Crossan was a Catholic priest who left the priesthood in the late 1960s, finding that he was unable to hold to orthodox Christian beliefs concerning the divinity of Jesus. He gave himself to the study of 1st century Jewish culture and to the discovery of who Jesus “really” was, once the veneer of traditional dogma had been scraped away.
Throughout the '70s, '80s and '90s of the last century, Crossan published a whole series of books and articles laying out his vision of Jesus as a “Mediterranean peasant” who had the temerity to challenge the Roman power structure, to advocate the concerns of the poor, and to show the power of the path of non-violence.
Now Crossan is a graceful writer and a careful scholar, and I’ll acknowledge gratefully that I’ve learned a great deal from him. His emphasis on Jesus’ “open table fellowship” and his readings of Jesus’ parables as subversive stories are both, I think, right on target. The problem is that he so consistently reads Jesus through a conventional political lens that effectively reduces him to the level of social reformer.
How does Crossan explain the accounts of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead? They are, he says, essentially “parables,” figurative representations of the disciples’ conviction that Jesus’ way was more powerful than the Roman way. They were never meant to be taken literally but rather as poetic inspirations for the succeeding generations of Jesus’ followers. How does he explain the church’s dogma of Jesus’ divinity? It is, essentially, a misleading overlay that effectively obscures the dangerous truth of who Jesus really was: a threat to the cultural, religious, and political status quo...
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Father Robert Barron is the Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.