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Pre-Easter Jesus Versus Post-Easter Jesus


Neon Genesis
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In his book Jesus: Uncovering The Life, Teachings, and Relevance of a Religious Revolutionary by Marcus Borg, Borg differentiates between what he calls the "pre-Easter" Jesus and the "post-Easter" Jesus. For Borg, the pre-Easter Jesus is the historical Jesus who was a human Jew who was executed by the corrupt Roman authorities for trying to reform Judaism and speaking out against corruption. The post-Easter Jesus is the god-man Christ who died for our sins and was raised from the dead on the third day. One problem I have with this distinction Borg makes is that without more extra-biblical evidence, there seems to be little difference between a pre-Easter Jesus and post-Easter Jesus. The earliest writings we have of the historical Jesus are biased Christian writings and religious one-sided religious propaganda. The earliest non-Christian writings we have of Jesus are Josephus and Tacitus but they were writing several decades after Jesus' time. Even if you accept their writings as legitimate extra-biblical proof of the existence of a historical Jesus, they don't tell us anything new or useful. Josephus only gives a brief synopsis of the gospels and Tacitus only tells us what the early Christians were saying about Jesus.

 

Even among most secular bible scholars who believe in the historical Jesus, there seems to be little agreement on who he was and what he taught. Some scholars think Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet. Others think he was a Jewish mystic, some think he was a Cynic sage, and others thought he was a magician. The only thing most scholars seem to agree on is that there was a real Jesus that was a Jew who was trying to reform Judaism, he didn't call himself God in the flesh, most of the sayings attributed to him are later inventions of the gospel writers, and though they accept Jesus was executed by the Romans. they see the trial of Jesus as mostly antisemitic propaganda and historically unreliable. But even on these issues, there's still a lot of debate as to which, if any, of these issues are historical and which is mythical. While bible scholars like Bart D Ehrman and the Jesus Seminar try to be objective as possible in their quest for the historical Jesus, it seems like without more extra-biblical evidence for the historical Jesus and his life, these bible scholars are still basically doing what the early gospel writers were; cherry picking which parts of the teachings of Jesus they like and discarding the rest they don't think Jesus would have said. It just seems to me that without more evidence, we're all still creating a Christ in our own image and the quest for the historical Jesus seems like it will never be resolved. I'm not trying to say whether or not there is a historical Jesus or trying to bash Borg and bible scholars, but I think this should humble us to not be too quick to jump on new ideas or to be too certain we have the new absolute truth and that the only thing we currently have to rely on is the post-Easter Jesus. Thoughts anyone?

Edited by Neon Genesis
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I'm not trying to say whether or not there is a historical Jesus or trying to bash Borg and bible scholars, but I think this should humble us to not be too quick to jump on new ideas or to be too certain we have the new absolute truth and that the only thing we currently have to rely on is the post-Easter Jesus. Thoughts anyone?

 

Hi Neon,

 

If my faith is based on assumed truth, obtained from historical documentation whether pre-Easter Jesus or post-Easter Jesus, i would certainly agree that jumping on those ideas whether old or new would be at least to me, uncertain knowledge and sufficient cause to be humble.

 

Personally, my faith is not based on other than my own subjective experiences. There were indeed many pointers among documented stories and inspired writings from more than one book, yet to me and in my view, they are no substitute for ones own subjective experience which is able to transform one's life beyond the capabilities of such intellectual knowledge obtained from biblical scholars.

 

Just a couple of my thoughts on your subject matter,

 

Joseph

 

.

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Neon, I agree with you that humility is a good idea, and with Joseph that in the last instance, it's our current experience that defines our belief.

 

Historical analysis cannot be equated to theology. We should absolutely try to come up with the best translations of ancient Greek or Hebrew into modern English, better understand the Bible by understanding the political and religious contexts during which various books were written. Obviously, theology and history (or philosophy, linguistics, or your academic subject of choice) should relate and interact and force new doubts and challenges.

 

However, while the desire to gain a deeper understanding of Jesus through historical research is a noble endeavor, there is a danger in it if one is simply replacing one text which deserves rigid & blind obedience (the Bible) vs. another (the Findings of the Jesus Seminar or some other claim).

