SNAPSHOT: God and Empire, J D Crossan

SNAPSHOT: God and Empire J D Crossan

From Publisher

The bestselling author and prominent New Testament scholar draws parallels between 1st–century Roman Empire and 21st–century United States, showing how the radical messages of Jesus and Paul can lead us to peace today

Using the tools of expert biblical scholarship and a keen eye for current events, bestselling author John Dominic Crossan deftly presents the tensions exhibited in the Bible between political power and God’s justice. Through the revolutionary messages of Jesus and Paul, Crossan reveals what the Bible has to say about land and economy, violence and retribution, justice and peace, and ultimately, redemption. He examines the meaning of “kingdom of God” prophesized by Jesus, and the equality recommended to Paul by his churches, contrasting these messages of peace against the misinterpreted apocalyptic vision from the book of Revelations, that has been co-opted by modern right-wing theologians and televangelists to justify the United State’s military actions in the Middle East.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Prologue

1  Empire and the Barbarism of Civilization  [this chapter is worthy of one post concentrating on the two ideas of social power and civilisation based upon the books of Michael Mann and Ronald Wright.] pg 7-48

2  God and the Ambiguity of Power

3  Jesus and the Kingdom of God [This chapter worthy of another post based upon the role of the K of G found in Jesus and Paul] pg 97-142

4  Paul and the Justice of Equality

5  Apocalypse and the Pornography of Violence

Epilogue

MY ROUGH NOTES

Takeaways:

Raise 3 questions in book:

1 Since the Old Roman Empire crucified our Lord Jesus Christ, how can we be his faithful followers in America as the New Roman Empire?

2 Is our Christian Bible violent or nonviolent—is it actually for or against Jesus’s nonviolent resistance to “this world”?

3 Is Bible-fed Christian violence supporting or even instigating our imperial violence as the New Roman Empire?

EMPIRE AND THE BARBARISM OF CIVILISATION

So how and why did Rome become the first territorial empire in the history of the world?

Ideological power and Jesus/Roman imperial theology

Civilizations and Empires

Civilisation as cage, as trap, as protection

? Why movements of John and Jesus happen when and where they did?

?Why is Jesus so often found around Sea of Galilee?

Choice of violent god of human normalcy or non-violent God divine radically. Both found in N T.

Normalcy used by post-Pauline Xns to deradicalize Paul.

Revelation as the most anti-empire N T book

At heart of Bible, a call to fight unjust superpowers.

Qualities different from Empire: non-violence,

Pax Romana: peace thru violence K of G peace thru justice

Jesus before Pilate: Crossan’s  points.

God and ambiguity of power (Ch 2

Jesus and the K of G

GOD’S KINGDOM: MONOPOLY OR FRANCHISE?

Chapter 3 is the central one of this book.

PROLOGUE

But it is the modern voices that assert the Romano-American Empire that moved the creation of this book.

America is “not an empire of colonies but an empire of bases”, but that we are still “the second coming of the Roman Empire”.

“My kingdom,” says Jesus in the King James Version of the incident, “is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (18:36).

I take five foundational points from that brief interchange.

First, Jesus opposes the Kingdom of God to the kingdoms of “this world.”

Second, Jesus is condemned to death by Roman Pilate, in Roman Judea,

Fourth, the crucial difference—and the only one mentioned—between the Kingdom of God and the Kingdom of Rome is Jesus’s nonviolence and Pilate’s violence.

Fifth, the most important interpreter of Jesus in the entire New Testament is Pilate.

I emphasize that contrast between Pilate’s Kingdom of Rome as violent repression and Jesus’s Kingdom of God as nonviolent resistance because that juxtaposition is the heart of this book, which is an attempt to rethink God, the Bible, and empire, Jesus, Christianity, and Rome.

I raise three questions in this book for American Christians—or better, for Christian Americans.

1 Since the Old Roman Empire crucified our Lord Jesus Christ, how can we be his faithful followers in America as the New Roman Empire? As we move through the book, a second question arises.

2 Is our Christian Bible violent or nonviolent—is it actually for or against Jesus’s nonviolent resistance to “this world”? By the time we get to the end of the book, and especially in its final chapter, a third question will have appeared.

3 Is Bible-fed Christian violence supporting or even instigating our imperial violence as the New Roman Empire?

1 EMPIRE AND THE BARBARISM OF CIVILIZATION

Greece, having invented democratic rule, warns us that we can have a democracy or an empire, but not both at the same time—or at least not for long. Rome, having invented republican rule, warns us that we can have a republic or an empire, but not both at the same time—or not for long.

A First Among Equals—with All the Equals Dead

The consular system prevented royal tyranny for a while but eventually engendered civil war.

B The Hawser of Imperial Power

It was one of the most successful conquering states in all history, but it was the most successful retainer of conquests.

whose overall strength comes both from those individual components and also from their tight combination and closed interaction.

Michael Mann, Professor of Sociology at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, is writing a four-volume study on The Sources of Social Power; the first two volumes were published in 1986 and 1993. In the first volume, A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760, Mann writes that:

It was one of the most successful conquering states in all history, but it was the most successful retainer of conquests.

