Should be a good read

I was given a copy of this book (Thank you Keith) and have just opened the pages. It seems an original piece of work that firmly places the Christian meal in the context of the Imperial world of the first century and a subversive act of resistance.

I have only just started but a choice few paragraphs that Gayle and I read this morning are sufficient to get us ready for the day!

When the Lord’s Supper is placed within the historical context of a Jesus movement that nonviolently opposed the tyrannical practices of the empire, it becomes clear that it was an act of resistance and took on political significance. Believers not only gathered to eat and satisfy their appetites, they engaged in various kinds of anti-imperial symposium activities that included prophetic utterances, singing protest songs, and lifting a toast to a man whom Rome deemed worthy of a criminal’s death.

And so the text continues… Makes one hungry for a protest meal and a toast to our ‘criminal’ Lord.

Inside Out

Gayle and I met Michele Perry 10+ years ago when we had just moved to Cádiz. She carries a spirit of adventure and was working at the time in South Sudan. As she says many were quite surprised at this 4ft 6inch (1.37m) tall woman who had arrived… and to top it all a woman with only one leg and at times her transport being on a motorbike kind of was not the norm!!

She has also made huge transitions and never afraid to pioneer. I decided a while back that she would be a great conversation partner to add some videos for those who are involved in Zoom groups.

[Zoom Groups – I am contemplating starting a day time group in the next month or so… if interested go to the page ‘Zoom Discussion Groups’ from the menu and have a look to see if a Zoom Group would be of interest.]

The first interview resulted from a throw-away comment that I am still mulling over when I interviewed Michele on ‘The Seven Mountains’. She said it is not to be ‘top down’, nor ‘bottom up’ (and how many times have I said that it is ‘bottom up’) but it is ‘inside out’.

Jesus offered Caesar’s throne

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendour; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours” (Lk. 4:5-7).

Quick acknowledgement: I picked up the consistent use of the Greek word ‘oikoumene’ as being a reference to the inhabited world of Rome in Andrew Perriman’s writings, then began to look at Luke’s use.

Skip the next part if you wish… it is simply the background as to why this word ‘oikoumene’ is not simply a synonym for ‘world’ (kosomos), but is more concrete… and in the Lukan context is referring to the Roman Empire.

All the kingdoms of the world (πάσας τὰς βασιλείας τῆς οἰκουμένης): the kingdoms of the oikoumene. This last word can be used (at times) interchangeably with the term ‘world’ (kosmos) and Matthew uses this term (kosmos) in his account of the temptations (Matthew 4:8), where Luke uses the term oikoumene.

The two terms can be used interchangeably, the kosmos term is certainly global and the term oikoumene is rooted in the verb oikeo (to dwell), and although it can carry a global sense, being simply synonymous to the word kosmos, many authors choose to use it in a more restrictive way, to refer to where people dwell, the inhabited world, the civilised world. This then opened it to something even more specific: the boundary of a specific political entity.

Luke is one of those authors, and given that he is writing his two volumes for the world of the Roman Empire it makes sense that he uses this word oikoumene in the restrictive sense of the ‘Roman world’, the ‘Roman Empire’. Before coming to Luke’s use a few other examples.

Josephus (Jewish aristocratic Jewish historian, 37AD-100AD (approx datre of death)) uses the term oikoumene to refer to the geographical extent of the Roman Empire, recording that Agrippa had said to Caius that he hoped one day Caius would be appointed ruler of the world (oikoumene), in other words that he would become Caesar over the Roman Empire.

Likewise the Old Testament uses it to describe territory within a political boundary.

  • Babylon, for her sins, will experience an armed nation coming and destroying the whole oikoumene (Is. 13:4,5,9,17,18,19). The Medes come and destroy the Babylonian empire, they destroy the whole oikoumene, not the whole world.
  • In Daniel we have Nebuchadnezzar ruling the whole oikoumene (Dan. 3:2), he is the ruler of the Babylonian Empire.

Luke seems to consistently use oikoumene to carry this meaning of territory ruled by a political entity, and that entity being Rome.

  • The whole oikoumene was to be registered (Lk. 2:1), the whole ‘world’ being the world that Caesar ruled over.
  • Agabus warns of a famine that would come on the whole oikoumene (Acts 11:8), this famine came during the reign of Claudius (Roman Emperor).
  • The Gospel proclamation turned the whole oikoumene upside down, the order of Rome (Acts 17:6-7).
  • Artemis was ‘worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the oikoumene‘ (Acts 19:27). The claim was that she was worshiped throughout the Roman province of Asia and beyond throughout the whole Roman Empire.

