The Weight of Criticisms

Sometimes we get criticized by someone and we deflect it easily; at other times it penetrates and wounds and festers and seems to haunt our nights. The would pesters enough that in odd moments with random people we allude to it or name it explicitly. Is there a way forward, out of it, beyond it, or through it?

What have you learned from your critics?

That perhaps you have miscommunicated? That they might be right and you wrong? That they are…? That you are…?

I suggest, too, that spend some time paying attention to Jesus and how he was criticized.

I count no fewer than seven different accusations against Jesus by those who criticized him, and some of these criticisms functioned as serious labels — the kind that calls into question his viability as someone loved by God or part of Israel’s faithful covenant community. Here they are:

1. Jesus was a lawbreaker: Mark 2:24; Luke 13:14; 14:1-6; Mark 7:1-23.
2. Jesus was demon-possessed: Matthew 12:22-24.
3. Jesus was a glutton and drunkard: Matthew 11:16-19; Luke 7:31-35 (means worthy of capital punishment)
4. Jesus was a blasphemer: Mark 2:1-12; Matthew 26:65; John 10:33
5. Jesus was a false prophet: Luke 7:39; Mark 14:65; Luke 23:2, 5, 14.
6. Jesus was a king of the Jews: Mark 15:2, 9, 12, 16-20, 26, 32.
7. Jesus was an illegitimate child: Mark 6:3; John 8:41 (cf. 6:42). [(This one has a history: see Origen, Against Celsus 1:28 [Mary is cast out by Joseph for adultery with a certain Panthera], 32-33, 69; 2:5, 8-9, 31; Tertullian, de Spectaculis 30.6; Gosp.Thom. 105; Acts of Pilate 2:3; m.Yeb. 4:13; t. Hul. 2:24; b.Sanh. 67a; y.A.Z. 40d; y.Shabb. 14d)]

Two observations:

First, I suggest we learn more about the accusers of Jesus from these various indictments. What do you think we learn from these? Thus, Joe Modica and I co-edited a volume called Who Do My Opponents Say That I Am? that explores a “christology from the side.”  When we are criticized perhaps we could pause long enough to ponder what this says about the person leveling the charge.

Second, we need to see the rhetorical function of accusations. That is, these are far more how to discredit Jesus than something about Jesus. Do not criticisms today often function the same way: Are they not attempts to discredit someone? Maybe we can ask, Who is their circle that wants to hear this discrediting?

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