So how and why did Rome become the first territorial empire in the history of the world?

Four types of social power

For Mann, social power is not so much a thing in itself as a combination of four types of power united together:

1 military power, the monopoly or control of force and violence;

2 economic power, the monopoly or control of labor and production;

3 political power, the monopoly or control of organization and institution; and 

4 ideological power, the monopoly or control of interpretation and meaning.

I focus now on Roman imperial theology as the ideological power of the Roman Empire, deliberately avoiding such dismissive terms as “Roman mythology” or “Emperor cult.” (I certainly would not describe the medieval European world as “Christian mythology” or “the Christ cult.”) I have two reasons for this special emphasis on ideology within the fourfold structure of imperial power.

Uses Mann to understand power

Uses Wright to understand ‘civilization

“Civilizations are a specific kind of culture: large, complex societies based on the domestication of plants, animals, and human beings. Civilizations vary in their makeup but typically have towns, cities, governments, social classes, and specialized professions.” p 33

“people afraid of outsiders are easily manipulated. The warrior caste, supposedly society’s protectors, often became protection racketeers” (emphasis mine). But just as Mann’s term for civilization was the cage, Wright’s term is “the progress trap—or, more simply, “the trap”:

Military power

Economic power

Political power

Ideological power

Sept 11 hit first 3.

I always find power ambiguous until it becomes clear whether we are dealing with the violent power of domination or the nonviolent power of persuasion. Throughout the rest of this book, I probe that second mode of power,

C Roman Imperial Theology

First, Rome spoke of itself in transcendental terms as an empire divinely mandated to rule without limits of time or place.

Second, when Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, and John of Patmos came against the Roman Empire, they did so not with military, economic, or political power but exclusively with ideological power.

Think of Roman imperial theology as an immensely successful advertising campaign that inundated everyone, everywhere, from all sides and at all times.

For my present purpose, I focus on only two sources of that ideological glue that held Roman imperialism together—poetic texts about Augustus and inscriptions from Augustus.

I begin with key texts from the Augustan poets, Virgil, Horace, and Ovid, and continue with the most important inscriptions dictated by Augustus himself.

Virgil

In Christian terms, Rome’s Old Testament was Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey,

and its New Testament was Virgil’s Aeneid,

Four aspects of that destiny are dramatized in the Aeneid.

First, heavenly decree. Rome began in heaven, according to Virgil’s Aeneid,

Second, ancient lineage. In other words, Rome’s ancestry began with piety for both family values and ancestral gods as those proto-Romans followed their destiny and Venus’s star westward to Italy.

Third, prophetic promise. Rome’s foundational epic continued with reiterated preparatory and prophetic confirmations about its future glory. And notice that its manifest destiny was never just about rule over Italy or the Mediterranean but about dominion over the whole world.

“You, Roman,” says Anchises, “be sure to rule the world (be these your arts), to crown peace with justice, to spare the vanquished and to crush the proud” (6.851–53). The “proud,” of course, were all those who resisted the “peace” of Romanization.

Fourth, divine victory. None of the preceding claims would have been credible or even possible without this fourth and final element—without, that is, Octavian’s naval victory off Cape Actium.

he had Vulcan, the smith-god consort of Venus, create a great shield for Aeneas on which Rome’s predestined future was visually prophesized.

Horace

Upon you [Augustus], however, while still among us, we already bestow honors, set up altars to swear by in your name, and confess that nothing like you will arise after you or has arisen before you. (2.1)

Other human beings who had greatly benefited their fellows were divinized only after their death, but Caesar Augustus was unique in having achieved divine status while still alive. Nothing like him, therefore, had come before or would come after him.

Ovid

in a later chapter he more or less turns Augustus into Jupiter incarnate—or better, into the Jupiter of earth:.. You have long been Father of the World. Jupiter’s name in high heaven is yours on earth:

It is interesting, by the way, how little trouble these Augustan poets had with a living human person being at the same time a living divine being. Their logic was flawlessly simple.

Gods run the world.

Caesar runs the world.

Therefore, Caesar is a god.

For a fuller and more detailed outline of Roman imperial theology, I turn next to two inscriptions—one very short and the other very long—dictated by Augustus almost forty years apart. Watch for the consistency of their content.

Nicopolis in Greece

But in an astonishing act of advertisement both for Rome and for himself—or better, for Rome as now himself—he also turned his command tent into a sacred memorial. That shrine-monument made, as it were, this quite extraordinary theological statement: From here I went forth under heavenly protection to complete my divine mission and to fulfill Rome’s imperial destiny.

