How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian

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Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis through Revelation
by John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith.

Many portions of the New Testament introduce a compassionate Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But the Jesus we find in Revelation and some portions of the Gospels leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true revelation of the Messiah—and how can both be in the same Bible?

This book explores this question and offers guidance for the faithful conflicted over which version of the Lord to worship. Crossan reconciles these contrasting views, revealing how different writers of the books of the Bible not only possessed different visions of God but also different purposes for writing. Often these books are explicitly competing against another, opposing vision of God from the Bible itself.

Crossan explains how to navigate this debate and offers what he believes is the best central thread to what the Bible is all about. He challenges Christians to fully participate in this dialogue, thereby shaping their faith by reading deeply, reflectively, and in community with others who share their uncertainty. Only then, he advises, will Christians be able to read and understand the Bible without losing their faith.

We will begin this study at 7:00 PM (until 8:30) on April 10 and finish with the classic potluck on May 22. Of course there will be cookies.

Comments

Chapter 14
1 – What do you think was Paul's position on slavery? 222
2 – What do you think of the analogy of God / freeman vs. master / slave? 222
3 – How do women counteract patriarchy? 225
4- How much social equality do you think Paul expected in his congregations AND did he think this equality would / could spread outside the congregations? 228
5 – Celibate societies don't last. (Shakers) Is there an institutional solution to this problem? 229
6 – If we were to choose another book like the Gospel of Mary, in other words non-canonical early Christian writing, what subject would you find interesting? 231
Epilogue
7 – What are some interesting points in our current Matrix? 236
8 – How well did Crossan make his case for the alternate distributive justice and retributive justice? 238
9 – What would Jesus' reaction be to UMCGC? 241 Did you know immediately what UMCGC is?
10 – How do you understand ( or What doe it mean ) “Read it verbally, but picture it visually.” 243

Chapter 12
1 – Is the USA ready for a whole different form of government? We seem to be playing out a modern version of the history of Rome. 190
2 – What is the main problem with Peace through Victory? 193
3 – What do you see as the most important difference between the Roman Kingdom of God and Jesus' Kingdom of God? 196
4 – If Rome is all “Victory, Victory, Victory”, what is Jesus response?
5 – How does Crossan know that the Romans “seldom confuse the literal/metaphorical divide”? 200
Chapter 13
6 – What (do you think) is the reality toward which the metaphor of baptism points? 205
7 – Extra Credit: Was Paul gay? 208
8 – Any comments about Head Covering? 209
9 – I recommend that you read Philemon. Do you have any doubt that Paul was opposed to slavery? (I will send around a recent Westar paper about Philemon if I get requests.)
10 – Are you convinced by Crossan's argument about a possible tax revolt that might cause “Christians” to be violent? 215 Comments?
11 – With Rom. 12:19-20 is Paul doing exactly what Crossan spent the whole book arguing against? 216

Chapter 10
1 – What do we know that allows us to compare the “programs” of John and Jesus? Is it enough? 158
2 – What do you think about causing God to act? 160
3 – When the Bible and Josephus disagree, which side are you likely to choose? How much authority do you attribute to the Bible? 163
4 – How can the Kingdom of God come without being observed? 164
5 – Comment on Crossan's paradigm shift on pg. 165.
6 – In the combination of “covenant, collaboration and participation”, what part do people provide and what part does God provide (if you assume that God can provide)? 166
7 – Does your view of the Lord's Prayer change if “father” is replaced by “householder”? 168
Chapter 11
8 – Where have you previously seen escalation from ideological to rhetorical to physical violence? 173
9 - “Did Jesus change his mind, or did the Gospels change their Jesus”? 178
10 – If heaven comes to earth in Revelation, how does the Rapture have people moving “up” from earth? 179
11 – We easily see that Revelation's Babylon represents Rome. Would that not have been understood also when it was written (with consequences for the author)? 182
12 – What are the consequences of finishing the Bible with it's most violent book? 185

