Printer Friendly

Jesus' creation theology and multiethnic practice.

Reading studies of the historical Jesus, it is surprising that his crossing the ethnic border into Samaria has not been emphasized. (1) This essay suggests that one source of this socially provocative action was Jesus' Jewish reading of Genesis, Leviticus, and Deutero-Isaiah, that is, creation theology in Torah, developed in the context of Roman Imperial colonization of Judea. We will first note some texts in which Jesus appeals to God as Creator, and second, connect this with his integration of ethnic others, in particular Samaritans, among his disciples. Third, Jesus' provocative act of ethnic boundary crossing implies a political/theological friendship ethic different from Aristotle's.

A. Jesus' creation theology

Israel's confession of one, unique God responsible for history, creation, and salvation is central to Jesus' thinking and preaching. These themes are developed especially with regard to how he understands the kingdom of God. His understanding is most akin to the post-exilic writing of Deutero-Isaiah, which emphasizes the eschatological features of this confession (Isa 40:3-4; 41:4, 21-29; 43:10-13; 45:5-7). Much as the prophet announced salvation with the cry, "Your God reigns" (Isa 5:27), so too did Jesus (Mark 1:14-15). (2) However, Jesus is not alone in this process of reinterpretation. For example, while we find Jesus proclaimed the gospel of Deutero-Isaiah to beggars, as with "Blessed are the poor" (Q/Luke 6:20b, alluding to Isa 61:1), Kloppenborg Verbin (3) identifies a Qumran text with the same allusion, "For the heavens and the earth shall listen to his Messiah. ... For He shall heal the critically wounded, He shall revive the dead, He shall send good news to the afflicted (Isa 61.1), He shall satisfy the poor ..., He shall make the hungry rich. ..." (4Q521, trans. Abegg [AcCordance]). Jesus' blessing of the poor is part of a wider search in Judea in a colonial context for how to interpret these scriptures. What then might we highlight as notable themes in Jesus' acts of reinterpretation?

We suggest two critical and related features. First, protology, the original will of God at creation, and eschatology correspond in Jesus' sayings and deeds. Creation and salvation are not disparate concepts with a radical break between them; instead, salvation stands as the end toward which creation moves. This paradigm is not without precedent. Leo Perdue, in his form-critical analysis of the wisdom sayings of Jesus, distinguishes between an older wisdom, as a "paradigm of order," and a newer wisdom, as a "paradigm of conflict." (4) The connection of protology and eschatology we find in Jesus' sayings and deeds fits neatly within this newer paradigm: the saving act of God's eschaton is already in motion within this world in conflict with and working to overcome the evil of this world. Second, we do not stand idly by in the midst of this in-breaking of the kingdom of God. The connection of protology and eschatology implements a wisdom tradition theology of creation with definite ethical ramifications. Jesus implements a wisdom theology of creation (akin to the Perdue's newer paradigm) that is saturated with a radical prophetic ethics of the present. The kingdom of God implements the original will of God as it unfolds a new reality with a distinctive ethical structure by which we participate in the new reality. (5) To draw a hard distinction between the protological and eschatological features of Jesus' theology of creation would be inauthentic; they form a fluid unity rooting his ethical developments.

This context sheds important light on how we can read the threefold command to love that is so central to interpretations of Jesus' ethics: love of neighbor, love of enemy, and love of God. (6) Love of enemies is particularly important because the absolute demand to love enemies (Q/Luke 6:27a; Matt 5:44a) is grounded in a distinctive Jesuanic protological/eschatological creation theology (Q/Luke 6:35; Matt 5:45): "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous." The ethic of love is tied to our recognition of being part of the wide breadth of God's creation, with a duty to inculcate the kingdom of God in the world through our way of being with one another. These love commands and the grounding in creation theology press the adherent beyond any confining nationalism.

