The Inclusive Jesus?

The latest issue of Horizons in Biblical Theology is dedicated to the topic of universalism. The issue include this article:

The Trouble with the Inclusive Jesus
pp. 9-23
Author: Bockmuehl, Markus

Bockmuehl raises a good point, social inclusiveness is the only absolute modern value, and biblical interpreters are quick to try to make Jesus the all-inclusive hero who championed his message of inclusiveness against all forms of exclusivism.  The problem is, as Bockmuehl rightly puts it:

However one parses the exegetical particulars, Jesus of Nazareth is (as Richard Hays puts it), not only the friend of sinners but also the nemesis of the wicked. Another way of putting this is to say that Jesus of Nazareth includes a remarkably wide diversity of the marginalized, yet he also marginalizes an uncomfortably diverse range of the religiously or socioeconomically included. That necessarily complicates any discussion of Jesus’ “universalism” or “inclusiveness”: Jesus, like Paul, appears to envisage the saved as well as the unsaved or the not-yet-saved … Our problem, then, is that the apparent smoothness and attractiveness of the “inclusive Jesus” hypothesis are acquired at a very high moral price. As we have seen, the structure of the argument typically follows the familiar liberal departicularizing of a Jesus who takes his stance over against the Judaism of his time: Jews were narrow, ethnic, culturally conservative; Jesus by contrast was universal, inclusive, and welcoming without exception. (p. 14, 17).
In recent scholarship, the caricature of Judaism as legalistic has been replaced with Judaism as ethnocentric. Now ancient Jews were well known for looking after their own kind, but synagogues did accept outsiders as guests and even proselytes if they became converted and circumcised. On top of that, the Romans were probably the most xenophobic group around at the time, and were always expelling some group from Rome on the grounds that weird foreign stuff from the east was getting too popular. There was usually an open door for Gentiles into Jewish synagogues, which is exactly where the early Christian mission took root. Likewise, Jesus appears to have upheld, as far as we know, Jewish ethics concerning wealth, sexuality, and family albeit in light of his eschatological conception of the kingdom. Paul, the great inclusivist for Gentiles, slaves, and women (see Gal 3:28), also railed against pagan sexuality, temples, and forbade marriage with outsiders (1 Corinthians 6-10). Jesus and Paul are inclusive in a way that other Jews were not, but at the same time they were also exclusive in ways that other Jews, Romans, and Greeks were not. The inclusive Jesus, with a brand of inclusiveness made conducive to modern culture, is another example of the liberalizing and modernizing of the Jew, Jesus of Nazareth.

  • Bill Heroman

    How ‘xenophobic’ was Rome, really, if they named one of their fourteen districts after the popular Egyptian cult which was housed there? (Somewhere early in Dio 55, if memory serves.) More likely, the expulsions probably had ulterior (or at the very least, mixed) motives.

    But on a more important note, and directly to your point, how does this affect Peter’s statement in Acts 10:35? Do you take it as the viewpoint of the newly enlightened Peter, post-Joppa? Or do you take v.35 merely as a friendly affirmation of standard diaspora doctrine, showing that Peter’s revelation wasn’t actually realized until around v.44?

    Cf. here

  • Bill Heroman

    How ‘xenophobic’ was Rome, really, if they named one of their fourteen districts after the popular Egyptian cult which was housed there? (Somewhere early in Dio 55, if memory serves.) More likely, the expulsions probably had ulterior (or at the very least, mixed) motives.

    But on a more important note, and directly to your point, how does this affect Peter’s statement in Acts 10:35? Do you take it as the viewpoint of the newly enlightened Peter, post-Joppa? Or do you take v.35 merely as a friendly affirmation of standard diaspora doctrine, showing that Peter’s revelation wasn’t actually realized until around v.44?

    Cf. here

  • Rance Darity

    I like Bockmuehl’s descriptive the ‘not-yet-saved.’ Seems like he is rightly open to another kind of ‘inclusiveness.’

  • Rance Darity

    I like Bockmuehl’s descriptive the ‘not-yet-saved.’ Seems like he is rightly open to another kind of ‘inclusiveness.’


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X