I’ve searched up, I’ve searched down, I’ve looked all over Steven Hay’s post, and I still found no Exegesis of John 10:34–36. I have asked so many times; 3 posts ago I made sure to only comment on the distractions in a comment, so that we could focus on the actual text in question—yet Steven jumped on the distractions and ignored the text. 2 posts ago I ignored the distractions, commenting only on a few side issues to focus on the actual text in question—he still refused to exegetes the text. 1 post ago I ignored everything except for John 10:34–36 and John 10:30, putting a special emphasis on John 10:34–36 and begging him to give a coherent exegesis that accounts for the text in its context. He still hasn’t done it. He certainly has posted responses; he’s brought up all kinds of arguments against my refutation of his reading of John 10:30, but all he’s really said about Verses 34–35 (which was the entire point of this incredibly exasperating exchange) is that it is, some how, an a fortiori, without explaining what the argument actually is and how it makes sense of the text in the context of Jesus responding to a charge.
I would argue that the best summation of Christian ethics is found in the sermon on the plain in Luke 6:20–49. What I love about the sermon on the plain is just how radical it seems on the surface, it seems almost impossible; however, when you think about what it’s saying, and think about it deeply—it makes sense. Probably my favorite example of this is found in Luke 6:34–35 (NRSV):
If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Over the last few months I haven’t been posting that regularly, there’s a few reasons for that; one reason is that I’ve been working on a book. The book I’ve been working on is called All Things in Common: The Economic Practices of the Early Christians, which has just been published by Wipf and Stock.
The book is basically a historical reconstruction of the economic practices of the early Christians, as primarily described in Acts 2:42–47 and Acts 4:32–37. The basic idea is that I think the subject has often been approached using the wrong framework, many people approach these passages with the framework of twentieth-century political struggles; so the questions they ask are things like “was this socialism, or was this just charity?” or “Did they abolish private property?” or “Was this a commune?” I think these questions assume the wrong framework.
I approach the issue using a different framework, rather than questions of property or politics, I use the framework of different types of social-relationships as described by modern anthropology. Rather than asking questions of property or legal rights, I look at questions around things like obligations, moral norms, social assumptions, and economic practices. Approaching the question of the economic practices of the early Christians using this framework, I then go about examining all the evidence. This evidence ranges from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Greek Philosophy, to the writings of Josephus and Philo to the early Church fathers and early Christian documents to Roman literature.
The evidence, when examined carefully, and within the framework of categories of social relationships—we end up seeing that what was described in Acts 2:42–27 and Acts 4:32–47 was in fact, a long term, wide spread and significant shift in the economic realities of the Christian communities. These economic practices were done all over the Roman world at least up until the late second century (and probably beyond) by many Christian communities, and these practices distinguished the Christians from the surrounding Roman society and were seen by the surrounding Roman society as strange. It was not charity, or anything like that; but rather it was—in the anthropological sense of the word, meaning a situation where “from each according to his ability to each according to his need” is the primary moral framework—communism.
If this is something that interests you, and I think it should, pick up the book.
I recently finished a rather interesting book on Christianity and wealth, specifically from the periods 350 to 550. This post isn’t going to be a book review or anything like that, just some things that I learned from the book that I think are important. The author, Peter Brown, travels through the Western Roman Empire during late antiquity following various characters; from the pagan nobleman Symmachus to the North African titan of theology Augustine. In following these characters; their writings, their arguments, their biographies, their communities—Brown weaves a history of wealth, the view of wealth, the position of wealth, the power of wealth, in the west during late antiquity.
Starting with Saint Augustine Christianity had always had a concept of ”Just War, ” whereas Christian pacifism has always been a force in Christianity, historically the “Just War” theology won over. The conservative religious journal “first things” published an article recently By William Doino Jr. where he defends the Catholic “Just War” theory against what he calls “The Pacifist Temptation.” The temptation he’s referring to a conference held by the Pontifical Council for Justice and peace and the Pax Christi movement, which led to a declaration by Pax Christi that appealed to a commitment to Nonviolence and insisted that there cannot be such a thing as “Just War.”
The Pew Research Center recently released data on the differences between religious and non-religious people when it comes to everyday life activities. One of the findings I find very interesting is the answer to the question “In the past week, did you donate money, time or goods to help the poor.” 65% of highly religious people, 41% not highly religious people, 34% of the “nothing in particular” group and 28 percent of Atheists answered yes. It seems to be that the more religious one is the more likely one is to spend time, money or goods helping the poor.
The last post on this blog was about the Not peace but a Sword saying found in Matthew 10:34-39. The impetus for that post was actually a lecture I saw recently given by Reza Aslan on the connection between religion and violence. I’ve written on Reza Alsan before. His argument is based on a few fallacies, one of which is found around the 20 Minute mark, he says:
A Muslim is whoever says he or she is a Muslim, the end.