The Political Jesus:
Discipleship and Disengagement
T. Raymond Hobbs
This essay is intended as a prelude to exegesis and historical investigation. As its title clearly indicates, it is inspired by the book written by John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus, a work that has appeared in two editions, in 1972 and 1994.
Yoder’s book was extremely popular—a socially significant fact. This popularity was matched by an intense interest, in the years between the first and second editions, in the relationship of Jesus to politics. In those years and since, numerous books produced in biblical studies, inside the academy, also betray an interest in the topic.
The social situation of first-century Palestine, as offered in numerous volumes since the early 1970s-Theissen (1978; 1987; 1992), Horsley (1988; 1995), Oakman (1986), Crossan (1989; 1991), Fiensy (1991), and, more recently, Hanson and Oakman (1998)—is basically agreed upon. There are, of course, differences in interpretation among these and other writers, but what Lenski described as an “advanced agrarian economy”—with its accompanying graphic representation—is a good descriptive and analytical model for the region and the period. It is a “useful” model (Elliott 1993:40–48; Barrett 1996:214).
In almost all of these analyses, insufficient notice is taken of the dominant institution of the army—the Roman citizen-army and auxiliary militia—that was present in force in the region. Although the early days of Roman control were “fluent and changeable” (Millar 1993:24), the nature of the control became more organized and widespread. Within a few decades, the legionaries and the unknown number of auxiliary militia in the region had become the