IMPERATOR CAESAR, SON OF GOD, FOLLOWING THE VICTORY IN THE WAR WHICH HE WAGED ON BEHALF OF THE REPUBLIC IN THIS REGION, WHEN HE WAS CONSUL FOR THE FIFTH TIME AND IMPERATOR FOR THE SEVENTH TIME, AFTER PEACE HAD BEEN SE CURED ON LAND AND SEA, CONSECRATED TO MARS AND NEPTUNE THE CAMP FROM WHICH HE SET FORTH TO ATTACK THE ENEMY NOW ORNAMENTED WITH NAVAL SPOILS

Ancyra in Turkey

Before his death in 14 CE, Augustus wrote in Latin a 2,500-word eulogy of his accomplishments to be inscribed on bronze plaques

Religion…war..victory…peace

Religion, war, victory, and peace—this was the Roman imperial theology, easily summarized as “peace through victory.”

A River Too Far

Augustus realizing there were limits to the Empire. Defeated by Parthians and by Germans

Augustus knew the difference between war and diplomacy. He understood about a river too far. He settled for imperial boundaries on the Rhine, not the Elbe, and for imperial limits on the Euphrates, not the Tigris.

What Gibbon terms “the vanity or ignorance of the ancients” is simply the normal blinders of any country’s lust for everlasting empire and every empire’s delusion of everlasting rule. It is not accidental ignorance but essential arrogance that dooms empires to the dustbin of time and the graveyard of history. “Empires,” according to Charles S. Maier’s 2006 book Among Empires: American Ascendancy and Its Predecessors, “are epics of entropy”.

In conclusion, imagine this question. There was a human being in the first century who was called “Divine,” “Son of God,” “God,” and “God from God,” whose titles were “Lord,” “Redeemer,” “Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” Who was that person?

To proclaim them of Jesus the Christ was thereby to deny them of Caesar the Augustus. Christians were not simply using ordinary titles applied to all sorts of people at that time, or even extraordinary titles applied to special people in the East. They were taking the identity of the Roman emperor and giving it to a Jewish peasant. Either that was a peculiar joke and a very low lampoon, or it was what the Romans called majestas and we call high treason.

Is there any possible alternative to “first victory, then peace,” or “peace through victory”? Yes, it is this: “religion, nonviolence, justice, peace”—or more succinctly, “first justice, then peace,” or “peace through justice.” That counter-program is the subject of this book.

I need first to raise two other questions about imperial violence

The first question concerns empire and civilization. Are all empires, past and present, but deeper manifestations of what we call “civilization”?

The second question starts from the end of the first one. Is the normal imperialism of human civilization simply an inevitable manifestation of human nature?

EMPIRE AND CIVILIZATION

It does not help us understand the Roman Empire, let alone America as the New Roman Empire, to think of it as the “evil empire” of the first century or the “axis of evil” in the Mediterranean.

I need to explain very clearly what I mean in this book by the “brutal normalcy of civilization.” The point I wish to emphasize is that imperialism is not just a here-and-there, now-and-then, sporadic event in human history, but that civilization itself, as I am using that term, has always been imperial—that is, empire is the normalcy of civilization’s violence. It is, of course, always possible to oppose this empire in favor of that one, to oppose yours in favor of ours. But if you oppose empire-as-such, you are taking on what has been the normalcy of civilization’s brutality for at least the last six thousand years.

Civilization, in these two books, is either “macroparasitology,” the few living off the many, or “kleptocracy,” the few stealing from the many.

Civilization as Cage

Mann defines social power as “mastery exercised over other people”, but he distinguishes between power in earlier pre-civilization and in later civilization. In precivilized societies or cultures, “authority was freely conferred, but recoverable; power, permanent and coercive, was

unattainable”. How, then, did civilization’s violent injustice become normal?

The “cage” of civilization protects those within, but it both proscribes and tempts those without. From the beginning, then, civilization became imperial

From Mann once again: “The gigantic protection racket of political history began: Accept my power, for I will protect you from worse violence—of which I can give you a sample, if you don’t believe me” (emphasis mine).

Civilization as Trap

Civilizations are a specific kind of culture: large, complex societies based on the domestication of plants, animals, and human beings.

I want to see what we can deduce from the first progress trap—the perfection of hunting, which ended the Old Stone Age [only about twelve thousand years ago]—and how our escape from that trap by the invention of farming led to our greatest experiment: worldwide civilization. We then have to ask ourselves this urgent question: Could civilization itself be another and greater trap?

That ultimate trap is both biological and social. The biological trap concerns the dilemma of food, population, and pollution: “Adding 200 million after [the population of the world at the time of] Rome took thirteen centuries; adding the last 200 million took only three years”. The social trap concerns the violence of hierarchy, oppression, and war: “All civilizations become hierarchical; the upward concentration of wealth ensures that there will never be enough to go around”. In other words, “violence is as old as man but civilizations commit it with a deliberation that lends it special horror”.

Think of how much progress civilization has made with violence and how exponentially faster its weapons have developed.

Civilization as Protection

Madison: Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged to provisions against danger, real or pretended, from abroad.

Goring: All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Non-imperial civilization is something yet to be seen upon our earth. That leads immediately into the next and last part of this chapter and to this rather terrible question: Is the normalcy of human civilization’s violence our inevitable destiny? (Human Nature)

But if you oppose empire-as-such, you are taking on what has been the normalcy of civilization’s brutality for at least the last six thousand years.

