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Hello everyone,

 

Today, I began a college-level course regarding the historical Jesus and a study of the New Testament, as well as some background information on Judah, Hebrew and Greek, and the history of the Jewish people. Being that this was the first day of class and the professor didn't want to get into any heavy material yet, she asked everyone in the room what they could name as facts about Jesus. Some of the replies I heard were humorous at best, and a little frightening at worst.

 

Among these "facts" were that "He is our Savior" and "He rose from the dead". The entire time I was hearing these facts, I was thinking, "Really? These are pieces of history that you take as documented fact?" Keep in mind that this is not a theological class regarding Christ - it is a historical-critical analysis of Jesus and the time in which he lived.

 

Anyway, I just thought that all at this forum would find that interesting. Oh, my reply was "He had a great reputation as a healer".

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According to bible scholar Bart D Ehrman, this is an all too common problem when he encounters new students in his classes and it was how he felt when he first started majoring in secular biblical scholarship himself. Ehrman argued the biggest problem is that even though most pastors learn this info from seminary, they don't share this info with their congregations at church and so most people in the pew are unaware of what scholars in the ivory tower have known for decades.

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Those who attempt to study the "historical Jesus" (I'm fascinated by this subject, but very much an amateur at it) say that "facts" about Jesus of Nazareth are not really available to us. They claim that what they work in is "probabilities," i.e. Jesus probably said this, Jesus probably did that. The methodology of the Jesus Seminar embodies this approach to the "historical Jesus." So, when it comes to facts, about all that can really be said (although there are some who even deny this), is that he was crucified by the Romans, and that he was, therefore, obviously born.

 

Nevertheless, there are great strides being made in the area of "historical Jesus" studies that attempt to get back as close as possible to Jesus of Nazareth, what he said, what he did. Many modern "Jesus scholars" make it a point to try to differentiate between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith." Some say that the historical Jesus is unimportant (the apostle Paul seems to hold to this view). But Christianity is a still a historical religion that is supposed to be rooted in a person who really existed in history and who somehow made a difference in his time and culture. So there is a growing swell of people (Christian and otherwise) who are trying to rediscover, as much as they can, who Jesus really was and what he thought was important. No easy task. But worth it to many (including myself) that find the "Christ of faith" to be more and more unbelievable in the context of the modern worldview.

 

Here is a link to a community in Canada that is focused on the historical Jesus: http://www.questcentre.ca/

 

Regards,

BillMc

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Nevertheless, there are great strides being made in the area of "historical Jesus" studies that attempt to get back as close as possible to Jesus of Nazareth, what he said, what he did. Many modern "Jesus scholars" make it a point to try to differentiate between the "historical Jesus" and the "Christ of faith." Some say that the historical Jesus is unimportant (the apostle Paul seems to hold to this view). But Christianity is a still a historical religion that is supposed to be rooted in a person who really existed in history and who somehow made a difference in his time and culture.

 

Regards,

BillMc

 

Myself, i am not so sure that Christianity even as a historical religion is "supposed to be rooted in a person", even though many denominations might say so. I personally see it more rooted in Christ as exemplified in the reported historical Jesus and also in many of the first followers called "followers of the Way" and others. I believe Jesus really existed but do not find that belief as important as the teachings. It seems to me that to be a follower of the teachings of Jesus or to find an approach to God through the teachings of Jesus is not the same as rooted in the person Jesus. Jesus himself is recorded saying that his teachings were not his own and the words he spoke were given to him by the Father. He took no credit so i would say that Christ (from which we derive the word Christianity) is to be rooted in God rather than the historical person Jesus who is only one of many such teachers . But of course, that is only my view and it seems people feel more comfortable connecting to a person or forming a religion rooted in a person..

 

BTW Thanks for the interesting link Bill

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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To the question fact or fiction, while a historical study seems to shed some light for some or many individuals, It seems to me that we may never know and perhaps it is more important that we examine or apply teachings and use what makes sense and works for us when applied diligently.

