The search for the historical Jesus
||"Jesus was a peasant, which tells us about his social class. Clearly, he was brilliant. His use of language was remarkable and poetic, filled with images and stories. He had a metaphoric mind. He was not an ascetic, but world-affirming, with a zest for life. There was a sociopolitical passion to him -– like a Gandhi or a Martin Luther King, he challenged the domination system of his day. He was a religious ecstatic, a Jewish mystic, for whom God was an experiential reality. As such, Jesus was also a healer. And there seems to have been a spiritual presence around him, like that reported of St. Francis or the Dalai Lama.
And I suggest that, as a figure of history, Jesus was an ambiguous figure – you could experience him and conclude that he was insane, as some of his family did; or that he was simply eccentric or that he was a dangerous threat; or that he was filled with the Spirit of God." Marcus Borg, circa 1995. He was interviewed on a TV program at Easter time and asked to give a 75 second description of Jesus.
|"...we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and
personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources show no
interest in either, are moreover fragmentary and often legendary.; and
other sources about Jesus do not exist." Rudolf Bultmann.|
|"...the liberal searchers had found a liberal Jesus. the
same can be said of the Jesus-searchers of every era: the deists found
a deist, the Romantics a Romantic, the existentialists and
existentialist, and the liberationists a Jesus of class struggle...the
'scientific' quest for the historical Jesus has nearly always devolved
into theology, ideology and even autobiography." Charlotte
|"Yeshua [Jesus] spent his life as a devout (if troublesome) adherent
of the Yahweh-faith of the late Second Temple era....'Jesus' was not a
Christian...was not intentionally involved in founding a Gentile
religion, and was completely loyal to the Yahweh-faith, which he
wished to purify, not destroy." Donald Akenson, 2|
|Each of the four [Gospel] authors recorded very
in-depth narratives of Jesus' life. As you would expect from various
writers covering the life of a real person, there is agreement in the
facts, but also uniqueness and variations in the presentations. Campus
Crusade for Christ, International. 3|
The term "historical Jesus" refers to the life of
Yeshua of Nazareth from his birth in Palestine to his execution in
Christianity is often considered to be divided into two wings: conservative
and liberal. Each has very different beliefs
about the Bible, about Jesus' earthly ministry, and about many other
view the Christian Scriptures (New Testament) as books, that
should be studied as any other historical record. |
believe that the Christian Scriptures are unique. Their authors were
inspired by God to write material that was
Further, when the official canon of the Bible was selected, they believe
that the Christian leaders at the time selected the only four valid
gospels out of the approximately 40 gospels then available.|
Thus, liberals and conservatives differ greatly about the need to
search for the "historical Jesus."
|Liberal Christians and Post-Christians typically differentiate between what they
|The very human "Jesus of History" - the
itinerate preacher / healer who:
- Lived from circa 5 BCE until he was executed circa 30
- Was corporeal (flesh and blood).
- Was finite and mortal.
- Was human, not a deity.
- Was a peasant, and devoutly Jewish.
- Was called Yeshua of Nazareth.
|The divine "Christ of faith," created by the
early Pauline Christian movement -- the son of God, the second
person of the Trinity, who was resurrected after about a day and a half in the
tomb and later ascended to heaven. He:
- Has lived from before the creation of the universe to the present time.
- Is Infinite and eternal.
- Is divine.
- Is the King of kings; Lord of lords.
- Is called Jesus Christ.
They feel that the gospels contain many layers of fictional
accretions which intentionally obscure the historical Jesus.
They converted the Jesus of history into the Christ of faith. Only by
peeling these layers away can we hope to catch a glimpse of Jesus as
he actually lived. 4
A very useful summary of the search for the historical Jesus is contained on EarlyChristianWritings.com. This web site groups many of the leading theologians into categories, depending upon their conclusons of the nature of Jesus: Jesus as the heavenly Christ, the myth, the Hellenistic hero, the revolutionary, the wisdom sage, the man of the spirit, the prophet of social change, the apocalyptic prophet and the savior.
||Conservative Christians typically feel that the gospels and
the rest of the New Testament describe Jesus and his ministry in complete and
accurate detail. That is because God inspired
the authors of the Bible so that their writings would be inerrant
-- without error. Thus, The Jesus of
Galilee and the risen Christ are the same personality -- consistently the Son of
God and the second person of the Trinity. The idea of a search for a
historical Jesus is ridiculous. All the information
one could wish for is readily available in the Bible. The search for the "historical
Jesus" is almost entirely a liberal Christian pursuit. To an
Evangelical Christian, the search itself borders on blasphemy. The findings of
the searchers are blasphemy. 5|
Topics covered in this section:
As stated above, religious conservatives generally deny the need for
(and validity of) a
search for the historical Jesus. The following essays mainly cover the
search by religious liberals.
Other theologians and investigators have looked in the holy books of
other religions for traces of Jesus, and believe that many of his life
events in the Gospels were copied from other world savior/man-gods:
- Charlotte Allen, "The Human Christ: The Search for the
Historical Jesus." The Free Press, (1998), Page 5.
- Donald Akenson, "Saint Saul: A Skeleton Key to the
Historical Jesus," Oxford University Press, (2000), Page 57
- "Why you can believe the Bible," Campus Crusade for Christ,
- Adapted from: Marcus Borg, Ed., "Jesus at 2000," Westview Press,
(1997), Page 8.
- "Historical Jesus Theories," Early Christian Writings, at: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/
Copyright © 2000 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Originally written: 2001-MAY-28
Latest update: 2015-FEB-26
Author: B.A. Robinson