 

Faith is about moments that make sense. Moments cannnot add up to a lifetime. Even for the devout, there will be plenty of confusion and ambiguity. Second, "make sense" here does not mean "perfectly rational categories that I can put into words." It is a state of being & union, not information. Though they are different, Knowledge and SCIENCE!* are not the enemy of faith. However, I suspect people who never experience doubt, who believe they live in a total state of grace all the time because they've been saved, are deeply wrong. Academic study of the Bible is useful in that it can generate new insights that may be more helpful for the present, and it may force us to acknowledge doubts and concerns we did not want to before. Religious belief is not weakened by a constant attack on it by doubt, but that religious belief is bettered for it.

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Religious belief is not weakened by a constant attack on it by doubt, but that religious belief is bettered for it.

 

Great observation!

 

FWIW, I suspect that many who, on the surface, seem so confident and secure, have underlying, nagging doubts. And, some of the assertions of certitude are, to some extent, to convince themselves and allay these nagging doubts.

 

George

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Religion, I think, is like language. Language acquisition and the acquisition of religious beliefs share several properties. Language or religious system of beliefs, traditions, accumulated thought and theology, and practices already exist. A beginner or child doesn't have to create a language or religion from scratch. One doesn't have to master the whole system before being considered fluent. Even with individual words or symbols and stories in religion full knowledge is not a barrier to participation.

 

Because a religion already exists it doesn't feel like we are making it all up but, I think, that is a result of a too small concept of "we". We are in conversation with all who have gone before. I can only hold several thoughts at once so I will always be cherry picking because I drop the cherries that I can't hold. Perhaps we could just say, "Of course I'm cherry picking - so?"

 

We will not choose an image of God/Christ that will require us to make more changes than we can, or hope to. After we have made those changes then we might be willing to grow more. I don't remember where I got this; it may have been here. I apologize for not properly crediting the source.

 

God comes to you in whatever image you have been able to form of God.

The wiser and broader and more gorgeous the image,

the more grace and power can flow from the Throne into your heart.

God is saying..."I am where My servant thinks of Me.

Every servant has an image of Me:

Whatever the image my Servant forms of Me, there I will be.

I am the servant of my servant's image of Me.

Be careful then, my servants, and purify, attune, and expand

your thoughts about Me,

for they are my House.

 

Rumi

 

Take Care

 

Dutch

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nice poem by Rumi.

 

To me, the difference between pre and post Easter Jesus is a fairly clear and useful conceptas Borg says, the preEaster Jesus was a Jewish mystic, a paranormal healer, a wisdom teacher, a social prophet and a movement initiator. He did not speak of himself with the exalted titles used by later layers of the tradition (seems like the main distinction). The gospels contain the communitys memories of the preEaster Jesus, seen through the lens and within the framework of their postEaster convictions about him. These memories are closest to the surface in the synoptic gospels, and furthest in John. After his death, Jesus the Galilean Jew continued to be experienced in a radically new way: as a spiritual and divine reality, a living presence.

 

I agree with the need for humility, recognizing that the quest for knowing the historical Jesus will never be resolved. Faith is not certainty. There is no alternative to creating Christ in our own image or rather, in response to our own spiritual need. Scholarly analysis sets the scripture in cultural context, which is crucial, but isnt the bible primarily intended to be a subjective, emotional experience? We read the narratives about Jesus to apply them personally, ask what does this suggest about my own journey-- and there is no single answer. To me, the teachings, the parables, the events are not claims of fact but the basis of midrash -- testimony to ruminate on, take to heart, see if there is some helpful uplifting effect.

Edited by rivanna
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To me, the difference between pre and post Easter Jesus is a fairly clear and useful concept—as Borg says, the preEaster Jesus was a Jewish mystic, a paranormal healer, a wisdom teacher, a social prophet and a movement initiator. He did not speak of himself with the exalted titles used by later layers of the tradition (seems like the main distinction). The gospels contain the community’s memories of the preEaster Jesus, seen through the lens and within the framework of their postEaster convictions about him. These memories are closest to the surface in the synoptic gospels, and furthest in John. After his death, Jesus the Galilean Jew continued to be experienced in a radically new way: as a spiritual and divine reality, a living presence.