Luke is therefore using the term for the Graeco-Roman world, using it very concretely.

Back then to the temptations of Jesus. It is not too far a stretch to push Luke’s account of the temptations to being a concrete offer of the Roman Empire to Jesus. That fits with his consistent use. The offer of being the new Caesar: Jesus appointed as anti-Christ!

Luke 3 begins with the setting, not simply historically, but concretely and ‘spiritually’ in terms of the dominating powers:

In the fifteenth year of the reign Tiberius Caesar.

Replace Tiberius… bring about the change you want!

In Mark’s Gospel we have the intriguing extra that Jesus was in the wilderness with the ‘wild animals’. A truly eschatological scene fulfilling ‘the wolf will lie with the lamb’ (Is. 11:6 and Mk. 1:13), but perhaps given that Israel was the counterpart to Adam who is given responsibility for creation, for the animals, it was not surprising to have Israel as ‘son of man’ and all opposing kingdoms to be presented as beasts (wild animals, hence the description of political powers opposing heaven’s agenda as ‘beasts’). In Mark then there is probably also a hint of true shalom to the nations, even to the nations that opposed the direction of heaven.

He does not rule over the nations as per Rome; the Rome that brought peace through war! Jesus brought peace, but not peace as the world gives (woe to you who say ‘peace, peace’ fits this context). There is a shalom, true peace, the wild animals were with him.

Peace on earth, being the announcement from heaven (Lk. 2:14) then takes on a strong anti-imperial sense.

Kenarchy, love, politics, practicalities

We covered the four interviews in just an hour. Not sure about you but I could have extended each one to an hour or more, and then we would have opened up other areas… and if we had taken a breather I could have put Sue on for a few follow ups! All goes to say a deep appreciation for the resource they both have been to so many; not simply a resource – knowledge and perspective wise – but as people who come alongside.

I hope you have all found the interviews as stimulating and as encouraging as I did. One final one to come, but hold on just a minute!

If you would like to connect more with the writings and communications from Roger there are a number of ways you can do this.

His blog with a place to interact through the comments:

There is a Kenarchy Journal that Roger is the main editor for. Click on the image or the link to be taken there:

His academic papers and articles can be found here:


His books can be sourced through normal stockists.

The Church Gospel and Empire: How the Politics of Sovereignty impregnated the West

This is an adaptation of his PhD for publication as a book, and if you wish to engage with his original research this is what to read.

The Fall of the Church: I found this book ever so helpful. I profess to be deeply influenced by an AnaBaptist approach to Scripture and the Gospel (though go research the Dirk Willems story and see if I am genuine!) and expected that I would read something along the lines of ‘pre-Constantine pretty good; post-Constantine all goes wrong’. Much more profound. If ‘The Church, Gospel and Empire‘ is a read too-far, this one I would love to see everyone access and read.

Discovering Kenarchy

Discovering Kenarchy:

Written by a number of contributors pushing into the practicalities of an outworking in different areas of kenarchy.

And finally the video:

The cross

I talked with Roger on Good Friday, so thought what a day to ask about the cross. Given that his push toward his research was the encountering of the cross (video #1) at the very practical level of addressing the issue of corporate sin that had been expressed through the action of western colonialism… OK what I am saying is what a great few minutes this video is.

Kenarchy? Why that term, Roger

I did four zoom interviews with Roger Mitchell a couple of days back. Short, to the point, clear and… fun. I have known Roger and Sue for some decades and have loved their pioneering spirits, attitudes and actions. Roger pursued a path that took him into the world of academia (to producing a well-acclaimed PhD from Lancaster University), so my first question was related to what took him in that direction. Suffice to say not academia for academia’s sake! I will post one a day for the next days and will give various links after the last one to where you can follow through on his material.

The four videos will also become available for those who join me for Zoom groups. I now have some pre-work (work? mainly watch a video or two!) and some optional post-work,

My favourite easter story

What an event! The birth of new creation marked by the raising from the dead of the ‘firstborn of all creation’, closely followed by a whole group of saints in Jerusalem also being resurrected (only Matthew records this, but it indicates a major time warp). Then the first appearance and being identified as the ‘Gardener’ highlights the connection back to the former garden… and then.

The road to Emmaus.

If not a married couple, Luke records it in such a way that we are to think it is a married couple… but a married couple I strongly consider it is: Cleopas and his wife Mary. The man is revealed as Cleopas (Lk. 24:18), and we have his wife identified in John’s Gospel (variant of name Cleopas is used Clopas, variants not being unusual also where Aramaic and Hebrew languages being similar are quoted):

but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene (Jn. 19:25).

