Baker Academic

Monday, February 11, 2013

“God Runs with Scissors”: Warren Carter on the Crucifixion—Chris Keith

Baker Academic has just released Warren Carter’s Seven Events that Shaped the NewTestament World.  It’s a useful and interesting concept for a textbook.  Carter gives introductory readers a “lay of the land” for understanding early Christianity through seven important historical events that shaped that landscape:  the death of Alexander the Great; the translation of the LXX; the rededication of the temple; the Roman occupation of Judea; the crucifixion of Jesus; the writing of the New Testament; and the “closing” of the New Testament Canon.

I just finished reading the chapter on Jesus’ crucifixion.  It’s an excellent introduction to the meaning of crucifixion in Second Temple Judaism and the Roman Empire and how that relates to early Christian claims about Jesus’ crucifixion.  Carter answers in succession questions about who was crucified in the Roman Empire, why they were crucified, and why Jesus was crucified.  He then ends with reflections on various early Christian interpretations of Jesus’ death.

Carter is an excellent writer and has several interesting turns of phrase, including the title of this post which comes from p.103 in his discussion of Paul’s point in Gal 3.13 about Jesus becoming the curse:  “God has raised a cursed one to life.  God colors outside the lines.  God runs with scissors.  God is not bound by conventional rules.”

Ultimately, Carter argues persuasively that Jesus was crucified because he was perceived as a political threat:  “People didn’t get crucified for being gentle or spiritual or for saying their prayers.  They got crucified for being understood to be rebels” (96).

Noticeably absent from the chapter is any reference to Gunnar Sammuelson’s Crucifixion in Antiquity in the section on ancient crucifixion and any reference to the Ransom Saying (Mark 10.45//Matt 20.28).  But one can’t do it all in a textbook, and this comment aside I’d have no hesitation in requiring this book for a NT Backgrounds, Intro to the NT, or Gospels course.

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