Two examples regarding foreigners help bring the implications of this insight into sharper perspective. First, keeping with themes developed out of Isaiah, we find other authentic Q and Markan texts referring not to the poor of Isaiah, but rather to foreigners. "Then people will come from east and west, [from north and south,] and will eat in the kingdom of God" (Q/Luke 13:28/ Matt 8:11). (7) Not only Jesus, but both apocalyptic and other Jews were reflecting on the relation between Israel and the peoples of the world--those to the east and west--as well. Decisively, Jesus' saying in Q/Luke 13:28-29 includes ethnic others from east and west eating in the kingdom of God. Conflicts within contemporary Judaisms as well as conflicts within Jewish Christianities and Gentile Christianities show that table fellowship was a decisive issue. Jesus emphasizes the praxis of this eating in the eschatological promise by choosing table fellowship with those who had been excluded--a praxis with traces in all the sources. (8) Linking table fellowship to this eschatological procession of Gentiles to Jerusalem, Jesus' table fellowship with the unclean in Galilean villages signals through ethical praxis the in-breaking of God's kingdom that forms his theology of creation and eschatology.

Second, Jesus' typical activities of healing and exorcism involved both Judeans and ethnic others. He healed the Capernaum centurion's slave/servant, remarking, "not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Q/ Luke 7:9). Jesus breathes "woe" on the Galilean towns of Chorazin and Bethsaida, "For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon [Syria], they would have repented long ago. ..." (Q/Luke 10:13). Further, he exorcized a demon from the daughter of a Gentile woman, a Syro-phoenician (Mark 7:26-28; compare Matt 15:21-23 [a Canaanite woman]), after she famously debated him on the meaning of their ethnic and gender differences. These three authentic sayings from Q all assume some tension between Judeans and others: a Roman centurion, Tyre and Sidon, as well as a Syrophoenician. The Gospel of Thomas 53 is similar, although available only in Coptic translation, not in the earlier Greek texts. Both the a) multiple attestations and b) their coherence suggest that these miracle/exorcism stories correspond to Jesus' Isaianic hope for the eschatological pilgrimage of Gentiles to Jerusalem.

B. Social consequences of Jesus' theology of creation: crossing the ethnic frontier into Samaria

Given the connection between an ethic of love and an eschatologically driven creation theology, it behooves us to look more closely at the implications of those instances where Jesus advocates crossing ethnic/nationalistic borders, since these instances overflow with meaning as we attempt to understand what it is to live into the kingdom of God today. On this point, Josephus is helpful as he is specific about conflicts between (some) Judeans and (some) Samaritans. We briefly recount two of his stories, which illustrate these tensions and their ethnic symbols. Alexander the Great approached Jerusalem (narrative time: fourth century BCE) and was shown the book of Daniel (Antiquities 11:227), which declares that a Greek should destroy the Persians. He supposed this Greek to be himself, Josephus tells us, and so he granted Jews in Jerusalem and those in Babylon the right to live by their own laws (11:338). He then visited the Samaritans and their metropolis, Schechem, who saw that he had honored the Jews, so they determined to profess themselves Jews. Josephus rather declares them "apostates (apostaton) of the Jewish nation" (11:340). "If anyone were accused by those of Jerusalem of having eaten things common, or of having broken the Sabbath, or of any other crime of the like nature, he fled away to the Schechemites ..." (11:346-347).

The second story: Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Syria took Jerusalem and installed a garrison of Macedonians, but impious and wicked Jews also lived there, according to Josephus, who caused their co-citizens much suffering (Antiquities 12:246, 252; narrative time: second century BCE). Antiochus built an idol altar on God's altar and offered swine, forbidding Jews to circumcise their sons, which many obeyed (12:253-255). When Samaritans witnessed this suffering, they denied they were Jews, but rather claimed to be a colony of Medes and Persians, with which Josephus agrees (12:257). Samaritans say rather that they choose to live according to the customs of the Greeks (12:263). In this context, Josephus begins narrating the revolt of Mattathias the Maccabee against the Syrians (12:265).

In Josephus' narrative time, the conflicts between Judeans and Samaritans are centuries old, going back to Alexander the Great and Antiochus. The Judeans' neighbors, the Samaritans, were occasionally their cultural/ religious/political antagonists, viewed by some as "apostates." When Judeans from Jerusalem had violated key identity symbols/ commandments (not keeping kosher, violating the Sabbath, or obeying Antiochus' order not to circumcise their sons), some of them fled for safety to Samaria. (9)

We are neither arguing that Josephus' description is objective and historical nor that he correctly describes all Jews and all Samaritans. (10) Since Josephus was himself Judean, however, it is plausible that historically, some Judeans in the first century CE felt the way he did about Samaritans and that the conflict Josephus describes also reflects historical tensions within Judea and Jerusalem. As such, we are not arguing that Jesus' position on these issues was unique; on the contrary, he addressed contemporary ethnic negotiations in a colonial setting where diverse Judeans constructed Jewish identity in diverse ways.