Crossan, John Dominic. God and Empire (p. 30). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

NORMALCY AND INEVITABILITY

I repeat my question. What are the professional, institutional, and public reasons (not the personal, individual, and private ones) that monasteries exist?

Injustice by Reason of Inequality

Therapeutics 4 characteristics of their common life

First, they gave up all their possessions

Second, they left the world they had known

Third, apart from their individual cells, they had two communal buildings.

Finally, there is this very important aspect of their common life. “They do not use the ministrations of slaves, looking upon the possession of servants or slaves to be a thing absolutely and wholly contrary to nature, for nature has created all men free, but the injustice and covetousness of some men who prefer inequality, that cause of all evil,

My point here is that Philo explains clearly that the function of the monastery was to allow individuals to withdraw from the normalcy of human injustice to live and celebrate the radicality of divine justice. In my terms, therefore, the first monastery was a living witness that

civilization’s escalatory violence was not humanity’s inevitable destiny.

An Incredible, Impossible, Mad Place

Skellig Michael.

Normalcy Is Not Inevitability

“Christian monasticism,” they say, “had its conceptual roots in the belief that union with God could best be obtained by withdrawal from civilization into harsh and isolate regions”. Since God is everywhere and union with God is surely possible anywhere, I focus on one phrase in that explanation, “withdrawal from civilization,” and within that phrase, on the word “civilization” itself. Here, then, is my own suggestion for why the monastery exists as an institution. The monastery presents an alternative lifestyle that implicitly criticizes the greed, injustice, and oppression of our everyday world. It is a mode of semicommunal or fully communal life witnessing that violence is not the inevitability of human nature but only the normalcy of human civilization.

Monasteries (and especially Skellig Michael) are witnesses that the escalatory violence of civilization is not the inevitable destiny of humankind,

It would be nice to turn now from the “Bad Empire” in chapter 1 to the “Good Book” in chapter 2, as if the Christian Bible were all about dreams or hopes or plans for a just and peaceful earth and nothing else. But that Bible is far more powerful and far more dangerous than any such simple fantasy. Read it, read it all, read it in both its Old Testament and New Testament, read it especially in its final terrible book, the Apocalypse, or the Revelation to John. If you do, you will never again be able to make the lie-libel claim that the Old Testament has a violent God of war while the New Testament has a nonviolent God of peace. The Bible is about God and the ambiguity of divine power.

The rest of this book is about the Christian Bible, especially its depiction of divine power as violent or nonviolent. Before I discuss Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, and John of Patmos in chapters 3 through 5, chapter 2 looks at the prior biblical tradition they would have known. As you will see, Christian Jews were certainly not the first to practice nonviolent resistance to Rome: both violent resistance to imperial injustice and nonviolent resistance were already operative among first-century non-Christian Jews.

2 GOD AND THE AMBIGUITY OF POWER

Sum of Ch 2   As you will see, Christian Jews were certainly not the first to practice nonviolent resistance to Rome: both violent resistance to imperial injustice and nonviolent resistance were already operative among first-century non-Christian Jews.

My conclusion is that Judas the Galilean invented a mode and program of nonviolent resistance backed, of course, by readiness for martyrdom.

JESUS CHRIST, THE LAND OF THE LIVING

The ambiguity of divine power suffuses the Christian Bible in both its Testaments and therefore presses this question for us Christians: how do we reconcile the ambiguity of our Bible’s violent and/or nonviolent God? My proposal is that the Christian Bible presents the radicality of a just and nonviolent God repeatedly and relentlessly confronting the normalcy of an unjust and violent civilization. Again and again throughout the biblical tradition, God’s radical vision for nonviolent justice is offered, and again and again we manage to mute it back into the normalcy of violent injustice.

The Christian Bible records the ongoing struggle between the normalcy of civilization’s program of religion, war, victory, peace (or more succinctly, peace through victory), seen in chapter 1, and the radicality of God’s alternative program of religion, nonviolence, justice, peace (or more succinctly, peace through justice), seen here in chapter 2. But that struggle is depicted inside the Bible itself. That is its integrity and its authority. If the Bible were only about peace through victory, we would not need it. If it were only about peace through justice, we would not believe it.

The Christian Bible forces us to witness the struggle of these two transcendental visions within its own pages and to ask ourselves as Christians how we decide between them. My answer is that we are bound to whichever of these visions was incarnated by and in the historical Jesus. It is not the violent but the nonviolent God who is revealed to Christian faith in Jesus of Nazareth and announced to Christian faith by Paul of Tarsus.

Christ does not read the Bible, the New Testament, or the Gospel. He is the norm of the Bible, the criterion of the New Testament, the incarnation of the Gospel. That is how we Christians decide between a violent and nonviolent God in the Bible, New Testament, or Gospel. The person, not the book, and the life, not the text, are decisive and constitutive for us.

