Cover image for How to read the Bible and still be a Christian : struggling with divine violence from Genesis through Revelation
How to read the Bible and still be a Christian : struggling with divine violence from Genesis through Revelation
Crossan, John Dominic.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
San Francisco : HarperOne, 2015.
Physical Description:
viii, 263 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BS511.3 .C76 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
BS511.3 .C76 2015 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf

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The acclaimed Bible scholar and author of The Historical Jesus and God & Empire--"the greatest New Testament scholar of our generation" (John Shelby Spong) --grapples with Scripture's two conflicting visions of Jesus and God, one of a loving God, and one of a vengeful God, and explains how Christians can better understand these passages in a way that enriches their faith.

Many portions of the New Testament, introduce a compassionate Jesus who turns the other cheek, loves his enemies, and shows grace to all. But the Jesus we find in Revelation and some portions of the Gospels leads an army of angels bent on earthly destruction. Which is the true revelation of the Messiah--and how can both be in the same Bible?

How to Read the Bible and Still be a Christian explores this question and offers guidance for the faithful conflicted over which version of the Lord to worship. John Dominic Crossan reconciles these contrasting views, revealing how different writers of the books of the Bible not only possessed different visions of God but also different purposes for writing. Often these books are explicitly competing against another, opposing vision of God from the Bible itself.

Crossan explains how to navigate this debate and offers what he believes is the best central thread to what the Bible is all about. He challenges Christians to fully participate in this dialogue, thereby shaping their faith by reading deeply, reflectively, and in community with others who share their uncertainty. Only then, he advises, will Christians be able to read and understand the Bible without losing their faith.

Author Notes

Considered by many to be the most learned scholar on the topic of Jesus Christ, John Dominic Crossan's adversaries question how he reconciles his Catholic faith with 20th century secular study. A former priest, Crossan is the author of The Essential Jesus: Original Sayings and Earliest Images, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography; The Birth of Christianity: Discovering What Happened in the Years Immediately After the Execution of Jesus, and The Cross That Spoke: The Origins of the Passion Narrative, among others.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* When we read the Bible, we should remain aware of the historical matrix, the cultural background, against which its events and its writing played out; for instance, the matrix of early Genesis is the rise of civilization in the Fertile Crescent. So says Crossan, one of the most prolific popular writers among the scholars of the historical Jesus. He goes on to advise that we notice a rhythm of assertion-and-subversion, a heartbeat, throughout the Christian Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, from Eden to the Four Horsemen. A vision of the radicality of God is put forth, only to be watered down indeed, reversed so that the normalcy of civilization is maintained. An initial order of nonviolent distributive justice, in which every person has a sufficient share of God's resources to live and thrive, is reduced to a system of violent retributive justice to punish sinners. Later in the book, Crossan proposes viewing the nonviolent movement of the historical Jesus and not some apocalyptic bloodbath as the end or center or climax of Christian time. Understanding that centrality is achieved by seeing that the norm and criterion of the Christian Bible is the biblical Christ but the norm and criterion of the biblical Christ is the historical Jesus. The Kingdom of God does not, it seems, include equestrian death squads.--Olson, Ray Copyright 2015 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Reading the Bible can be troubling for both Christians and non-Christians who wonder how to reconcile Jesus's teachings on nonviolence and love with stories about a vengeful and violent God. In his usual ingenious fashion, biblical scholar Crossan (Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography) locates the heartbeat of the Christian Bible in a cycle of assertion and subversion. Through close readings of texts from Genesis through Revelation, he illustrates that many biblical stories assert the radical nature of God's love and desire for nonviolent justice, while others illustrate subversion through the desire of civilizations for violent retributive justice. In the apocalyptic books of Daniel and Revelation, for example, God's dream for a kingdom of justice and peace is subverted by visions of divine punishment for not following God's rules for the kingdom. Crossan stresses that the historical Jesus, who teaches peace and nonviolence, is the measure by which Christians read the Bible: "We are called Christians, not Bible-ians." While sometimes repetitive, Crossan's provocative book challenges readers to pick up the Bible once more and pay close attention to the collision of violence and nonviolence in its pages. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Table of Contents

Part I Challenge
1 Ending: A Hymn to a Savage God?p. 3
2 Centering: The Meaning in the Middle?p. 21
Part II Civilization
3 Consciencep. 41
4 Violencep. 59
Part III Covenant
5 Creation and Covenantp. 75
6 Blessing and Cursep. 89
7 Prophecy and Prayerp. 101
8 Wisdom and Kingdomp. 121
Part IV Community
9 Israel and the Challenge of Romep. 143
10 Jesus and the Radicality of Godp. 157
11 Christ and the Normalcy of Civilizationp. 173
12 Rome and the Challenge of Caesarp. 187
13 Paul and the Radicality of Christp. 203
14 Paul and the Normalcy of Empirep. 219
Epilogue: To Outsoar the Shadow of Our Nightp. 235
Notesp. 247
Scripture Indexp. 249
Subject Indexp. 253