Conflicts between Jesus and some other Jews occur along these fault lines: some fellow Jews criticize his eating habits (Mark 2:15-17, 18-20; 7:18-19; Q/Luke 7:22, 34; 10:8; 13:28), and others dispute the meaning and practice of the holy Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28; 3:1-6; 7:1-2; 12:13; Q/ Luke 7:30; 11:39-44; G Thom 39 [Greek text], 89, 102). Though the gospels never narrate conflicts about circumcision, the other two customs/laws (kosher and the Sabbath) are not simply traditional religious rituals; rather, they are symbolic boundary markers between Judeans and foreigners/ outsiders, powerful dividing lines between constructed ethnicities. By walking across the border into Samaria (Luke 9:51-55), healing a Samaritan leper (Luke 17:11-16), and narrating the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-29, judged authentic by almost all scholars), Jesus would generate a powerful response, as Josephus insists, in some Judean audiences.

After specifying these conflicts, two clarifications remain: 1) to articulate how we understand these conflicts theoretically and 2) to make clear that the tensions outlined are not between Jesus the Christian and other Jews. Jonathan Z. Smith is helpful in this regard. He provides two models of social change, refusing to value only one of them. (11) "Order can be creative or oppressive. The transgression of order can be creative or destructive. Yet the two options represent such fundamentally different worldviews char 'to change stance is to totally alter one's symbols and to inhabit a different world."' (12) Jesus' proclamation of the reign of God by both word and deed, for example, by crossing the ethnic boundary into Samaria, created a new world; his words and deeds did not leave Judean institutions as they were.

As Jewish, Jesus advocated a new order that he also practiced. Actually, he claimed to be practicing the order of God's creation, which is multiethnic. This is such a powerful term that it needs definition. Contemporary Judaisms were multiethnic, in the sense that many Jews in different geographical locations, in Rome, North Africa, Greece, Syria, and Persia, for example, as well as in Judea lived orthopraxic lives. When Jesus the Jew crossed the boundary into Samaria, and when he told the parable of the Good Samaritan, he was "multiethnic" without orthopraxy. (13) The Samaritan in Jesus' parable loved God and loved his neighbor as himself (Luke 10:27, 37, citing Deut 6:4 and Lev 19:18) as a Samaritan, (14) which as Josephus, himself a Judean, defined their practice, did not involve keeping kosher or resting on the holy Sabbath.

Contemporary discussions of ethnicity insist that ethnic identities are negotiated, particularly when difference is encountered in a colonial context. Such encounters evoke discursive justification of particular cultural practices, which is why many, probably most, contemporary students of ethnicity deny that any static list of ethnic characteristics is adequate. (15) Interpreting Judea in the first century CE, it would be inadequate to list kosher, Sabbath, and circumcision as religious laws that distinguish Judeans from other ethnicities; such a list has no single sine qua non that defines a particular ethnic group. Ethnic difference is malleable, even mutable. In the texts quoted above, we hear Judean ethnic identities being constructed and contested by diverse colonized Judeans.

We focus on a particular example of a Judean ethnic boundary construction in the citations given above: circumcision. Shaye Cohen with many contemporary scholars argues that there was no single, objective definition of Jewishness in the ancient world, that Jewish identities were "subjective ..., constructed by the individual him/herself, other Jews, other gentiles, and the state." (16) There was no evidence that individual Jews were easily recognizable in antiquity: neither somatic difference, clothing,

ritual participation, nor circumcision were reliable ethnic markers. "How then, did you know a Jew in antiquity when you saw one? The answer is that you did not. But you could make reasonably plausible inferences from what you saw." (17)

