Bad Boy, Bad Jesus, Bad Bad Jesus: Reviewing “The Bad Jesus” by Dr. Avalos, Part 2

The Bad Jesus: The Ethics of New Testament Ethics is a 461 page monster of a book written by 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 by contrast takes off the blinders, forcing readers to see what Jesus was really like.

My guess is that people won't like Jesus after reading his book. I don't. He's not a guy I would want living next to me, or being around my children, or writing a column in a magazine, or politically involved in America that's for sure. No one should. Let's even have done with the notion Jesus was an over-all good person. I would want little to do with him. You might too after reading this wonderfully researched, one-of-a-kind book on an essential issue in disabusing Christians of their faith.

In the future when someone says Jesus was sinless, respond by saying "Bad Jesus." If someone holds up Jesus as an example of a good life, hold up Hector's book "Bad Jesus" in response. If someone asks, "What would Jesus do?," respond by asking them to read "Bad Jesus." It is the antidote to people who indefensibly think Jesus was a perfect human being. It is the corrective to believers who think we need a red-letter edition of the New Testament. It tells us the rest of the story, a story that most people and most Christians have never heard before.

Having said this I want readers to take a look at the contents of his book below, including selected quotes I've chosen from what Avalos writes in each chapter. Keep in mind I make no pretense to summarizing these chapters, only providing a few quotes that might provoke you to read it, which you should. See for yourselves:

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

Selected quote from Avalos:
"In contrast to the claims of many Christian ethicists, Jesus is not an innovator in ethics, and certainly not in his approach to love. At the least he is not the originator of the concept of loving your enemy, which is already found in both Jewish and ancient Near Eastern sources centuries before Jesus came on the scene...Any requirement to love one’s enemy must be balanced by Jesus’ belief in deferred violence, which is rarely mentioned by New Testament ethicists...Jesus, as the innovator of a thoroughly selfless and altruistic love ethic, is mainly the creation of Christian ethicists. (pp. 48-49)
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

Selected quotes from Avalos:
Luke 14.26, perhaps the most prominent example of ‘hate speech’ by Jesus, reads:

"If any one comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple (Lk. 14.26)."

Although the text seems as clear an expression of literal hate as any text found anywhere, Christian apologists have attempted to erase or lessen its negative connotations. (p. 51)
Selected quote from Avalos:
The Greek word miseō [translated "hate" in Luke 14.26] has as consistent and as strong a meaning as any word in the entire Greek lexicon. It does not vary or is not subject to as much flexibility as other words may be. (p. 54)
Selected quote from Avalos:
How would we judge a modern religious leader who said that we should prefer him over our families? Why would we not treat such a person as an egomaniacal cult leader who does what all cult leaders do: transfer allegiance from one’s family to him or her...Jesus was perpetuating a well-known tradition of leadership that was ultimately based on ancient Near Eastern master–servant and lord–vassal relationships, which demanded that the lord receive the total allegiance of any subordinates even at the expense of their own lives and families.(p. 89)
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

Selected quote by Avalos:
The most explicit affirmation that Jesus views himself as coming to bring war, not peace to the earth, is found in Matthew.
Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it (Mt. 10.34-37).
Jesus’ rhetoric is not only blatantly violent, but it violates all precepts of honoring father and mother (Exod. 20.12), and loving your neighbor (Lev. 19.18), evinced in the Hebrew Bible. (p. 91)
Selected quote by Avalos:
The god of the Hebrew Bible could harm those who disobeyed him, but that harm usually was imposed during one’s earthly lifetime. Jesus’ view of violence is infinitely greater in quality and quantity because he is portrayed as eternally burning and torturing those who opposed his religious beliefs and his empire otherwise known as the Kingdom of God. (p. 128)
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

Selected quote from Avalos:
The effort to minimize or eliminate the violent nature of Jesus’ atoning self-sacrifice, especially by self-described Christian pacifists, is part of a theological agenda, and not anything that can be shown on historical or linguistic grounds. Even if one does not accept Anselm’s view of the reason for why a god-man had to be sacrificed, it is clear that the New Testament is firmly within those Near Eastern traditions that viewed sacrifice as one method to avert divine wrath or to gain a deity’s favor.

