Can I get paid to point out the obvious?

I know very little about Matt Rossano. Psychology professor… Writes books… Seems to be interested in religion. Does he get paid to contribute a blog to Huffington Post? If so, I definitely need to get in on that action. It’s easy money.

I’m scratching my head over his latest entry, “Why Was Jesus Crucified?” He begins by discussing a scene near the end of Ben-Hur, a movie I never saw. Apparently a character named Balthasar is standing at the foot of the cross and explaining to the title character “how in this act of self-sacrifice Jesus took upon himself the sins of all mankind.” Rossano points out that Balthasar would not have understood this theological meaning of the cross.

Well, of course. As the gospels make clear, even Jesus’ closest disciples failed to understand the cross as anything but a tragedy and miscarriage of justice. They didn’t expect the resurrection, and after that happened, they interpreted the salvific meaning of cross (i.e., atonement) in light of it. And because the cross is such a profound, mysterious, and multifaceted event, we’re still trying to wrap our heads around it today.

But Rossano doesn’t stop there. He writes:

A moment’s reflection will tell you that the standard Sunday school answer to the question “Why was Jesus crucified?” (for man’s salvation, eternal life, to reconcile humanity to God, etc.) would have made little sense to those directly involved in the event itself. Imagine you could travel back in time and cover the crucifixion as a reporter today might cover the protests in the Middle East. If you asked Pontius Pilate, Caiaphas or members of the crowd the reason behind this condemnation could any of them have muttered anything remotely like what most Christians say today? Very unlikely for the simple reason that this answer is born out of Christian theology — something that did not exist at the time of Jesus.

Are there Sunday school classes out there teaching that Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas executed Jesus so that he would reconcile humanity to God? Has Rossano really written an entire blog post challenging what he imagines to be this “standard Sunday school answer”? It boggles the mind.

Who confuses religious and political motives for Jesus’ crucifixion with the deeper theological meaning of the cross? Do I need to point out that there are usually multiple, non-competing answers to any “why” question worth asking?

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