What does it mean, how does it work, who is it for, and what has it got to do with Jesus, whoever he is?
Churches around the world read stories of salvation from the Hebrew Scriptures in the lead up to Easter, and connect them to stories of Jesus, especially his murder and the resurrection.
Someone always gets left out. That’s what strikes me about them anyway. Someone is always rescued at the expense of someone else. They are not so much “love your neighbour” stories, as “be glad you aren’t your neighbour” stories. There was winners and losers: God’s team and the other team. And God is the kind of violent, genocidal maniac which gives atheists so much ammunition when then dig the stories up and put them in the public domain.
I wouldn’t care much what these ancient Jewish stories say, except that Christians keep reusing them and claiming them as part of our story too. And I hope that in challenging these “us and them” stories in the bible, we might challenge them as they are repeated over and over again in secular versions around the world. At least they are by us relatively affluent Australians, glad that we are “not our neighbour,” in the current global financial crisis.
As a noob Christian in my twenties, these stories horrified me, yet I felt compelled to “believe them,” since they were part of the package. Maybe there was some mysterious divine explanation for their apparently racist evil. Usually I just glossed over the bad bits like everyone else seemed to. Later, as a professional God Botherer, I realised that the biblical witnesses are a collection of arguments about the nature of God and humanity, not a monolithic or coherent thesis.
So now let us look frankly at these horrific stories, in parallel with the stories of Jesus being read around the churches, and see what Jesus, and the Hebrew prophets who inspired him, made of them.
Finally we pass through Maundy Thursday and Friday, and reach Easter Sunday, asking not so much what the resurrection was, but what it means.
If it means salvation, and it at least has something to do with that, then how does this salvation seen in the resurrection work, who is it for, and what has it got to do with Jesus, whoever he is?
We will see that Jesus and his earliest “biographers” appear to have thought very differently about those questions than Paul the ex-Pharisee and some other early Christian writers. And, indeed, most Christians today.
Many of these thoughts are shaped by others, but who and how has blurred over the decades. Since most people’s eyes glaze over when they see citations, I’ll just try to dig them out for you if you get in touch and really want them.
The chapters are dated according to the readings in the Revised Common Lectionary for 2012/5, but you can read them whenever you like!
Easter Horror Stories develops one of the sections in "Worshipping Evolution's God," after that material was used a few more times in worship. It has less of an ecological focus.
Salvation for Noah and his sons
Jesus gets started
Salvation for “the Jews.”
Bible breaking foreskin keepers
Salvation for obedient Jews
shut up about the Messiah!
the suffering, victorious son of man
Jeremiah: a new thing.
Jesus: a new thing.
The temple is a joke
You sort it out with God.
Bad things happen to good people. Even Jesus
Friday. There is nothing good about it
Mark's Easter: The world’s first cliffhanger?