Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus edited by Tom Holmén and Stanley E. Porter (Brill Academic) A hundred years after A. Schweitzer's Von Reimarus zu Wrede, the study of the historical Jesus is again experiencing a renaissance. Ongoing since the beginning of the 1980's, this renaissance has produced an abundance of Jesus studies that also display a welcome diversity of methods, approaches and hypotheses. The Handbook of the Study of the Historical Jesus is designed to handle this diversity and abundance. Drawing from first-class scholarship throughout the world, the four large volumes of the Handbook offer a unique assembly of leading experts presenting their approaches to the historical Jesus, as well as a thought-out compilation of original studies on a large variety of topics pertaining to Jesus research and adjacent areas.
VOLUME I : HOW TO STUDY THE HISTORICAL JESUS PART ONE: CONTEMPORARY METHODOLOGICAL APPROACHES
How to Marginalize the Traditional Criteria of Authenticity
Fourth Quest? What did Jesus Really Want?
The Search for Jesus’ Special Profile
The Historical Jesus: How to Ask Questions and Remain
James H. Charlesworth
Method in a Critical Study of Jesus
Bruce D. Chilton
Context and Text in Historical Jesus Methodology
John D. Crossan
Remembering Jesus: How the Quest of the Historical Jesus
Lost its Way
James D. G. Dunn
Jesus-in-context: A Relational Approach
Sources, Methods and Discursive Locations in the Quest of
the Historical Jesus
Basic Methodology in the Quest for the Historical Jesus
John P. Meier
Jesus Research as Feedback on His Wirkungsgeschichte
The Role of Greek Language Criteria in Historical Jesus
Stanley E. Porter
From the Messianic Teacher to the Gospels of Jesus Christ
The Gospel of the Historical Jesus
James M. Robinson
Scholarly Rigor and Intuition in Historical Research into
Critical Feminist Historical-Jesus Research
Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza
Historical Scepticism and the Criteria of Jesus Research: My
Attempt to Leap Over Lessing’s Ugly Wide Ditch
A Metalanguage for the Historical Jesus Methods: An
PART TWO: VARIOUS ASPECTS OF HISTORICAL JESUS METHODOLOGY
With the Grain and against the Grain: A Strategy for
Reading the Synoptic Gospels
Form Criticism and Jesus Research
Tradition Criticism and Jesus Research
The Criteria of Authenticity
Stanley E. Porter
Alternatives to Form and Tradition Criticism in Jesus
Social Scientific Approaches and Jesus Research
Bruce J. Malina
New Literary Criticism and Jesus Research
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
Memory Theory and Jesus Research
The Burden of Proof in Jesus Research
VOLUME II : THE STUDY OF JESUS
PART ONE: THE ONGOING QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS
The Quest of the Unhistorical Jesus and the Quest of the
Futures for the Jesus Quests
The Parable of the Goose and the Mirror: Historical Jesus
Research in the Theological Discipline
Historical Jesus Research in Global Cultural Context
Diverse Agendas at Work in the Jesus Quest
Jesus of Nazareth and the Christ of Faith: Approaches to
the Question in Historical Jesus Research
The Jesus Quest and Jewish—Christian Relations
Cees den Heyer
PART TWO: CURRENT QUESTIONS OF JESUS RESEARCH
Jesus and Cynicism
Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel
Implicit Christology and the Historical Jesus
Jesus and the "Partings of the ways"
Michael F. Bird
Prophet, Sage, Healer, Messiah, and Martyr: Types and
Identities of Jesus
Craig A. Evans
Jesus im Licht der Qumrangemeinde
Jesus without Q
Dispensing with the Priority of Mark
The Role of Aramaic in Reconstructing the Teaching of
The Quest for the Historical Jesus in Postmodern
Perspective: A Hypothetical Argument
Moisés Mayordomo & Peter-Ben Smit
Why Study the Historical Jesus?
PART THREE: PERSISTING ISSUES ADJACENT TO THE JESUS QUEST
The Context of Jesus: Jewish and/or Hellenistic?
Stanley E. Porter
The Transmission of the Jesus Tradition
Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Herodians
The Son`of Man in Ancient Judaism
John J. Collins
Crispin Fletcher-Louis |/p>
Anti-Judaism and the New Testament
Luke Timothy Johnson
The Writings of Josephus: Their Significance for New
Rabbinic Writings in New Testament Research
Synagogue and Sanhedrin in the First Century
Lester L. Grabbe
Echoes from the Wilderness: The Historical John the
Historiographical Literature in the New Testament period
(1st and 2nd centuries CE)
VOLUME III : THE HISTORICAL JESUS
PART ONE: JESUS TRADITION IN INDIVIDUAL DOCUMENTS
The Historical Jesus in the Gospel of Mark
Jesus Tradition in non-Markan Material Common to Matthew
The Special Material in Matthew’s Gospel
LukeS and Acts
The Non-Synoptic Jesus: An Introduction to John, Paul,
Thomas, and Other Outsiders of the Jesus Quest
Jesus Tradition in the Gospel of John
D. Moody Smith
Jesus Tradition in the Letters of the New Testament
The Thomas-Jesus Connection
Traditions about Jesus in Apocryphal Gospels (with the
Exception of the Gospel of Thomas)
Jesus Tradition in Early Patristic Writings
Jesus Traditions in Classical and Jewish Writings
Robert E. Van Voorst
PART TWO: FUNDAMENTALLY ABOUT JESUS
The Historicity of Jesus: How Do We Know That Jesus
Background I: Jesus of History and the Topography of the
James H. Charlesworth
Background II: (Some) Literary Documents
Background III: The Social and Political Climate in which
Jesus of Nazareth Preached
The Chronology of Jesus
The Birth of Jesus
Richard T. France
The Death of Jesus
Joel B. Green
The Resurrection of Jesus
Family, Friends, and Foes
Joel B. Green
The Language(s) Jesus Spoke
Stanley E. Porter
The Self-Understanding of Jesus
The Message of Jesus I: Miracles, Continuing
The Message of Jesus II: Parables
PART THREE: JESUS AND THE LEGACY OF ISRAEL
Jesus and God
Marianne Meye Thompson
Jesus and The Sabbath
Jesus and the Temple
Jesus and the Shema
Kim Huat Tan
Jesus and the Purity Paradigm: An Inverse Strategy
Jesus and the Law
Jesus and the Holy Land
Jesus and Sinners and Outcasts
Jesus and Israel’s Eschatological Constitution
Steven M. Bryan
Jesus, Satan, and Company
Jesus and Apocalypticism
VOLUME IV : INDIVIDUAL STUDIES
The "Dark Side of the Force"—Beelzebul: Manipulated and
Manipulator? Reflections on the History of a Conflict in the
Traces Left in the Memory of its Narrators
Did Jesus break the Fifth (Fourth) Commandment?
Did Jesus Stay at Bethsaida? Arguments from Ancient Texts
and Archaeology for Bethsaida and et-Tell
Flawed Heroes and Stories Jesus Told: The One about a Man
Wanting to Kill
Jesus and Magic: The Question of the Miracles
Jesus and the Greeks: A Semiotic Reading of John 12:20-28
Jesus and the Synagogue
Jesus and the Ten Words
Jesus as Moving Image: The Public Responsibility of the
Historical Jesus Scholar in the Age of Film
Jesus ―Magic from a Theodicean Perspective
Jesus "Rhetoric": The Rise and Fall of "The Kingdom of
On Avoiding Bothersome Busyness: Q/Luke 12.22–31 in its
Poverty and wealth in Jesus and the Jesus tradition
The Question of the Baptist's Disciples (Mt 9:14-17; Mk
2:18-22; Lk 5:33-39)
Riddles, Wit, and Wisdom
Three Questions about the Life of Jesus
Why Was Jesus Not Born in Nazareth?
