I saw this Time Magazine article today at https://time.com/5743505/new-testament-heaven/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=the-brief&utm_content=20191230&xid=newsletter-brief.
Some excerpts are included below, but I recommend reading the entire article. It points out for us again that we always need to be mindful of the scriptural authors’ world view at the time they were writing. It is too easy for us to superimpose modern day theological ideas on what those authors actually intended.
“To understand what the first followers of Jesus believed about what happens after death, we need to read the New Testament in its own world — the world of Jewish hope, of Roman imperialism and of Greek thought.”
“The followers of the Jesus-movement that grew up in that complex environment saw “heaven” and “earth” — God’s space and ours, if you like — as the twin halves of God’s good creation. Rather than rescuing people from the latter in order to reach the former, the creator God would finally bring heaven and earth together in a great act of new creation, completing the original creative purpose by healing the entire cosmos of its ancient ills. They believed that God would then raise his people from the dead, to share in — and, indeed, to share his stewardship over — this rescued and renewed creation. And they believed all this because of Jesus.”
“The scriptures always promised that when the life of heaven came to earth through the work of Israel’s Messiah, the weak and the vulnerable would receive special care and protection, and the desert would blossom like the rose. Care for the poor and the planet then becomes central, not peripheral, for those who intend to live in faith and hope, by the Spirit, between the resurrection of Jesus and the coming renewal of all things.”
I just ran across this interesting article.
The author includes a statement that resonates with me, but I have not seen elsewhere: “The declining role of institutional religion has, I think, led to a serious loss of community, as the religious participant has given way to the ever more atomized consumer.”
Institutional religions all seem to have their negative characteristics, but I think it is too easy for us to under-appreciate the underlying spiritual and cultural benefits. I think I will purchase Neil Macgregor’s book and see what other insights he has.
Our family knows about mourning a loss. We lost a daughter-in-law, a cousin, and a mother in just the past few weeks. We appreciate all the expressions of sympathy and comfort.
I suppose we are especially sensitive to these situations right now, but I just read a blog that really hit home. Check it out at:
I recently finished reading “The Birth of Christianity” by John Dominic Crossan. I am kind of proud of myself for reading all the way through this book, because it is very academic and detailed in its approach. But it was worth the effort.
Crossan is one of today’s leading scholars regarding the historical Jesus. His interdisciplinary approach includes anthropology, history and archaeology to develop an understanding of earliest Christianity in the decades following the death of Jesus but before the first gospel writings. His findings are often at odds with major teachings of the Church today, but there is much to be learned in this book whether or not one agrees with all of Crossan’s conclusions.
I won’t go into details here. But one of the assertions that I found most interesting is that the earliest followers of Christ (about 30 AD to 60 AD) were focused primarily on the sayings of Jesus (the oral “Sayings Tradition”) and the shared meal tradition (love feast/ communion/ eucharist). Their creed was to live as Jesus had instructed his followers. The Christian focus on Jesus’ death and resurrection did not seem to come until later, especially as emphasized in the writings of Paul.
This book isn’t for everyone. It will challenge your thinking, and even your beliefs. It will drive you to your dictionary to look up some of those words used only in academia. It is 600 pages long. But it is worth the effort.