Radical Grace: How Belief in a Benevolent God Benefits Our Health

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Crossan views Jesus through literary, historical, and anthropological lenses and so critiques the biblical narrative about Jesus of Nazareth. He dismisses out of hand the story of Jesus' virgin birth, his ability to heal diseases or raise the dead, and the narratives of his resurrection. He is not even quite sure about the crucifixion. Crossan basically sees Jesus as a failed revolutionary whose cause was rescued by St. Paul and turned into a transcendental theological ideology not really inherent to the original human Jesus story Crossan Crossan's humanist perspective leads him to conclude that what we 'know' about Jesus from the Bible and extra-biblical sources, is a spiritual mythology.

Sanders agrees with Crossan that the narrative of Jesus' life has been mythically elaborated over the years, but contrary to Crossan, he does not see that fact as preventing us from discerning through the historical evidence what Jesus was really like Sanders , Sanders feels that the deficits derived from our tendencies to mythologise reports on people of the past who are worth commenting upon, are typical of any account of history and historical figures.

Sanders presents a fresh look at Jesus in which the certain and uncertain facets of the story of Jesus are carefully sorted out in an historical and descriptive way, rather than in terms of dogmatic claims or negatively critical arguments. He presents Jesus as a real person. He acknowledges that the gospel accounts are difficult to harmonise and sometimes disconcertingly contradictory.

We can know, nonetheless, who Jesus was, in general terms, in the historical and cultural context of Palestine, in the prosperous and powerful Roman era. We have the evidence of where he fits in, what the main line of his teaching was, the activities that characterised his ministry, and what kind of people became his admirers. Sanders seems to believe that whilst we must admit that Jesus remains an enigma, we can know more about him and his real life than a lot of people realise. The most prominent Jesus Seminar participant, indeed its founder, James M.

Robinson, released a study of Jesus 6 years ago Robinson He declares in his introduction to that volume:. If you are accustomed to the New Testament Gospels, you probably don't realize what you have been missing until you catch sight of Jesus as he really was: what we might in modern terms call a pure idealist, a fully committed radical, a very profound person. Robinson sees Jesus as an idealistic believer in God, an uncommonly naive ascetic, and an itinerant Galilean preacher.

Radical Grace: How Belief in a Benevolent God Benefits Our Health - J. Harold Ellens - Google книги

Despite their very different perspectives on the person, life, and work of Jesus, these three preeminent biblical scholars have uncovered a great deal about that man from Nazareth as he became an unforgettable presence in this world 20 centuries ago. History has unfolded and still does, in terms of his brief ministry so long ago, and everything in our world has been reshaped by his visit ever since. Jesus' psychology and spirituality. So who was Jesus of Nazareth? Why did he have such a life-changing affect upon individual persons and entire communities, societies, and cultures?

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We all have an intense emotional or spiritual desire for, and a strong intellectual intrigue about, knowing who he was and what he was really up to. We all, Jesus' followers, as well as spiritually disinterested persons, would really like to have a clearer understanding of this enigmatic figure. What was the genius of his person and vision that makes it impossible to forget him?

Was it just that blood spattered Roman cross on that windy Judean hill, a place that looks like and was referred to by the macabre name of 'the skull'? Was it the story of his unique birth, clearly a Matthean myth, of which neither the Bible nor earliest Christian belief made anything significant? Or was it his heroic antiestablishment stand? Was it his special, courageous, but in the end pathetic notion about being commissioned by God to a special prophetic vocation? Did you ever think it might have been simply his stubbornness in the cause to which he committed himself, indeed, believed himself to be called by God?

First St Paul, and then later some of his other followers saw something remarkably special about him and his vision for the future. That inspired them to change the world in his name, and redesign the Roman Empire. Well, who was he? What can we say for sure about him? We can say a number of things, at least. We know that the Jesus whom we encounter on the pages of the New Testament is not the historical figure who walked out of Nazareth one day, set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem, and made his way steadily to the cross at Golgotha.

Radical Grace: How Belief in a Benevolent God Benefits Our Health – By J. Harold Ellens

We understand that the Jesus we know is instead simply a literary character in the Bible stories. Written histories are always narratives that are more or less true to what originally happened. The way the stories are used to interpret their own content, of course, are frequently truer than mere historical data would be. That is truth beyond the data, knowledge beyond the mere facts, and wisdom beyond understanding!

In the well-crafted literary stories in the gospels he is a believable character, and we know that we, who believe in the nature, wisdom, and counsel of that literary character, as he appears in the story, find our lives constructively changed by our identification with him. That seems to have been true for everyone who has taken his story seriously for the last years.

The Historical Jesus question, examined with such care by biblical scholars for a couple of centuries now, is a genuinely intriguing quest, but in the end the constructive life-changing impact of Jesus does not seem to depend upon our achieving a final solution to that historical question. It seems to depend instead on words and images that persuasively present the literary character that comes alive, as it were, in the amazing stories about him.