Armand Puig i Tàrrech
Words of Jesus in Paul: On the Theology and Praxis of the
John, Jesus, and History, Volume 1: Critical Appraisals of Critical Views edited by Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom Thatcher (Brill Academic Publications) (paperback) Over the last two centuries, many scholars have considered the Gospel of John off-limits for all quests for the historical Jesus. That stance, however, creates a new set of problems that need to be addressed thoughtfully. The essays in this book, reflecting the ongoing deliberations of an international group of Johannine and Jesus scholars, critically assess two primary assumptions of the prevalent view: the dehistoricization of John and the de-Johannification of Jesus. The approaches taken here are diverse, including cognitive-critical developments of Johannine memory, distinctive characteristics of the Johannine witness, new historicism, Johannine-Synoptic relations, and fresh analyses of Johannine traditional development. In addition to offering state-of-the-art reviews of Johannine studies and Jesus studies, this volume draws together an emerging consensus that sees the Gospel of John as an autonomous tradition with its own perspective, in dialogue with other traditions. Through this challenging of critical and traditional assumptions alike, new approaches to John’s age-old riddles emerge, and the ground is cleared for new and creative ways forward. The contributors are Paul Anderson; D. A. Carson; Colleen M. Conway; Paula Fredriksen; Felix Just, S.J.; Robert Kysar; Andrew Lincoln; John Painter; Sidney Palmer; Mark Allan Powell; D. Moody Smith; Tom Thatcher; Marianne Meye Thompson; Gilbert Van Belle; and Jack Verheyden.
John, Jesus, and History, Volume 2: Aspects of Historicity in the Fourth
Gospel edited by Paul N. Anderson, Felix Just, S.J., and Tom
Thatcher (Brill Academic Publications)
This groundbreaking volume draws together an international group of
leading biblical scholars to consider one of the most controversial
religious topics in the modern era: Is the Gospel of John—the most
theological and distinctive among the four canonical Gospels—historical
or not? If not, why does John alone among the Gospels claim eyewitness
connections to Jesus? If so, why is so much of John’s material unique to
John? Using various methodologies and addressing key historical issues
in John, these essays advance the critical inquiry into Gospel
historiography and John’s place within it, leading to an impressive
consensus and convergences along the way.
The contributors are Paul N. Anderson; Mark Appold; Richard Bauckham; Helen K. Bond; Richard A. Burridge; James H. Charlesworth; Jaime Clark-Soles; Mary Coloe; R. Alan Culpepper; Craig A. Evans; Sean Freyne; Jeffrey Paul Garcia; Brian D. Johnson; Peter J. Judge; Felix Just, S.J.; Craig S. Keener; Edward W. Klink III; Craig R. Koester; Michael Labahn; Mark A. Matson; James F. McGrath; Susan Miller; Gail R. O’Day; Bas van Os; Tom Thatcher; Derek M. H. Tovey; Urban C. von Wahlde; and Ben Witherington III.
Excerpt: For most readers of the Bible, the Gospel of John comes across as a vivid and graphic narrative, drawing the reader into the story either as a friend or foe of "the truth," whatever that might entail. It alone claims to be rooted in eyewitness memory among the canonical Gospels, and yet it is the most different—and strikingly so. On the one hand, the Johannine perspective is cosmic, beginning with the advent of the eternal Logos and concluding with the ongoing ministry of the resurrected Jesus. How could that reflect an earth-fettered historical perspective? In between are wondrous acts of power, most of them absent from the other Gospels, and the teaching of John's Jesus is elevated and theological, referring to himself and his work rather than diminishing his personal importance and magnifying the character of the kingdom. For these and other reasons, the prevalent scholarly opinion in the modern era has come to relegate the Johannine Gospel to the canons of myth and theology rather than history; therefore, John's Gospel has become off-limits for historical quests for Jesus.
On the other hand, the critical view of a nonhistorical Gospel of John creates new problems that cannot be solved by the simplistic relegation of the Synoptic Gospels to "factual history" and the Johannine Gospel to "idealized theology:' John has more archaeological content and topographical detail than all the other Gospels put together. John also bears many features of historical realism that contribute a more plausible view of Jesus' ministry than the Markan Gospels (or if Matthean priority is preferred, which most scholars do not, "the Matthean Gospels"). Further, John possesses a great deal of mundane and "theologically innocent" material that cannot be adequately explained on the basis of John's inferred ahistoricity or mimetic imitations of reality. And, even as new literary readings of John have contributed greatly to appreciating what is being said by considering how it is being crafted rhetorically, the literary fact of a story claiming to be rooted in firsthand experience becomes a new challenge—literarily, if not historically. The traditional view of John's authorship has been questioned extensively, but no other single view has taken its place critically (Anderson 1996, 1-136). Given the facts that the greatest source-critical and redaction-critical reconstructive endeavors of the modern era have been performed on the Johannine Gospel, while at the same time failing to command broad critical assent, finally means that huge new problems accompany the modern solutions to the Johannine riddles. Yet the predominant critical paradigm in the modern era for settling Synoptic-Johannine differences tends to regard them as the "factual" and "spiritual" Gospels, respectively. So how did this set of inexact designations evolve?
In the late second century C.E., Clement of Alexandria described the distinction as follows (Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 6.14): "But, last of all, John, perceiving that the external facts had been made plain in the Gospel, being urged by his friends, and inspired by the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel." But what was Clement really saying and why did he make such a claim? Despite Arthur Cushman McGiffert's 1890 mistranslation as "the facts" in the Schaff and Wace edition of the Library of the Church Fathers, a factuality-spirituality dichotomy is not the point Clement was making. Better put, it is a body-spirit distinction, or a somatic-pneumatic contrast he was making, which has entirely different connotations. Further, why did Clement make such a claim? Was it made as a "historically based" judgment denigrating or elevating either the Johannine or the Synoptic Gospels? Probably not. Rather, it was more likely a mere conjectural statement as to how to make sense of John's distinctively theological and different presentation of the Jesus story and nothing more than that. Granted, this is not the only way Clement is interpreted, but a wrong reading of Clement cannot be taken as a basis for overturning the entire second-century testimony as to the character of the Johannine tradition (Hill 2004) any more than a correct reading of his declaration that Matthew and Luke were written before Mark (made just prior to the above passage) should be taken as overturning the well-established critical view of Markan priority. Of course, there are other problems with John's historicity, but a facile designation of John as "spiritual versus factual," basing itself on a flawed translation of a misunderstood statement a full century after John was written, is less than a solid foundation on which to build anything of enduring value.
