Original Research: Scholarly Voices

Violence in the Bible and the Apocalypse of John: A critical reading of J.D. Crossan’s How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian

Sergio Rosell Nebreda
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 78, No 4 | a7142 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v78i4.7142 | © 2022 Sergio Rosell Nebreda | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 15 September 2021 | Published: 11 March 2022

About the author(s)

Sergio Rosell Nebreda, Department of New Testament, Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa; Department of Theology, Faculty of Biblical Studies, Facultad SEUT, Madrid, Spain; and Department of Humanities, Faculty of Theology, Saint Louis University, Madrid, Spain


This critical reading/dialogue follows a straightforward structure. Firstly, it presents some of the major insights in J.D. Crossan’s book, attending to its inner logic on his critique on the violence which little by little creeps into the biblical texts. Secondly, it engages in a critique of his reading of Revelation, which is Crossan’s starting point for his discussion on violence. He observes here a direct contradiction with the Jesus of history, centre of interpretation for Scripture. This article points to certain lacunae in his reading of Revelation and, finally, moves to a conclusion offering new ways to interpret and question Revelation’s violent imagery within its own literary context.

Contribution: This article is a critical dialogue with one of J.D. Crossan’s latest books: How to Read the Bible and Still Be a Christian: Struggling with Divine Violence From Genesis Through Revelation. This is a vibrant and insightful book about how violence ultimately crept into the canonical texts, tainting even its ‘good news’. Crossan’s concern with this crude violence surfaces as he teaches different groups and he is asked why the Bible ends in Revelation on such a violent note, essentially with ‘a war to end all wars’, somehow buttressing the ‘myth of redemptive violence’. The special focus of this article resides thus on a nuanced reading of Revelation which tries to understand, in context, the function of such violent images.


Crossan; Apocalypse of John; Revelation; imagery; violence


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