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A Jesus To Think With and Live By: Story and Ideology in Crossan's Jesus Research

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The aim of this article is to challenge Crossan in two related fronts. First, concerning 'story': did ancient authors consciously reflect on the distinction between fact and fiction, history and myth, literal and metaphorical? Could they view myths as made-up tales about divine intervention ? Further, could they question the reality of divine intervention as such, or were these questions introduced only much later by the Enlightenment and then illegitimately projected onto antiquity, as Crossan holds? My answer refers to the evidence in Thucydides, the Hippocratic corpus and the Gnostics, but focuses especially on Plato's conscious manipulation of the myths of Atlantis and the metals. I also respond to Crossan's understanding of the Platonist Celsus. Secondly, concerning 'ideology': if jesus'message and program were about systemic justice as distributive egalitarianism, about non-violent but provocative protest against violent and oppressive imperialism, how do his vision and life then relate to ancient and modern views on and practices of social justice? My objection is that whereas Crossan correctly emphasizes the concern for a just society in the Jewish and Near Eastern traditions, he underestimates the contribution of Greco-Roman paganism (except for the Cynics) in this regard. By means of a cursory discussion of Hesiod, Solon, and Socrates, and a more elaborate treatment of Plato, Aristotle and the Stoics (eg, Musonius Rufus and Seneca) I indicate just how important such a nuanced comparison is.

Affiliations: 1: Department of Classical, Near and Far Eastern and Religious Studies University of South Africa P O Box 392, Pretoria, 0003 Republic of South Africa


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