Further, such a move tends to be accompanied by the following flawed inferences:
On one hand, each of these views has a good point to make; the problem comes with asserting any valid point beyond its breaking point. Further, although some of these claims overstate the matters at hand, each also gets cited as a basis for moves critical scholars currently make, and those who question these moves face the risk of being maligned as "uncritical:' The question, however, is whether these are, in themselves, sound critical bases on which to proceed. In the demythologizing climate of the last two centuries, John has been effectively "dehistoricized:' and Jesus has been likewise "de-Johannified." The critical problem with this state of affairs is that neither of these judgments stands up entirely well to ongoing tests of critical scrutiny. Effective critical analysis cuts in all directions, not just traditional ones. That being the case, the goal of this investigation is not the defense of traditional views; they will continue to be critically analyzed. Nor is it the deconstruction of critical views, although they will not be granted critical immunity. All perspectives are welcome, as long as they make critical assessments of their subject, suggesting why such a move is arguable. Privileging the above two platforms (the denial of John's historicity and thus refusing John a place at the table regarding Jesus studies) as the prevalent scholarly views, what is needed is a critical appraisal of the degree to which John, Jesus, and history are interrelated. The focus, therefore, of the present investigation is to ascertain how this might or might not be so, and why.
As a means of exploring these issues, the John, Jesus, and History Project was granted Consultation status for its first three years (2002-2004) at the Society of Biblical Literature Annual Meetings, and the essays invited for those sessions provide the contents of this book. These involve introductory, literature-review, methodological, and case-study approaches to the issues. Group status was granted for the second triennium (2005-2007), whose sessions engaged the "dehistoricization of John" critically by means of considering aspects of historicity in John 1-4; 5-12; and 13-21. For the third triennium (2008-2010), our intention is to engage critically the "de-Johannification of Jesus" by means of seeking to ascertain the degree to which historical knowledge of Jesus might be furthered by considering the passion narrative, the works of Jesus, and the words of Jesus through the Johannine lens. Papers from those sessions will be included in the two volumes following this one.
While this endeavor does not pretend to produce a new consensus, either on how to approach the issues or how to resolve them, in our opening session in November 2002 I attempted to discern a preliminary consensus, or to obtain a "sense of the meeting" at least on better questions to`be asking. At that session, where over 280 scholars had packed the meeting room, eight questions reflecting the deliberations of previous discussions were posed, to which there were no objections. Further suggestions were then invited, and another eight questions were contributed from the floor. Following is the list of questions about which there seemed to be a good deal of unity as to how to proceed. While expecting unity of any sort may be unrealistic at this point, seeking to gather a sense of what questions should be asked can be at least a starting point. Convergences and divergences of understanding can then be sought, and genuinely profitable inquiry seeks a clearer understanding of why scholars disagree when we do.
The following questions have guided our inquiry since the beginning of this quest:
The essays in this hook attempt to make advances in addressing these questions, and they are organized into five parts. Part 1 opens with introductory matters, including a description of the John, Jesus, and History Project and an outlining of why this study is needed and why it is needed now. Part 2 conducts several state-of-the-art reviews of the literature, including responses where appropriate. Part 3 includes several disciplinary approaches to issues of historicity in John, considering related subjects as well. Part 4 poses a case study as a way forward in the investigation, including a response designed to take the discussion further. Part 5 outlines several concluding matters, suggesting further investigations and profitable approaches to relevant issues.
One of the most intense and wide-ranging sets of controversies in the early church, especially from the fourth through the sixth centuries, involved John's contributions to how Jesus is to be understood as the Christ of faith. Indeed, John's christological tensions garnered advocates on both sides of many of the debates. Likewise, one of the most intense and wide-ranging sets of controversies in the modern era, especially over the last two centuries, has been the place of the Gospel of John amid the quests for the Jesus of history (Anderson 2006b, 1-6, 191-92). Here too the Johannine Gospel has become an enigma, gathering critics and advocates as to its historicity or lack thereof. Whether this investigation will be able to make a difference, only time will tell, and it may take another two centuries to find an effective set of ways forward in these complex conundrums. That, however, is a journey on which we at least embark today.
As the above essays show, the subjects of John, Jesus, and history make a combustible combination! Indeed the surveys and treatments of the issues demonstrate how the historicity of John and thus John's contribution to the quest for Jesus has been one of the most intensely debated religious subjects in the modern era. The problems involved, however, are not imaginary; they are real. John is very different from the Synoptics, while at the same time similar to them in nonidentical ways. John's presentation of Jesus is the most elevated of all the canonical Gospels, yet it also poses the lowliest and most subordinated presentations of Jesus. In addition to theological emphases and symbolic presentations of persons and events, John is also chock full of mundane details and historical realism—and some of John's presentation does seem more plausible than Synoptic ones. These are valid reasons for John's historicity being questioned—and defended—with rigor and passion. That being the case, is there any hope for a "sense of the meeting" among scholars?
In a critical assessment of critical views, extreme claims for or against John's historicity are problematic. Therefore, solutions arguing John's patent ahistoricity, akin to those who have argued John's supra-historicity, bear extensive critical liabilities as well. 'That being the case, the programmatic exclusion of John from eligibility in all Jesus studies is itself less than adequate critically. Whether John is different from the Synoptics or similar, elevated in perspective or mundane, rhetorically oriented or reflective, late or early, dependent or autonomous, the predominant stance has been uniform: the Fourth Gospel and historicity do not mix. Further, whether the criteria for determining historicity constructed upon the Synoptic model discriminate against John, or whether modern portraits of Jesus cohere with John's independent witness, the prevalent critical practice has been to truncate John from Jesus studies. These "solutions" to real problems, however, create new critical problems of their own. On this point all of the above studies are in basic agreement.
While the above analyses approach their subjects from disparate viewpoints using different methodologies, several impressions converge upon reflection. First, John's particular type of memory, witness, and historiographic project deserves to be analyzed in its own right instead of being a stepsister to the Synoptics (Thatcher, Anderson, Kysar, Powell, Smith, Conway). The Fourth Gospel's distinctive features likely reflect a different sort of process and development than its Synoptic counterparts, so finding ways of analyzing those particular phenomena is a crucial task of scientific investigation. New criteria for determining historicity in John deserve to be explored, at least alongside those that have served Synoptic investigations of Jesus. In addition, cognitive-critical methodologies may serve the analysis of Gospel traditions as a complement to other critical methodologies in noting the dialogue between experience and perception in the origin and development of traditional memory. Far too many exclusions of traditional material result from the failure to appreciate human factors in the development of Gospel traditions. Perhaps a new disciplinary approach to the human and experiential factors inherent to the developing of memory and tradition will provide a set of critical ways forward.
Second, ways of conceiving what "history" is with reference to the Johannine witness is an important task as well, both in its originative and developing ways (Kysar, Smith, Conway, Painter, Fredriksen). From a new historicist perspective, the question of "whose history" may pose a way of getting at the differences and similarities between the Johannine and Markan Gospels (including there Matthew and Luke). Indeed, John's alternative perspective may reflect ignorance of other traditions, but not necessarily so; it may be intentional and dialectical. This interest will be affected, of course, by inferences as to the developing history of the Johannine situation, which must be considered in longitudinal perspective, not simply as a reality that began after 70 C.E. The tension here will involve holding both levels of history together—originative and developing histories—and analyzing each to the benefit of the other, rather than its exclusion. Therefore, the conjunction of history and theology must be maintained, rather than allowing disjunctive inclinations—history or theology—to distort critical inquiry.
