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Jesus and the Kingdom of God

Jesus and the Kingdom of God

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Published by Peter Zylstra Moore
This paper seeks to place Jesus in his historical social circumstance in helping relate how Jesus would affect social change today.
This paper seeks to place Jesus in his historical social circumstance in helping relate how Jesus would affect social change today.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Peter Zylstra Moore on Feb 01, 2011
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Peter Zylstra Moore November 17, 2006
The Kingdom of God
Christianity has throughout history has both dis-empowered and empowered. Jesus andChristian Scriptures have been referenced by very often competing voices. Certain followers of Jesusstood amongst the most vociferous proponents of slavery and segregation or apartheid while othersstood among it's most vocal opponents. Followers of Jesus have been pivotal in arguing for womensrights. Followers of Jesus have been equally active in suppressing it. Followers have Jesus have also both been voices for religious dialog. Followers of Jesus have argued for the necessity and exclusivityof the Christian worldview. Today “(f)ollowers of Jesus are among the strongest supporters of (theU.S.) nation's invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq. Followers of Jesus are among its strongestcritics. Followers of Jesus are among the strongest opponents of gay marriage. Followers of Jesus areamong its strongest advocates. Followers of Jesus are among the strongest supporters of an economicand tax policy that benefits especially the wealthy and powerful. Followers of Jesus are among its mostvocal critics.”
1
This suggests either a split in the personality of Jesus or a gross inability to understandand interpret the ethics of Jesus.
2
This paper seeks to present a framework for understanding when Jesus both advocated anddisapproved of personal and communal actions. In other words no person is for everything or againsteverything, and so the question becomes what defined proper individual and social ethics for Jesus. Inseeking to abstract principles pertaining to ethics from the life of Jesus there is a need to define whatthe social world of Jesus looked like. The social world involves both the theories through which welook at our world, and how they interact with the actual social world. This will form the first section of the text.In comparing and contrasting Jesus
3
to his world one can begin to understand how to follow himin ours. I will seek to establish Jesus' social world was that of a Galilean peasant Jew, and because thatworld as we will soon see, was a world of oppressed and “dominated by an alien ruling class” much of his teaching was purposed in “rais(ing) critical conciousness” for the purpose of “interpretting andchallenging a world previously thought to be immutable.”
4
 Jesus does this by contrasting the Kingdom1
Borg,
 Jesus: Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
5.
2
I do not suggest that the problem has always been an inability to interpret how Jesus speaks to a given situation.Sometimes persons who claim Christianity act against their understanding of Jesus. However, in many cases equallyimpassioned Christians come to different conclusions about the ethics of following Jesus.
3
The method for studying Jesus will be social-critical history.
4
Herzog,
 Prophet and Teacher 
, 19. The language he uses is borrowed from Paulo Friere. He suggests Jesus like Friereoffered a “pedagogy of the oppressed” which “led to a liberating praxis”. Though there is more to Jesus and his teaching
 
