Jesus Deported: The Foreigner in the Bible and in Today’s Political Climate

I have just posted a page describing the class I will be teaching this fall at Binkley Church, Chapel Hill, NC. If you are in the area, we would love to have you join us.

I will be posting a class schedule later, and throughout the semester I will post related materials to support what the class is doing.

Added Aug. 31, 2019: The class schedule is now live.

January 22, 2016

Tomorrow morning we will examine two passages in chapter two of John’s Gospel. The first is the story of the Wedding at Cana in Galilee, where Jesus turns water into wine. The second story is often called the “cleansing of the Temple.”

Opening Sunday (January 15, 2016)

p52 recto
p52 recto

Today we spent some time discussing possible perspectives on John’s Gospel, speculating about what can be known historically about its origins, and reading the hymn to the logos (λόγος) in chapter one.

We looked at passages that strongly imply a growing separation between early Christianity and its Jewish roots. 1:17,  9:28, and 15:25 (“their law” rather than “our law”), for example, can easily be read to imply an incompatibility between Moses and Jesus. In this context, what does the author’s decision to begin this Gospel with a poetic discussion of the cosmic significance of the logos imply?

We read 1:1-5 twice, once looking at it as traditionally read, with λόγος referring to Jesus, the Christ, and once reading λόγος as “reason” as an early Greek stoic might have read it. How would the assertion in 1:14 that the word (logos) became flesh and lived among us sound to early Jewish readers?  If we understand logos as a reference to divine “reason” rather than “word”, how might the assertion have sounded to Greek readers steeped in Stoic assumptions? The author’s assertion that “the λόγος became flesh and lived among us” (1:14) challenges some basic assumptions of both groups.

Feel free to join us next week as we continue to probe both the theological contributions of John’s Gospel and the problem of coming to terms with the violent anti-Jewish rhetoric that has claimed support from this same Gospel for centuries.

The image at the beginning of this post is one side of the oldest fragment of John’s Gospel. It begins and ends with the words οἱ Ἰυοθδαίοι, universally translated as “the Jews” in published English versions of John’s Gospel, though we will see later in this class that “the Jews” is not the only option for translating this phrase.

Spring 2016 Class

Beginning Sunday February 14 you can join the class, Bible Stories You’ve Never Heard This Way Before. We will meet in the Sun Room at Binkley Church (1712 Willow Drive,
Chapel Hill, NC 27514). You don’t need any advance preparation. Just show up ready to join in the discussion!

Here are a few passages we are likely to discuss over the coming weeks:

  • Acts 10 “Cornelius and Peter: Who is the Hero?”
  • Judges 9:7-21 “Jotham’s Fable: What? A Fable in the Bible?”
  • John 8:1-11 “The Woman Caught in Adultery: A Late Story Struggles to Find It’s Place”
  • Genesis 6:9-9:17 “Noah, the Flood and Similar Literature in the Ancient World” (March 13 and 20, 2016)
  • Philemon (April 3, 2016)
  • Genesis 1 and 2 “Creation Stories: Why Do We Have Them?”
  • Mark 2:23-28 “Lord of the Sabbath: Ritual and Necessity”


Edited on April 3, 2016 to update the list of topics

Advent Class: The First Christmas

In the class, The First Christmas, we will look at the two stories of Jesus’ birth found in the Bible, considering their politico-religious context in the first century CE and what they mean for today’s world. We will neither try to defend the stories as factual nor dismiss them as non-factual, but rather read them as narratives with both political and personal meanings for the ancient world and for our own. They presented a strong challenge to the empire of their time. What are their implications for our nation’s role in the world? On a personal level, they offer a challenge to live in communion with God. What does that mean for today’s church and today’s Christians? Join us for a lively discussion!

I recommend the book of the same title by Marcus Borg and John Dominic Crossan as a way to extend your exploration into the topics we sill discuss. There is no need to read it in advance of the class.

A Preview of Sunday, March 15, 1015

On Sunday we will take a detour away from the Pre-Easter Jesus to Post-Easter attempts to define Jesus’ relationship to the Father, the Wisdom of God, and the Spirit. Here are some of the things we will discuss:

  1. What is meant by the theological term, “Christology”?
  2. Are the images of Christ found in the New Testament consistent?
  3. How do the images of Jesus developed by the earliest Christian communities relate to the ones that developed in later centuries? How is each related to what we find in the New Testament?
  4. The early Church was comfortable with identifying Jesus with feminine imagery such as “the Wisdom of God.” What happened to make later Christians so uncomfortable with such imagery?

Here are some things worth reading:

  • Borg, Chapter 5: Jesus, the Wisdom of God SOPHIA BECOME FLESH
  • BibleWisdom as ‘Sophia’ and Reason as ‘Word’
    • Proverbs 3:13-18; 9:1-6
    • Luke 7.33 -35 = Matthew 11.18-19.
    • 1 Corinthians 1:23-24, and 30
    • John 1:1-4, 10, and 14

Have a wonderful Saturday. I’ll look forward to seeing you on Sunday.

A Preview of Sunday, February 1, 2015

Topics for Discussion

  • The Pre-Easter vs Post-Easter construct by Borg
  • Competing Biblical narratives of Jesus with a focus on competing birth stories as an exemplar to the challenges of Biblical literalism.
  • Who was the historical Jesus and what was the cultural context in which He lived?
    • Where was the physical territory of Jesus’ life?
    • Who controlled the territory?
    • What was (were) the dominant religion(s) of the people?
    • What languages did the people largely speak?
    • What was the economic structure?

Suggested Readings

  1. Borg
    • Chapter 2: from opening What Manner of Man? The Pre-Easter Jesus to The Adult Jesus: A Sketch
  2. Bible
    • Jesus’ birth – Matthew 2:1-12; Luke 2:1-20
  3. Maps
    • Look at maps of ancient Galilee

Introduction to the Class: Basics for Progressive Christians

Tomorrow morning (Jan. 4, 2015) at 9:30 we will do an introduction to the class at Binkley. Here are some of the things we will present:

  1. An overview of the class (as can be found on the class page here at this site.)
  2. A brief discussion of our use of technology to enable remote participation (Google Hangouts, website integration, social media).
  3. An introduction to the book, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time.

We would love to see you there at 9:30 tomorrow, but if you can’t make it, just show up on the 11th!