Book Review: Earthing the Cosmic Christ of Ephesians by John P. Keenan

The Universe, Trinity, & Zhiyi’s Threefold Path

I have been trying for days to find a way to begin this review. Some kind of witty anecdote or a powerful quote from the book that will set the tone. I just cannot do it. This book is intense. It is one of the best Bible commentaries I have ever read.

Not to mention probably one of the most important to come out in years.

Keenan comes at the Book of Ephesians, and by extension, Colossians and the other Pauline texts, from the Buddhist perspective espoused by Zhiyi. It is an idea of a threefold truth, which can be broadly summarized as “ultimate truth (the truth of emptiness) in a lived situation (contextual truth), wherein the path of practice (the truth of the middle path) might function efficaciously” (Keenan, 12). He parallels this Buddhist idea with the Christian doctrine of the Trinity; not to say that truth is Universally pointing people toward the Christian god, but rather that if we are willing to look outside of the confines of our own religious bubble, we are likely to find ways of expressing truth that can make our own religious beliefs more robust.

He begins the commentary by placing Ephesians in its timed historical context, discussing when it was written, by whom, and to whom. He spends ample time during this discussion explaining the cosmology of the time of writing, arguing that the author of Ephesians was trying to replicate Paul’s thinking in their modern context. The God of Ephesians, if taken literally, does not work in an era of quantum mechanics. It does not work since we have done away with the old ideas of separate realms moving upward, with God/heaven being at the top. As we find things are bigger and bigger and seemingly ever-expanding, this God is just proving to be too small, or even not real at all.

He then dives into an in-depth discussion about Zhiyi and what he and his followers believe and teach. An absolutely fascinating section.

And we are still in the introduction.

He then attempts to place God within our current cosmology. Or at least defend the idea that God can still exist in the universe as we have now come to understand it.

He then dives into the Bible study itself, taking the verses and the material from the introduction and going further in-depth than any commentary I have seen in a long time.

This is an amazing read, and if you are into studying the Bible at all, this book is an absolute must-add to your shelves.

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Jeremy Zerby

Jeremy Zerby

Hermeneutics, religion, pop psychology, self-help, and culture. They are all connected, and I am here to explain how.