The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics

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2015-01-01
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Philosophy and Religious Studies
The Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies focuses on two areas of study. Its major in Philosophy seeks to examine human experience and reality through critical reflection and argument, developing skills in critical analysis and knowledge of ethics and philosophy. The major in Religious Studies seeks to investigate and reflect upon world religions in an objective, critical, and appreciative manner, providing students with knowledge of religion’s nature and its roles in social and individual life.
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Did Jesus ever do anything wrong? Judging by the vast majority of books on New Testament ethics, the answer is a resounding No. Writers on New Testament ethics generally view Jesus as the paradigm of human standards and behaviour. But since the historical Jesus was a human being, must he not have had flaws, like everyone else?

The notion of a flawless human Jesus is a paradoxical oddity in New Testament ethics. According to Avalos, it shows that New Testament ethics is still primarily an apologetic enterprise despite its claim to rest on critical and historical scholarship.

The Bad Jesus is a powerful and challenging study, presenting detailed case studies of fundamental ethical principles enunciated or practised by Jesus but antithetical to what would be widely deemed ‘acceptable’ or ‘good’ today. Such topics include Jesus’ supposedly innovative teachings on love, along with his views on hate, violence, imperialism, animal rights, environmental ethics, Judaism, women, disabled persons and biblical hermeneutics.

After closely examining arguments offered by those unwilling to find any fault with the Jesus depicted in the Gospels, Avalos concludes that current treatments of New Testament ethics are permeated by a religiocentric, ethnocentric and imperialistic orientation. But if it is to be a credible historical and critical discipline in modern academia, New Testament ethics needs to discover both a Good and a Bad Jesus.

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This book is published as Avalos, H. The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics. Sheffield: Sheffield Phoenix Press, 2015. Posted with permission.

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