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The Historical Jesus


peacemover
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I just started reading The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant , by John Dominic Crossan.

 

CvrTheHistoricalJesusLg.jpg

 

Out of all of the so-called progressive Christian scholars, I find his writings to be most convincing because he has done thorough scholarship in a variety of fields including biblical studies, ancient literature, sociology, and archeology to make what I believe is a very convincing case for his perspective.

 

Has anyone else here read any of his work? If so, what did you think about it?

 

Peace,

 

John

Edited by peacemover
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I really love this book. Everytime I come back and skim over parts of it, I'm always surprised that I forgot how great it is. He's got such a keen, penetrating intellect, and is just masterful with language. I also appreciate that he is up front about his assumptions, admits when he is going out on limbs, and is as "critical" (in the academic sense) of his own ideas as he is of anyone else's.

 

I think ultimately the view of the book is limited. Some of that is intentional (i.e. it's a work of history, not theology); but inevitably the modern academic-liberal perspective takes over, and one does come away from the book wondering if all Crossan sees in Jesus is the social challenge. But as an examination of the social challenge of the person of Jesus, I think it's about as dead on target as you can get.

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I've not read this one, but I've read (some) of his book about Paul when I was looking at the issue of Paul and women in the church. I really enjoyed the bits I read and will come back to read the whole of it at some point. He seems to have a huge breadth of knowledge. He'd visited a lot of the places he was writing about, and his descriptions of them were fascinating and made the whole thing come to life. Well worth reading.

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...one does come away from the book wondering if all Crossan sees in Jesus is the social challenge.  But as an examination of the social challenge of the person of Jesus, I think it's about as dead on target as you can get.

 

Agreed. I am about halfway through the book at the moment, and so far, only about 3 cursory references to "Jesus of Nazareth" and a couple of scriptural references thrown in here and there to bolster his case...

 

He spends a lot of time and energy (and pages in the book) dissecting the peasant culture of ancient Palestine, and how they were exploited, and incited to revolts, etc...

 

He also seems to go to great length to point out the inconsistencies and apparent biases of ancient historians such as Josephus.

 

He is very skillful, however, in the way that he provides all of this seemingly unrelated background sociological information from antiquity, then masterfully brings it together to effectively make that particular point in his case...

 

I am looking forward to finishing the book and finding out what he has to say about the real historical Jesus...

 

His approach seems to be like that of a master painter- first carefully and deliberately painting the background, and setting the scene, before painting the main subject...

 

I am sure it will all come together later in the book... I'll let you know...

 

Peace,

 

John

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Crossan takes Johnson to the woodshed in Crossan's book The Birth of Christianity... (p. 30ff)...

Well, this is just one example of the book's limited historical perspective coming out I think. Crossan criticizes Johnson for making extra-historical claims about Jesus; but the whole thrust of Johnson's book (The Real Jesus) is precisely that the meaning of Jesus extends far beyond the merely historical! And Johnson is no fundamentalist or literalist: a quick perusal of his more recent book on the Creed makes that very clear. This is one of those areas where I think Crossan's work has to be supplemented in order to really appreciate the importance of Christ in a fuller way.

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Well, this is just one example of the book's limited historical perspective coming out I think.  Crossan criticizes Johnson for making extra-historical claims about Jesus; but the whole thrust of Johnson's book (The Real Jesus) is precisely that the meaning of Jesus extends far beyond the merely historical!  And Johnson is no fundamentalist or literalist: a quick perusal of his more recent book on the Creed makes that very clear.  This is one of those areas where I think Crossan's work has to be supplemented in order to really appreciate the importance of Christ in a fuller way.

 

Perhaps... I have not read any of Johnson's books, so I should check it out, Crossan really seems to respond quite forcefully to Johnson's apparent critique of Crossan in The Real Jesus...

 

Clearly there is more to Jesus than what can be indisputably proven historically or sociologically. I think this truth is one of the major shortcomings of the whole Jesus Seminar endeavor.

 

It also harkens back, in a way, to the Jefferson Bible, that sought to sanitize the New Testament of any references to the miracles or divinity of Jesus....

 

Still, Crossan raises some very valid observations to consider...

 

However, Crossan does not seem to argue against the validity of the miracles or divinity of Jesus, just that they cannot be proven, so therefore should be interpreted metaphorically, and separate from the historical person of Jesus of Nazareth.

Edited by peacemover
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Luke Timothy Johnson has done some classes for the teaching Company:

 

www.teach12.com

 

Peace - just a thought - when I read an author at the right time for me, I get very caught up in their worldview... later I shuffle it in with everything else :> - enjoy the book, get as much as you can from it... you can temper it or see other sides later if you choose. :D

 

Does anybody else find that they go back to books they have loved and find them somewhat... flat? It's interesting, but I don't have a good explanation for it. B)

Edited by Cynthia
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Peace - just a thought - when I read an author at the right time for me, I get very caught up in their worldview... later I shuffle it in with everything else :> - enjoy the book, get as much as you can from it... you can temper it or see other sides later if you choose. :D

 

Does anybody else find that they go back to books they have loved and find them somewhat... flat?  It's interesting, but I don't have a good explanation for it. B)

 

I read a lot of diverse perspectives, and try to take it all in with an open mind...

 

A few of my theologically well read friends can't believe, for instance that I read both Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, and actually get something out of each one...

 

So I definitely do take in a variety of perspectives... I have just been deeply impressed in all of my reading with Crossan- I like the way he makes his case, and the depth of information and quality of scholarship he provides...

 

And, yes, I do also go back to books I have read earlier and give them a fresh read, and often I do discover new things...

 

I am doing this now with some of Karl Barth's writings, and while I admire the depth and breadth of his scholarship, I am beginning to see some areas where I think he misses the point or dismisses other perspectives too quickly.

 

I eventually get around to doing that with Crossan, too, but I am trying now to really immerse myself in some of his major works like Historical Jesus, Birth of Christianity, and hopefully also his new book on Paul so I can have a good basis of comparison for others like Johnson...

 

Peace,

 

J

Edited by peacemover
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"eventually get around to doing that with Crossan, too, but I am trying now to really immerse myself in some of his major works like Historical Jesus, Birth of Christianity, and hopefully also his new book on Paul so I can have a good basis of comparison for others like Johnson"

 

Exactly what I meant - I didn't mean to imply you weren't taking in other perspectives... more of an enjoy the moment comment. :)

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A few of my theologically well read friends can't believe, for instance that I read both Karl Barth and Paul Tillich, and actually get something out of each one...

Definitely! They're both phenomenal theologians, far more penetrating IMO than most of what passes for theology these days.

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