Book review: God & Empire

by John Dominic Crossan


It’s Jesus vs. Rome. Who will win?

If you’ve read much about the first century, you’re already well aware of the conflict between Christian and Roman claims. Both sides laid claim to the Son of God. Both claimed the inauguration of a new, wonderful age. The Caesars, especially in Asia Minor, were worshipped as God and often went by the title Son of God. Caesar Augustus, in particular, was hailed as the savior of the world, the bringer of peace and prosperity.

The Christians claimed a coming kingdom, or a hidden kingdom; the Romans proved their kingdom by force and heavy presence. The Christian kingdom was not of this world; the Roman kingdom invaded every part of life. Jesus’ kingdom was one of nonviolence; the Roman kingdom was just the opposite.

Crossan highlights the conflict between the two, and what, exactly, the Christians were claiming in their “uprising.” Of particular interest, to me, was the discussion of Paul, whom Crossan divides into three categories: The radical Paul, the liberal Paul, and the conservative Paul, representing three stages of Pauline writings.

I give it four stars instead of five, not for the lack of quality, but because little is original from his other writings. It’s just organized and directed differently to emphasize a point.

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