 

This feels simple, clear, whole. If my thoughts about Jesus became overly complicated, this would be a good text to return to.

 

To me, the teachings, the parables, the events are not claims of fact but the basis of midrash -- testimony to ruminate on, take to heart, see if there is some helpful uplifting effect

 

Dutch

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My recent readings have been Crossan's "The Historical Jesus"(507 pages!) and "In Search of Paul"(coauthored byJonathan Reed, a leading authority on first century Palestinian archeology) and Spong's "Liberating the Gospels, Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes". Being unemployed/retired I find reading is a harmless and rather cheap deversion when I can get used or free books. I started several times to express my thoughts about these books but just couldn't come up with intelligent things to say or the words to express the amazing ideas in these books.

 

I should have known I should wait and see what Glint,rivanna, and Dutch,as well as any of the other brilliant minds on this forum shared their ideas before I wrote anything. Crossan's Jesus book consists of pages and pages of numbers and many chapters about history including whole chapters about such cities as Pompeii and ... (oh, wait a minute, those were in the Paul book) and explanations about other Jesus books(there are hundreds of them), the Jesus Seminar(of which Crossan is a part)and the intricate piddly details of Biblical interpretation in which whole doctoral theses are written about a few phrases and Jesus books round out some of these ideas. Talk about debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin this is the contemporary version of that medieval practice.

 

Spong talks so convincingly of the midrashic creation of Joseph, John the Baptist,and about 75% of the new testament and how the Gospels were written to fit in with the Jewish liturgy. One strangely realizes that maybe Jesus is not Scandinavian despite the blue eyed pictures seen in Sunday School and there might be some Jewish roots with Jesus and Christianity!

Edited by kayatl
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Spong talks so convincingly of the midrashic creation of Joseph, John the Baptist,and about 75% of the new testament and how the Gospels were written to fit in with the Jewish liturgy. One strangely realizes that maybe Jesus is not Scandinavian despite the blue eyed pictures seen in Sunday School and there might be some Jewish roots with Jesus and Christianity!

 

 

Thanks for that. A good way to start the morning...........

 

:lol: Joseph

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Good Morning...

 

I've read a number of books by Marcus Borg and find both is approach to Jesus and his writing style to be both understandable, directional, and refreshingly clear. Borg is in the center between the abstract speculations of Spong and the steep historical and academic presentations of Crossan. Borg helps us move passed the usual attempts at understanding the life of Jesus in biographical terms by presenting Jesus in the cultural, political, and social setting known to exist at the time. This presentation of the 'historical' Jesus challenges our concept of who Jesus was when understood in this way as opposed to who and how we want Jesus to be prior to his execution, the 'Pre-Easter' Jesus. The foundational work by Borg on this subject is his earlier work, 'Conflict, Holiness, and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus'. It is here that Borg places Jesus within the context of the intense political situation of the time along with how the teachings of Jesus reveal his being a revolutionary Jewish figure squarely confronting the reactionary authorities of the Temple and their domination of the political, social, and religious life of Israel and the Jewish people.

 

Mainstream Christianity presents Jesus as an other-worldly figure, part myth and part human, capable of super human feats whose teachings are mystical words of teaching need to be decoded. This personification of Jesus completely falls apart when placed within the historical/political/social/religious context that Borg sets as background. The discovery of the historical Jesus is the discovery of who Jesus was as a living person of his time as closely as we can know which is not the simple standard Christian faith explanation of who Jesus was.

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It just seems to me that without more evidence, we're all still creating a Christ in our own image and the quest for the historical Jesus seems like it will never be resolved.

 

I agree with you, but do not see this as something to lament, but something to embrace.

 

The more I read works by Borg, Crossan and Spong, the closer I come to concluding that the character of Jesus was created from whole cloth by a small group of dispirited Jewish reformers who were unsuccessful in their attempts to take Hillel's teachings to their natural conclusions.

 

If there is no historical Jesus, then we are left with the task of deciphering the biblical writers' intent. What was the end game? What is the original story and how / what has changed?

 

For me, I imagine Jesus as a warrior against class barriers, oppression and human indifference. Superman doesn't need to walk on water, heal the sick or raise the dead. He just needs to desire peace and seek enlightenment and understanding.

 

NORM

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