I’m interested in what people think of Crossan’s theory.
Crossan sees Jesus as an exploited 'peasant with an attitude' – he strips the supernatural from the text as embellishment, and is left with a man who was nevertheless extraordinary for how he lived, not how he died. "I cannot imagine a more miraculous life than nonviolent resistance to violence," Crossan says. "I cannot imagine a bigger miracle than a man standing in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square."
And there's the point – is this not Crossan interpreting the texts by projecting his own exemplary ideal onto his sources?
His are certainly challenging theories, but not without their own challenges.
The most startling is the step from parable – Jesus taught in parables – to meta-parable – that the Gospels are themselves, entirely
parables. Because the gospels deploy
parables is one thing, to say they need to be read in their entirety
as parables is something else altogether, and is, from what I can gather, the crucial point Crossan himself doesn’t convincingly make.
A general critique is that Crossan draws unnecessary conclusions from what he sees as evidence. That Mark and John record the day of Jesus’s death differently does not thereby mean that both are wrong, nor that both therefore embellish a basic truth (Crossan believes Christ was crucified) in order to achieve their meta-parable point is not proven are convincingly argued. And surely the declaration that the body of Christ was tossed into a common grave and eaten by dogs is pure hyperbole – a flight of fancy.
Crossan makes the point that Jesus preached a radical non-violence and an equally radical egalitarianism – laudable ideas; both I would like to see explored with a bit more academic rigour. Without that, I fear that Crossan, having stripped Jesus from Scripture projects his own Jesus, the product of his own background and socioeconomic ideals and desires, a Jesus framed within a contemporary liberal zeitgeist?
This is why those who seek the historical Jesus – Borg, Crossan, Funk, Spong and latterly Ehrman, etc., offer exemplary and entirely laudable figures, but one very thin in substance, resting too much on assumption and and, when compared each to the other, radically different persons.
I do believe Christ challenged the status quo so profoundly. I think the early church settled into traditional, cultural norms. The role of women and their later removal from the scene being one – Mary's apprehension of Jesus at the tomb has staggering significance, both for its importance and because that importance has been thoroughly ignored.