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The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics



Did Jesus ever do anything wrong? Judging by the vast majority of books on New Testament ethics, the answer is a resounding “No.” But since the historical Jesus was a human being, must he not have had flaws, like everyone else? 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 practiced by Jesus, but antithetical to what would be widely deemed “acceptable” or “good” today. 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.


1. Introduction
Basic Elements of the Argument

2. The Unloving Jesus: What’s New Is Old
Loving the Enemy in the Ancient Near East
Love Can Entail Violence
The Golden Rule: Love as Tactical
The Parochialism of New Testament Ethics

3. The Hateful Jesus: Luke 14.26
Jesus Commands Hate
Expressing Preference
Hate as a Motive for Divorce
The Statistics of Hate and Love
The Semantic Logic of Love and Hate

4. The Violent Jesus
Matthew 10.34-37: Jesus’ Violent Purpose
Matthew 5.38-42: Don’t Victimize Me, Please
Matthew. 26.48-56: Non-Interference with Planned Violence
John 2.15: Whipping up Pacifism
Acts 9: Jesus Assaults Saul

5. The Suicidal Jesus: The Violent Atonement
Jesus as a Willing Sacrificial Victim
Mark 10.45: Self-Sacrifice as a Ransom
Sacrifice as Service: Transformation or Denial?
2 Corinthians 5.18: Anselm Unrefuted
René Girard: Sacrificing Apologetics

6. The Imperialist Jesus: We’re All God’s Slaves
Rethinking “Anti-Imperialism”
Selective Anti-Imperialism
The Benign Rhetoric of Imperialism
Christ as Emperor
The Kingdom of God as an Empire

7. The Anti-Jewish Jesus: Socio-Rhetorical Criticism as Apologetics
Abuse Me, Please: Luke T. Johnson’s Apologetics
When is Anti-Judaism not Anti-Judaism?
When Did Christian Anti-Judaism Begin?

8. The Uneconomic Jesus as Enemy of the Poor
Jesus as Radical Egalitarian
The Fragrance of Poverty
Sermon on the Mount of Debts and Merits

9. The Misogynistic Jesus: Christian Feminism as Male Ancestor Worship
Mark 7//Matthew 15: The Misogynistic Jesus
Mark 10//Matthew 19: Divorcing Equality
The Womanless Twelve Apostles
The Last Supper: Guess Who’s Not Coming to Dinner
The Egalitarian Golden Age under Jesus

10. The Anti-Disabled Jesus: Less than Fully Human
Disability Studies
John 5 and 9: Redeeming Jesus
The Ethics of Punctuation
Paralyzed by Sin

11. The Magically Anti-Medical Jesus
Miracles, Not Magic?
The Naturalistic Jesus
Psychosomatic Ethics

12. The Eco-Hostile Jesus
Mark 5: Animal Rights and Deviled Ham
Luke 22 and Matthew 8: Sacrificing Animal Rights
Matthew 21: Figuratively Speaking
Mark 13: Eschatological Eco-Destruction

13. The Anti-Biblical Jesus: Missed Interpretations
Mel and Jesus: The Hypocrisy of New Testament Ethics
Mark 2:23-28: Jesus as Biblically Illiterate
Matthew 19: Jesus Adds his Own Twist on Divorce
Isaiah 6:9-10: Integrating Extrabiblical Materials

14. Conclusion
The Ethics of New Testament Ethics


“This is a wonderful book! Unflinching in its courage, ‘deep and wide’ in its scholarship. The western world is suffering from a huge blind spot–the unquestioned myth that Jesus was all good. Where does that idea come from? I even know atheists who, while denying his divinity, still believe that the Christ was a great moral leader. After reading The Bad Jesus, they won’t make that error any more.”
– Dan Barker, Former minister and evangelist, Public Relations Director of the Freedom From Religion Foundation, author of Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist.

“The Bad Jesus is a 461 page monster of a book written by the prolific and indefatigable biblical scholar Dr. Hector Avalos. It’s unlike any other scholarly book on the market today. It tells us the rest of the story of the Jesus we find in the four gospels, the dark side, the raw side that biblical scholars try to whitewash over because they think Jesus deserves special treatment. Dr. Avalos, a giant of a man, a scholar’s scholar, challenges readers to see what Jesus was really like. My guess is that people won’t like Jesus after reading his book. I don’t.”
– John Loftus, M.A. and M.Div. degrees, former minister, adjunct instructor in philosophy at Kellogg Community College, author of The Christian Delusion: Why Faith Fails, The End of Christianity and Why I Became an Atheist: A Former Preacher Rejects Christianity.

“Dr. Hector Avalos has done tireless, faultless research into ancient and modern texts to expose Biblical literature as human, not divine. His patience and methodolgy have resulted in a work that should help serious Biblical Studies students and others gain a better understanding of the motives and methods behind the evolution of Christian philosophies and the false underpinning of its ethics. His ability to show how words can be manipulated, when taken at face value as ‘factual,’ is simply impressive. If this book doesn’t change the thought processes for millions of readers, I can only surmise that they deliberately choose ignorance.”
– Tom Harvey

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