3 JESUS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD

Three questions guide this chapter’s discussion of Jesus’s life. The first two are general ones. In the prologue of our co-authored 2001 book Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, Jonathan Reed and I ask these two questions: 1 “Why did Jesus happen when he happened? Why then? Why there? Sharpen the question a little. 2 Why did two popular movements, the Baptism movement of John and the Kingdom movement of Jesus, happen in territories ruled by Herod Antipas in the 20s of that first common-era century? Why not at another time? Why not in another place?”. 3 why is Jesus so often found around the Sea of Galilee,

He moved not just from a very tiny village to a somewhat larger one, but from a hillside village to a lakeside one.

I use the term “matrix” deliberately to avoid the term “background.” If you are having a studio portrait taken and the photographer asks you to choose a computer-generated snow, forest, meadow, beach, or jungle scene—that is background. The scene is there, but it has no interaction with you—you will not be cold in the snow or warm on the beach.

A matrix, on the other hand, is interactive and reciprocal—it changes you and you change it. Southern racism was matrix, for example,

KING OF THE JEWS AND FRIEND OF THE ROMANS

Herod the Great’s rule over the Jewish homeland by imperial appointment in the generation before Jesus made Henry VIII look both merciful and monogamous.

Herod’s creation of the port of Caesarea on the Mediterranean and his extension of the plaza of the Temple in Jerusalem were state-of-the-art construction in his time.

Under Herod the Great, therefore, and for whatever reason, the imperial program of Romanization did not strike Galilee as it did Judea. What does that mean?

THE RISE AND FALL OF HEROD ANTIPAS

It means that Romanization by urbanization for commercialization struck Galilee forcibly not under Herod the Great in the generation before John and Jesus, but under his son Herod Antipas in the generation of John and Jesus.

Think about it. If you were Antipas and wanted to become King of the Jews, you would have to increase your tax base in Galilee so that Rome might grant you that royal promotion.

THE BIRTH OF A SON OF GOD

Augustus Caesar left behind a political autobiography about 2,500 words long to be inscribed in bronze at the entrance of his new dynastic mausoleum in Rome’s Campus Martius. We have Greek chunks and Latin fragments of the text from Pisidian Antioch in the museum at Yalvach and can still see most of those two versions carved on the walls of the Temple of Rome and Augustus in Old Ankara. What is most striking, however, is the autobiography’s opening: “At the age of nineteen….”

From that basis, therefore, the twin stories in Matthew 1–2 and Luke 1–2 not only exalt Jesus within his own Jewish tradition but place his birth and destiny in deliberate contradiction to Roman imperial theology’s story of Augustus’s birth and destiny.

Maybe we are too jaded with that story’s annual appearance along with the tinsel, mistletoe, and Christmas decorations. But “Savior” and “Lord” were titles of Caesar Augustus because he had brought “peace” to this earth.

THE DAY THE ROMANS CAME

In other words, when the Syrian legions moved southward, they marched not just offensively but punitively. We will teach you a lesson, they said, so that we will not need to return for another few generations. And check the dates—they came in 4 BCE, in 66 CE, and, finally, in 132 CE. After that, they never had to come again.

Those who survived would have lost everything. I speculate, therefore, that the major stories Jesus would have heard while growing up in Nazareth would have been about “the year the Romans came.” I push the speculation a little further: At some chosen moment in Jesus’s youth, did Mary bring him up to the top of the Nazareth ridge, point out Sepphoris, and talk about “the Year of the Romans”? From all such talk, what did the young Jesus decide about God, Rome, resistance, and violence?

GOD’S KINGDOM: IMMINENT OR PRESENT?

I now take chapters 1 and 2 of this book and fine-focus them here in chapter 3 to see how the radicality of God’s nonviolent justice confronts the normalcy of human civilization’s violent injustice at a very specific time and a very specific place. The time is the 20s of the first common-era century, and the place is the twin territories ruled by Herod Antipas—Perea to the east and Galilee to the west of the river Jordan. I compare that divine radicality as understood first within John’s Baptism movement in Perea and then within Jesus’s Kingdom movement in Galilee. To understand the Jewish matrix from which they both operated and to understand how they diverged from one another in it, recall my description of apocalyptic eschatology as the Great Divine Cleanup of the present world here below upon the earth (see chapter 2). That is absolutely presumed in what follows.

John and God’s Imminent Kingdom

John was an eschatologist who proclaimed the imminent arrival of the avenging God.

If Antipas had considered John a violent threat, he would have also rounded up as many of John’s followers as he could catch. The fact that he did not, and that he executed only John, tells us that Antipas was responding to somebody who opposed the Roman system nonviolently.

Jesus and God’s Present Kingdom

One of the surest things we know about Jesus is that he was baptized by John. What makes this fact so certain is the growing nervousness it evokes as you move from Mark, through Matthew and Luke, into John.

Matthew’s gospel is much more defensive. Jesus arrives for baptism in 3:13, but this interaction ensues in the next two verses: “John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.” Thereafter, as in Mark, the heavenly vision and revelation overshadow the baptism.

