Thursday, July 05, 2007


"A widow with no shame confronted a judge with no conscience.
Time and again she pleaded for vindication before him.
He finally gave in because, even if ethics did not bother him,
she did."

Whatever you think of the details of some of his historical and scholarly judgements, John Dominic Crossan is always helpfully disturbing. The author of God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (2007, available at the link from Metanoia Books), and many other works, did a fabulous job a few years ago when he compiled The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images (Harper Collins 1994). Its core is a sharp, arresting set of "dynamic equivalents" for some of the best known recorded remarks of Jesus - an attempt to replicate their shock and impact for a world (and especially a church) which has now grown over-familiar or complacent about them. Crossan explains how and why he chose and rendered these texts. He makes modest claims about his procedures. And and the book also contains notes on these words' social context and significance - then and now. See also his Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography.

The saying above conveys the essence of the parable traditionally called 'The unjust judge' or the 'importunate widow' (Luke 18. 2-8). The point is not that the judge is analogous to God, as over-hasty and less-informed readers (like dear Richard Dawkins?) are apt to conclude... rather the reverse: that the God-movement in the world, far from being superstitious obeisance to a distant and unmoved ruler, is actually like the persistence of the poor in demanding a different kind of kin-dom, based on right relations. It invites us to a social, personal, spiritual and intellectual reversal of expectations. The God beyond 'gods' changes us precisely by being not being part of our world of competitive relations and by inviting us to a love that cannot be manipulated by favour. Like the widow, the God of Jesus is an outsider to the demanding expectations of the regnant - be they self-styled believers or self-styled non-believers.

1 comment:

Mystical Seeker said...

I haven't read Crossan's more scholarly books, but of his books aimed at a popular audience that I have read, I think that "God & Empire" is his most accessible and most important book.