Thursday, October 15, 2009

JD Crossan On Divine Punishment

"When empires clashed along a north-south axis between the Nile Delta and whoever controlled the Anatolian Plateau or the Mesopotamian Plain, tiny Israel was there in the middle. When the axis of empire changed to an east-west direction and the clash was between Persians and Greeks or Parthians and Romans, little Israel was still right there in the middle. So here is the geopolitical truth. If the people of Israel had all been saints and had spent their lives on their knees praying, the only difference would have been death kneeling down rather than standing up.
I consider it bad or even obscene theology to tell such people that invasion (or...any other disaster) is a divine punishment for sin. Nothing they could ever have done or not done would have changed a destiny of oppression - by imperialism marching north and south or east and west. Their Promised Land was simply the cockpit of empire...Divine justice as distributive and/or retributive is the first biblical ambiguity to be considered...Both strands are there from Genesis to Revelation. On the other hand, is there any evidence - apart from biblical assertions and human fears - that God ever punishes anyone? There is terribly clear evidence of human consequences, but unless one equates human consequences with divine punishments - which I, for one, do not - is there any similar evidence for divine punishments?"
-John Dominic Crossan, "God and Empire"

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