Luke’s gospel is almost evasive, and unless you are reading carefully you might miss any mention of Jesus’s baptism: “Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened” (3:21). In this case, however, the revelation from God is not accompanied by any vision for Jesus.

John’s gospel has the final solution in 1:26–33. He omits any mention of John’s baptism of Jesus

But all of this only emphasizes that John baptized Jesus and therefore that Jesus had at least originally accepted John’s message of the imminent advent of an apocalyptic and avenging God.

Since I consider that both these statements came from the historical Jesus, I think that Jesus started by accepting John’s theology of God’s imminence but, precisely because of what happened to John, changed from that to a theology of God’s presence. John expected God’s advent, but Antipas’s cavalry came instead. John was executed, and God still did not come as an avenging presence. Maybe, thought Jesus, that was not how God acted because that is not how God is. Jesus’s own proclamation therefore insisted that the Kingdom of God was not imminent but present; it was already here below upon this earth, and however it was to be consummated in the future, it was a present-already and not just an imminent-future reality.

But to claim an already-present Kingdom demands some evidence, and the only such that Jesus could have offered is this: it is not that we are waiting for God, but that God is waiting for us. The present Kingdom is a collaborative eschaton between the human and divine worlds.

GOD’S KINGDOM: MONOPOLY OR FRANCHISE?

It is rather unfortunate that the expression “Kingdom of Heaven” ever entered the Christian vocabulary. In the New Testament it is used over thirty times, but only by Matthew, while “Kingdom of God” is used twice as often, and by different authors (Mark, Luke, John, Acts, and Paul). Matthew himself uses “Kingdom of God” about five times. “Kingdom of Heaven”—in Greek it is actually “Kingdom of the Heavens”—is all too often misinterpreted as the Kingdom of the future, of the next world, of the afterlife. For Matthew, “Heaven” was simply a euphemism for “God,” the Dwelling used interchangeably with the Dweller, as when we say, “The White House announces…” when we mean, “The president announces….” In other words, “Kingdom of Heaven” meant exactly the same as “Kingdom of God.” But what was that?

“The Kingdom of God” was a standard expression for what I have been calling the Great Divine Cleanup of this world. It was what this world would look like if and when God sat on Caesar’s throne, or if and when God lived in Antipas’s palace. That is very clear in these parallel phrases of the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:10: “Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” The Kingdom of God is about the Will of God for this earth here below. That earthly presence agrees, of course, with everything we have seen so far about apocalyptic eschatological expectation. It is about the transformation of this world into holiness, not the evacuation of this world into heaven.

It is clear, I hope, that the Kingdom of God is inextricably and simultaneously 100 percent political and 100 percent religious. “Kingdom” is a political term, “God” is a religious term,

I put it this way: John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise.

it. To experience the Kingdom, he asserted, come, see how we live, and then live like us.

The logic of Jesus’s Kingdom program is a mutuality of healing (the basic spiritual power) and eating (the basic physical power) shared freely and openly. That program built a share-community from the bottom up as a positive alternative to Antipas’s Roman greed-community established from the top down.

THE EXCAVATION FROM HELL

Jesus spent his time on and beside the lake because it was precisely and specifically by the shores of the Sea of Galilee that the radicality of Israel’s God confronted the normalcy of Rome’s civilization under Herod Antipas in the 20s of the first century CE.

INTERLUDE: THE KINGDOM OF GOD AND THE SON OF MAN

indeed, if anything, “Son of Man” is an even more exalted title than “Son of God.”

The Vision

The first part of the vision in Daniel 7:1–8

The Interpretation

The Application

THE CROWD AND THE DEATH OF JESUS

Notes on God and Empire: by Crossan

Michael Mann, Professor of Sociology at the Berkeley campus of the University of California, is writing a four-volume study on The Sources of Social Power; the first two volumes were published in 1986 and 1993. In the first volume, A History of Power from the Beginning to A.D. 1760, Mann writes that:

It was one of the most successful conquering states in all history, but it was the most successful retainer of conquests.

+For Mann, social power is not so much a thing in itself as a combination of four types of power united together:

military power, the monopoly or control of force and violence;

economic power, the monopoly or control of labor and production;

political power, the monopoly or control of organization and institution; and ideological power, the monopoly or control of interpretation and meaning.

when Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, and John of Patmos came against the Roman Empire, they did so not with military, economic, or political power but exclusively with ideological power.

For my present purpose, I focus on only two sources of that ideological glue that held Roman imperialism together—poetic texts about Augustus and inscriptions from Augustus.

Think of Roman imperial theology as an immensely successful advertising campaign that inundated everyone, everywhere,

In conclusion, imagine this question. There was a human being in the first century who was called “Divine,”“Son of God,” “God,” and “God from God,” whose titles were “Lord,”“Redeemer,”“Liberator,” and “Savior of the World.” Who was that person?