Cohen's conclusion is one-sided, inquiring primarily about Jewish ethnic symbols, not also about the power of Greco-Roman institutions on the other side of the ethnic boundary, that is, the social power of those symbolic institutions to include individuals and ethnic groups or to exclude them. In the contemporary West, a Conservative or Reformed Jewish male may be relatively invisible; in ancient Greco-Roman gymnasia, an orthopraxic Jewish male was publicly visible. One of the core symbols of Greco-Roman culture was the gymnasium, where Greek men exercised nude, and Roman men and woman bathed nude. (18) Romans discovered concrete, and one of the key symbols of ancient Roman culture that remains until the present day are aqueducts that they constructed to bring water from some source to their cities, in which they constructed fountains and baths. Gymnasia were core cultural symbols of colonizing Greeks and Romans by which they distinguished between civilized and barbarian, between those who bathed nude and those who did not. Circumcised Jewish men--in Jerusalem, (19) Antioch, Alexandria, or Rome--faced a defining choice whether to participate in Greco-Roman culture or not when they decided whether to bathe nude or not, whether to join the "civilized" or not. In those days out of Israel came sons, transgressors of the law, and they persuaded many. ... And they built a gymnasium in Hierosolyma [Jerusalem] according to the precepts of the nations, and they fashioned foreskins for themselves and apostatized from the holy covenant. ..." (1 Macc 1:11-15 NETS; compare 2 Macc 4:9,12). The choice was not merely philosophical or rational, and the consequences were not only individual. For Jews it was both religious and cultural. The choice for Jewish individuals or communities was a bodily decision, a choice of the gut, not merely of the mind.

In a gymnasium Jewish men were clearly visible, different. If they bathed nude, their circumcision was ridiculed by the "civilized" and their nudity forcefully challenged by traditional compatriots. In a core institution of Greco-Roman culture, virtually a sine qua non, the gymnasium, Jewish men were visible and exposed in a non-traditional way. Cohen incorrectly asserts that Judaism moved from an ethnic, geographically defined people to a cultural, religiously defined one. Those who circumcised their sons and rejected nudity in gymnasia/baths had to construct an identity visibly separate from "civilized" Greco-Roman culture and its symbols. What should be clear from this consideration of circumcision is that Jesus proposes a way of being multiethnic without imposing orthopraxy on other ethnic groups. In crossing the ethnic border with Samaritans, he confronts critical symbolic boundary markers and advocates for a radical shift in worldview.

As to the second necessary clarification, that this conflict was not between Jesus the Christian and the Jews, J. Z. Smith explains, all institutions, including religious ones, face social change, face the alternatives of order or transgression of order. Contemporary religious institutions, Jewish, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist, have been hearing persuasive feminist critics for two centuries. Our contemporary churches, synagogues, mosques, etc., have more recently begun facing gay/lesbian critique of traditionally homophobic practices. Such critique/change evokes conflict and reinterpretation of Scripture, e.g., two years ago the ELCA voted to permit those bishops and synods that choose to do so to ordain qualified gay and lesbian individuals as pastors, with institutional conflict before and after the decision. In this example, there is a radical change in the interpretations and praxes of the denominational group (a transgression of previously established order), but in transgressing the old order we are not suggesting that those bishops and synods that choose to ordain qualified gay and lesbian individuals now represent a separate religious social order.

In a similar vein, Jesus was a prophetic critic within Judaism, not unique, which we have mentioned above and now illustrate both by Jeremiah and by the founder and first leader of Hasidism in Eastern Europe, the Ba'al Shem Tov (1700-1760, "master of the good name"). First, Jeremiah (3:16) makes the astounding assertion, "the ark of the covenant of the Lord ... shall not come to mind, or be remembered, or missed; nor shall another one be made." The ark, a portable shrine in the wilderness, signifying God's divine presence (Exod 25:10-15), which contained the two tablets of laws from Sinai (Deus 10:2, 5), which David brought to Jerusalem, signifying the unity of the Northern and Southern Kingdoms (2 Sam 6), and which Solomon placed in the Holy of Holies in the new temple (1 Kings 8:4-7), that ark shall not be remembered! Even more surprising, "it shall no longer be said, As the Lord lives who brought the people of Israel up out of the land of Egypt,' but 'as the Lord lives who brought out and led the ... house of Israel out of the land of the north' ..." (Jer 23:7-8) Israel will not speak of the exodus from Egypt, but rather of a new Exodus from Babylon! Jeremiah the prophet is encouraging significant change in how to celebrate and where to experience the presence of God. Our colleague at PLTS/GTU, Prof. Davidson, tells us that these verses in Jeremiah are probably from later redactors, but in a sense, that makes them even more remarkable. Not the original, creative prophet himself, but later scribes in Israel, the later institution, is making radical adjustments, changes.

