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God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now Paperback – February 26, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 51 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this fine study of civilization, culture and transformation, Father Crossan asks important questions: have those who resort to violence as a means of change succeeded in their quest for empire? Or has nonviolence been more effective in bringing about lasting change? Crossan, professor emeritus at De Paul University and author of several well-received works including The Historical Jesus, believes that the solution is not in violent intervention but in the coming of the Kingdom of God on earth. But how, and when, will this Kingdom come? In comparing the missions of Jesus and John the Baptist, Crossan states his idea clearly: "Jesus differed precisely from John in emphasizing not the future-presence but the already-presence of God's Kingdom as the Great Divine Cleanup of the world." In other words, Christ saw the Kingdom as a present and active reality. Crossan uses the teachings of Jesus to promote his thesis, and then turns to an unlikely ally—the Apostle Paul—by suggesting that Paul's emphasis on equality and freedom helped carry forward Jesus' program of nonviolent change. Crossan's latest work presents a complex subject in a clear and powerful way, and it merits a wide readership. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* By Crossan's lights, Jesus proposed the nonviolent kingdom of God to supplant Rome. And not just Rome but civilization per se may be the object of Jesus' revolution, for civilization building was Rome's pretext for imperial aggression and economic as well as physical violence against common people. Fighting Rome was folly, so the kingdom of God movement aimed to liberate ordinary people nonviolently. It threatened Rome because Jesus' proclamation of God defied the Roman emperor's institutional divinity, and because Jesus proposed peace through justice against Rome's conceit that it achieved peace through the violence of conquest. Paul sharpened the concept of equality in the kingdom of God by advocating for slaves and cooperating on equal terms with women; here Crossan goes Garry Wills' What Paul Meant (2006) one better by carefully explaining that pro-slavery and anti-women Pauline remarks come from epistles spuriously attributed to him. Later, the Revelation of John promulgated a "pornography of violence" and has malevolently affected Christianity ever since, most recently in rapture theology, whose influence on U.S. neoconservatives' bush-league Rome is the immediate provocation for this book. The opposition of God and empire, of justice and violence, persists. Despite a few rant-lines from the progressives' book of cant, this book makes the best reading for the most readers of any that Crossan has written. Ray Olson
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: HarperOne; 1st Paperback Edition edition (February 26, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060858311
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060858315
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #199,048 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
John Dominic Crossan believes that the Kingdom of God is here, present, that what he terms the "Divine Clean-up," (what others call "The Second Coming") is now and does not await some future cataclysm at the sword of an avenging, returning Jesus. He furthermore compares "God's radicality" to "civilization's normalcy." The latter is comprised of empire after empire promising Peace through Victory, with violence being the normalcy to which civilization accustoms us. God's radicality, on the other hand is the clear and present Kingdom brought by the Jesus who lived 2000 years ago. The Kingdom is a three-pronged program based on mutuality among all people. It is manifested in healing the sick, dining with those you heal, and announcing that the Kingdom is present in that mutuality. There are no divisions, classes, genders, no basis whatsoever to assign superiority and inferiority.

Crossan delivers his own credo on p. 198 when he reveals the content of his Bin of Disbelief, the main reasons he decries Christian fundamentalism and "Left Behind-ish" Apocalyptic theology. "What I reject," says the scholar, is "discrimination and oppression, homophobia and patriarchy, injustice and violence, force and empire."

That's a lot of rejecting. And Crossan is making the case that Jesus' message is right there with him, if only we can parse it out of the Bible. Trouble is, the Bible, including the New Testament, doesn't always seem to contain the same items in its Bin of Disbelief. This is where Crossan will lose a lot of readers. What he posits is that you must choose which parts of the New Testament to take seriously as bonafide Jesus talk (God's radicality) and which parts are later slippages back to civilization's normalcy.

He actually groups the Letters of St.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Crossan's new book GOD AND EMPIRE cannot be properly reviewed as a standalone beacon. There is a historical momentum in Crossan's vision of God and "this world."

Rodney Stark, a professor of sociology and comparative religion, in 1996 published a history THE RISE OF CHRISTIANITY:How the Obscure, Marginal Jesus Movement Became the Dominant Religious Force in the World in a Few Centuries. How? By nonviolence! "But perhaps all else, Christianity brought a new concept of humanity to a world saturated with capricious crulty and viscarious love of death."

I believe Rodney Stark's book set fire under biblical scholars to investigate the historical living conditions that Jesus emerged from as well as the Jesus Movement.

In October 1999, Crossan took part in a Jesus Seminar lecture series (I was there in the audience) about "A Future for Christian Faith?" His full text was published in the book THE ONCE AND FUTURE JESUS. He explained: "What I am trying to imagine is what Christianity must do clearly and honestly to distinquish itself from fantasy." "In 1999 I never imagined...the speed with which faith-based thinking would morph into fantasy-based dreaming...."

In 2001 Crossan and Reed issued their first collaborative book EXCAVATING JESUS: The key Discoveries for understanding Jesus in His World. This book combined analysis of text conjoined with archaeological discoveries. "Jesus and his Kingdom were a threat to Roman law and order, and his Jewish God was a threat to the Roman God." This summation vibrates through the whole book.

In 2004 Crossan and Reed issued their second collaborative book IN SEARCH OF PAUL: How Jesus's Apostle opposed Rome's Empire with God's Kingdom. Again this book combine text conjoined with archaeological discoveries.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A continuation of Dom Crossan's investigation of the meaning of the Kingdom of God. Following on "The Last Week" this book combines archeology, ancient texts and biblical language to distinguish between the world as a result of secular empire and that kingdom introduced by Jesus. Crossan's themes of inclusiveness, distributive justice and early Chrisitan commumity belief are reiterated and combines into a thoughtful book that improves one's understanding of the message of Jesus. He deals with the current American fascination with the "end time" in context of the Book of Revealation for a very different interpretation of what that book meant in the first century. I only wish that some of these ideas were heard from the Christian pulpits. A very good read which directs thought and action
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Format: Hardcover
Crossan was once a monk and it shows in his views of Christ and Christianity. He sees Jesus as other-worldly, propounding an alternative vision of the-way-life-oughta-be to that of civilization, which is invariably violent, corrupt, and repressive. The apocalyptic Jesus is not here, and Crossan has nothing but contempt for those who would use Christianity as an reason for violence and war. The parallel he sees between the present day United States with the Roman empire is explicit.

Unlike other Crossan books, which are full of words you've never heard of, wander far from their subject, and are irritating, "God and Empire" is relatively easy to comprehend and is more of a personal statement than a scholarly inquiry. The first chapter is the best as it gives a bleak picture of what comprises civilization and empire. Chapter two about the development of the idea of God can be skipped. The next three chapters deal with the teachings of Jesus and Paul and the apocalyptic book of Revelations. As opposed to many critics of Paul, Crossan sees him as a liberal and humane theologian reflecting the alternative to "civilization" that Jesus preached.

Crossan reserves most of his bile for the interpretation of the book of Revelations by fundamentalist Christians. He looks with horror at the notion of an avenging Jesus leading an army of Saints against the anti-Christ and rails at the teachings of current day theologians such as Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell.

In his epilogue he attempts to answer the question: How is it possible to be a faithful Christian in an American Empire facilitated by a violent Christian Bible? Crossan's vision of a kindler, gentler Christianity in a kinder, gentler United States makes for thoughtful reading.

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