Jesus as 'radical social prophet' : an appraisal of Richard Horsley's Jesus and the spiral of violence (1987)
Traditionally, Jesus and the contents of the Bible have always been thought of as exclusively concerned with spiritual and religious matters. The topic of Jesus and the social and political dimensions of the Gospel is therefore still a controversial idea for many Christians. Responses to the notion of Jesus as a social and political figure range from ignorance to avoidance and even resistance. Nevertheless scholars continue, in various ways, to explore and integrate the relationship between the religious, social and political dimensions of Jesus' words and actions. The aim of this study is to critically evaluate the notion of Jesus as 'radical social prophet‘ as set out in Horsley‘s book Jesus and the Spiral of Violence (1987). The purpose is to establish the historical validity of this notion and to determine its significance and implications for contemporary Christian reflection, teaching and discipleship. The study describes the development and impact of the social sciences on the interpretation of the New Testament. It also explains Horsley‘s presuppositions and method. An analysis of Horsley's construction of the historical, social and political context of Jesus‘ first century world is made. Horsley‘s view of the Kingdom of God is also discussed. The grammatico–historical examination of Horsley‘s reading of selected key biblical and extra–biblical texts forms a crucial part of the investigation. An appraisal of Horsley‘s notion of Jesus as 'radical social prophet‘ is made and its implications noted. The study finds adequate grounds for seeing Jesus fulfilling the role of a 'radical social prophet‘ in the same manner as the Old Testament prophets. The conclusion reached is that Horsley‘s (1987) notion of Jesus as 'radical social prophet‘, while inadequate to account for the theological nature and mission of Jesus, is nevertheless useful to highlight the often overlooked social and political dimensions of Jesus and the Gospels.
- Theology