We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of god and the wisdom of god.  For god’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and god’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1:23b-26

John Barclay is a regular visitor to Dunedin.  This would be his third time.  He gave a fascinating lecture before he left.  Nearly 2000 years of venerating the crucified man has ameliorated the horror of the punishment of crucifixion.  It is a slave’s death, or a traitor’s death.  It is not the execution of citizens, unless a citizen is virtually unpersoned.  The victim is ironically ‘raised up’ to a lingering death of pain, hunger and thirst, until through exhaustion, the victim succumbs to suffocation and dies.  The corpse is left as food for carrion-eaters.  The bones are scattered and left unburied.  It is a death by torture, to dishonour.

The fool in the literature and drama of the Roman Empire was the antithesis of the elite citizen: ugly; stupid, uneducated, immoral and venal; low-status.  This fool was no holy innocent.  He deserved to be punished and brought down.  That was the model of social order.

The people represented in the Corinthian church were people like this.  People from the margins of good society, expendable nobodies.  The wisdom of god was not superhuman.  The wisdom of god through the sign of the crucified fool subverted the values of the elite of the empire.  It questioned the values of society.  The crucified fool is the powerless god of the victims. Christ the Beneficiary.  The church originating from such a gospel should not ape its betters.  The church founded on the cross is on the margins, among the critics of society.

The theologian is in a difficult place, using the educated words, trying to explain the ugly event.