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John Dominic Crossan

John Dominic Crossan
File:11 08 6972 John Dominic Crossan.jpg
Born (1934-02-17) February 17, 1934 (age 86)
Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland
Nationality Irish, American
Occupation Theologian, scholar, former priest
Religion Christian
Spouse(s) Margaret Dagenais (1969–1983)
Sarah Sexton (1986–present)

John Dominic Crossan (born February 17, 1934[1]) is an Irish-American New Testament scholar, historian of early Christianity, and former Catholic priest who has produced both scholarly and popular works. His research has focused on the historical Jesus, on the anthropology of the Ancient Mediterranean and New Testament worlds and on the application of postmodern hermeneutical approaches to the Bible.

Crossan is a major scholar in contemporary historical Jesus research.[2] In particular, he and Burton Mack are notable advocates for a non-eschatological view of Jesus, a view that contradicts the more common view that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher.[2] While contemporary scholars see more value in noncanonical gospels than past scholars did, Crossan goes further and identifies a few noncanonical gospels as earlier than and superior to the canonical ones.[2]


Crossan was born in Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.Though his father was a banker, Crossan was steeped in the rural Irish life, which he experienced through frequent visits to the home of his paternal grandparents. On graduation from Saint Eunan's College, a boarding high school, in 1950, Crossan joined the Servites, a Catholic religious order, and moved to the United States. He was trained at Stonebridge Seminary, Lake Bluff, Illinois, then ordained a priest in 1957. Crossan returned to Ireland, where he earned his Doctor of Divinity in 1959 at St. Patrick's College Maynooth, the Irish national seminary. He then completed two more years of study in biblical languages at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome. In 1965 Crossan began two additional years of study (in archaeology) at the Ecole Biblique in Jordanian East Jerusalem. During this time, he travelled through several countries in the region, escaping just days before the outbreak of the Six Day War of 1967.[3]

After a year at St. Mary of the Lake Seminary in Mundelein, Illinois, and a year at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, Crossan chose to resign his priesthood. In the fall of 1969 he joined the faculty of DePaul University, where he taught undergraduates Comparative Religion for twenty-six years until retiring in 1995. In 1985, Crossan and Robert Funk founded the Jesus Seminar, a group of academics studying the historical Jesus, and Crossan served as co-chair for its first decade. Crossan also served as president of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research in 1978–1979, and as president of the Society of Biblical Literature in 2012.

Crossan married Margaret Dagenais, a professor at Loyola University Chicago in the summer of 1969. She died in 1983 due to a heart attack. In 1986, Crossan married Sarah Sexton, a social worker with two grown children. Since his retirement from academia, Crossan has lived in the Orlando, Florida, area, remaining active in research, writing, and teaching seminars.[citation needed]

Views and methodology

Jesus was a healer and man of great wisdom and courage who taught a message of inclusiveness, tolerance, and liberation. "His strategy . . . was the combination of free healing and common eating . . . that negated the hierarchical and patronal normalcies of Jewish religion and Roman power . . . He was neither broker nor mediator but . . . the announcer that neither should exist between humanity and divinity or humanity and itself."[4]

Out of his study of cross-attestation and strata of the ancient texts, Crossan asserts that many of the gospel stories of Jesus are not factual, including his "nature miracles", the virgin birth, and the raising of Lazarus.[citation needed] While pointing out the meager attestation and apparent belatedness of the miracles' appearance in the trajectory of the canon, Crossan takes the opposite view, that Jesus was known during earliest Christianity as a powerful magician, which was "a very problematic and controversial phenomenon not only for his enemies but even for his friends," who began washing miracles out of the tradition early on.[citation needed]