The parallels (explicit and implicit) are incredible. Imagine the two leaving Eden. The discussion, the heavy hearts, the disappointment. The road to Emmaus and also the heavy discussion, perhaps even the ‘he let us down in the end’ discussion.

  • Then the day is closing, the evening is drawing in, as they walk with a ‘stranger’. Just like that other Garden when God came to visit at the ‘cool of the day’, certainly a stranger to them.
  • Their action in Eden caused their eyes to be opened (to shame); he breaks the bread and their eyes were opened.
  • They leave Eden with the ‘death’ consequence ringing in their ears; they talk to the stranger informing him that the one who carried the hope for the future had been ‘condemned to death’.
  • Behind them was a cherubim with a flaming sword that stood guard so that access to the tree of life was banned to them; but the flame no longer external but burning now within them (Lk. 24:32).

I am sure there are more parallels, but here on resurrection morning, with the birth of ‘new creation’ that changes sight (2 Cor. 5:16,17 – kaine ktisis -‘new creation’, not new creature… see up to date translations) there is so much to see.

Sight all the way back to the beginning. The original commission is re-established; the future placed in the hands of humanity again. Placed in the hands of humanity for when they were expelled from Eden a stranger walked every step with them. Unrecognised, unrecognised even by the righteous who could (as did Jesus) quote Psalm 22 ‘My God, My God why have you forsaken me’. They might have left with the sound of ‘death’ in their ears but the Living God left Eden also carrying the consequence of death in his heart, trudging through the dust with them.

(And as we continue to read in Psalm 22

For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help (Ps. 22:24).

We realise that God did not turn away from Jesus on the cross. Far from it, he was ‘in Christ reconciling the world to himself’. Even the final words of Jesus on the cross ‘it is finished’ are likely to be a response to the last words of Psalm 22 – ‘he has done it’. The idea that God turned away from Jesus on the cross does not bear up – there is no split in the Trinity, not even a ‘creative dispute’!)

The path from Eden for God was the path to the cross; the path for humanity was to the tree of Life. The cross was indeed the final door closed to the tree of knowledge of good and evil that religion in particular has always sought to cultivate. Right / wrong are such sub-criteria in Scripture, the overriding criteria being that of life and death.

I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live (Deut. 30:19).

The resurrection.

  • Tells us God was with us and never left humanity. He walked from the Garden, determined that he would restore not a Garden but the whole of creation for and with us, where we could invite his permanent presence to be with us (no going to heaven then).
  • It tells us that we cannot flee from his presence; that he does not hide his face from us.
  • It tells us that the restoration of gender equality is essential for the way forward (and also what lies beyond gender, for there is not ‘male and female’).
  • It gives us sight back – to Eden and original purpose, and forward – to new creation; a creation that appears in contrast to this one as feminised, incomplete but to be explored (with the eschaton as both and end and a beginning).
  • It gives us new lenses to see others. Not through the lenses of categorisation but the lens of ‘image’, the ultimate lens being the Jesus’ lens.

Little wonder the couple did not sleep that night but made their way back to Jerusalem to tell the others. We live in that flow. The flow of resurrection.

The ‘arc’ of the books

I am revamping the whole section on the books so that they will actually be more streamlined and ready for a ‘course’. Bit of a laugh really. So I spent a whole day writing articles that would go with each chapter. Articles to explain what I have written. Then when the groups could meet they would discuss what I had written about what I had written – ever so creative? I showed my work proudly to Gayle… And I also heard the voice of a certain brother from Leeds: ‘too much!!!!’ So I started again. A good day’s work thought, but I have found I often need to think again.

Anyway the groups will consist of a few questions to think about, maybe a podcast or a video (neither longer than 10 minutes), with any extra articles fairly short and as optional extras. No one will need to read what I have written about what I have written!! I will leave a few articles covering material beyond the books but they will be optional.

There is one article that is somewhat longer and I am publishing it here also. It is on the trajectory of the books… and of course now you will really want to buy them? BTW: if you wish to join a zoom group I hope to run a couple on book 1 Humanising the Divine in May through June.

The ‘arc’ is important to understand to grasp my intentions. I have not written for someone who comes from a fixed evangelical position. To try and engage with such a person would probably result in that person throwing stones from their corner, and I would probably try and throw stones back. They are probably smarter than me so their stones would be bigger, their aim more accurate… but when all is done and dusted the whole exercise would be fruitless, not to mention my bruises and their win! Ouch on both counts.

