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Ethics & Early Christianity
The Fourth R Magazine
Mainline Christian denominations in this country are bitterly divided over the question of homosexuality. For this reason it is important to ask what light, if any, the New Testament sheds on this controversial issue. Most people apparently assume that the New Testament expresses strong opposition to homosexuality, but this simply is not the case. The six propositions that follow, considered cumulatively, lead to the conclusion that the New Testament does not provide any direct guidance for understanding and making judgments about homosexuality in the modern world. Continue reading
“I’m not a Bible scholar, but . . .”
Usually this statement insinuates that the speaker’s ostensibly exceptional insight trumps actual expertise. A least such a statement gives lip service to the speaker’s limitations. Pretense to scholarship is more deceptive, although pseudo-scholars tend to mislead themselves first of all. Coauthors Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy provide an illustration of such self-deceptive pseudo-scholarship in a series of books published over the past decade that bases one set of misguided assumptions on another. Continue reading
A few years ago I received an invitation from an Episcopal group in the San Francisco Bay area. “We want you to talk to us about Jesus,” they said, “and we want you to make it personal.” Nobody had ever asked me to “make it personal” before.
Trying to figure out what to say, I wrote the words “Me and Jesus” on a page. I reflected on those words. What emerged was the story of “me and Jesus”—of what I could remember about Jesus from my childhood, adolescence, early adulthood all the way to the present. I see now that my “personal and academic pilgrimage” has been tied to the figure of Jesus from the very beginning. Continue reading
For Muslims the Qur’an is the word of God as revealed to the Prophet Mohammad over a period of twenty-three years. The message was an oral message and, since Mohammad was unlettered, the words were written on scraps of paper, tree bark, and animal skins. It was only after the death of the Prophet that his companions compiled the Qur’an into book form. For reasons known only to them, instead of compiling the revelations in chronological order, they assembled them in order of length, from longest verse to shortest. Continue reading
What was early Christianity really like, behind the New Testament? The Christianity Seminar reimagines how the movement that began around Jesus became Christian orthodoxy and the official religion of the Roman Empire.
Historical questions about the Bible can be very specific. What did Jesus really say? What date should be given the book of Acts? But when it comes to “God questions”—the meaning of God, the existence of God, the future of God—the ground shifts from critical history to metaphysical quandary. Where does one even begin? Yet a Seminar on God cannot be dismissed lightly, for there is an important sense in which God is every bit as historical as Jesus was, perhaps in a certain sense even more so.
“[The Early Christian Apocrypha series is] heartily recommended for classroom use and for anyone interested in early Christian literature.”
—Religious Studies Review
“As thoughtful and thought-provoking as it is seminal and iconoclastic… Highly recommended…”
—Midwest Book Review
“One of the most deeply satisfying Christian reads of recent time…”
—Phyllis Tickle, Publishers’ Weekly
“If one wants to explore Christianity’s future, there is no better guide available today...”
—John Shelby Spong
A celebration of the work of radical theologian John D. Caputo