Crossan maintains the Gospels were never intended by their authors to be taken literally .[citation needed] He argues that the meaning of the story is the real issue, not whether a particular story about Jesus is history or parable.[citation needed] He proposes that it is historically probable that, like all but one known victim of crucifixion, Jesus' body was scavenged by animals rather than being placed in a tomb.[5] Crossan believes in vision hypothesis "resurrection" by faith but holds that bodily resuscitation was never contemplated by early Christians.[citation needed] He has debated Christian apologist William Lane Craig over the resurrection of Jesus.[6] He believes that the rapture is based on a misreading of I Thessalonians 4:16–18.[citation needed]

Central to Crossan's methodology is the dating of texts.[7] This is laid out more or less fully in The Historical Jesus in one of the appendices. He dates part of the Coptic Gospel of Thomas to the 50s CE, as well as the first layer of the hypothetical Q Document (in this he is heavily dependent on the work of John Kloppenborg). He also assigns a portion of the Gospel of Peter, which he calls the "Cross Gospel," to a date preceding the synoptic gospels, the reasoning of which is laid out more fully in The Cross that Spoke: The Origin of the Passion Narratives. He believes the "Cross Gospel" was the forerunner to the passion narratives in the canonical gospels. He does not date the synoptics until the mid to late 70s CE, starting with the Gospel of Mark and ending with Luke in the 90s. As for the Gospel of John, he believes part was constructed at the beginning of the 2nd century CE and another part closer to the middle of the century. Following Rudolf Bultmann, he believes there is an earlier "Signs Source" for John as well. His dating methods and conclusions are quite controversial, particularly regarding the dating of Thomas and the "Cross Gospel."[citation needed] The very early dating of these non-canonical sources has not been accepted by many biblical scholars.[8]

In God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (2007), Crossan starts with the presumption of reader familiarity with key points from his earlier work on the nonviolent revolutionary Jesus, his Kingdom movement, and the surrounding matrix of the Roman imperial theological system of religion, war, victory, peace, but discusses them in the broader context of the escalating violence in world politics and popular culture of today. Within that matrix, he points out, early in the book, that "(t)here was a human being in the first century who was called 'Divine,' 'Son of God,' 'God,' and 'God from God,' whose titles were 'Lord,' 'Redeemer,' 'Liberator,' and 'Saviour of the World.'" "(M)ost Christians probably think that those titles were originally created and uniquely applied to Christ. But before Jesus ever existed, all those terms belonged to Caesar Augustus."[9] Crossan cites the adoption of them by the early Christians to apply to Jesus as denying them of Caesar the Augustus. "They were taking the identity of the Roman emperor and giving it to a Jewish peasant. Either that was a peculiar joke and a very low lampoon, or it was what the Romans called majestas and we call high treason." [9] He ends the book asking the question "Is Bible-fed Christian violence supporting or even instigating our imperial violence as the New Roman Empire?"[citation needed]

Religious beliefs

Crossan still identifies as a Christian but no longer belongs or wishes to belong to an organized Christian denomination.[10]



  1. ^ Official website, Diary showing 14th birthday, Retrieved April 2, 2013.
  2. ^ a b c Theissen, Gerd and Annette Merz. The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Fortress Press. 1998. translated from German (1996 edition). Chapter 1. The quest of the historical Jesus. p. 1–15.
  3. ^ A Long Way from Tipperary: A Memoir (2000)
  4. ^ The Historical Jesus, p 421-22
  5. ^ Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (1994)
  6. ^ Copan, Paul. (1999). Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?: A Debate between William Lane Craig and John Dominic Crossan. USA: Baker Academic. ISBN 0-8010-2175-8
  7. ^ Wright, N.T. Jesus and the Victory of God, pp. 44–62. Fortress Press: Minneapolis, 1996.
  8. ^ Theissen, Gerd; Merz, Annette (1998). The historical Jesus: a comprehensive guide. Minneapolis: Fortress Press. ISBN 978-0-8006-3122-2.  footnote
  9. ^ a b Crossan, John Dominic, God and Empire, 2007, p. 28
  10. ^ John Dominic Crossan's "blasphemous" portrait of Jesus, CNN International Edition, 27 February 2011

External links

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