of God, against the Kingdom of the domination system and its retainers. Interpreting Jesus life andteachings into this framework forms the second section of this text. By way of conclusion we will look at the significance of following Jesus within the framework of liberation movements and of development
5
.The Jewish world during the time of Jesus was under “imperial domination system”
6
 currentlyeffected by Roman colonial occupation. Imperial occupation was backed by a “politics of violence”
7
for the purpose of “subjection, pacification, and exploitation of the occupied land.”
8
Premoderndomination system held several consistent features. They were “
 politically oppressive
.” The majoritywas ruled by a monarchy and aristocracy that made up from 1 to 2 percent of the total population.
9 
Their control was maintained by a retainer class making up about 5 percent of the population: theseinclude “government and religious officials, military officers and bureaucrats, managers and stewards,scribes and servants, and urban merchants who sold to them.”
The societies were “
economicallyexploitative
.” A half to two-thirds of a society's production was consumed by this upper class. Theywere “
religiously legitimated.”
Social order as well as the rulers themselves were legitimated by
divine right.
Finally these societies were acquired and controlled through “
armed conflict.”
Income was generated through agriculture and labour. However, “the elites did not producewealth themselves” but became wealthy through “taxation on agricultural production, direct ownershipof agricultural land, sharecropping and tenant-farmer arrangements, slave labor and indentured labor,through debt, and so forth.”
 Land was often acquired through foreclosures due to inability to makedebt payments.The Peasant class which formed the other ninety percent of society was made up mostly of agricultural workers, but also included many other forms of labour. “At the very bottom were theradically marginalized: the homeless, beggars, the lame and blind and untouchable.”
Society as a
then concientization, this remains the focus of the body of the text simply because of it's practicality in studying participatory development, and it's significance in liberation movements.
5
Because it is impossible for me to speak responsibly to these topics from the perspective of someone seeking to followChrist without fairly thoroughly flushing out who Jesus was in his context, within the parameters of this paper thesetopics will only come out in conclusion.
6
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
85.
7
Horsley,
 Jesus and the Spiral of Violence,
20-58.
8
Herzog,
 Jesus and the Spiral of Violence,
43.
9
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
82.
10
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary
, 83.
11
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
82.
12
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
83.
13
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
83.
 
whole was predominately rural.
Life was short and harsh for peasants. Life expectancy for peasantswho survived childhood was around thirty years.
In order to understand the face of 
 political domination
during the time of Jesus one mustunderstand the greater history of political domination in the Jewish world and in Galilee in particular.For Jews in general their defining moment as a nation was the Exodus. During the timesurrounding the Exodus God named himself, revealed the ten commandments, and re-initiated hiscovenant with his people. It is the leader of the exodus, Moses that is said to have written thePentateuch. The Exodus primarily accounts God's stand against the imperial domination system of Egypt, God's liberation of Israel.The history of the judges accounts a free Jewish people who generally only organize themselvesin military crises
,but otherwise remain relatively politically and religiously autonomous.
EarlyIsraelites “resisted having any king of their own on the principle that their God Yahweh was literallytheir king.”
 In turning toward monarchic rule Israel was warned of how the king will oppress them.
19 
Israel choses to subject itself to monarchy, but still resists more exploitive forms of monarchicsocieties. The beginning of Davidic kingship is a popular uprising among peasant against the officialking Saul. When he establishes himself as king it is through a 'messiahing' or anointing by elders in allIsrael.
 Then the Davidic kingship tries to impose itself dynastically,
to establish an imperial kingshipin Jerusalem, and to construct a temple and palace through imposing labour on all Israel.
Israel asksfor relief to no avail and so ten of twelve tribes rebel and Israel is split into the southern and northernkingdom. The northern tribes especially recognized that kingship was conditional and popular, notlineal.The prophets reflect a variety of perspectives on their kings and the temple. Temple prophetssuch as Ezra and Nehemiah sought renewal of Israel through temple renewal. However most of the prophetic material offers a heavy indictment of the kingship, the temple and its functionaries, both in14
Herzog,
 Jesus, Justice, and the Reign of God.
98.
15
Borg,
 Jesus:Uncovering the Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary,
84.
16
They also seemed to organize themselves around their own ambitions for expansion, but they were still collectiveinterests of the Israelite nation, not interests of a native ruling class.
17
Horsley,
 Archaelogy, History, and Society in Galilee.
15-19.Their was no political and religious centre that formed the centre of Israel, not that their wasn't religious and political similarities.
18
Horsley,
 Archaelogy, History, and Society in Galilee,
15.
19
1 Samuel 8:11-18.
20
Horsley,
 Bandits, Prophets, and Messiahs,
94.
21
Although scriptures seek to substantiate divine ordinance of the Davidic line, history suggests that most Jews (10 of 12tribes) were not interested in the dynasty, the temple and it's functionaries, and Jerusalem as a centre of their nation.
22
Horsley,
 Jesus and Empire
, 83. The scriptures it is referencing 1 King 5:13-18.

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