Chapter 7 B
0 – (left over from last week) What is your solution to distributive injustice? 110
1 – How much / often do we “worship a God of justice in a state of injustice.”? 109
2 – Is divine punishment the same thing as human consequences? Why (or not)? 113
3 – What do you think about “prayer [as] acting collaboratively wit that process.”? 114
4 – Are you getting a good picture of Crossan's god, and how does it compare with yours (so far)? 117
Chapter 8
5 – What do you think about God as the process of evolution of the universe? Or would you name / describe the process differently? 124
6 – Describe the difference between radical and liberal as used on the top of pg. 126.
x – The easiest way to have your prophecy come true is to write it late and date it early.
7 – Compare imperial rule = feral beast with divine rule = like a human being. Do you see a problem here? 132
8 – What single change do you think would be most helpful in bringing about the Kingdom of God? 137
Chapter 9
x – Remember from our reading of “Zealot” that the period of Jesus' life and for a while thereafter was relatively peaceful.
9 – What does a martyr gain? 146
10 – Is there anything in today's culture that corresponds to “the might of his word”? 154

Chapter 5
1 – How have you experienced consequences vs. punishment? 77
2 – Where is the line that says all God's creatures get a fair share of all God's earth? I don't see it. 78
3 – Why does the Bible talk about animals, particularly carnivores, eating “every green plant for food”? 81
4 – In your household(s), does / did history or sanction have a greater weight? (Think about your childhood as well as adult life.) 87
Chapter 6
5 – Why do you think there is so little blessing and so much sanction? 91
6 – What do we think today about blessings and curses from God? 95
7 – Where do you find history rewritten today? 97
8 – What did we NOT learn from the book of Job? 98
Chapter 7
9 – How important is “brain chemistry” in you view of prophesy? What are the alternatives? 104
10 – How do you think the people received the King(s) vs. God(s) matrix? Which side would you be on? 107
11 – What is your solution to distributive injustice? 110

Chapter 3
1 – Why do you think mortality is such a difficult question? And why do gods get eternal life? 47
2 – What did you get from the Gilgamesh story that prepared you for the Adam/Eve story? 52
3 – Why are humans moral (have a conscience) and not other animals? Speculate on the next evolutionary step after morality. 55
4 – How do you thin the story will end? 56
5 - “Humanity chose … the tree of conscience.” Comments? 57
Chapter 4
6 – Why does God choose that “the elder shall serve the younger”? 62
7 – What do you think about “you can [but will not] rule over [sin].” 63
8 – Is escalating counter violence the destiny of humanity? 64
9 – What is the difference between a flaw in creation and a flaw in civilization? 67
10 – Will the “Gods” annihilate us because of overpopulation? 68
11 – God has been sucked in to escalatory violence. Comment. 70

Chapter 1
1 – Introduce yourself with your academic credentials. How important have those credentials been in your life? pg. 1
2 – Can you find ANY evidence for a violent Jesus? pg. 9
3 – Where did the connection of the black horse to price-gouger come from? pg. 11
4 – Any comments about either “Left Behind” or “Narnia”? pg. 15
5 – Describe the character of your biblical God. pg. 16
6 – What problems do you see in”read[ing] straignt through, book after book, from Genesis to Revelation.”? pg. 20
Chapter 2
7 – Is there any Bible story of Jubilee actually happening? pg. 23
8 – What other example of assertion / subversion can you present? pg. 27
9 – Do you think Crossan “mixes up” Jesus and Christ? pg. 28
10 – How do you react to “me keeping ming, getting yours, and having more and more, forever.”? pg. 31
11 – What do you think of Crossan's argument of pg. 35 that Jesus describes Christ who describes God?
12 – Do you see now why I (Peter) have spent so much time and effort studying the historical Jesus? pg. 37
13 – How well do you think you can “remove [y]our Christian shoes and put on Mesopotamian sandals.”? pg. 38