On the contrary, the New Testament view of atonement represents a retrogression relative to some other Near Eastern cultures that had replaced human death penalties with monetary or animal substitutes. (p. 149)
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

Selected quote from Avalos:
What Jesus was presumably advocating was no less imperialistic than the Roman empire when he spoke of the Kingdom of God. (p. 170)
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?

Selected quote from Avalos:
The refusal to admit that anti-Judaism may be attributed to Jesus, even if he was Jewish, is more the product of Christian theological apologetics than it is the result of rigorous critical scholarship. (p. 195)
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

Selected quote from Avalos:
The better way to understand the economics of any historical Jesus is to see him as a cult leader who demanded the type of loyalty that was well known among ancient despotic emperors. Just as cult leaders in ancient or modern times seek to transfer loyalty from family to themselves, so Jesus wanted to transfer loyalty from families to him regardless of how it might have destroyed their function and viability. In terms of economics, Karl Marx never had a better example of a cold-hearted or foolhardy religious capitalist who profited from real labor and gave nothing but empty or unverifiable heavenly promises for wages. The fact that so many New Testament ethicists praise Jesus as friend of the poor says more about the ethics of New Testament ethics than it does about Jesus. (p. 227)
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

Selected quote from Avalos:
Christian feminist biblical scholarship paradoxically is still heavily invested in maintaining the elevated ethical status of a man named Jesus...Christian feminists will sometimes throw ancient women under the proverbial bus to ensure that Jesus was good... (pp. 278-79)
10. The Anti-Disabled Jesus: Less than Fully Human
Disability Studies
John 5 and 9: Redeeming Jesus
The Ethics of Punctuation
Paralyzed by Sin

Selected quote from Avalos:
There is sufficient evidence to demonstrate that Jesus did consider disability and illness to be the result of sin (e.g., Mk 2.10-11; Jn 5.14)...Historically, the consequences of Jesus’ perpetuation of the connection between sin and disability have been very negative. First, it made it permissible for Christians to marginalize and even persecute the disabled. This is the case, especially in sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, with those suffering mental illnesses that were sometimes interpreted as demon possession or reflective of the practice of witchcraft. Second, the connection between sin and illness delayed the scientific study of illness...(p. 302)
11. The Magically Anti-Medical Jesus
Miracles, Not Magic?
The Naturalistic Jesus
Psychosomatic Ethics

Selected quote from Avalos:
John D. Crossan says that ‘religion is official and approved magic; magic is unofficial and unapproved religion’. (p. 307)
12. The Eco-Hostile Jesus
Mark 5: Animal Rights and Deviled Ham
Luke 22 and Matthew 8: Sacrificing Animal Rights
Matthew 21: Fig-uratively Speaking
Mark 13: Eschatological Eco-Destruction

Selected quotes from Avalos:
The eschatology of Jesus has proved to be a formidable challenge to an eco-friendly view of the Bible...(p. 346).


Mark 13 places Jesus’ discourse squarely within the long Near Eastern tradition of rulers who destroy the environments of those who don’t obey their dominion...Environmental destruction was both punitive and pragmatic, as it would deprive enemies of their resources and instill enough terror to ensure compliance. (p. 351).


There was no logical reason why the author of Mark could not conceive of a god who could heal the entire planet of its sin or transgressive behavior without destroying it. (p. 355)


Jesus was a human being as ignorant and as eco-hostile or as eco-friendly any other human being in the ancient Near East. Attempting to make him something more than a human being of his time on questions of environmental ethics only betrays the modern apologetic intent of New Testament ethics. (p. 357).
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


No quote this time, just that Avalos shows Jesus appears biblically illiterate in the gospels and he misused the Old Testament, something certainly not praiseworthy for a Son of God.

14. Conclusion
The Ethics of New Testament Ethics

Selected quotes from Avalos:
Ethics should not be based on textual authority or the authority of any particular individual. Ethics should be based on scientifically verifiable phenomena, and empathy is the core of all ethics. Empathy is a biological constituent of humanity, as it is of many other species. (p. 378)
New Testament ethics is a pseudoscholarly discipline that deserves to be ejected from any institution that respects academic inquiry. If Jesus was a man, he should have flaws. If it is to be a credible historical-critical discipline, New Testament ethics needs to find both the Good and the Bad Jesus. (p. 379)