John Dominic Crossan:     Victory & Peace or Justice & Peace?
The DVD Victory and peace or justice and peace has five distinct sections, offering around four hours of content: 
Lecture 1. Justice & the world: What is the character of your god? 
Lecture 2. History & Jesus: What is the content of your faith? 
Lecture 3. Worship & violence: What is the purpose of your prayer? 
Lecture 4. Resurrection & community: What is the funtion of your church? 

Lecture 1. Justice and the world: What is the character of your god? 
This opening lecture considers the intersection of everyday reality in the ancient Roman empire and the alternative vision of reality grounded in the biblical tradition.   The lecture begins with a brief  segment in which the set of 4 questions are introduced, together with Crossan's personal thesis in such a project: 
if we get the history of the first century right, we get the theology of the 21st C right 
OK  -  If “we” is this group,  and even then it is dubious.  There are too many preconceptions to abandon, too many pressures to conform with the misconceptions of the past.
If we (the church) had ever got it right, we might have a very different world  -  but once the path was set vested interest probably had more to do with the state of the world than any knowledge of the past.
How do people deal with the social and political dimensions of their faith? 
They don't ?   What does this mean?  Is “faith” expressable in social/political dimensions?  Does “faith” as such have such a practical dimension,  or does that flow from relationship, perhaps?

The Roman empire and its imperial theology
Crossan mentions the significance of Rome's strategic investment in roads, bridges and ports as part of its imperial consolidation of the provinces.  One of the points that will be important for Crossan's presentation is the distinction between  tributary empires (tribe based) and territorial empires (area based)
In terms of recent politics, it might be argued that Soviet Russia and Communist China represent territorial empires, while the hegemony of the West (and especially the USA) by means of commercial empire is a variant of the ancient tributary empire model. 

Among the notable observations made by Crossan in the first half of Lecture One are
when you globalize, those who oppose you will come against you on the avenues of your globalization    
you can have a republic (or a democracy) and an empire, but you cannot have both at the same time for long   (see also France/Bonaparte)
Both these comments may be used to reflect on the tension between power/security/prosperity on the one hand and civil/human rights on the other. (illegal immigrants?   Travellers?  The challenge of the Way of Jesus to the establishment, and the resultant rethink of theology to worship rather than to follow)

Imperial god-talk - Crossan notes a number of theological terms typically applied to the ruler: 
	Son of God ,Divine,Lord ,God ,God from God ,Redeemer ,Saviour ,Liberator 
      So what-  this is obvious cross-fertilisation
Crossan identifies four key elements of Roman imperial theology as: 
	Piety ,War ,Victory ,Peace 
These were significant elements of the monumental Augustan Altar of Peace  erected in Rome to commemorate his decisive victory over Cleopatra and Anthony near Actium in 31BCE. That victory which establised "peace on land and sea" was also celebrated in the foundation of a new city, Nicopolis . The dedication on a memorial erected at the site of his camp during the campaign reads very much like our memorials – though with multiple gods
Before moving to consider the alternative vision of power and peace found in the Bible, Crossan offers another provocative one-liner:   “civlization has always been imperial “ 
where is the provocation?  The first act of the church was to re-establish imperial rule by the appointment of bishops etc

The radicality of God 
Crossan begins by distinguishing carefully between the Bible as the divine Word and the human words that comprise the text. How helpful or significant do you find that distinction? 
I find the divine side difficult to swallow.  It may be a history of God, but it is written by human hands and seen through human eyes
He then adds: "the purpose of the human words is primarily to mute the divine Word." This leads into his characterization of the Bible as an event ( a struggle, in fact) in which the radicality of God struggles with the normalcy of civilization. 
Not mute ,  but put into a human frame -  eg Ezekiel's vision.  Yet the Bible has become an idol and has as such muted the presence of God.

Crossan also distinguishes between two meanings of justice: 
retributive justice (punishment)   &  distributive justice (fair distribution of resources) 
Why does the church generally insist on the former?  Surely the answer lies our fear of opening our gates to the immigrant, our purse to the beggar, our hearts to the Spirit of Love.  Sit can seem so much fairer to ensure just punishment than to offer unconditional forgiveness – so much more obviously just to beat than to reform a child – to condemn to hell than to reconcile.

What is your understanding of eschatology? How helpful is Crossan paraphrase - "the Great Divine Cleanup"? (the realisation of God's purpose and the perfection of creation)
Crossan draws on a theology of creation to explore issues of justice in a world marred by badness but believed to belong to a good God. How do you react to his various examples of the normalcy of civilization seeking always to defeat and evade the radical demands of God for justice? 

On the subject of esachatology, Crossan identified two sets of answers that co-exist in the Bible: 
Armaggedon tradition of a final conflict between good and evil - 
Messianic banquet tradition - with all humanity gathered peacefully under God 
a fairly narrow view -  the bible never presents cogent answers
In closing, Crossan poses the question of how we choose between the violent God of the Armaggedon tradition and the life-affirming God of the Justice tradition.  He asks the wrong question – he should ask “why we choose the former rather than the latter”  This is key.
He proposes that the criterion for making that choice is found in the teachings and practice of Jesus, and implies that the historical Jesus always trumps the Bible. In the icons of the divine Jesus, the book (Bible) is always closed because "the life of Christ judges the book." How does that fit with your understanding of the relationship between Jesus and Scripture as sources for wisdom in Christian living?