Third, a notable fact in the above approaches is the apparent departure from source-critical analysis in the addressing of the Johannine riddles by the present selection of interpreters (esp. Anderson, Kysar, Smith, Van Belle). Three decades ago various aspects of Bultmann's diachronic legacy would have featured prominently in such a study, and while some scholars may still be working with source-critical hypotheses, these appear to feature less prominently in the sorts of approaches that present scholars are taking. This could be a factor of the notable rise of rhetorical and new literary studies following the impact of Alan Culpepper's book nearly a quarter century ago (1983). Or, it could reflect a renewed interest in the stylistic unity of the text, despite a general consensus that the Fourth Gospel as we have it may have been revised at least once. This is not to say that the Johan-nine Evangelist did not make use of other sources; it is simply to point out that scholars today are generally less confident in their ability to identify such sources within the text of the Fourth Gospel. The implications for historicity, however, are that rather than John's being considered a derivative, late piece only, the Johannine tradition appears to have its own voice and perspective, which may be a resource worth considering in any adequate investigation of the Jesus of history.
Fourth, John's relation to the Synoptics continues to feature strongly as an issue that has a significant bearing on any discussion of John, Jesus, and history. Notably, however, there appears to be something of a softening of the dividing lines between opposing positions. Among scholars arguing John's basic independence from the Synoptics (Anderson, Kysar, Smith), however, there is some room for inferring dialogical engagement with Synoptic traditions, the Markan tradition in particular. Also serviceable may be the consideration of particular types of intertraditional engagement between John and different traditions, even at different times (and forms) within their respective developments. Such investigations will involve some speculation, but they may also account for particular aspects of what were more likely several sets and types of relationships better than sweeping theories about the relationship between John and the Synoptics, theories tending to be devoid of nuance. Likewise, from the Synoptic-dependence side (Van Belle, Lincoln), we see a clarification that John's purported reliance on Synoptic traditions was not the sort of direct dependence more readily inferred by Matthew's and Luke's more apparent uses of Mark. This, of course, is what C. K. Barrett (1978) was saying all along, but the clarification in the above essays is helpful. The point is that, if such intertraditional engagements were conceived more dialogically, movement toward a broader consensus on the Johannine-Synoptic question might yet be possible.
Fifth, fresh considerations of the history-theology relationship in new perspective also emerge from the above investigations (esp. Thompson, Painter). Many of the above essays note the misappropriation of Clement's somatic/pneumatic distinction between the Synoptics and John, and critical flaws in the "theology versus history" dichotomy have been noted from various perspectives. Just as the new quest for the historical Jesus emerging six decades ago sought to re-envision Synoptic-historicity studies—given the religious character of Gospel material—a similar re-envisioning of the Johannine tradition is called for today. Yes, much of John is theological, but this does not totally preclude historicity of origin. It is also a fact that a historical event or memory may be crafted symbolically or theologically—indeed, the most historic and momentous of events always are—so the inference of the latter cannot be taken as a measure of the former. Taking into account Johannine paraphrase, earlier-later reflections within its tradition, and the rhetorical functions of narration, these clear features of John's theological work deserve to be engaged scientifically as direct features of historiographic investigation, rather than disregarded as alien to it.
Sixth, a call for interdisciplinary investigation comes through clearly from several of the above essays (Kysar, Carson, Conway), and this is a challenge for Johannine and Jesus scholars alike. As the third quest for Jesus opened up Gospel-tradition historiographic analysis to the social sciences, the interdisciplinary approaches here deserve to be applied with a special focus on what they might look like for Johannine studies. With interests in new historicism and more sustained advances in the new literary criticism within Johannine studies, new insights and questions have already brought a fresh set of critical perspectives to the field. Likewise, attention to methods of characterization and the rhetorical strategies of the text are relevant to historical narratives as well as to novelistic fiction. As Carson notes, however, the question is whether scholars can approach the Johannine literature and its burgeoning disciplines conjunctively instead of disjunctively. The way forward here will likely be to learn all that can be learned from particular disciplines without allowing a single approach to eclipse the others. For instance, knowledge about the history of the Johannine situation need not displace knowledge about the earlier tradition; likewise, correctly inferred rhetorical analyses cannot in themselves account for the originative history of traditional material. Therefore, acknowledging how a particular disciplinary approach fits into the large mix will be a central feature of interdisciplinary advances in understanding what Gail O'Day (1986) refers to as John's narrative mode and its theological claims. Since parts of those claims include references to historicity, the question is how such assertions also relate to understanding more clearly John's narrative development and rhetorical function.
Seventh, a more nuanced approach to Jesus studies is called for by nearly all of our contributors. Notably, however, despite the critical assessments of critical views, none of the above essays calls for a Johannine overturning of the Synoptic witness. They all, however, ask what place the Johannine tradition might have at the table for the most adequate of Jesus studies to be advanced in the future. While the first three quests for the historical Jesus have at least one thing in common—leaving the Fourth Gospel out of the mix (Verheyden, Powell, Fredriksen)—one wonders what a new quest (a fourth quest?) might look like with John in the mix, and centrally so (Anderson, Thompson, Smith). Not only would this lead to a new day in Johannine studies, but it would certainly stir up the waters within Jesus studies as well. This might be upsetting to some Jesus research, but if a place can be found for Thomas, why is John left out? Gospel and Jesus studies alike would be well served by critical analyses of how John and the Synoptics together contribute corroborative and coherent perspectives on Jesus, the sorts of ways the Synoptic presentations are more plausible, and also what sorts of ways the Johannine presentation of Jesus might be more plausible.
Indeed, a fresh investigation of the Johannine tradition not only might have implications for Johannine studies but might also render a new set of keys for unlocking some of the Synoptic riddles and Jesus-studies conundrums. If the Markan project were a compilation of traditional pericopes, and if Mark served as a basis for and Luke, is its order a strict chronology or a general one? If the Johannine narrator was familiar at least with Mark, might John's differences be a direct factor of familiarity and augmentation rather than a historiographic scandal? While the Synoptics convey a good deal of historical perspective on the ministry of Jesus, might not John also do the same as an alternative perspective? Yet all four canonical traditions are also highly theological, so finding ways of analyzing this material for what it is continues as a critical challenge. What the above studies suggest is that, in the investigation of John, Jesus, and history, critical assessments of critical views consolidate the best advances of the past while at the same time raising new critical questions for the future. This calls for a more sustained focus on aspects of historicity in John and a fresh look at Jesus through the lenses the neglected Gospel avails.
In reflecting upon the above treatments of aspects of historicity in the Fourth Gospel, a multiplicity of approaches and disciplines is here employed in getting at a common interest: the historical character of the Johannine tradition and ways in which it casts light upon the Jesus of history—his intentions, doings, teachings, travels, and receptions, as well as impressions, memories, interpretations, narrations, and writings about him in later settings. The division of the Gospel of John into three sections involving chapters 1-4,5-12, and 13-21 works well as a means of dividing up the ministry of Jesus into early, middle, and late periods of his ministry as presented in John, although connections and echoes also reach from one section to another as a complete, larger narrative. By describing seven or eight historicity issues as introductions to each of the three parts, I have sought to alert the reader at least superficially to enduring issues related to historicity in John—raising issues both for and against it as a means of situating the essays within larger sets of discussions. Just as these nearly two dozen issues are not an exhaustive list of historical topics in John, it is not expected that they will all be addressed by the essays; nor is it inappropriate for any one of them to be addressed more than once or for essays to focus on more than one issue. Some subjects bear implications reaching in multiple directions, and taking note of that fact assists one's analysis. It is also hoped that some of the issues not touched on directly in the present collection will be addressed by further investigations and that future research will be stimulated in response to the present essays and their responses.