 

Joseph

 

PS Here is a past related thread on this forum that may be of interest. Jesus Real or Myth, What does the evidence show?,

Edited by JosephM
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I believe Jesus really existed but do not find that belief as important as the teachings.

 

I sympathize much with that view, Joseph. Jesus' best teachings are common to many of the religions of the world and they are "true," regardless of who said them.

 

But one of the questions that the "historical Jesus" scholars are trying to address is: what teachings in the scriptures actually do go back to or come close to the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth? There are, obviously, at least two layers of Jesus and his teachings in our Bible. The first layer is something of the historical Jesus - who he was, what he said, what he did i.e. the real person. The second layer is the confessions of the early Church which elevated Jesus to God status and gave him mythic (and mystical) teachings and personhood i.e. the Christ of faith who is no longer human.

 

Simply put, the Christ of faith was at least superhuman -- born of a virgin, walked on water, multiplied loaves and fishes, stilled storms, rose from the dead, walked through walls, could disguise himself, flew through the sky to return to God. He is not human as we understand humanity. And his teachings are mostly found in the gospel of John where the focus is on himself and the exclusive necessity of believing in him. That is where we find the "I am" statements and Christ's claim that no one comes to God except through him. This "Christ of faith" is still meaningful to many, perhaps most, Christians as they desire a God to worship. But other moderns find this "Christ of faith" and his claims quite unbelievable.

 

The historical Jesus, by contrast, is one of us. The focus of his teachings is not on his personage, but on God's kingdom, on wise living in order that heaven might come to earth. He gets tired, he doesn't know everything, he is in anguish in the Garden, he cries out asking why God has forsaken him on the cross. He and his message are, for the most part, quite believable. And worth imitating as a way of relating to God and to one another, through compassion.

 

Lastly, many Jesus scholars say that this work is necessary because Jesus was an actual person in history and that, as difficult as it may be to get to the actual person, what he said, what he did, if we don't make that effort, than the "Christ of faith" becomes anyone and anything we want him to be. In their view, the "Christ of faith" is a product of the early Church's deification of Jesus of Nazareth which turned him into a heavenly Ceasar who becomes, in a practical way, a genie that Christians can appeal to to intervene and do miracles for them. The "historical Jesus" is a much more challenging figure who calls us to personal and social repentance in order to allow for transformation.

 

Anyway, Joseph, this is how many Jesus scholars see the subject and why they feel it necessary to pursue the "historical Jesus" quest. We can, of course, agree or disagree with what they are doing and whether or not it is meaningful. All I can attest to is that it has helped me in my life to find a more "believable" Jesus. I don't slavishly follow the historical Jesus, I just look to his teachings for insights as to wise living.

 

BillMc

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>>To the question fact or fiction, while a historical study seems to shed some light for some or many individuals, It seems to me that we may never know and perhaps it is more important that we examine or apply teachings and use what makes sense and works for us when applied diligently.

 

Much agreed.

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Hello everyone,

 

Today, I began a college-level course regarding the historical Jesus and a study of the New Testament, as well as some background information on Judah, Hebrew and Greek, and the history of the Jewish people. Being that this was the first day of class and the professor didn't want to get into any heavy material yet, she asked everyone in the room what they could name as facts about Jesus. Some of the replies I heard were humorous at best, and a little frightening at worst.

 

Among these "facts" were that "He is our Savior" and "He rose from the dead". The entire time I was hearing these facts, I was thinking, "Really? These are pieces of history that you take as documented fact?" Keep in mind that this is not a theological class regarding Christ - it is a historical-critical analysis of Jesus and the time in which he lived.

 

Anyway, I just thought that all at this forum would find that interesting. Oh, my reply was "He had a great reputation as a healer".

 

Bound,

 

Great topic. My reply to the instructor's question would be that Jesus was a Jew, not a Christian.