The Ba'al Shem Tov repelled some other Jews by his activity as a miracle worker. There was a bitter struggle in Lithuania, led by Elijah ben Solomon Zalman of Vilna, who opposed Hasidic "ecstasy, visions, and miracles, their dangerous lies and idolatrous worship." In the 1770s and 1780s there were bans (harem) against Hasidism. Hasids and their opponents denounced each other to authorities, which led to arrests. (20) Hasidism, now the most important form of religious Judaism in Europe, North America, and Israel, was bitterly opposed when first introduced.

Jeremiah, Jesus and the Ba'al Shem Tov illustrate the alternatives of order or transgression of order within Judaism. It is not anti-Jewish to observe that Jesus transgressed traditional order in Judea in the first century, no more than it is to observe that Jeremiah offended many in Israel in the sixth century BCE, and that the Bdal Shem Tov transgressed traditional Jewish order in Eastern Europe in the eighteenth century, although unlike the other two, Jesus failed to persuade many other Jews that this new order was a good development.

C. Theological/ethical consequences of Jesus' emphasis on creation: modification of the Greek political friendship ethic, a transformation that leans into the future (Ted Peters)

Later Christian theologians realized that Jesus' form of multiethnicity implies a different political friendship ethic than the Greek Aristotle's. Here we depend on an Argentine theologian, Nancy Bedford, (21) and have space to emphasize only one point. Aristotle the Greek philosopher claimed (Nic. Eth. 8:8) that friendship exists only between individuals who are equal and similar. The ethic we have identified in Jesus' preaching and acts, especially with regard to ethnic boundary crossing as a disjunctive force in conceptualizing Judean ethnic boundaries, flies in the face of this necessity of similarity.

As a theological/ethical theme, this is not new and is addressed at various points in the tradition. The Latin Ambrose, for instance, later suggested (De officiis ministrorum 3.22.135) (22) the possibility of mutuality and friendship between individuals whose social location is very different, because both are friends of the same God, who manifested her love in the incarnation. Ted Peters helps us gain a distinctive foothold within this theological approach that hearkens back to the connection between ethics and creation theology we have found in Jesus' preaching and acts.

Peters, like the wisdom approach to Jesus' creation theology, encourages us to think about theology and the doctrine of creation epigenetically and not archonically. It is a call to take seriously the continuing process of creation and the place of eschatological consummation as continuous with the evolving and emerging transformations of natural and human history. Borrowing the term prolepsis From Wolfhart Pannenberg, Peters uses it to emphasize the ontological heft of the future, of anticipation, for understanding the meaning of the present and the past. This future, which he sometimes calls venturum or ethically the Lift of Beatitude, breaks into our present life imbuing it with the anticipated meaning of the coming kingdom of God. (23)
  We have observed above that new wholes transform past parts.
  Integration into new more comprehensive unities preserve while
  renewing what came before. This holistic complexification process is
  non-linear. Adding a new whole changes an entire situation in a
  significant way. The possibility of transformative effect renders
  redemption possible. Now, suppose we apply this to eschatology and
  then to creation? God's eschatological redemption will so
  reconfigure all that had been past that it might as well be a new
  creation or, perhaps more accurately, the completion of the creation
  already begun. Does this mean that eschatological omega takes
  ontological priority over what happened at the beginning? I believe
  it does. (24)


While Peters has done a tremendous amount of work with regard to the implications that such a proleptic theology would have for the interaction of theology and natural science, especially with the diverse array of issues arising from evolution, stem cell research, and astrobiology, (25) there is also an undeniable realization of the ethical implications of his theological outlook. Perhaps this is most clear in his arguments for proleptic dignity. He argues that human dignity must stand at the center of our value system, but that we have forgotten its proleptic and relational features, instead reifying it as an inherent attribute of personhood. Peters urges us to remember that, phenomenologically speaking, dignity is first conferred and then claimed: we treat the other as valuable, which allows her to claim value for herself. Theologically, this conferral of dignity is ultimately rooted in God. God treats each of us with dignity, allowing us to treat others with that dignity first conferred upon us, something very akin to Ambrose as cited above.

