Posted by: rogermitchell | May 30, 2010

The politics of Jesus

I like the implication of Luke’s introduction to the kingdom of God in Luke 3 that suggests that Jesus’ reign began while the kingdoms of this world were in full power cf: Luke 3:1 and 3:23. The phrase translated variously as Jesus “began his ministry” or “began his teaching”, or “began to preach” or “began to be” in 3:23 is based around the Greek word archos which Strong’s dictionary interestingly defines as “a primary verb; to be first (in political rank or power): – reign (rule) over.” While it can carry the lesser sense of “commence” or “begin” it is a very significant root meaning in the context of the hegemenous rulership of his political contemporaries of 1: 1-3. This juxtaposition of two kinds of rulership is helpful in understanding the politics of Jesus. Putting the two verses together it reads as follows: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip was tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, Jesus began to be first in political rank or began his rule.” This affirms Jesus’ rulership as of a completely different order to the domination system of this world.

So much of the contemporary thinking about the politics of Jesus is about taking power within the system rather than advocating a totally different kind of power. But the kind of political strategy derived from juxtaposing the contrasting political leadership in these verses demotes the recognised rulers of this world.  Or as my friend Mike Love has it “disregards” the current system. As an Italian woman here in Turin where I am currently teaching noted when looking afresh at the Magnificat, Jesus had regard for Mary, not the rulers of the day. In the Italian, the word “regard” carries the literal sense of looked twice. If we doubly regard the humble as the source of political power and disregard the mighty then the rulers will come down from their thrones, and the humble will be exalted. The hungry will be filled with good things and the rich sent away empty-handed.

Comments please from Greek scholars and advocates of radical theopolitics!

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Responses

  1. Applause and hallelujahs from me.

  2. Hi Roger, I only just wrote a chapter for my thesis about the greek word ‘archos’. I created a taxonomy of power structures based on that word: monarchy, oligarchy, demarchy, omniarchy and anarchy and used them to classify the types of decision-making stages in a number of online filmmaking projects. Not incredibly theopolitical, perhaps, but worth a mention. Take care, Jem

    • Thanks for this Jem. It’s great to hear from you. Is any of the chapter available for general consumption?
      Cheers
      Rog


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