So, how do the essays stack up to their responders? By and large, the responders to the essays are quite affirming of the approaches the authors take and the conclusions to which they come. There are occasional places where our responders take issue with a point or two, but overall the responders contribute to the thrust of this collection, not only by commenting analytically on the essays in their sections but also by demonstrating how particular judgments seeking to ascertain aspects of historicity in the Fourth Gospel are made. In his response to the essays in part 1, Craig Koester begins with an insightful description of how the pre-Easter Jesus is presented as the post-Easter Jesus representing the overall perspective of the Fourth Gospel. While recent quests for the Jesus of history have sought to divorce the former from the latter, the Fourth Evangelist does not do so overall, and even such an exercise does violence to the very data being assessed. This is a helpful reminder, as the Johannine narrator not only preserves history but also interprets it. In my response to the essays in part 2, I engage the strengths and weaknesses of each of the essays in that section. In doing so, I hope to affirm the arguments that seem plausible and even to suggest a few ways in which authors could have gone further. In challenging inferred weaknesses, I have sought to pose bases for consideration, especially as they relate to the composition and authorship of the Fourth Gospel. In her response to the essays in part 3, Gail R. O'Day divides the essays in her section into two categories: those that assess degrees of plausibility with respect to particular features of historicity in the Johannine text, and those that approach the question of historicity by means of literary analysis, seeking to determine the form and function of particular units. In doing so, she lays out a foundational pair of categories within which approaches to historicity in the Fourth Gospel may continue to advance.
From these analyses, general and particular impressions emerge. First, we find a general aspect of consensus; second, we find several convergences reflecting a variety of ways aspects of historicity in the Fourth Gospel might be addressed.
In reviewing the above essays and their responses, while this particular form of presentation does not lend itself to articulating a "consensus" on particular matters, one general consensus clearly emerges. With respect to the so-called "critical consensus" that the Fourth Gospel is "the spiritual Gospel" written by "the theologian" with no little or no interest in "history as such," the consensus of these papers, individually and collectively, poses the opposite view. The Fourth Gospel is clearly historical in its interest, as well as theological. Or, as Marianne Meye Thompson argued in volume 1 of John, Jesus, and History (Anderson, Just, and Thatcher 2007, 104-6), theological and interpretive narration is the way that the Fourth Evangelist writes history. Therefore, with reference to the scholarly dehistoricization of John, the essays in this collection challenge that stance in a resounding way. By means of differing methodologies, perspectives, and approaches, all the essays in this volume argue that Johannine historicity remains an important object of ongoing critical research. If there is a single point of consensus within the present collection, this is it.
In addition, several convergences regarding aspects of Johannine historicity are here displayed in a collective though diverse set of ways. The first aspect of Johannine historicity involves an appreciation of John's traditional historicity as an exercise in theological reflection. As Craig Keener's opening essay reminds us, while the Johannine Prologue opens the Fourth Gospel as a confessional piece used in worship, it also bears witness to first-hand encounter with the object of grounded in mundane history (Koester). As a its confession: the fleshly Jesus deeply theological narration of a story rooted in history (Appold, Coloe, Bond), the narrator tells his story that members of the audience might believe (McGrath, Johnson, Matson, Garcia), and the repetition of earlier themes are developed in ways that make the past relevant for later audiences (Labahn, van Os). As events rooted in the past become exemplary patterns for later believers to emulate (Witherington, Clark-Soles, Burridge), the final editor testifies, along with the Johannine community, that the testimony of the Beloved Disciple is true (Culpepper). The truth at stake, however, is no mere objectivistic and impersonal set of data to be quantified, measured, and calculated. The truth attested is of value precisely because of its subjective character and personal implications—that is the sort of history the Fourth Gospel claims and shows itself to be. In that sense, the traditional memory of the Fourth Gospel moves from one level of experience to another: from encounter related to the ministry of Jesus or its attestations, to development within the evolving tradition, to delivery within its later contexts. Therein are Johannine history and theology interwoven together, from start to finish, and any effective analysis of Johannine history or theology must also take into account the other partner in this inextricable coupling of interests.
Second, John's originative history deserves consideration in addition to its delivered history. While the advances of the Martyn/Brown hypothesis have helped us think about the history of the Johannine situation, especially accounting for the crafting of some of its material around the time its final editions came together, the later stages of Johannine history cannot account for all the material in John—including religious tensions with Jewish leaders (Klink, Freyne) along the way. Clear references to earlier events confirm the "referential" character of much of John's material (Tovey, Labahn), suggesting the genre of the material, which is biographical history (Bauckham, Burridge). It is also a fact that when the developing character of the Johannine tradition is taken into consideration, conservatively involving at least two editions, development can be seen between the earlier and later material (Clark-Soles, van Os). This being the case, the inference of later material and perspective must not be allowed to eclipse earlier understandings and originative levels of history (von Wahlde, Bond). Johannine historicity must be considered comprehensively, including earlier and later material, as well as some that fits somewhere in between.
Third, a good quantity of the distinctive material in John makes particular historical contributions to our understanding of Jesus and his mission that other Gospels fail to make. The Bethsaida connections with several of Jesus' disciples (Appold) suggest a good deal about the socioreligious backgrounds of those who were closest to Jesus and who moved the Christian movement forward; Jesus' relation with John the Baptist (Coloe) is especially telling as it relates to a fuller understanding of Jesus personal goals and mission; Jesus' use of the serpent symbolism of Num 21 reflects innovative typological uses of the Torah (Charles-worth); Jesus' trips to Jerusalem (Johnson, Freyne, Klink) say a good deal about the itinerary of Jesus and why he was both welcomed and resisted as a prophetic leader; the connections of Jesus with the Bethany family contributes an expanded understanding of his southern ministry (Bauckham, Witherington, Tovey), as do his Jerusalem healings (von Wahlde); the washing of his disciples' feet by Jesus offers valuable insight into the type of service Jesus advocated as central to authentic leadership (Clark-Soles); and the Johannine presentation of the Jewish trial and death of Jesus fills out the picture more fully and authentically than is rendered in the Synoptics (Bond, Matson). In each of these cases at least, material distinctive to the Fourth Gospel bears its own claims to historical knowledge and value, suggesting weighty implications for the historical study of Jesus.
Fourth, a closer look at the Johannine narrative exposes a good deal of primitive, undeveloped material over and against later and more developed features in the Synoptics and Paul's writings. In particular, the emphases upon Jesus' fulfilling Elijah typologies and the prophet-like-Moses agency schema (Coloe, Evans, Freyne), while prevalent in John, are left undeveloped in Christian confessional material. In contrast to pejorative references to serpent imagery in Revelation and elsewhere, the Johannine presentation of the uplifted serpent makes a redemptive association unaffected by later rhetorical concerns (Charlesworth). Likewise, John's sacramental and cultic innocence reflects primitivity instead of a highly developed presentation from a Christian religious standpoint (Evans, Anderson), and the Last Supper presentation of Jesus' washing the disciples' feet (Clark-Soles) is more likely to reflect Palestinian customs than later, Hellenistic ones. An informal set of Jewish trials suggests the religious realism of an awkward situation over and against the more formal and unlikely nocturnal Sanhedrin conference in the Synoptics (Bond), and the resuscitation of Peter as a redeemed sinner (Labahn) is an unlikely association to have been invented for rhetorical purposes alone. In these and other ways, much of John's distinctive material appears primitive and undeveloped—a likely place to look for information about the Jesus of history and the early movement in his name.
