Courses: The Politics of Jesus


Course Description:

To argue that Jesus was not political is to disregard everything he stood for. While many claim that Jesus was solely focused on individual morality, in fact, Jesus was calling for a restructuring of the socio-political terrain of his time. We cannot forget that Jesus lived in a highly politicized culture during the 1st century when the Roman Empire wielded its power over Israel and its people. This course will examine what the politics of Jesus were, how they ultimately led to his crucifixion, and how they continue to relate to our political system in the 21st century.

Course Objectives:

  • To understand the historical political climate of Jesus’ time
  • To recognize how the Gospels and teachings of Jesus address the socio-political climate and call for radical change
  • To have the ability to apply Jesus’ politics to social policy in the 21st century

Suggested Readings:


  • John Dominic Crossan, God and Empire: Jesus Against Rome, Then and Now (New York: HarperCollins, 2007).
  • Obery Henricks, Jr., The Politics of Jesus (New York: DoubleDay, 2006).
  • Douglas Oakman, Jesus, Debt, and the Lord’s Prayer: First-Century Debt and Jesus’ Intentions (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2014).
  • Susan Thistlethwait, #OCCUPYTheBible: What Jesus Really Said (and Did) About Money and Power (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2013).
  • Miroslav Volf and Ryan McAnnally-Linz, Public Faith in Action: How to Think Carefully, Engage Wisely, and Vote with Integrity (Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2016).
  • John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994). 2nd Edition.


Web Resources:

Class Schedule

WEEK 1: Historical Background and Context

July 18th

In this first week, we will discuss the historical time that Jesus lived and how the Roman occupation shaped his understanding and teachings about politics, compassion, and focus on a socially just community.

WEEK 2: The Political Strategies of Jesus

July 25th

In week two we will discuss the carefully considered strategies and tactics Jesus developed to address the ongoing oppression and his focus on developing a new world order of transformed human relationships.

WEEK 3: Jesus and Social Policy

August 1st

In week three we will examine current social policy and how the teachings of Jesus apply. We will also discuss voting patterns among Christians and how they relate to the Gospels.

WEEK 4: The Christian Right and the Religious Left

August 8th

In the final week of class, we will continue our discussion on Jesus and social policy in the 21st century and conclude with a look at the different religious factions that have developed and how they seek to impact politics in the name of Jesus.