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Analysis Of John Crossan

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Crossan asserts that the human body is a microcosm for the body politic, citing anthropologist Mary Douglas who states, "the body is a symbol of society" (77). This means that interactions between individuals serve as the basis for the macrocosm. Individuals are confined systems with distinct boundaries that are continuously guarding against outside threats. On the macrocosmic level, the ancient Roman patronal system offered severe consequences to those who fell outside or violated social boundaries. Chapter 4 entitled "In the Beginning is the Body" recognizes Jesus as a direct risk to society because of his adherence to open commensality and radical egalitarianism. But, despite the differences that estrange Roman society from Jesus' community, the two groups are linked upon one important commonality.

Leadership power in ancient Roman society was maintained through a careful arrangement of social boundaries. These protective boundaries were symbolized by an explicit separation of the clean and unclean or the "us" and "them". This ideology was initiated at the individual level by establishing the human body as a confined system that required certain standards in order to remain "clean" and acceptable. Rules or "margins" regarding eating, drinking, and socializing between classes were strictly followed because one's home and table were the groundwork for empowering ancient Rome (68). When margins are no longer clear, the fibers that collate a national culture begin to tear at the seams. On the macrocosmic level, ancient Roman society employed a patronal system, which was upheld by a sense of moral duty that extended through the hierarchical ranks down to the most destitute (97). This system demanded adherence to social norms and severely punished individuals who did not preserve these boundaries. For example, the leper was often characterized as one of the most unclean and despised figures of society. Crossan suggests that the leper is not a danger as a result of his medical condition, but rather because of the "symbolic contamination" that threatened to compromise the identity of society (79). The leper was perceived as unclean because his disease rendered him different than "normal" people. On the other hand, Jesus advocated open commensality, which is the acceptance of all people equally. Jesus refused to treat the leper as an ostracized member of society and welcomed him into the Kingdom of God. This act of bringing the marginalized back into the community infuriated Rome, but spread Jesus' reputation as a "healer". Jesus' crucial purpose was not to literally heal individuals of disease, but to denounce the stigma of uncleanness associated with the destitute by receiving them back into the macrocosm (82).

Crossan uses his argument of the body in relation to the macrocosm to give the reader an understanding of why Jesus, a mere Jewish peasant, encountered such resistance throughout his mission. Jesus did not meet opposition as a result of his willingness to selflessly accept others or heal the sick, but because his actions endangered the very forefront of Roman society. His radical egalitarianism, which sought to equalize all of humanity within a Kingdom of God, challenged the patronal system that protected Roman power and leadership. Rather than follow the wishes of his family and remain in Nazareth to form a modest healing center where the sick could visit, Jesus was determined to travel in search of the needy. Jesus recognized that remaining in Nazareth would have acted to further patronal society, setting Jesus as the patron and his family as brokers seeking clients (99).

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