Concepts in Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, chapters 3-5

This web page consists of excerpts from my lecture notes for our discussion of Crossan's book.

Questions? Contact: Dr. Jan Garrett

Last updated: October 12, 2012

(First page number or range of page numbers refers to the 2009 edition; the second to the 1994 edition.)

Eschatology. (derives from eschata, Greek for "final things," and logos, Greek for story or speech [about something]).

It is C's term for what Albert Schweitzer calls "world-negation":

A radical criticism of culture and civilization, a fundamental rejection of this world's values and expectations. (58-59; 52)…
Apocalyptic thinking. (p. 59)
A specific type of eschatology or "world-negation." It views the world as so catastrophically evil and beyond human remedy that only immediate divine intervention can correct it. It reveals the imminent end of that evil world, the coming liberation and lifting up of us (the oppressed people or class) and the conversion, punishment, or annihilation of them, and a new situation in which we are lifted up to heaven or heaven descends to embrace us.
basileia (61-62; 54-55) —"rule"; often translated "kingdom."
Kings, tyrants, and generals have it. The "kingdom of God" to which Jesus often refers in the New Testament is basileia tou theou in Greek.

Big question: how to guarantee the just and beneficent exercise of power. …

On first approximation, the Kingdom of God is what the world would be if God were directly in charge.

The four versions of eschatology and the Kingdom of God idea linked with it (see handout)

The open group (promoted by Jesus): contrasted with 20th century individualism and ancient "groupism."

20th century individualism.

A philosophy emphasizing individual rights (to be free from coercion, arbitrary coercion, murder, theft, etc. and freedom of choice). (Actually this goes back at least to John Locke in the 17th century.)

Ancient Mediterranean groupism.

A set of cultural practices that gives priority to one's own family (kinship network); where power descends in the male line from the most powerful older member (sometimes from the founder of the line, who may be mythical).

A society permeated by what C. calls "ancient Mediterranean groupism" fits the pattern Eisler identifies with the Dominator Model).

In groupist culture, children are nonpersons unless they are accepted by paternal power. (70-72; 62-64) …

The open group.
The kingdom of God is an open group, an alternative to the hierarchical extended family, but without endorsing modern individualism.

The ideal group of Jesus is "an open one equally accessible to all under God." "It negates that abuse of power that is power's lethal shadow" in ancient groupism(67)

The ideal group rejects the ancient Mediterranean assumption that children are nonpersons unless they are accepted by paternal power

"the rules of tabling and eating as miniature models for the rules of association and socialization…table fellowship as a map of economic discrimination, social hierarchy, and political differentiation." (76-77; 68)
Open commensality:
a [pattern of] "eating together without using table as a miniature map of society's hierarchical ("vertical") discriminations and lateral ("horizontal") separations."

It is implicitly contrasted with the closed commensality …

The social challenge of such egalitarian commensality is Jesus' parable's most fundamental danger and most radical threat. [The reference is to the Parable of the Banquet in Luke and Mark.] (77-78; 69)

The politic body. This phrase is meant to capture the key ideas of M. Douglas' "extremely fruitful hypothesis" (87), explained as follows:

"The body is a model that can stand for any bounded system" … "the individual body as a microcosm [small version of] the whole society."
Eating and healing serve more than (or other than) biological functions; depending on how they are done, they can affirm or challenge a society's rules of conduct or customs. (87; 77)

ancient Israelite legal obssession about bodily orifices. Why?

The Israelite state or people was constantly overrun or threatened by imperial powers in the region. By controlling their bodily boundaries, the Israelites tried to regain power over their physical existence and secure their identity. (89; 79) (See "the politic body," above.)

social boundary protection (89; ??) -- the ability or desire of a society or community to prevent neighboring societies from imposing their laws, edicts, and practices upon the society

bodily boundary protection (89; ??) -- the social regulations that govern what or when something can pass into or out of bodily orifices

leprosy—a very serious skin condition that was in ancient times called elephas or elephantiasis. (88-89; 78)

lepra (the term in the New Testament usually translated leprosy):

several diseases all of which involved a rather repulsive scaly or flaking skin condition, such as psoriasis or eczema, or fungal infections of the skin; …(89-90; 78)
Lepra created a problem for the Hebrew law; what? the "solution" was [what]; what did it do to the person with lepra? (89-90; 79-80)

acting as an alternative boundary keeper.

Jesus is doing this when he heals an illness by refusing to accept …the social ostracization that normally accompanied it. He includes people …
curing a disease v. healing an illness (91-93)
Diseases—what physicians diagnose and treat; abnormalities in the structure and function of bodily organs and systems.

Illness—an experience of changes in states of being and in social function that are perceived as bad and undesirable

What is lacking in the picture of [something as a] disease is the psychological and, more importantly, the social dimension. …

Illness "is [can be?] created by personal, social, and cultural reactions to disease." (Kleinman, cited on p. 92)

touching, its political meaning.

When Jesus in one story (in Mark) touches the "leper,' that is, the person with lepra, he implicitly challenges the Law, which declares the leper unclean …

The Luke 17 story regarding the leper, by contrast, shows a legally observant Jesus.

class conflict in Jesus' healing activity (in Mark)

conflict between Galilean peasants and Jerusalem priests. Jesus violates Jewish ritual law by touching the leper. (93 bottom; 83)

trance (two aspects) (98-99; 87-88)

(1) trance is a physiological or mental condition, which can be produced by a variety of significant physical changes, …

(2) its meaning is a function of cultural training and expectation; varies for the individual experiencing it or the group witnessing it, …:

demon-possession as example of "the politic body" (99-100; 88-89)
one type of possession occurs in "societies …composed of small, fluid, social units exposed to particularly exactly physical conditions, or conquered communities lying under the yoke of alien oppression." Such groups of "possessed" persons are "protest cults" or "ritual rebellions." They have both a personally therapeutic and a socially subversive role."

An occupied country or oppressed population has a "multiple personality disorder"; the same individuals "both hate the oppressor …and admire its superior power."

the Gerasene demon-possessed man as example of this; the demons' name; and how Jesus responds—the social or political meaning of this (100-102; 89-91)

talky-preachy v. touchy-feely-squealy religion (104; 93)

talky-preachy side of religion, e.g. religious services centered on a sermon that contains a logical argument

touchy-feely-squealy side; religious events involving possession by "the spirit," or spiritual healing, involving things like the laying on of hands and vocal expressions such as shouting, squealing, "speaking in tongues"

itinerancy (two kinds of traveling) (110-111; 99-100)

—radical. (exemplified by Jesus) The practice of traveling in order to demonstrate the egalitarianism of the Kingdom; not to stay in one place, not to make one place more sacred than another, not to make some people more significant or privileged than another.

—functional. (exemplified by St. Paul, and most of the traveling people do today) The practice of traveling in order to get to particular destinations. At the very minimum it suggests the greater importance of the destination as compared to the starting or intermediate points.

See also Jesus as a Peasant Jewish Cynic.