Monday, March 10, 2008

The Social Gospel of Jesus

I've just finished reading the book "The Social Gospel of Jesus" by Bruce Malina. It's heavy going, but well worth reading. The book's intention is to fill in some of the background data to the 1st century Mediterranean context in which the gospels are written; information which was clear to the gospels' original audience but is no longer apparent to readers in the 21st century.

Malina begins by suggesting that "perhaps the most significant obstacle blocking comparative access to the societies of the New Testament period is the widespread belief that Jesus and his program were about religion." The differences between religion as we know it now and the Kingdom of God which Jesus preached are so vast that any remaining commonalities are barely recognisable.

According to Malina, Jesus' initial followers were called to be active in a radical, political program that offered new hope to the poor, healed the sick and challenged the powerful elites. We probably shouldn't be surprised that the result was Jesus' crucifixion.

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