Fifth, Johannine archaeological and topographical details not only cast valuable light upon the historicity of the Fourth Gospel, but they also illumine features of the ministry of Jesus that would be otherwise unknown. Topographically, a Jesus who called disciples of John to be his followers in the Transjordan (Coloe) as men connected to a small fishing town named Bethsaida (Appold), who traveled through Samaria on the way to and from Jerusalem (Miller), and who visited Jerusalem several times during his ministry (Johnson, Freyne) shows a realistic Palestinian figure who commanded a following in the first third of the first century C.E. While other studies have developed other archaeological details, the discovery of the second Pool of Siloam in Jerusalem (von Wahlde) introduces new levels of understanding regarding the ministry of Jesus in Jerusalem. Not only did his healing ministries challenge Sabbath laws as in the Synoptics, but the revelation that the Pool of Siloam was a miqveh—a wading pool for purification and religious cleansing—features Jesus' goal of restoring the man societally and religiously, as well as physically. This discovery also elucidates some of the consternation felt by Jewish authorities in Jerusalem. While the man's recovering his sight was experienced as a good thing, the fact that Jesus had performed the healing on the Sabbath as a nonauthorized, itinerant prophet challenged the effective bases for their religious codes and structures. From ossuary and literary records, plausible bases for the names Lazarus, Martha, and Mary can be found (Bauckham, Witherington), providing support for the Bethany narrative. Conversely, the one archaeological discovery of a crucifixion victim in Jerusalem with a nail through the heel, plus literary records suggesting the rarity of nailed crucifixions, leads Garcia to doubt the Johannine reference to the nail wounds of Jesus. Jesus' Jerusalem visits show features of first-hand knowledge before the destruction of Jerusalem (McGrath, von Wahlde, Bond), and knowledge of these features must be dated at the latest prior to 70 C.E. In these and other ways, archaeological and topographical details internal and external to John promise to contribute greatly to Johannine historicity studies and Jesus studies alike.
Sixth, Johannine chronological plausibility deserves a fresh look, especially with regard to ways the Johannine itinerary of Jesus varies from that of the Synoptic Jesus. In contrast to recent approaches to the Fourth Gospel explaining these differences as factors of the theological interests of the Evangelist, the scholars in this volume largely take exception to those moves. Rather than reading paschal symbolism into the Baptist's testimony (Coloe), John's early temple incident (McGrath) and the early dating of the Last Supper (Matson) argue for a good deal of plausibility in the Johannine ordering of Jesus' ministry, attested in canonical and extracanonical ways. While Johnson stops short of inferring a chronological basis for the presentation of Jesus' visits to Jerusalem and the three references to the Passover, it does seem plausible to infer multiple visits to Jerusalem (Freyne) as reflected in at least the four visits described in John. Whether or not a three-year ministry is confirmed by the Johannine rendering as opposed to the single-year presentation of the Synoptics, a chronologically fuller ministry of Jesus does seem to be indicated by his itinerant presentation in the Fourth Gospel. Further, the sequence of the feasts (Tabernacles, Dedication, Passover) fits a basic chronological progression, although they need not reflect travels to Jerusalem all in the same year. It is also a fact that the content of Jesus' teaching fits the particular feasts that occasioned his visits (Johnson), so those connections convey a sense of religious realism within the narrative. Given that the Johannine presentation of the crucifixion on Nisan 14 complies with ancient calendars and was appealed to in the second century C.E., Matson finds ample reasons to side with the Johannine dating of the Last Supper as not only plausible but even probable. In these and other ways, Johannine chronology is seen less as a factor of theologizing speculation and more historically suggestive than recent studies have assumed.
Seventh, Johannine-Synoptic similarities and differences inform Johannine historicity in a variety of ways. On the one hand, parallels with Synoptic renderings suggest a Johannine alternative presentation of an event similar to other ones: the woman at the well is similar to the Syrophoenician woman in Mark and elsewhere (Miller); the healing of the royal official's son from afar is similar to the healing of the centurion's servant in Q (Judge); the feeding of the five thousand is parallel to all five Synoptic feeding narratives (Evans, Anderson); the healing of the blind man is similar to Synoptic healing narratives and concerns for ritual purity (von Wahlde, Klink); Jesus' being anointed (his head or his feet?) by a woman and some association with Mary and Martha in Luke (Bauckham, Witherington, Tovey) is interesting; the trials of Jesus are fraught with historical realism filling out Synoptic presentations (Bond); and the love commandments of Jesus in John reflect a community-appropriation of his teachings in ways that complement the Synoptic injunctions to love one's neighbors and enemies (Burridge). Some scholars take these similarities to imply Synoptic dependence (Judge), while most infer the independence of the Johannine tradition (e.g., Evans, von Wahlde, Bauckham, Witherington, Bond). At least one scholar (Garcia) found in John's distinctive presentation of the piercing wounds of Jesus a midrashic appropriation of a scriptural motif based on the silence of the Synoptics regarding the nail wounds and piercings of Jesus. Then again, are Synoptic parallels with John confirming of John's historicity or markers of its subservience to the Synoptics (van Os, O'Day)? In the light of these analyses, Johannine-Synoptic similarities and differences function to confirm John's historicity in some analyses and disconfirm it in others. Continuing to develop criteria for making solid`judgments along these lines will be serviceable for all sides of the debate.
Eighth, Johannine presentations of Jesus as a northern prophet engaged dialectically with Judean religious leaders contribute greatly to an understanding of the historical ministry and reception of Jesus in ways rife with religious and social realism. In contrast to the Synoptic Jesus, who meets little serious resistance from religious leaders until the last week of his life, the Johannine presentation of a Jesus who launches a prophetic sign at the beginning of his ministry (McGrath) is striking. This provocative prophet who performs Elijah-type and Moses-type signs in the wilderness (Evans), attends feasts in Jerusalem (Johnson) in addition to the Passover (an unnamed feast, Tabernacles, and Dedication), is presented as the northern prophet who is disparaged by the Jerusalem leaders as one of the 'am ha'arets (Freyne) or something of a heretic (Klink), and is tried and convicted by the Jewish leaders and turned over to the Romans (Bond) betrays a good deal of socioreligious realism. Even debates regarding Jesus' relation to the Father in John 5-10 should be understood not as advocating a metaphysically high Christology but as clarifying the Son's agency on behalf of the Father, which has become a religious and scriptural challenge to his contemporaries (Keener)• The north-south tensions in John are far more pronounced than in the Synoptics, and this distinctive feature alone bears great potential for contributing to a fuller understanding of the intentions, deeds, teachings, and receptions of the provocative prophet from Galilee.