We have to understand, though, that Peters takes us a decisive step further than Ambrose in this argument. Ambrose's theological revision of Aristotelian friendship ethics is essentially archonic. Peters' process of conferral is proleptic, and he contrasts it with inherent dignity insofar as his approach is eschatological. (03) The inherent dignity of individuals stems from the anticipation of God's saving activity: dignity is not archonically an innate part of our created being but a retroactively (or epigenetically innate) value realized through our anticipated unity with the divine life. Conferring dignity in our relations with others proleptically advents the hope for our future final dignity in relation to God. (27) By connecting human dignity to prolepsis, living out the value of human dignity is our way of participating in the transformation of our world into God's kingdom. Peters makes very explicit how the ways in which we ethically confer dignity have real ontological effect in terms of the kingdom of God. By systematically applying prolepsis as a principle to traditional theological loch Peters is highlighting for our world today the connection between eschatology, creation theology, and ethics we have argued is modeled in Jesus' preaching and acts.

Notably, the ethical impetus here implied is no easy task. It involves entering into the contested space of forming ethnic identity. Moreover, in a Christian context it requires, as Bedford appropriately cautions, that we must enter into this space well aware of how power and/or prestige effect the formation of dignity or friendship, e.g., between pastor and parishioner, or between professor and student, or between those with or without computers. Bedford emphasizes the transformations, modifications, changes, and mixing (mezclar) (28) that can and do occur between friends whose social locations differ. This is true, both of conversations between individual friends in different social locations, and of conversations between diverse ethnic groups with differing customs and values.

Such transformation, such "mixing," is not only individual, but also occurs between ethnic/cultural/religious groups. (29) One of the convincing theses of Wallace-Hadrill's extraordinary new book, Rome's Cultural Revolution, is that Greek and Roman cultures/societies intermingled in Italy for three centuries (the first two centuries BCE and the first CE). Colonization was not one-way.
  Gosden's idea of a 'middle ground', in which cultures stand in
  dialectic with one another, provides a way out. If we focus on the
  reciprocity of the process whereby the colonial power not only
  provides powerful new cultural models to the colonized, but in turn
  takes to itself cultural models from the colonized (enough to refer
  to the spread of tea and curry in colonial Britain, and the fashions
  of oriental art and religion), we can allow that Roman conquest of
  Greece led not to fusion but reciprocal exchange. The cultures do
  not but enter into a vigorous and continuous process of dialogue
  with one another. Romans can 'hellenise' (speak Greek, imitate
  Greek culture), without becoming less Roman. ... Reciprocally,
  the Greeks under Roman rule define their own identity more sharply
  by paideia even as they become Roman in other ways. ... (30)


This theoretical approach would surely be productive in interpreting the interaction of Jewish, Christian, and Roman cultures in the centuries before Constantine, or in understanding the dialogues between North American colonizing and Latin American colonized "Christian" cultures. (31)

Here we emphasize that Jesus' crossing the border into Samaria intensified a dialogue/dialectic between Jewish and Greco-Roman religion and culture that still continues. (32) Dialogue with different others, whether individual or religious/political, generates transformation, change, "mixing." Such change/mixing in political contexts often involves tragedy; nevertheless, in this dialogue both partners, each with their own past, constructed histories, lean into the future as they are transformed and transform others. Jesus taught and lived a dynamic form of Judaism that was colonized by Rome, not in the era of the earlier Greek imperial rule of Alexander and his successors. Jesus the Jewish wise prophet was in dialogue with others, including a Syrophoenician woman, and according to literary tradition (John 4), a Samaritan woman.

One critical point remains: to refuse such dialogue, to close our individual persons or our religious/economic/political cultures and communities off against diverse others would be to reject Jesus' initiative. In the past, when Lutheran theologians in Germany turned against Jews, our mothers in the faith, and legitimated the murder of six million in the Holocaust, that was both a heinous crime against human rights and also a sacrilegious offense by those who claimed the name of "Christian," who claimed to he followers of Jesus who crossed ethnic and religious boundaries into Samaria. (33) When Roman Catholic bishops in Argentina legitimated the military dictator Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1983), as he "disappeared" 30,000 mostly young Argentine "Marxist" students, literally throwing a generation of Argentine youth into the Pacific Ocean in the Cold War between capitalists and "communists," (34) that was a crime against human rights and a heinous sacrilege against the Creator God who revealed herself in Jesus, the Jew of Nazareth, who engaged in dialogue with religious and ethnic others, with Samaritans. In the present, when North American churches close themselves off against dialogue with Latin American churches and culture, that isolation is also counter to Jesus' own interethnic dialogue between Judeans and Samaritans. Moreover, just as Jesus' interethnic dialogue was steeped in protological and eschatological commitments, we must, as with Peters, realize the proleptic ramifications of closing ourselves to diverse others: as we cease to confer dignity in refusing interethnic dialogue, we stymie the adventing of the kingdom of God. (35)

