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Thank you, Andrew.

  re: the emergence of violent zealotry,

   My understanding (which is entirely 2nd-hand, and is strongly influenced by NTW’s Jesus and the Victory of God) is that violent zeal was a theme in Israel from the time of the Maccabean revolt until the final calamity of the Bar Kochba revolt, a period of about 3 centuries. After the Romans took over in the mid 1st century BCE, there were significant uprisings every several decades, and they always failed. This is the background, perhaps what Jesus meant by ‘the signs of the times’, that presumably was the underpinning of Jesus’ belief that a war was coming and that it was certain to end in disaster for Israel. IIRC, NTW thinks that this background is in view in Jesus’ saying about the Kingdom and violent men.

re: Barabbas — I think this is a strength of the proposal. The  procedure of presenting a choice of malefactors to be released is so unusual that I have read that scholars think it is a fabrication of the Evangelist. I wonder whether it may have been Jesus’ idea, advocated to Pilate to convince him of the necessity of condemning Jesus to crucifixion, something that Pilate seems to have been very reluctant to do. The crowd’s response, preference for the man of violence over the incompetent would-be king, had the effect of showing Pilate that the Passover crowds in Jerusalem were ready to revolt (and this in the context of the stasis that Barabbas had participated in). They wanted the man who had proved his zeal for Israel in preference to the man who had failed to draw blood before being captured. Doesn’t this suggest that a general revolt might be imminent? Something had to be done immediately to tamp down the situation. It needed to be highly visible and something that would spread by word of mouth far and wide. I suspect that is why Pilate insisted that the charge against Jesus, the crime for which he was crucified, be that he was​​ Israel’s king, not merely that he had claimed to be. 

The aim was surely to warn everyone who heard about these things  that Rome would not tolerate the emergence of any king in Israel.  Pilate was trying to de-escalate the situation. Barabbas, released, might go on to make more trouble, but if the enthusiasts for revolt could, as a group, be demoralized, that trouble would be relatively minor.

  NTW has argued that the lestes crucified with Jesus may have been insurgent militants; IOW, men like Barabbas who had was to have been crucified with them. One of them seems to have been a believer in Jesus. That there were bloody-minded men among Jesus’ followers, even in his inner circle, is suggested by the incident with James and John and the unwelcoming Samaritan village.

I agree that Jesus criticized the injustice and unrighteousness of Israel’s rulers, and he called for those rulers to repent. But there also seems to have been a general call to the entire nation to repent of something or other in view of the imminence of the Kingdom. The repentance of Israel’s religious elite from its exploitive practices toward the masses would not have impaired the move toward war. The elites (among the priests, at least) benefitted from the present arrangements and were already opposed to war; they weren’t the ones pushing for it. I find it difficult to believe that Jesus’ warnings about what would happen in the future war were not made with the hope that they would induce repentance, at least among some (perhaps only among his most committed followers). 

It’s not a big move from thinking that the warnings were intended to   be effective (in at least some hearers’ hearts) to the idea that Jesus  formulated a costly plan that would discourage the entire nation and  prevent or at least delay the war. 

 My interest in this hypothesis is motivated primarily by the problem that I find the conventional theories of atonement to all be unsatisfactory in one way or another. They’re all founded on a misunderstanding of ‘wrath’, so it’s not surprising that they have difficulties conforming fully to the biblical narrative, interpreted historically rather than theologically.

  Perhaps the churches have been wrong to want to have a ‘theory of atonement’; perhaps there should not be any theory of atonement at all.

 That doesn’t seem right either. That the Cross accomplished something, even a great victory over ‘the Powers’, seems to be taken for granted by Paul and by the author of Hebrews. Jesus’ crucifixion was central to Paul’s preaching; why? Are early Christian writers guilty already of over-theologizing the meaning of Jesus, or was there some concrete thing to which they were referring?

 (Aside: this proposal blends elements of the penal substitution, satisfaction, ransom, moral influence and Christus Victor theories of atonement, which strikes me as a strength, but perhaps I’m slipping back into a theological rather than historical mentality in finding this appealing)

  Is there a Narrative Historical theory of atonement and account of the efficacy of the Cross?  You have, for example, written of penal substitution as an historical reality — Jesus suffered the penalty of Barabbas’ crime. Did that substitution accomplish anything? The NT writers seem to think that it did, but I’m not clearly seeing ‘what that was’ within the Narrative Historical framework.

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