romantic delusion about the charms of destitution? If, however, we think not just of personal or individual evil but of social, structural, or systemic injustice—that is, of precisely the imperial situation in which Jesus and his fellow peasants found themselves—then the saying becomes literally, terribly, and permanently true. In any situation of oppression, especially in those oblique, indirect, and systemic ones where 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. A contemporary equivalent: only the homeless are innocent. That is a terrifying aphorism against society because, like the aphorisms against the family, it focuses not just on personal or individual abuse of power but on such abuse in its systemic or structural possibilities—and there, in contrast to the former level, none of our hands are innocent or our consciences particularly clear.”
John Dominic Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography
“Imagine the upside-down triangle formed by the Anatolian plateau in the west, the Mesopotamian plain in the east, and the Egyptian valley in the south. Squeeze the sides of that triangle between the Mediterranean Sea and the Arabian desert, and there in the Levantine narrows is tiny Israel. It was the hinge of the three then-known continents of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It was the corridor, cockpit, and cauldron of imperial competition. With warring superpowers first to the north and south, then to the west and east, invasion for Israel was inescapable and defeat inevitable—despite Deuteronomy 28. If Israel had spent all of its life on its knees praying, the only change in its history would have been to have died—on its knees praying. It is a crime against both humanity and divinity to tell a people so located that a military defeat is a punishment from God. This holds also, but for different reasons, on disease and drought, famine and even earthquake. No wonder, therefore, that Israel’s Psalter is filled with cries for forgiveness and pleas for mercy. External invasions, internal famines, and any other disasters were not divine punishments for how the people of Israel lived its covenantal life with God, but human consequences of where the nation of Israel lived it.”
John Dominic Crossan, How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation
“I need electricity to charge my computer, which is, by the way, an Apple Macintosh, which I chose initially because the Bible proclaims that “those who look through the windows see dimly” (Eccl. 12:3).”
John Dominic Crossan, The John Dominic Crossan Essential Set: Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, The Birth of Christianity, The Power of Parable, and The Greatest Prayer
“Eschatology is one of the great and fundamental options of the human spirit. It is a profoundly explicit no to the profoundly implicit yes by which we usually accept life’s normalcies, culture’s presuppositions, and civilization’s discontents. It is a basic and unusual world-negation or rejection as opposed to an equally basic but more usual world-affirmation or acceptance. For myself, left to myself, I would prefer to bury the term eschatological and use instead a term such as world-negation. But I presume that eschatological is here to stay, so I continue to use it.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Birth of Christianity
“Christ is the norm, the criterion, the purpose, and the meaning of the book. The book points to Christ; Christ does not point to the book. We are not the People of the Book; we are the People with the Book. The Gospel of John does not say, “God so loved the world that he gave us” a book (3:16). The Revelation of John does not say that we are saved “by the ink of the Lamb” (12:11). For over a hundred years Christians have asked WWJD? (What Would Jesus Do?) and not WWBS? (What Would the Bible Say?). If Christ is the norm of the gospel, then he is also the norm of the New Testament, and of the entire Christian Bible. That, of course, is why we are called Christ-ians and not Bible-ians.”
John Dominic Crossan, The Greatest Prayer: A Revolutionary Manifesto and Hymn of Hope

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