(1.) Ethnicity and race are extraordinarily difficult to define. See Eric D. Barreto, Ethnic Negotiations: The Function of Race and Ethnicity in Acts 16 (WUNT 2.294; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2010), chaps. 1-2, who surveys scholarship, cautioning against essentializing; ethnicities are socially constructed, but nevertheless powerful categories.

(2.) Udo Schnelle, Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009), 81, 88.

(3.) John S. Kloppenborg-Verbin, Excavating Q: The History and Setting of the Sayings Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2000), 123.

(4.) Kloppenborg, Excavating Q, 382, n. 40, citing J. Gammie and L. Perdue, The Sage in Israel and the Ancient Near East (Winona Lake: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 457-478; compare Perdue, "The Wisdom Sayings of Jesus," Forum (2/3, Sept. 1986), 3-35.

(5.) Schnelle, Theology, 108-114.

(6.) Schnelle, Theology, 118-121.

(7.) As editor, Luke added "from north and south," seen again in the story of the southern Ethiopian/African (Acts 8:26-40).

(8.) Schnelle, Theology, 107-108.

(9.) See also Josephus, War 2:232-246; Ant. 18:30; 20:118; compare Matt 10:5; Acts 1:8; 8:25; John 4:4-30.

(10.) Josephus is not always consistent (see Ant. 2:290), but before and after the time of Jesus, he repeatedly narrates political and military conflict between Jerusalem and Samaria-Sebaste, precisely the social context that we are describing. See e.g., Ant. 11:84-116; 12:156; 13:74-79; 18:29-30; 20:118-136 (compare War 2:232-246).

(11.) J.Z. Smith, Map Is Not Territory: Studies in the History of Religions (Leiden: Brill, 1978), 129-146, cited by David Rhoads, Reading Mark: Engaging the Gospel (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2004).

(12.) Rhoads, Reading Mark, 164, quoting J.Z. Smith, Map Is Not Territory.

(13.) Again, this was not unique. See e.g., 1 Macc 1:43, 52; 2 Macc 4:13-17; as well as Josephs, Ant. 11:346-347 and 12:246, 252, cited above.

(14.) In general, colonizing Greeks (Antiochus IV Epiphanes) demanded identity of religious practice, that Judeans eat pork sacrificed to Zeus (see 2 Macc 6-7), but colonizing Romans allowed diversity in practice. Compare the contrast between Greeks and Romans by A. Wallace-Hada, Rome's Cultural Revolution (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2010), 33-35. Given this distinction, the colonized Jewish Jesus' parable and multiethnic practice is Roman, not Hellenistic.

(15.) Barreto, Ethnic Negotiations, 23, 39, 44.

(16.) Shaye Cohen, The Beginning of Jewishness: Boundaries, Varieties, Uncertainties (Berkeley: University of California, 2001), 3.

(17.) Cohen, Jewishness, 67, quoted by Barreto, Ethnic Negotiations, 17.

(18.) Garrett G. Fagan, Bathing in Public in the Roman World (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan, 1999). Wallace-Hadrill, Rome's Cultural Revolution, 169-190.

(19.) See Monika Bernett, "Space and Interaction: Narrative and Representation of Power under the Herodians," pp. 283-310 in Contested Spaces: Houses and Temples in Roman Antiquity and the New Testament, eds. D.L. Balch and A. Weissenrieder (WUNT 285; Tubingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2012), 289-297, citing Josephus, War 1:401-425; Ant. 15:266-388; 16:143-144 on Herod's building program, including aqueducts and gymnasia. Herod dramatically changed the architecture of Judea immediately before and during Jesus' lifetime.

(20.) "Israel ben Eliezer Ba'al Shem Toy," Encyclopedia Judaica 9 (1971), 1049-1048, and "Hasidism," Encyclopedia Judaica 7 (1971), 1290ff.