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The psychological profile of Jesus as literary character. One type of interesting attempt to understand who Jesus was is available to us in four remarkable books published in the last two decades or so. The most imposing of the three is the work of the Princeton professor, Donald Capps He perceives that to understand who Jesus was and why he behaved as he did, we must remember that he was born illegitimately in a rather small Galilean Jewish community. He further suggests that his father, Joseph, never adopted him or accepted him as his son.


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This would have resulted in the fact that Jesus' mother, Mary, would have been devalued in that community and Jesus would have been denigrated as a bastard; that is, a person under the curse of a sin of which he could not be cleansed, even though it was not his own. Thus, Jesus would have grown up nurturing a strong need to reassert his mother's status as a wholesome person, find a father in God whom he tended to call 'Abba' [daddy], and assert himself as a heroic person with a genuine commitment to authentic spirituality, despite his socially demeaned and denigrated illegitimacy.

That attempt to rescue his mother and himself from painful disrepute, says Capps, was carried out by Jesus in his challenging the Mosaic regulations championed by the Pharisees and urging the embrace of the Abrahamic vision of God's radical forgiving grace for all humanity.

The Rabbis of later Rabbinic Judaism claimed that the Pharisees thought the people of God could be renewed spiritually by following the Mosaic laws and perhaps the subsequent elaborations of those laws. This externally imposed behaviour would bring inner spiritual change, restoring the godly authenticity of the Israelite nation.

Jesus is presented in the gospels as holding that such an external approach could never be internalised to produce authentic spiritual renewal. Instead, he thought that spiritual renewal for Israel had to start with an internal renovation that would then be expressed by godly behaviour. The Pharisees wanted to renew Israel from the outside in. The Jesus in the gospel narratives claimed it could only be done from the inside out. He proposed that could be accomplished by proclaiming God's absolute forgiveness and grace to every human being.

Anyone who really got that message would authentically turn to God with the confession: 'If that is the way God feels about me, I want to be God's kind of person. In the literary narratives about Jesus' person and life, Capps believes, the defining crisis came when 'Jesus set his face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem', where he knew the authorities were waiting to kill him.

When he arrived he went to the temple and created a great disturbance, presumably in the middle of a worship service.


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Jesus violently interrupted the prescribed operations in the temple. He turned over the tables and castigated the people who were helping the pilgrims from out of town procure the required sacrificial animals they needed to present to the priests. Then he claimed that God required the temple to be a worshipful place of prayer for all humans. He claimed that the Pharisaical system of Mosaic laws had turned it into an obscene commercial operation.


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  • Moreover, the temple was partitioned into spaces that made it accessible only to a small group of Jews. It excluded the world of humanity. Capps asserts that this crisis popularly known as 'the cleansing of the temple' was a kind of psychological explosion and expurgation by which Jesus symbolically removed his bastard status, in the eyes of the Jewish community, by asserting his superior relationship with God, his father. He also, thereby, cleansed his mother's impurities and devalued status in the community, restoring her wholesomeness and holiness by demonstrating how badly wrong the Mosaic system was, and how badly it distorted the Abrahamic Covenant of radical grace.

    John W. Contrary to Capps's perspective, Miller believes that Jesus was adopted by Joseph as a beloved son and experienced a warmly affirming and appropriately intimate relationship with Joseph as father Miller Miller sees this as born out in the close relationship with God, as his loving father, that Jesus expressed throughout his ministry.

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    Miller also discerns, however, that in the intensity of Jesus' relationship to God as his father, we sense that something was lost between his cherished childhood and his emotionally deficient adulthood. Miller thinks that it is related to the death of Joseph whilst Jesus was an early adolescent, depriving him of sustained and sustaining fatherly love and obstructing the usual Jewish role of the father in selecting a wife for his son. Thus, Miller sees in Jesus' baptism, and in the voice he heard affirming his status of beloved son of God, a spiritual crisis that Jesus was at some pains to understand.

    In his wilderness retreat Jesus sorted out what that divine affirmation implied regarding his vocation and his relationship to God as his father. To be the authentic beloved Son of God, as Jesus is described as discerning it, meant being the Son of Man. In Second Temple Jewish tradition, the Son of Man was the revealer of the heavenly mysteries about God and God's relationship with the world. Those mysteries that he was to reveal, he realised, were the declaration of God's radical grace that had been previously revealed in the Abrahamic Covenant, but masked and eclipsed by the legalism of the Mosaic Covenant.

    Miller acknowledges, however, that throughout the gospel story Jesus is very much less emotionally connected to his mother than to his sense of his father. The fact is that if we read the gospel narratives carefully, we must notice that Jesus is consistently abrupt, if not abusive, to his mother. In the temple at 12 years of age, at the wedding in Cana, and at Capernaum when his family comes for him, thinking him insane for calling himself the Messiah, Jesus is cryptically dismissive of his mother.

    Miller is sure this is a consequence of his having become the 'man of the house' whilst still a mere child, after Joseph's untimely death.