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How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence from Genesis Through Revelation Hardcover – March 3, 2015

4.5 out of 5 stars 40 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“Crossan’s treatment of the text is nothing short of spectacular, even when I didn’t agree with his assertions. With skill, wit, and all the finesse of the intellectual giant that he is, Crossan manages to successfully navigate those troublesome texts and…begins the redemptive process of the text.” (The Clarion Journal of Spirituality)

“Crossan, one of the most prolific popular writers among the scholars of the historical Jesus . . . proposes viewing the nonviolent movement of the historical Jesus-and not some apocalyptic bloodbath-as the end or center or climax of Christian time.” (Booklist (starred review))

“When studying the Bible, Christians are met with opposing versions for God: one of vengeance and one of compassion. Crossan confronts this conflict and challenges readers to engage in conversations about faith and the historical Jesus.” (U.S. Catholic)

From the Back Cover

The Bible introduces us to a loving Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But we also meet a warrior Jesus who leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true Messiah? Should we all follow the nonviolent Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount or the vengeful, sword-wielding Christ of Revelation?

As one of the foremost biblical scholars of our day, John Dominic Crossan re-veals that running throughout the entire Bible—from Genesis to Revelation—are two conflicting revelations of God: one offering a radical, holy vision where every need is provided for and love and grace are extended widely; the other working to domesticate this radical vision by em-phasizing judgment and punishment and by propping up the status quo.

But one thing is clear, argues Crossan: one cannot pretend that the Bible provides a single, unified vision of God or Jesus. If one wants to discover the Bible's best and purest revelation of God, then Christians must measure the Bible by Jesus. And to find the best and purest revelation of Jesus, Crossan concludes, then we must look to the work of scholars who can point us to the teachings of the historical Jesus. Only then will we know how to read the Bible and still be a Christian.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; First Edition edition (March 3, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062203592
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062203595
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #158,209 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Joseph F. Schmidt on April 14, 2015
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this book Crossan brings together years of research, writing, and meditation on the Christian Biblical text. The work a great achievement of synthesis, packed with seminal ideas, brief and well written. It is, however, not an easy read; probably requiring a reread to get all the nuances and implications. Some of Crossan’s more recent books have elaborated on many of the ideas he alludes to here.
Crossan, regarded as the preeminent Jesus scholar writing in English in our time, uses his considerable skills and learning in pastoral ministry, cultural anthropology, world literature, history, linguistics, archeology, and, of course, biblical studies to address the question, “What does the Christian Bible reveal about its own imagination of God’s character when we read it through as a complete unit and as an integrated whole?” In particular Crossan wishes to answer the questions, “Is the God of the Bible violent or nonviolent, and is Jesus as the image of God violent or nonviolent?”
Crossan proposes that the meaning of the Bible’s story is in the middle, in the story of Jesus in the Gospels and in the early writings of Paul.
He identifies Christians as people not of the book but of the person and with the book. Christians do not believe that God so loved the world that he gave his only Book, but rather his only Son (Jn 3:16). Crossan’s contention is that “The norm and criterion of the Christian bible is the biblical Christ and the norm and criterion of the biblical Christ is the historical Jesus.”
The Bible presents God as both violent and nonviolent; it also depicts Jesus as nonviolence in his life and then, in the book of Revelation, as the Christ of violence. How do we know which depiction of God and Jesus Christ is true.
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Format: Hardcover
John Dominic Crossan continues to reveal in the most exquisite and factual writing skill information that allures the reader to probe further in their quest for spiritual and biblical maturity. This newest book by Dr. Crossan exceeded my expectations. It's definitely worth a second or third reading. Beautifully and skillfully written.
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Some of Crossan's best work. This is an important book for anyone who wants a different perspective on violence in the Bible. The scholarship is excellent, and the writing clear and accessible. Highly Recommended.
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Every Christian should read this book, with the understanding that many will vehemently disagree with many points. However, the research is sound, the presentation is fair, and the conclusions are consistent. The book will likely focus your faith, perhaps modify some of the beliefs you have held for many years. Certainly, every minister should study it carefully, though many, I fear, will reject it as heresy. The crucial point is that the Bible was written by men--some who did the best they could with data available, others with definite motives. This is a valuable book.
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Although a scholarly treatise laying out Crossan's theories of the Biblical origins, especially as related to violence, this is not for the casual reader but more for the scholar who wants to challenge (or reinforce) his own beliefs. We tried this book as the basis for a Sunday School class, reading one chapter a week. It was probably the most unpopular book we have ever chosen. Although it is clear that he is a scholar in Middle Eastern studies, he sometimes presents opinions as facts and discusses theories as if the scholarship that he supports is now accepted. Some research shows that there is still considerable disagreement on some of the points that he presents.
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I read Dr. Crossan's How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian two weeks ago. Already, I have incorporated his primary thesis into an Adult Education class that I am teaching at my church. Like most of Crossan's books, I found this one original, stimulating, and helpful as I read the bible and lead a Christian life.
Keep writing these books John Dominic. They are wonderful aids for seeking, non-literalist Christians

Dr. Peter Messmore
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John Dominic Crossan, a former Catholic priest, is an Irish-American New Testament scholar, and historian of early Christianity. He had authored both scholarly and popular works. His recent “How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian” is another impressive scholarly writing.

Crossan’s model describing the dynamics of the Christian Bible is highly though-provoking – The Radicality of God vs the Normalicy of Civilization – Nonviolent Power of Persuasion vs Violent Power of Force – Distributive Justice vs Retributive Justice.

His discussion of how the Apostle St. Paul was initially something of a radical but was de-radicalized through two stages is quite intriguing. In the New Testament epistles that were written by Paul (1 Thessalonians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, 1 Corinthians, 2 Corinthians, Romans), the apostle is referred to as the “Real Paul” or the “Radical Paul”. In those whose authorship may be in question (2 Thessalonians, Colossians, Ephesians), the apostle is de-radicalized into a conservative “anti-Paul.” or “Post Paul”, and in those that were definitely not written by Paul (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus), the apostle is further de-radicalized into a reactionary “anti-Paul.” or “Pseudo Paul”. Differences between the three are somewhat surprising.

Crossan closes with the statements, “Justice is the body of love, and love is the soul of justice. Separate them and you do not get both— you get neither;
…” and, borrowing from poet John Keats, “Justice is love, love is justice. That is all we know on earth, and all we need to know.”

The book is a fascinating read and is very informative in selected areas of Christian history and scripture.
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