 

Ron

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I sympathize much with that view, Joseph. Jesus' best teachings are common to many of the religions of the world and they are "true," regardless of who said them.

 

BillMc

 

Bill,

 

Can't agree more with everything you wrote. Obviously, you're reading the same things I read. Have you read Tabor's Paul and Jesus, yet?

 

Ron

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The historical Jesus, by contrast, is one of us. The focus of his teachings is not on his personage, but on God's kingdom, on wise living in order that heaven might come to earth.

 

This is the view of some scholars, notably those of the Jesus Seminar. However, it is far from a consensus view. Other scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, think that Jesus (the historical person), was apocalyptic and believed that the end of days was imminent and justice would be served with the righteous rewarded and the wicked punished.

 

George

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Have you read Tabor's Paul and Jesus, yet?

 

No, I haven't, Ron. What is the focus of Tabor's approach, to resolve the "conflicts" between Paul's gospel and Jesus' gospel?

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This is the view of some scholars, notably those of the Jesus Seminar. However, it is far from a consensus view. Other scholars, such as Bart Ehrman, think that Jesus (the historical person), was apocalyptic and believed that the end of days was imminent and justice would be served with the righteous rewarded and the wicked punished.

 

Good point, George. In my opinion, I don't even think there is a "consensus view." There seem to be about 3 or 4 different streams of interpretation within "historical Jesus" scholarship. Obviously, Ehrman follows Schweitzer's view that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher and was wrong about the timing of God's kingdom, which pretty much makes him, for Ehrman, untrustworthy about anything he said.

 

Nevertheless, there have been a lot of strides made in Jesus-scholarship over the last 60 years which are leading a good percentage of the scholars to think that Jesus was not as apocalyptic as first thought. I could post some of these references, but it is always more fun to research things for one's self. For me, and speaking only for myself, I do believe that Jesus believed that kingdom had arrived, but that it was vastly different from many apocalyptic expectations, including those of John the Baptist, that were circulating at the time. We do often find the kind of "Jesus" that we want or need. Jesus scholars try to bear these "weakness" in mind.

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For what it is worth (and not much), I think there is an important link between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. The historical person gives authority to the one of faith. The more conservative a person is, the more important this link is, and probably essential.

 

Even the most progressive of Christians, and many non-Christians as well, refrain from disagreeing with any of the Jesus sayings in the Bible. When we disagree as a matter of faith or theology, we don't say "Jesus was wrong." Instead, we reinterpret, argue mistranslation or misattribution. This way we also implicitly accept the historical person as authoritative. As an example, on this forum, there have been many disagreements with the person of faith (as understood by someone else), but I have never, ever read anyone who disagreed with the historical person.

 

George

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No, I haven't, Ron. What is the focus of Tabor's approach, to resolve the "conflicts" between Paul's gospel and Jesus' gospel?

 

Dr. Tabor's overall thesis, which is not unique nor new, is that Paul hijacked (my word) Jesus's religion. My take was the Jesus movement was within Judaism and was not to drastically change, just newly interpret, Pharisaism. Paul was in more conflict with the inheritors of the Jesus movement than is portrayed by ancient and current Christianity. And obviously Paul, not followers of Jesus, founded Christianity.

 

Ron

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Thanks, Ron. I'll have to look into Dr. Tabor's work as I'm interested in how "following Jesus" (what I call "Jesusism") changed into Christianity.

 

I try not to be too hard on the apostle Paul and do my best, where he is concerned, to follow his own advice, "Test all things. Hold to what is good." :D

 

I think he was very zealous to be all things to all people in order that he might win some. But, and this is just my opinion, I think his theology went too far in removing the historical Jesus (whom he never met) from his Jewish context and recasting him as a Greek/Roman God in order to make him attractive/palatable to the Gentile world. This, to me, is what the "Christ of faith" is, the recasting of the human Jesus of Nazareth into a God to allow for Jesus-worship.

