xiv + 461 pp.
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The Bad Jesus
The Ethics of New Testament Ethics
Did Jesus ever do anything wrong? Judging by the vast majority of books on New Testament ethics, the answer is a resounding No. Writers on New Testament ethics generally view Jesus as the paradigm of human standards and behaviour. But since the historical Jesus was a human being, must he not have had flaws, like everyone else?
The notion of a flawless human Jesus is a paradoxical oddity in New Testament ethics. According to Avalos, it shows that New Testament ethics is still primarily an apologetic enterprise despite its claim to rest on critical and historical scholarship.
The Bad Jesus is a powerful and challenging study, presenting detailed case studies of fundamental ethical principles enunciated or practised by Jesus but antithetical to what would be widely deemed ‘acceptable’ or ‘good’ today. Such topics include Jesus’ supposedly innovative teachings on love, along with his views on hate, violence, imperialism, animal rights, environmental ethics, Judaism, women, disabled persons and biblical hermeneutics.
After closely examining arguments offered by those unwilling to find any fault with the Jesus depicted in the Gospels, Avalos concludes that current treatments of New Testament ethics are permeated by a religiocentric, ethnocentric and imperialistic orientation. But if it is to be a credible historical and critical discipline in modern academia, New Testament ethics needs to discover both a Good and a Bad Jesus.
Hector Avalos is Professor of Religious Studies in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Iowa State University, Ames, IA.
Basic Elements of the Argument
2. The Unloving Jesus: What’s New Is Old
Loving the Enemy in the Ancient Near East
Love Can Entail Violence
The Golden Rule: Love as Tactical
The Parochialism of New Testament Ethics
3. The Hateful Jesus: Luke 14.26
Jesus Commands Hate
Hate as a Motive for Divorce
The Statistics of Hate and Love
The Semantic Logic of Love and Hate
4. The Violent Jesus
Matthew 10.34-37: Jesus’ Violent Purpose
Matthew 5.38-42: Don’t Victimize Me, Please
Matthew. 26.48-56: Non-Interference with Planned Violence
John 2.15: Whipping up Pacifism
Acts 9: Jesus Assaults Saul
5. The Suicidal Jesus: The Violent Atonement
Jesus as a Willing Sacrificial Victim
Mark 10.45: Self-Sacrifice as a Ransom
Sacrifice as Service: Transformation or Denial?
2 Corinthians 5.18: Anselm Unrefuted
René Girard: Sacrificing Apologetics
6. The Imperialist Jesus: We’re All God’s Slaves
The Benign Rhetoric of Imperialism
Christ as Emperor
The Kingdom of God as an Empire
7. The Anti-Jewish Jesus: Socio-Rhetorical Criticism as Apologetics
Abuse Me, Please: Luke T. Johnson’s Apologetics
When is Anti-Judaism not Anti-Judaism?
When Did Christian Anti-Judaism Begin?
8. The Uneconomic Jesus as Enemy of the Poor
Jesus as Radical Egalitarian
The Fragrance of Poverty
Sermon on the Mount of Debts and Merits
9. The Misogynistic Jesus: Christian Feminism as Male Ancestor Worship
Mark 7//Matthew 15: The Misogynistic Jesus
Mark 10//Matthew 19: Divorcing Equality
The Womanless Twelve Apostles
The Last Supper: Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner
The Egalitarian Golden Age under Jesus
10. The Anti-Disabled Jesus: Less than Fully Human
John 5 and 9: Redeeming Jesus
The Ethics of Punctuation
Paralyzed by Sin
11. The Magically Anti-Medical Jesus
Miracles, Not Magic?
The Naturalistic Jesus
12. The Eco-Hostile Jesus
Mark 5: Animal Rights and Deviled Ham
Luke 22 and Matthew 8: Sacrificing Animal Rights
Matthew 21: Fig-uratively Speaking
Mark 13: Eschatological Eco-Destruction
13. The Anti-Biblical Jesus: Missed Interpretations
Mel and Jesus: The Hypocrisy of New Testament Ethics
Mark 2:23-28: Jesus as Biblically Illiterate
Matthew 19: Jesus Adds his Own Twist on Divorce
Isaiah 6:9-10: Integrating Extrabiblical Materials
The Ethics of New Testament Ethics