Jesus & the Politics of Roman Palestine

“Jesus and the Politics of Roman Palestine” by Richard A. Horsley

  • Chapter 1 – Getting the Whole Story
    • Specialization tends to make people more dumb; you don’t get the whole story or the true context. Specialization is not interdisciplinary.
    • Jesus scholars have been trained interpretation of sacred texts, rather than in the historical context of those texts.
    • The Jesus Semimar – Horsley is critical of this group. A group of liberal scholars. They tried to analyze the historical context of Jesus and His sayings into various categories to substantiate whether or not Jesus actually said things in the Bible.
    • The Western system is very good at theology but not good at history, which means that the Western system is doing eisegesis (inserting a meaning into the text) rather than exegesis (getting content out of the text).
    • Western understanding of the sacred texts is different from the Gospel sources in three ways: the separation of religion from politics, the individualism, the focus on separate sayings. And you do need a level of privilege to be able to have the time, money and resources, and support to a life of just studying and not having to make money and live– so a lot of the theologies we get are from white Western scholars only, leaving out people of color and women etc. Which means that we only get one perspective on the texts, and that perspective largely disregards the historical contexts.
    • In the first 4 centuries there were many versions of the Christian stories, and really with Constantine texts began to be standardized. Before then, there was some play (midrash) within the stories. At the time there wasn’t even one or just a few forms of Judaism. There was variation allowed, but the main context and concepts remained the same. Ironically, we are living now (in our modern times) in many forms of Christianity– different denominations and even embodiment and ways of living out Christianity, could Church of All Nations could be seen as it’s own form of Christianity.
    • Really we have to go back to an Eastern form of Christianity, which was before Augustine and the concept of original sin, who was a Western Christian. And before Constantine, again Western thinking.
    • Religion and politics and socio-economic factors were all integrated in the time of Jesus. Jesus and HIs followers still belonged to the people of Israel and were trying to being the people back to the Mosaic traditions. The separation of church and state is a Western/American concept. At the time of Jesus, everything went through the Temple– imagine paying your taxes, social security, etc. through Church of All Nations– that’s how it worked in the time of Jesus.
    • Temple in the time of Jesus – a Roman eagle on the front of the building, and Roman columns right in the front of a Jewish Temple, Pontius Pilate ruled from a room at the back of the Temple building. Money given to the Temple was both tithe and money given to Rme. Temple (church) in the time of us– flags (American and a Christian flag– Christian imperialism) on the building. The modern church is tithe and tax exempt. Being tax exempt is almost a bribe to not be involved in politics.
    • The conceptual separation of church and state historically came out of the religious warfare in Europe, the Treaty of Westphalia and the Thirty Years War, and the immigrants to the United States were reacting to the oppression in England/state, as a reactions to the horrors that came out of the integration/abuse of power when the two were merged.
    • Interesting thought:
      • when in the United Kingdom I am Church of England (English) – a Church that is connected to the State.
      • when in the United States I am Presbyterian (Scottish) – another church that up until recently had been supported by the Scottish government (at least in Scotland)
    • But Jesus’ message was absolutely not separating church and state– all of life is integrated, socially, economically and religiously. Life cannot be segmented so drastically into church and state.
    • Exegesis – drawing out of meaning / “objective” / feeling-experiencing / indigenous
    • Eisegesis – reading meaning into the text / “subjective” / giving meaning to yourself and your feelings instead of taking meaning from them / Platonic
    • Systematic Theology – still taught at Princeton – (incorrect division)
      • systematic – feminist, liberation
      • theology – all of the theologies that have been passed onto us by typically white male Europeans as the accepted universal norm for theology
      • with the above division you get entrenchment of white male power and the substantiation and continuation of it / racist system
      • systematic theology = white male theology
    • How it should be taught …
      • Theology
        • white male (systematic) theology
        • liberation theology
        • womanist theology
    • Jesus was shaped by the people around him (see Phoenician woman). Jesus didn’t just land as a fully formed hero of the story, He was moldable and changed and influenced by the community, His followers, women, etc. Take the example of Martin Luther King, Jr. who at 26 didn’t want to be a leader of a movement, but the people around him (particularly the women in the movement) who wanted MLK out front as the spokesman of the movement around him. Likewise, did Jesus step up out the movement/people around him? Jesus received the spirit of John’s baptism, at the transfiguration he was transfigured by his encounter with Moses and Elijah. This spirit is what he left us with, and probably really believed that we would do more than He did. The Roman one is the anti-Christ, Jesus was the spirit of the wild, the prophet, the defender of the poor etc.
    • “Kingdom of God” Jesus talks about = all of us are servants of one ruler. Whereas the Roman emperor was the God (self-proclaimed) of one people to use for oppression and exploitation. The God of the Bible is the spirit of Moses, Elijah, all of the other prophets– they all came first. Jesus was the embodiment of this spirit that had come for centuries before. What is the “kingdom of God” – my thought is that it is the people of a movement, of a certain spirit that Jesus and all of the preceding traditions and proceeding prophets, etc.
    • Sources for Gospels:
      • Contemporaneous: Q Source (might have been written earlier than Mark) and Mark (Mark written late 66-70 CE)
      • These two sources feed into Matthew and Luke (written around 100s I think)
      • Another third tradition of John that comes out of all of the above sources, plus it’s own unique source.
    • Oral tradition
      • oral performance
      • theology (God talk)
      • talking (10,000s hours)
      • the oral tradition is where we have real power – it’s where the spirit lies. Whereas the written tradition is very two-dimensional.
      • good preaching comes from lots of talking and midrash, rather than spending hours in your study reading (and not talking). Preaching is talking. How can you be good at preaching when you try to do it based on hours of reading and not talking.