 

Yet, I also recognize and respect that some see "Christ" as the part of Jesus (and the part of ourselves) that is in-tune or at one with God. I believe the historical Jesus taught this principle also. And I suspect many seekers would be open to explore this perspective of "Christ." It is just the "supernatural" baggage - such as the Virgin Birth, the Sinless Life, the Ascension, etc. - that makes Christ unbelievable to many people. And if they can't get past that way Jesus has been packaged by the Church, they seldom will listen to the teachings that come closest to what we know of the real person (however close or distant we can get to him).

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No, I haven't, Ron. What is the focus of Tabor's approach, to resolve the "conflicts" between Paul's gospel and Jesus' gospel?

 

Way,

 

I'm not familiar with "Jesus' gospel." Am I behind times?

 

Ron

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I'm not familiar with "Jesus' gospel." Am I behind times?

 

Ron,

 

It is a reference to the, alleged, two different “gospels” (good news) found in the New Testament. According to the testimony of the synoptics, Jesus’ “gospel” is centered in the kingdom of God, the announcement that God was calling people, beginning with the Jews but eventually extending to the Gentiles, to live by God’s Way of compassion and justice. Accompanying this announcement, according to the gospel writers, were “signs” of the kingdom, such as healings, exorcisms, and even nature miracles. My interpretation: these were all meant to show that God’s Presence or Spirit was in and amongst us to enable us to live in compassionate communities called the kingdom of God. So Jesus’ gospel is not about himself or the events of his life, but about the in-breaking and experience of God’s kingdom on earth.

 

In contrast, Paul’s “gospel” has little to do with the kingdom of God. His gospel, by his own admission, centers in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Paul’s gospel is not about the teachings of Jesus, but about Jesus’ death for our sins and Jesus’ resurrection as proof of an afterlife.

 

Many people, myself included, feel that Paul’s gospel has dominated much of Church theology for the last 2000 years. For many Christians (but certainly not all), the question of the gospel is, “If you died today, do you know where you will go?” While that question may be somewhat important, that was not the focus of Jesus’ teaching. His focus was on wise living in the here and now, as exemplified in his parables and aphorisms. He wasn’t crucified for teaching about the afterlife. He was crucified for preaching an alternative personal/social wisdom that challenged both the religious and political authorities of his day.

 

So there seems to be two different gospels in the NT, one by Jesus that has nothing to do with his death and resurrection, but with the need to repent and begin living as God’s people here and now. And one by Paul that says what is really important is believing that Jesus died for your sins and was resurrected, and that believing this puts you in right relationship with God. Paul even goes so far to call down curses with anyone who disagrees with his gospel. To me, that is a bit presumptuous.

 

I don’t know whether these two gospels can be reconciled or not. But I do find their dissimilarities interesting.

Edited by Wayseeker
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BTW, good people, for anyone interested in taking an online course on the "historical Jesus" via an analytical study of the New Testament, the Learning Centre for Religious Literacy is hosting a 6-lecture study from February 12 through May 7.

 

Details can be found here: http://www.questcentre.ca/seminars

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  • 1 month later...

Great topic. I would like to hear what they are telling you in your class, BoundSacrifice. I've seen some books on the topic in the book store but haven't worked up the energy to add them to my stack of other books I haven't had much time to read. :) The online course mentioned in this thread might be worth me checking out.

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Whether or not Jesus is a historical figure is about as important to me as whether or not Robin Hood was real.

 

What matters to me are the lessons each of these characters can impart.

 

I have little patience for those who make claims that their god is better than others' god, or that their rituals bring you closer to the creator of the universe.

 

I think that all religion comes from the mind of humans, and therefore is always of value.

 

When it becomes a competition of ideas and ideals is where the controversy arises. When we realize that religious ideas are the spawn of our own imagination, and not the dictates of a supernatural being, we can begin the process of compromise and cooperation in solving the world's ills - the supposed goal of the religious life.

 

NORM

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