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At the heart of the Bible is a moral and ethical call to fight unjust superpowers, whether they are Babylon, Rome, or even America.

From the divine punishment and promise found in Genesis through the revolutionary messages of Jesus and Paul, John Dominic Crossan reveals what the Bible has to say about land and economy, violence and retribution, justice and peace, and, ultimately, redemption. In contrast to the oppressive Roman military occupation of the first century, he examines the meaning of the non-violent Kingdom of God prophesized by Jesus and the equality advocated by Paul to the early Christian churches. Crossan contrasts these messages of peace with the misinterpreted apocalyptic vision from the Book of Revelation, which has been misrepresented by modern right-wing theologians and televangelists to justify U.S. military actions in the Middle East.

In God and Empire Crossan surveys the Bible from Genesis to Apocalypse, or the Book of Revelation, and discovers a hopeful message that cannot be ignored in these turbulent times. The first-century Pax Romana, Crossan points out, was in fact a "peace" won through violent military action. Jesus preached a different kind of peace—a peace that surpasses all understanding—and a kingdom not of Caesar but of God.

The Romans executed Jesus because he preached this Kingdom of God, a kingdom based on peace and justice, over the empire of Rome, which ruled by violence and force. For Jesus and Paul, Crossan explains, peace cannot be won the Roman way, through military victory, but only through justice and fair and equal treatment of all people.