To proclaim them of Jesus the Christ was thereby to deny them of Caesar the Augustus. Christians were not simply using ordinary titles applied to all sorts of people at that time, or even extraordinary titles applied to special people in the East. They were taking the identity of the Roman emperor and giving it to a Jewish peasant. Either that was a peculiar joke and a very low lampoon, or it was what the Romans called majestas and we call high treason.

Is there any possible alternative to “first victory, then peace,” or “peace through victory”? Yes, it is this: “religion, nonviolence, justice, peace”—or more succinctly, “first justice, then peace,” or “peace through justice.” That counter-program is the subject of this book.

The first question concerns empire and civilization. Are all empires, past and present, but deeper manifestations of what we call “civilization”? Since its invention along the irrigated floodplains of great rivers like the Tigris and Euphrates, has civilization always been inherently imperial? Is escalatory violence but civilization’s drug of choice, and is it an addiction we cannot overcome or even control? The second question starts from the end of the first one. Is the normal imperialism of human civilization simply an inevitable manifestation of human nature?

It does not help us understand the Roman Empire, let alone America as the New Roman Empire, to think of it as the “evil empire” of the first century or the “axis of evil” in the Mediterranean.

empire—Rome was the expression, no more and no less, of the normalcy of civilization’s violence, first-century style.

civilization itself, as I am using that term, has always been imperial

Civilization, in these two books, is either “macroparasitology,” the few living off the many, or “kleptocracy,” the few stealing from the many.

“The gigantic protection racket of political history began: Accept my power, for I will protect you from worse violence—of which I can give you a sample, if you don’t believe me”

“All civilizations become hierarchical; the upward concentration of wealth ensures that there will never be enough to go around”. In other words, “violence is as old as man but civilizations commit it with a deliberation that lends it special horror”. Think of how much progress civilization has made with violence and how exponentially faster its weapons have developed.

“From the first chipped stone to the first smelted iron took nearly three million years; from the first iron to the hydrogen bomb took only 3,000 years”.

The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

Injustice by Reason of Inequality

Normalcy Is Not Inevitability

The monastery presents an alternative lifestyle that implicitly criticizes the greed, injustice, and oppression of our everyday world. It is a mode of semicommunal or fully communal life witnessing that violence is not the inevitability of human nature but only the normalcy of human civilization.

Chapter 3

Three questions guide this chapter’s discussion of Jesus’s life. The first two are general ones. In the prologue of our co-authored 2001 book Excavating Jesus: Beneath the Stones, Behind the Texts, Jonathan Reed and I ask these two questions: “Why did Jesus happen when he happened? Why then? Why there? Sharpen the question a little.

Why did two popular movements, the Baptism movement of John and the Kingdom movement of Jesus, happen At the start of this chapter, I add another and more specific question: why is Jesus so often found around the Sea of Galilee,

It is clear, I hope, that the Kingdom of God is inextricably and simultaneously 100 percent political and 100 percent religious. “Kingdom” is a political term, “God” is a religious term, and Jesus would be executed for that “of” in a world where, for Rome, God already sat on Caesar’s throne because Caesar was God. John had a monopoly, but Jesus had a franchise.

To experience the Kingdom, he asserted, come, see how we live, and then live like us. This invitation presumes that Jesus was promulgating not just a vision or a theory but a praxis and a communal program, and that this program was not just for himself but for others as well. What was it? Basically it was this: heal the sick, eat with those you heal, and announce the Kingdom’s presence in that mutuality.

The logic of Jesus’s Kingdom program is a mutuality of healing (the basic spiritual power) and eating (the basic physical power) shared freely and openly. That program built a share-community from the bottom up as a positive alternative to Antipas’s Roman greed-community established from the top down.

Thus, diseases are cured, while illnesses are healed.

Chapter 3 is the central one of this book. The two preceding chapters set up the struggle between the injustice of civilization’s normalcy (chapter 1) and the justice of God’s radicality (chapter 2), especially inside the Bible itself. I proposed at the end of chapter 2 that Christians choose between the violent God of human normalcy and the nonviolent God of divine radicality, between peace through violence and peace though justice, according to which one they find incarnate in the historical Jesus—in other words, the Jesus of this chapter. In the succeeding two chapters, I look at two divergent responses to the radical God incarnate in that Jesus—both within the Christian New Testament itself.

In chapter 4, I consider Paul as the apostle who took Jesus’s message out from the Jewish homeland into the great big Roman world. world. I emphatically do not agree with those who think Paul betrayed Jesus or invented Christianity. He accurately and effectively rephrased Jesus’s message of the already-present Kingdom of God in his own language for that wider world.

In chapter 4, we will also see examples of the normalcy of Roman civilization used by post-Pauline Christians to sanitize and deradicalize Paul on such subjects as slavery, patronage, and patriarchy.

In chapter 5, I turn in point-counterpoint from Paul of Tarsus to John of Patmos. The last book of the Christian Bible, the Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, is the most absolutely and virulently anti-Roman work in all of either Judaism or Christianity. My question will be this: Is it the final attempt to make Jesus violent, to have Jesus return as the incarnation of divine violence? Is that book the ultimate attempt—and a Christian attempt—to assert the violent injustice of civilization’s normalcy over the nonviolent justice of God’s radicality?