Ninth, approaches to Johannine composition and authorship impact one's understandings of John's historicity and the character of its presentation. While the text must be taken finally as it stands, appreciating the place of the Prologue and chapter 21 as likely additions to the text (Keener, van Os, Labahn, Culpepper), along with chapters 6 and 15-17 (Clark-Soles, van Os, Anderson), facilitates an appreciation for the development of the Johannine tradition and helps to account for its primary rough transitions. While scholars will disagree—even with some intensity—about the bases for inferring whom the Beloved Disciple might have been (Appold, Witherington, Anderson), acknowledging that the source of the Fourth Gospel's independent tradition is plausibly connected to an independent memory and reflection upon the ministry of Jesus may yet hold some promise in accounting for John's autonomy-yet-connectedness to the Synoptic renderings of Jesus' ministry (Bauckham). Even the third-person claim by the final editor that the author was originally a first-hand witness—apparently after that leader's death—reflects a community's attestation to the truthfulness of his testimony (Culpepper; see also Keener). Thus, the insistence upon personal encounter with the Jesus of history as the origin of the Johannine tradition becomes also the goal of the later narrative, engaging its later audiences with its flesh-becoming subject (Koester). Important here is understanding the relation between the literary form and its functions with relation to aspects of historicity (O'Day), and such a measure will be telling in its implications.
Tenth, nuanced appraisals of John's historicity are indeed possible, even profitable, when assessing aspects of history in John. In contrast to monological claims for or against Johannine historicity by traditionalist and critical scholars alike, a set of more measured approaches to the issue is evident in virtually all of the essays above. This marks a significant advance in the field because scholars can therefore say more directly why they agree or disagree with particular parts of an analysis instead of treating proposals in sweeping ways—either positively or negatively. While most of the essays discuss strengths and weaknesses of particular views and suggest degrees of plausibility regarding their own claims (O'Day), several essays engaging the Johannine Last Supper and passion narratives are exemplary in their attempts to produce such nuanced analyses with programmatic intentionality. Clark-Soles not only declares her intention to pose a nuanced analysis, but she also groups her own findings within three evaluative categories: most likely, somewhat likely, and less likely. Van Os applies what in his view is a plausible history of Johannine composition as a means of distinguishing earlier content from more developed content theologically, articulating thereby the bases for his judgments. Matson lays out an attempt to discern degrees of plausibility regarding the dating of the Last Supper in John, explaining also the evidence for and against particular inferences. Likewise nuanced is Bond's approach to the historicity of the Johannine Jewish trial narrative, where she assesses degrees of plausibility regarding her various conclusions. What is hopeful about these and other essays in this volume is that, while the claims made are clear and incisive, they are also measured and inviting of further analysis themselves. The benefit of such contributions is that future scholarship is enabled to move forward on the bases of the strongest inferences, while still being challenged by the questions and probings that remain. Both agreement and disagreement serve well when scholars articulate why they embrace the views they do, and understanding grows as new knowledge and disciplines cast light upon longstanding issues.
Indeed, not all the issues of Johannine historicity are either outlined or addressed in this volume; if they were, I suppose that all the libraries of the world would not be able to contain them (John 21:25)! Nonetheless, enough of them are addressed to show that the subject still has a good deal of life in it and to suggest that further inquiry ought yet to be conducted. While few of the essays above pose overstated claims regarding aspects of Johannine historicity demonstrated, they do suggest, collectively and individually, a variety of trajectories in which further investigations might serviceably proceed. In that sense, aspects of Johannine historicity are multiple, and a number of appropriate disciplinary tools deserve to be honed and employed in service to this critically neglected field of inquiry. This collection thus serves not as a last word on the subject but as a critical advance on an important dialogue.
Of course, the addition of the Fourth Gospel to the database of material contributing to the historical quest for Jesus will be a shock to the system of all three quests over the last two centuries or so, as much of the certainty of those quests has been forged on the anvil of John's historical disparagement. If the Johannine tradition, however, is seen as an independent Gospel tradition developing dialogically alongside the others, a good number of Jesus-assumptions will need to be rethought. Instead of beginning with the Synoptics and holding John hostage to a set of predisposed assumptions, what if we started with the Gospel of John in a fresh quest for the historical Jesus and proceeded from there to integrate inferences from the Synoptics in bioptic perspective? It might require a fourth quest for Jesus—one with John in the mix—but this may be precisely what the inference of aspects of historicity in the Fourth Gospel requires.
Key Events in the Life of the Historical Jesus: A Collaborative Exploration of Contexts & Coherence edited by Darrell L. Bock, Robert L. Webb(Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen Zum Neuen Testament / Scientific Research on the New Testament: Mohr Siebeck) Using a carefully defined approach to historical Jesus studies and historical method, this collection of essays examines twelve key events in the life of Jesus that were part of a decade-long collaborative research project. Each essay examines the case for the event's authenticity and then explores the social and cultural background to the event to provide an under-standing of the event's historical significance. The first six events are related to the public ministry context of Jesus, mostly associated with his Galilean ministry, while latter six events involve his final days in Jerusalem. The final essay closes with suggestions about how these events cohere and what they can tell us about what Jesus did.
Excerpt: The last three decades have seen a renewed interest in historical Jesus research that is marked by new approaches and methods, and which have resulted in an impressive array of new hypotheses.' Historical Jesus research is not only alive and well, it is also fascinatingly fruitful. One of the key gains of recent work has been the careful attention given to Jesus' Second Temple environment as well as an appreciation for how his actions and teaching were set in and addressed a Jewish context.
Precursors include the kind of work done by Joachim Jeremias, who sought to be sure the Jewish roots of Jesus were not lost. George Caird insisted that the right place to start with Jesus was in a backdrop focused on Israel.' Martin Hengel also sought roots in the Jewish context, but not at the expense of Greco-Roman concerns, noting how intertwined Hellenism and Judaism had become by Jesus' time.'
The historical-Jesus studies presented during the past 30-40 years cover a wide spectrum of approaches. On the one hand we have the work of E. P. Sanders,' meticulously working through both a look at key events and themes, while also considering the thrust of Jesus' activity at a more macro-level. On the other, we can consider the approach of Ben Meyer,6 whose effort concentrates on a synthesis developed out of interaction with key Jewish themes of the Second Temple period. Where Sanders sees a skeleton of events that can confidently be said to reflect Jesus, the other sees the ability to speak comfortably of the aims Jesus had, arguing for a much more rounded portrait. John Meier, in probably the most extensive recent attempt, has been involved in his effort for decades now with the key volumes pulling everything together still awaiting release.7 His work is a meticulously detailed consideration of key figures and themes that develops a picture at a micro level of detail, while keeping an eye on the big picture. N. T. Wright also has a full study that defends a synthetic model focusing on Jesus speaking to an Israel still in spiritual exile as God returns to His people in victory through the work of Jesus.' More recently James D. G. Dunn and Martin Hengel have offered comprehensive accounts, with Dunn emphasizing the flexible nature of the tradition set more in an oral frame, while Hengel has sought to trace a Jesus who focused his presentation on his authority in some type of carefully framed messianic light.'
Somewhere in the mix also belong studies that have not abandoned the concern for and emphasis on Hellenistic influence on the tradition, an approach that was a key element of some earlier works (sometimes associated with what was termed the "New Quest") with its effort to sift out the historical Jesus from concerns of emerging church communities of the evangelists. John Dominic Crossan's Jesus reflects the itinerant style of a teacher of wisdom more like a philosopher than any other ancient model, but he also works with an elaborate view of sources that treats all sources at a similar level in terms of historical impact.'° He spends much valuable time thinking through how Jesus fits into a Hellenistic context, but with less interaction using Second Temple Jewish sources. While the Jesus Seminar made considerable use of Second Temple Jewish sources, they also often spent more time on setting the backdrop for the evangelists' themes out of a Hellenistic context than in a discussion of Second Temple Jewish context. The Seminar came to view Jesus as primarily a teacher of wisdom and aphorisms." This approach was challenged by those who saw Jesus calling Israel back to covenantal faithfulness in a movement that appealed to the need for restoration and looked to the realization of Jewish hopes. So, there has been lively debate on whether Jesus presented himself in a context of Jewish hope about the consummation, often called vaguely the eschatological hope, or whether he was fundamentally wedded to a presentation rooted in wisdom and ethical themes. Other key shorter, comprehensive studies across this spectrum include those by Dale Allison, Bart Ehrman, Paula Fredricksen, Scot McKnight, as well as from a Jewish perspective, including work by David Flusser and Geza Vermes. These shorter studies also gave careful attention to Second Temple context and issues.
