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December 19 , 2008

God and Empire


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

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I have spent thirty years reconstructing the historical Jesus. I have done so self-consciously and self-critically and have tried to do the same on reconstructing myself. But what justifies this memoir is how my own personal experience, from Ireland to America, from priest to professor, from monastery to university, and ... from…

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.

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