The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire—“the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation” (John Shelby Spong) —grapples with Scripture’s two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith.
Many portions of the New Testament, introduce a compassionate Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But the Jesus we find in Revelation and some portions of the Gospels leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true revelation of the Messiah—and how can both be in the same Bible?
How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian explores this question and offers guidance for the faithful conflicted over which version of the Lord to worship. John Dominic Crossan reconciles these contrasting views, revealing how different writers of the books of the Bible not only possessed different visions of God but also different purposes for writing. Often these books are explicitly competing against another, opposing vision of God from the Bible itself.
Crossan explains how to navigate this debate and offers what he believes is the best central thread to what the Bible is all about. He challenges Christians to fully participate in this dialogue, thereby shaping their faith by reading deeply, reflectively, and in community with others who share their uncertainty. Only then, he advises, will Christians be able to read and understand the Bible without losing their faith.
Reading the Bible can be troubling for both Christians and non-Christians who wonder how to reconcile Jesus's teachings on nonviolence and love with stories about a vengeful and violent God. In his usual ingenious fashion, biblical scholar Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) locates the heartbeat of the Christian Bible in a cycle of assertion and subversion. Through close readings of texts from Genesis through Revelation, he illustrates that many biblical stories assert the radical nature of God's love and desire for nonviolent justice, while others illustrate subversion through the desire of civilizations for violent retributive justice. In the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation, for example, God's dream for a kingdom of justice and peace is subverted by visions of divine punishment for not following God's rules for the kingdom. Crossan stresses that the historical Jesus, who teaches peace and nonviolence, is the measure by which Christians read the Bible: "We are called Christians, not Bible-ians." While sometimes repetitive, Crossan's provocative book challenges readers to pick up the Bible once more and pay close attention to the collision of violence and nonviolence in its pages.