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(how to tell the biblical story in a way that makes a difference)

The parable of the good Samaritan and the plight of Israel

Alex notes that a corollary of the narrative-historical approach is that “Jesus’ primary ethical concern centered around the survival of the covenantal communities he was forming—communities that he believed would face violent opposition”. That is well stated. Jesus taught his disciples how to behave—towards those inside the community and those outside it—in the tumultuous period leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, the revelation of the glory of the Son of Man, and their public vindication. What the Gospels give us is not a general purpose Christian ethic but an eschatological ethic for groups of believers who had taken the risky step of following Jesus down the narrow road that would lead to the life of the age to come.

Nevertheless, Alex wonders whether texts such as the parable of the good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37) and the sheep and goats judgment scene (Matt. 25:31-46) “push against this predominant ethical agenda”. These have often been used to “demonstrate that Christianity is a religion whose ethical core is social transformation through acts of service”—and in the case of the parable of the good Samaritan, through the refusal to give priority to the insider.

11 Dec 2017

Here’s a diagram (click for a larger version) to accompany last week’s post explaining how I think the biblical eschatological narrative takes us beyond the violence of God.

1. The diagram starts with the mission of Jesus and his followers as a continuation of the story of Israel.

2. This...

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9 Dec 2017

The podcast I did with Justin Brierley and Matthew Hartke for Justin’s Unbelievable? show is now available on the Premier Christian Radio site. Matthew and I agree that Jesus has to be understood as an apocalyptic prophet—his mission was defined by a searing vision of Israel’s future. We disagree over the...

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8 Dec 2017

The Catholic Church is unhappy with the line “lead us not into temptation” (mē eisenenkēs hēmas eis peirasmon) in the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:13; Lk. 11:4). The problem is that it appears to attribute responsibility for a person falling into temptation to God. Pope Francis has said: “It’s not a good...

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6 Dec 2017

What I rather grandly call the narrative-historical method works on the assumption that the Bible is essentially a story told by a people about its historical experience and should be read from that perspective. The historical existence of this people was not merely religious or spiritual; it was political...

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1 Dec 2017

With all due respect to those who think that Jesus was a kindly, loving, unworldly pacifist who rose above the Old Testament logic of sin and violence, I think that this is a serious misreading of the Gospels. The “historical” Jesus—by which I mean the Jesus who makes sense in the context of first century Israel—...

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28 Nov 2017

I suggested in a recent post that the biblical “kingdom” paradigm was put in place when the people of Israel asked Samuel to appoint a king because they needed someone 1) to judge them and 2) to lead them out against their enemies (1 Sam. 8:20). Theologically, therefore, “kingdom” is YHWH...

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23 Nov 2017

Earlier in the week I was in Billingham on Teesside where I gave a talk on narrative-historical theology to the super Galilee Network and friends. In a typically overloaded (when will I learn?) introduction I used this image—one which I have used before on this blog—to make the point that what we are dealing with...

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18 Nov 2017

Jerel Kratt has been making a vigorous case against my suggestion that Isaiah 60-66 describes an enhanced but essentially historical future for Israel that was not fulfilled, either in the decades after the return from exile or in the events narrated in the New Testament.

He thinks that Isaiah was not talking...

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