My overarching arc and theirs would be so different there would be no / little point of contact. I do write from that background, but probably have moved further than I realise, for often change is gradual and can almost go unnoticed.

The first book I consider is the foundation and for that reason the Zoom groups take it chapter by chapter. The first chapter is putting humanity at the centre of the discussion, suggesting:

  • that God has a wonderful focus on humanity; the Incarnation being essential so that the ‘unknown’ God might be known as revealed in the face of Jesus.
  • That Jesus, fully God and fully human was also truly human. In being fully human there is a growing process that he experienced, a growing (and learning process) through to maturity.
  • To fall short of being truly human is at the heart of sin, the aim of the demonic being to dehumanise, thus every aspect that is valuable (and God-like) is to humanise.

There are then three chapters that relate together. They focus on three individuals, Judas, Peter and Cornelius. They might bring some fresh insights about the characters but the purpose of the chapters is to sit in the arc. Judas betrays Jesus, but we all have betrayed Jesus. He betrays Jesus as he seeks to direct the outcome of his mission. The ‘I know better’ is his downfall. The narrative I give is one that I consider fits both the texts we have and also the historical setting. Peter is not too dissimilar. The betrayer or the deniar, the parallels are clear. Peter is a paradigm of those that God ‘builds’ on! Flaky and weak, yet chosen. He also gives us clear insight to the personal and corporate journey – one of facing previous understandings (clarities) and discovering through the puzzles that our convictions are not always rooted in a deep knowing of God. For there to be advances there has to be a ‘conversion’ of those who already have convictions and understandings. The Cornelius passage does not answer all the questions but the confession that someone who was formerly unclean (Gentile) can no longer be called unclean, and that there was an acceptance by God for such a person before they made a response to Jesus. Those chapters seek to track with the arc of heaven’s universal mission toward growing a new society, namely ‘a new heaven and a new earth’, not separated but integrated.

The Judas chapter is about Judas being the sharp end (of betrayal), thus he respresents us all. Our vision corporate is what often betrays Jesus… The cultural barriers that were in place, and the spiritual powers that shaped the distorted views of God, were incredible, hence the money / weakness is at one level not an issue, but the false (and passionate) vision of the kingdom is what betrays Jesus. Betrayal is necessary to lead to the cross, as betrayal of the generous vision of God took place first in the garden. Betrayal in the face of life-poured-out love. Betrayal leads to death in both situations, the gardens of Eden and Gethsemane. There is a move away from Life as the shaping framework, to one where being in control with the knowledge of good and evil was the betrayal, taking control of God’s vision. (This becomes even further perverted with Babel / Babylon where it is no longer God’s vision that is perverted but a godless vision – a tower that reaches heaven… however I think the critique of all visions that take control are that they are a form of Babylon?) The consequence of taking control is death… However the path out of Eden eastward is the walk God embarked on with them… eventually leads to Incarnation where the walk with humanity is physical and deeply intimate. This journey that God embarks on was hidden from their eyes – shame does this. The married couple on the road to Emmaus (Cleopas and Mary – Adam and Eve so to speak) finally saw this. Their eyes were opened not to realise shame but glory when they saw that he was walking with them: they saw what was always true. Until that point they had thought that Jesus had betrayed the vision of God. The cross is the end to wrong visions of the kingdom… Reminiscent of the question ‘Where is God now’ that was thrown at Eli Weisel as the young boy was hanged in the concentration camp. Where is God revealed?… There he is, hanging on the tree… was Weisel’s response. On the tree – the cross. Hence take up your cross and follow me.

In the next chapter we move beyond the time of the historical life of Jesus, to the intersection with Cornelius that is also beyond Pentecost and acts as the door opener in the Spirit to Paul. (Beyond Pentecost but as a result of Pentecost.) It also is a paradigm of every move beyond boundaries, hence it sits at this point in the book. This is the Gospel touching the Gentiles (the word is ta ethne: it is the word we get ethnicity from and in mission usage is often taken to mean ethnic groups… but it is the generic term for those who are not of the covenant, i.e. non-Jews. Hence I suggest a paradigm for every boundary crossing.)

Following on from the interaction with Cornelius is the chapter on witness, that contrasts the narrow view of evangelism that can be perverted into treating people as objects to be saved, thus not being good news but aligning with the work of dehumanisation.

The next chapter is a preliminary look at the cross, seeking to make the point that the ‘when’ of the cross is important to discover ‘what’ the cross accomplished. I therefore describe the cross as a roadblock that is placed on the path of destruction that humanity has chosen; and that it is first for the Jew then for the Gentile. (The cross is looked at in more detail in the fourth book.)

The first book then ends with a joining chapter to the next books. A reminder that the tree Jesus died on was the problem tree in the garden of Eden: the tree of knowledge of good and evil; and that from his side came forth a suitable partner for the work within creation. Those chapters I consider are very foundational and open up the following books. In summary those books follow this trajectory:

Book 2 (‘Significant Other’) presents the ‘church’ as ekklesia, essentially a political term. Thus suggesting that a ‘movement’ paradigm is at the heart of the understanding of what ‘church’ was always meant to be.

The approach to Scripture (seeking to read it narratively as related to the historical context) opens up necessary possibilities to be considered. Rather than simply taking texts and approaching them as timeless truths it becomes the task of understanding them in context. Hence Jesus is addressing Jews (as is the majority of the Bible). The broad road / narrow road is related to the Roman Imperial conquest – few will find the way that is to safety / salvation, but many are and will remain on the road to destruction; I suggest his references to hell (Gehenna) by Jesus are references to AD70; ‘born again’ is addressed to a religious Jew (whose journey in the gospels is to new birth, but ever so slow!). Likewise ‘no name under heaven by which we are to be saved’ is addressed to Jews… Abraham is not the name by which they will be saved… and they have a generation in which to align with Jesus, otherwise not one stone upon another will be their experience. The historical journey is from Jew to Gentile; the theological journey likewise: first the Jew and then the Gentiles. First the Jews sinned; also the Gentiles – thus all have sinned and ‘fallen short’. Likewise salvation is historically and theologically to the Jew first and then to the Gentiles. I therefore don’t think we can simply jump from verses that we collect together and then prove our point. For even the cross of Jesus, which is totally universal in scope, is for Jews and males… They have to die – they are the ‘sharp’ end of sin. In the same way that we all betray Jesus, but Judas is the sharp end. Likewise all have sinned, but there is a ‘sharp’ end. Hence I also want in the light of new creation to purge the Bible of its patriarchy, suggesting the Bible demands we do that!

I see the whole context is from creation, creation gone wrong that needs to be fixed / healed, to the new society where there are no divides. Death is a divide, a separation; death leads to divides. Jesus death ends the divides, ends the knowledge path that religion had polished, exposing that path as empty with ‘they know not what they do’. Religion is the top layer of the knowledge of good and evil so is the first element to be touched at the cross. From there is opened up one new humanity of no longer Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male and female. Questions of who is saved takes a back seat, not everything of the kingdom is in the church. And not all our churchiness is in the kingdom. The work of the ekklesia is in the kingdom and for the kingdom’s increase but we do not have to (and cannot) affirm that is true of what we have produced as ‘church’.

The trajectory moves us toward a greater and challenging understanding of the universal mission of God. A mission / vision for the new heaven and earth.

Church, in that sense (ekklesia), is important but not the form / shape / structure of it. And I am more than open to the strong possibility that Paul only had vision of the first step. Even the first step might be very different today, and the second, third etc. might be beyond the biblical record… not beyond the biblical story, but beyond the biblical text.

Book 3 (A Subversive Movement) seeks to explore how all of this ekklesia as movement embeds in society. It has to be subversive, from the bottom up, rather than a vision to impose values on society. Any truly apostolic vision will therefore have to have patience, transformation will not take place overnight. It also has to engage the ‘little people’ for the work of God is done through that ‘that is not’, marked by ‘not many wise, rich, powerful’ having been chosen.

The final book in the series Life Line is a push into Pauline theology, with a final re-visit to the cross where alongside the ‘road-block’ suggestion from book 1 I put at centre is the need for ‘cleansing’. I push away from any split in the Trinity (angry God, loving Son) which leaves us with a conflict within God, and a conflict between the Persons of the Godhead, even if we were to stretch it to a creative conflict, it nevertheless remains a conflict!

Being an exploration in theology there are directions that could be pursued (indeed that seems to me to be the nature of the Bible with its many wonderful internal dialogues). Issues related to sexuality and gender are certainly implied as new creation does not consist of ‘male and female’, exhibited I would suggest in the resurrection (or if not resurrection, the acension) of Jesus who rises as a human, this resurrection I would consider being neither ‘male nor female’.

The four books lay a foundation for such discussions and perhaps other volumes could have been added that address issues of eschatology, though the intention of the four volumes is to suggest a direction that would be appropriate on these subjects.

(I intend to write on eschatology but to publish them solely in eBook format.)