Published: HarperCollins on Mar 17, 2009
ISBN: 9780061744280
List price: $7.99
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It’s Jesus vs. Rome. Who will win?If you’ve read much about the first century, you’re already well aware of the conflict between Christian and Roman claims. Both sides laid claim to the Son of God. Both claimed the inauguration of a new, wonderful age. The Caesars, especially in Asia Minor, were worshipped as God and often went by the title Son of God. Caesar Augustus, in particular, was hailed as the savior of the world, the bringer of peace and prosperity.The Christians claimed a coming kingdom, or a hidden kingdom; the Romans proved their kingdom by force and heavy presence. The Christian kingdom was not of this world; the Roman kingdom invaded every part of life. Jesus’ kingdom was one of nonviolence; the Roman kingdom was just the opposite.Crossan highlights the conflict between the two, and what, exactly, the Christians were claiming in their “uprising.” Of particular interest, to me, was the discussion of Paul, whom Crossan divides into three categories: The radical Paul, the liberal Paul, and the conservative Paul, representing three stages of Pauline writings.I give it four stars instead of five, not for the lack of quality, but because little is original from his other writings. It’s just organized and directed differently to emphasize a point.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
John Dominic Crossan's little gem, "God and Empire," is a discussion of the relation of Christianity to worldly political states, particularly empires such as Rome and the current United States. Empires exert power territorially, politically, ideologically, and militarily. Crossan observes that the normal way power is exercised is through force or coercion, but that is not the only way it can be exercised. Nonviolent persuasion is also a way to exert power.The bible is very ambiguous and ambivalent as to how it portrays God's exercise of power. In the Old Testament, God punishes man by floods and other catastrophes. However, He sometimes is more merciful, such as when He merely marks Cain instead of exerting counter violence to Cain's killing his brother.Crossan distinguishes distributive justice from retributive justice. God exercises both kinds of justice in the Bible. The many rules set forth in Leviticus are [to Crossan] "the Torah's relentless attempt to stay the growth of inequality." Yet, the Bible sometimes portrays God as exacting retributive justice through violent acts. Crossan asks whether there is any scientific evidence that "God ever punishes anyone?" He believes not.Crossan argues that the fundamental message of Jesus, Paul, and the early Christians is one of opposition to earthly, violent power through nonviolent persuasion. He asserts this despite many passages, particularly in the Apocalypse, that indicate that Jesus may return as a violent avenger, much as he is portrayed in the Left Behind books.The two final divine solutions for the problem of Gentile empires [Noachic extermination or Abrahamic conversion to justice and peace] is never reconciled in the biblical tradition. Christians must choose between the violent God of human normalcy and the nonviolent God of divine radicality, between peace through violence or peace through justice. Crossan himself opts for the nonviolent approach, and argues that this is the most accurate reading of Jesus and Paul. Crossan argues that Paul gets a bad rap from today's feminist and gay-tolerant world because several of the epistles attributed to him were clearly written by someone else with a more traditional Jewish view of gender equality and homosexuality. The real Paul recognized several women as important early apostles, the equal of any men. The final chapter of the book impugns the interpretations of the Apocalypse currently prevalent among evangelicals. He believes in no second coming of Christ as an avenger. Rather, he shows that many of the tribulations described in the Apocalypse were coded allusions to events [the Roman destruction of the Jewish temple and the dispersing of the Jews] that already had taken place when the book was written. A careful reading of the book shows the second coming to take place AFTER those events, not during them. Crosson, a modern sensible man, envisions the second coming not as a physical return of Jesus, but rather as a time when most men will be converted to a more benign, nonviolent way of living. He admits this a radical vision, not the normal [but not inevitable] state of human affairs.(JAB)read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The first chapter in this book is entitled "God and the Ambiguity of Power" - and the ambiguity of power, or the ethics of power specifically, is exactly the struggle that Christianity has had in determining its relationship to Empire and domination systems. The title alludes to Rome specifically, but really Crossan's "empire" is any powerful and oppressive system.It might seem obvious that Jesus would have stood against the oppression of Rome, but does that mean that Christians should be "drop-outs" who refuse to go along with these oppressive social evils like capitalism and organized religion? Clearly to revolutionize the system and cure its evils, one must work within the system - thus "violent oppression and nonviolent resistance are both modes of social power."Crossan argues that Christians who seize Revelation especially and make Christianity into a religion of both violence and glory have misinterpreted the message of the historical Jesus - or worse, disregarded it entirely. Jesus was preaching a very present Kingdom of God, and Christians are therefore called to live as though they're living in it. This should be an egalitarian movement, and would be destructive against the empire insofar as its foundation of the social masses would have refused to worship it any longer, but ultimately it would be a revolution that achieves effectiveness through nonviolence.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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It’s Jesus vs. Rome. Who will win?If you’ve read much about the first century, you’re already well aware of the conflict between Christian and Roman claims. Both sides laid claim to the Son of God. Both claimed the inauguration of a new, wonderful age. The Caesars, especially in Asia Minor, were worshipped as God and often went by the title Son of God. Caesar Augustus, in particular, was hailed as the savior of the world, the bringer of peace and prosperity.The Christians claimed a coming kingdom, or a hidden kingdom; the Romans proved their kingdom by force and heavy presence. The Christian kingdom was not of this world; the Roman kingdom invaded every part of life. Jesus’ kingdom was one of nonviolence; the Roman kingdom was just the opposite.Crossan highlights the conflict between the two, and what, exactly, the Christians were claiming in their “uprising.” Of particular interest, to me, was the discussion of Paul, whom Crossan divides into three categories: The radical Paul, the liberal Paul, and the conservative Paul, representing three stages of Pauline writings.I give it four stars instead of five, not for the lack of quality, but because little is original from his other writings. It’s just organized and directed differently to emphasize a point.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
John Dominic Crossan's little gem, "God and Empire," is a discussion of the relation of Christianity to worldly political states, particularly empires such as Rome and the current United States. Empires exert power territorially, politically, ideologically, and militarily. Crossan observes that the normal way power is exercised is through force or coercion, but that is not the only way it can be exercised. Nonviolent persuasion is also a way to exert power.The bible is very ambiguous and ambivalent as to how it portrays God's exercise of power. In the Old Testament, God punishes man by floods and other catastrophes. However, He sometimes is more merciful, such as when He merely marks Cain instead of exerting counter violence to Cain's killing his brother.Crossan distinguishes distributive justice from retributive justice. God exercises both kinds of justice in the Bible. The many rules set forth in Leviticus are [to Crossan] "the Torah's relentless attempt to stay the growth of inequality." Yet, the Bible sometimes portrays God as exacting retributive justice through violent acts. Crossan asks whether there is any scientific evidence that "God ever punishes anyone?" He believes not.Crossan argues that the fundamental message of Jesus, Paul, and the early Christians is one of opposition to earthly, violent power through nonviolent persuasion. He asserts this despite many passages, particularly in the Apocalypse, that indicate that Jesus may return as a violent avenger, much as he is portrayed in the Left Behind books.The two final divine solutions for the problem of Gentile empires [Noachic extermination or Abrahamic conversion to justice and peace] is never reconciled in the biblical tradition. Christians must choose between the violent God of human normalcy and the nonviolent God of divine radicality, between peace through violence or peace through justice. Crossan himself opts for the nonviolent approach, and argues that this is the most accurate reading of Jesus and Paul. Crossan argues that Paul gets a bad rap from today's feminist and gay-tolerant world because several of the epistles attributed to him were clearly written by someone else with a more traditional Jewish view of gender equality and homosexuality. The real Paul recognized several women as important early apostles, the equal of any men. The final chapter of the book impugns the interpretations of the Apocalypse currently prevalent among evangelicals. He believes in no second coming of Christ as an avenger. Rather, he shows that many of the tribulations described in the Apocalypse were coded allusions to events [the Roman destruction of the Jewish temple and the dispersing of the Jews] that already had taken place when the book was written. A careful reading of the book shows the second coming to take place AFTER those events, not during them. Crosson, a modern sensible man, envisions the second coming not as a physical return of Jesus, but rather as a time when most men will be converted to a more benign, nonviolent way of living. He admits this a radical vision, not the normal [but not inevitable] state of human affairs.(JAB)
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
The first chapter in this book is entitled "God and the Ambiguity of Power" - and the ambiguity of power, or the ethics of power specifically, is exactly the struggle that Christianity has had in determining its relationship to Empire and domination systems. The title alludes to Rome specifically, but really Crossan's "empire" is any powerful and oppressive system.It might seem obvious that Jesus would have stood against the oppression of Rome, but does that mean that Christians should be "drop-outs" who refuse to go along with these oppressive social evils like capitalism and organized religion? Clearly to revolutionize the system and cure its evils, one must work within the system - thus "violent oppression and nonviolent resistance are both modes of social power."Crossan argues that Christians who seize Revelation especially and make Christianity into a religion of both violence and glory have misinterpreted the message of the historical Jesus - or worse, disregarded it entirely. Jesus was preaching a very present Kingdom of God, and Christians are therefore called to live as though they're living in it. This should be an egalitarian movement, and would be destructive against the empire insofar as its foundation of the social masses would have refused to worship it any longer, but ultimately it would be a revolution that achieves effectiveness through nonviolence.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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