(21.) Nancy Bedford, "La Amistad y la eferescencia teologica," chap. 10 in La porfia de la resurreccion: Essayos desde el feminismo teologico latinoamericano (FTL 30; Buenos Aires: Kairos, 2008). She cites David Konstan, "Problems in the History of Christian Friendship," JECS 4 (1993), 87-113.

(22.) Bedford, "Amistad," 192-195.

(23.) See Ted Peters, Anticipating Omega: Science, Faith, and Our Ultimate Future (Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht: Gottingen, 2006), 24-27, and Ted Peters, God the World's Future--Systematic Theology for a New Era, 2d ed. (Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 2000), 319-321.

(24.) Peters, Anticipating Omega, 25.

(25.) See also "Hummingbirds Make Stars Possible" in this issue, page 312.

(26.) Peters, Anticipating Omega, 185.

(27.) Ibid., 178-187.

(28.) Bedford, "Amistad," 189-11,196-197.

(29.) For Greek opposition to and Roman support for ethnic "mixing,"--a generalization with exceptions--see David L. Balch, "Jesus as Founder of the Church in Luke-Acts," pp. 137-186 in Contextualizing Acts: Lukan Narrative and Greco-Roman Discourse, ed. Todd Penner and C. Vander Stichele (Atlanta: Scholars and Brill, 2003), 167-173.

(30.) Wallace-Hadrill, Rome's Cultural Revolution, 23-24.

(31.) For official Lutheran and Reformed church documents protesting the political ethics of North America, which generate hunger, unemployment, homelessness, and death in South America, see Rene Kruger, ed., Life in All Fullness: Latin American Protestant Churches Facing Neoliberal Globalization (Buenos Aires: ISEDET, 2007). For biblical hermeneutics supporting these South American ecclesial statements that call for dialogue with North America, see Ruben Dri," Las Iglesias, el capitalismo y el ideario socialista," in Teologia de la Liberacion y los Derechos Humanos: Por un nuevo cielo y un nuevo mundo, ed. Arturo Blatezky (Buenos Aires: Movimiento Ecumenico por los Derechos Humanos, 2011), 263-279. For an Argentine Lutheran theological critique of globalization see Guillermo Hansen, En las fisuras: esbozos luteranos Para neustro tiempo (Buenos Aires: Iglesia Evangelica Luterana Unida, 2010); Hansen is now a professor of theology at Luther Seminary.

(32.) See Luke T. Johnson, Among the Gentiles: Greco-Roman Religion and Christianity (New Haven: Yale University, 2009).

(33.) See Susannah Heschel, The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany (Princeton: Princeton University, 2008); S. Heschel, "Historiography of Anti-semitisin versus Anti Judaism: A Response to Robert Morgan," JSNT 33.3 (2011), 257-279. A few protested publicly, e.g., Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

(34.) Ruben Dri, La hegemonia de los cruzados: La iglesia eatolica y la dictadura militar (Buenos Aires: Biblos, 2011). Carlos Mugica 0930-1974), a well-known priest, protested, and in the same era in El Salvador, so did Bishop Oscar Romero (1977-1980); both were martyred. See Nancy E. Bedford, Jesus Christus and das gekreuzigte Volk: Christologie der Nachfolge und des Martyriums bei Jon Sobrino (CRM 15; Aachen: Augustinus, 1995). Perhaps the most courageous protest in Buenos Aires was by Rabbi Marshall Meyer.

(35.) David Balch thanks Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary for a sabbatical and Texas Christian University For an emeritus grant that supported writing his portion of this essay. David thanks his hosts at ISEDET in Buenos Aires, especially Rector Jose David Rodriguez and Rene Kruger, Professor of New Testament.

David L. Balch

Professor of New Testament, Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary and Graduate Theological Union

Adam Pryor

Doctoral Candidate, Graduate Theological Union
COPYRIGHT 2012 Lutheran School of Theology and Mission
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2012 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

 
Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Balch, David L.; Pryor, Adam
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2012
Words:5962
Previous Article:What's needed in theology? World-view construction, retrieval, or ...?
Next Article:Will God Save the World or Not? Prolepsis, open theism, and the world's future.
Topics:

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2018 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters