Getting the Story Straight
This is the first in a series that looks at the life of Jesus and contrasts the story that has come down through the ages with what probably really happened. The most basic belief associated with Christianity is the commonly accepted dictum that “Jesus died for your sins”. That by some strange logic, God the Father needed a sacrifice, and Jesus was the guy. Hymns and liturgies and movies are filled with images of being saved by the blood of the Lamb, the suffering of the Son, the Cross of the Savior. No doubt due in part to the repulsiveness of the whole scenario, there has never been in the church an established doctrine of the atonement, a position that says you have to believe this in order to be a Christian. St Anselm in the 12th c offered a theory, but it was only that. The idea was that humanity had offended an infinite God, that God required an infinite satisfaction, and only his Son had sufficient merit to satisfy the debt due. His death paid the price. Not a convincing argument and hardly a foundation on which to build one’s life. So we are led to the conclusion that there has to be another way to understand the death of Jesus, and there is.
Plainly and simply, Jesus was crucified because he was a troublemaker. Plainly and simply, Jesus had started a movement that threatened the power structure, the established economic/social system that benefited the rich and powerful, and so he was eliminated. Pilate was a ruthless governor who no doubt collaborated with economic interests, and issued the order to execute Jesus should the opportunity present itself. His death was neither central nor peripheral to God’s “plan of salvation”. There are plenty of reasons why Jesus was crucified, but appeasing an angry God and procuring eternal salvation for those who believe was not one of them. He might have lived to a ripe old age, but his revolutionary lifestyle determined otherwise.
The resurrection is a different matter. Next time.
Read All Parts Here.
Dr. Carl Krieg received his BA from Dartmouth College, MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. He is the author of What to Believe? the Questions of Christian Faith, The Void and the Vision and The New Matrix: How the World We Live In Impacts Our Thinking About Self and God. As professor and pastor, Dr. Krieg has taught innumerable classes and led many discussion groups. He lives with his wife Margaret in Norwich, VT.