Ch 4 Paul and the justice of equality

God and Empire John Dominic Crossan 2009

http://www.amazon.com/God-Empire-John-Dominic-Crossan-ebook/dp/B000OI0F2Q/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1406297036&sr=1-7&keywords=crossan

At the heart of the Bible is a moral and ethical call to fight unjust superpowers, whether they are Babylon, Rome, or even America.

From the divine punishment and promise found in Genesis through the revolutionary messages of Jesus and Paul, John Dominic Crossan reveals what the Bible has to say about land and economy, violence and retribution, justice and peace, and, ultimately, redemption. In contrast to the oppressive Roman military occupation of the first century, he examines the meaning of the non-violent Kingdom of God prophesized by Jesus and the equality advocated by Paul to the early Christian churches. Crossan contrasts these messages of peace with the misinterpreted apocalyptic vision from the Book of Revelation, which has been misrepresented by modern right-wing theologians and televangelists to justify U.S. military actions in the Middle East.

In God and Empire Crossan surveys the Bible from Genesis to Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, and discovers a hopeful message that cannot be ignored in these turbulent times. The first-century Pax Romana, Crossan points out, was in fact a “peace” won through violent military action. Jesus preached a different kind of peace—a peace that surpasses all understanding—and a kingdom not of Caesar but of God.

The Romans executed Jesus because he preached this Kingdom of God, a kingdom based on peace and justice, over the empire of Rome, which ruled by violence and force. For Jesus and Paul, Crossan explains, peace cannot be won the Roman way, through military victory, but only through justice and fair and equal treatment of all people.

Crossan God and Empire

Rome’s military power was based on the legions, each with six thousand fighting engineers at full complement. They were stationed along the Rhine, the Danube, the Euphrates, and the North African frontiers. The twenty-eight (and then only twenty-five) legions built well-paved all-weather roads (no mud) and high-arched all-weather bridges (no flood); with this infrastructure, they could move with all their baggage and equipment at a guaranteed fifteen miles a day to crush any rebellion anywhere. It was not nation-building but province-building, and the idea that such was not the military’s job would have seemed ludicrous to the legions.

Rome’s economic power grew along and upon that same infrastructure. Built for military use, it was thereafter available for travel and trade, contact and commerce. Furthermore, the cash payments to the legions along the frontiers helped to monetize the periphery. After military conquest, the imperial program was Romanization by urbanization for commercialization. And of course, those who oppose your globalization, then and now, come violently or nonviolently against you along the global arteries you have created.

Rome’s political power was established through a self-consciously Romanized aristocracy created across the entire empire that allowed some high local elites to be members of the Roman Senate. It was even eventually possible for a Romanized provincial to become emperor. “The Roman landholding elite,” concludes Michael Mann, “was about as ‘classlike’ as any group in any known society, past or present”. Local elites saw very clearly what they got in return for imperial loyalty.

Rome’s ideological power was created by Roman imperial theology, and it is not possible to overestimate its importance. Military power certainly secured the empire’s external frontiers, but ideological power sustained its internal relations. Do not think of it as propaganda enforced by believing elites upon unbelieving masses. Think of it as persuasive advertising accepted very swiftly by all sides. I return later to look at the content of that theology—in written text and on carved inscription—and at how it worked as the ideological glue that held the Roman world together.

+++++

——-

Chapter 3 is the central one of this book. The two preceding chapters set up the struggle between the injustice of civilization’s normalcy (chapter 1) and the justice of God’s radicality (chapter 2), especially inside the Bible itself. I proposed at the end of chapter 2 that Christians choose between the violent God of human normalcy and the nonviolent God of divine radicality, between peace through violence and peace though justice, according to which one they find incarnate in the historical Jesus—in other words, the Jesus of this chapter. In the succeeding two chapters, I look at two divergent responses to the radical God incarnate in that Jesus—both within the Christian New Testament itself.

In chapter 4, I consider Paul as the apostle who took Jesus’s message out from the Jewish homeland into the great big Roman world. In chapter 4, we will also see examples of the normalcy of Roman civilization used by post-Pauline Christians to sanitize and deradicalize Paul on such subjects as slavery, patronage, and patriarchy.

In chapter 5, I turn in point-counterpoint from Paul of Tarsus to John of Patmos. The last book of the Christian Bible, the Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, is the most absolutely and virulently anti-Roman work in all of either Judaism or Christianity. My question will be this: Is it the final attempt to make Jesus violent, to have Jesus return as the incarnation of divine violence? Is that book the ultimate attempt—and a Christian attempt—to assert the violent injustice of civilization’s normalcy over the nonviolent justice of God’s radicality? At the end, even God must use our standard solution to evil—kill the evildoers. Paul of Tarsus and John of Patmos represent, respectively, acceptance and rejection of the radical nonviolence that Jesus proclaimed to and against Pilate before he was condemned to death.

violent injustice, peace through victory

violent justice

nonviolent justice, peace through justice

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