Yes, historical Jesus studies is alive and well, and has been for several decades. But it is also somewhat disturbing to observe the diversity in the range of Jesus portraits that have been proposed. Some suggest this diversity shows the failure of the quest and its criteria, or at least points to its severe limitations." It is often observed that in seeking to see the historical Jesus down the well`of history, one may only be viewing one's own reflection." One of the reasons for this diversity is the complex nature of the study and method itself." It is in this context of both diverse method and debated historical backdrop that the present study emerged.
In the mid-nineteen nineties, Darrell Bock proposed to the Institute for Biblical Research that a team project, a true seminar, be undertaken to study the historical Jesus. Initial discussions took place with Robert Webb, and together we became the co-conveners of the group. We decided after two years of meeting together to proceed. Our plan was that this study group — made up of IBR members with expertise in historical Jesus studies — would work with standard historical-Jesus methods and criteria, and be rooted in a careful look at historiographical questions."
The decision was made to focus our attention on exploring key events and activities in the life of Jesus which met two criteria: a strong case could be made for a judgment of high probability that the core event was historical, and that it was likely significant for understanding Jesus. The goal was to see the extent to which such a study of key events might provide an overall framework for understanding Jesus. Once these key events had been selected, each essay was to do three things: first, it was to set forth a case for the probable historicity of the event using the criteria for authenticity. The focus was to, first, establish the probable historicity of the event's core rather than concerning itself with all of the details. Second, explore the socio-cultural contextual information that contributes to understanding the event in its first-century context. Third, in light of this context, to consider the significance of the event for understanding Jesus. Thus, each study would have both macro and micro concerns, being both analytical and synthetic.
The group would function by assigning each event to a participant who would write a rough draft of the essay. This was then distributed in advance to all members who would then meet to discuss the essay. Each essay was discussed for a full day — paragraph by paragraph and sometimes line by line. Some essays went through multiple drafts and were discussed again for an additional day in a subsequent year. The focus was to discuss the evidence and argumentation to ensure that they were as complete and sound as possible. The process involved extensive discussion and debate which helped to shape and strengthen each essay. Although the group has twelve members, in any given year participants in the discussion ranged from six to nine. Several members were there for a majority of the meetings, so that a line of continuity was maintained throughout our discussions. So in a very real sense this work reflects the input of the group. The collaborative learning experience was very stimulating. Each author, however, remains alone responsible for the views expressed in their particular essay. In other words, the author of each essay had the final call on its contents.
The announcement went out and our first meeting was held in Chicago in 1999. The final meeting was held in Jerusalem in the summer of 2008. In between was another meeting in Chicago, a midway meeting in Tübingen (2005), and the rest of the meetings in Dallas. What started out as the presentation of ten events expanded to address twelve: six in Jesus' earlier ministry at large and six associated with his key, climactic activity in Jerusalem. The first six events were: The baptism by John the Baptist, the exorcisms in relationship to the teaching on the kingdom of God, the choosing of the Twelve, the association with sinners, the Sabbath controversies, and Peter's declaration at Caesarea Philippi. The final six events were the entry into Jerusalem, the temple incident, the last supper, the examination by the Jewish leadership, the examination by Pilate including crucifixion, and the claim of resurrection through the empty tomb and appearance accounts. The studies you see before you are the product of the group's work. Among the team there are differences in particulars, but in general the synthesis set forth is one the team embraces as providing the most coherent understanding of what Jesus did as a historic figure.
Some years more than one event was examined in an elongated schedule for the annual meetings. Literally hours of conversation and interaction are behind each study, including being in the position of looking up primary material, if it was called for, and discussing it, something the advent of computers has made possible.
This published work begins with an essay by Robert L. Webb on history, historiography, and historical method that actually was composed at the end of our work together. This essay opens the book to set the direction of what we sought to do and the issues we consistently faced throughout our meetings. It reflects discussions that regularly came up as individual events were considered and assessed. In other words, this essay was written at the end of our process; it was not written as a guideline at the beginning of it. As noted above, Jesus studies has generated many distinct portraits of Jesus. Webb's examination looks at method and the "forks in the road" choices such method faces, and as such it helps to explain how complex the pursuit of the historical Jesus is and why this variety exists. The essay also helps to show the limits of such an approach, given the nature of our data and our distance from it. This is why our portrait here should be seen as one attempt at putting pieces of a very complex puzzle together.
We write for an audience interested in historical Jesus study, both those who have engaged in it and those who want to get familiar with the range of discussion often tied to it. Such a study concentrates on what it thinks can be demonstrated in a corroborative manner about Jesus. All sources are available for consideration and each is sifted critically. By working with the criteria, our goal was to work with a method that is generally used in such study. We are quite aware that such methods have been subject to important critiques from all sides of the debate, but in many ways these are the best means we have to engage in such a sifting process. Webb's essay summarizes which criteria we used and how we tended to see their importance after we completed our study. It also places the criteria within a larger framework of broad historical method involving both a top-down and bottom-up approach.
The subsequent twelve essays focus on specific events, or in a few cases, key sets of events (i. e., exorcisms in relation to the Kingdom of God, Sab-bath controversies, and table fellowship with sinners). A similar structure for the most part appears in each essay proceeding through three concerns: (1) the historicity of the core of the event, (2) the social-cultural contextual information that helps us understand the event, and (3) the significance of the event for understanding the life and ministry of Jesus. In most cases where an event reflects a series of such accounts, a choice was made of a particular event to make the case for the category in question as authentic. This allowed us to focus on the central issues tied to the category.
Darrell L. Bock also has written a concluding essay. This represents the attempt to present a case for the coherence of the portrait that these key events suggest. We think we have shown a compelling case for a path that makes sense for a Jesus rooted historically in the complex cultural backdrop of the Second Temple period. Our study has concentrated on the Jewish context for providing socio-cultural background, as it often sheds signifi-cant light on what Jesus was doing.
One of the points expressed consistently in our discussion is the importance of recognizing, taking into account, and making public one's horizon, including one's biases and preunderstanding. Thus, we consider it important to say "where we are coming from" as a group. As the IBR Jesus Group, we are members of the Institute for Biblical Research, which is an academic society specifically for scholars whose disciplines are biblical studies: Hebrew Bible, New Testament and related fields. Its vision is to foster excellence in biblical studies, doing so within a faith commitment. Thus each of us has a commitment to the Christian faith. While some of us would call ourselves "Evangelical Christian," others might prefer "biblically orthodox Christian." Thus, while all are Christians, there is some diversity in out theological viewpoints.
Our hope is that these studies, along with a treatment of the twelve events' coherence, can add to the already vibrant discussion that has been a part of Jesus studies over the last several decades. We see four features of the work as making this study of particular value in assessing Jesus and presenting a portrait of him, not as a final word, but as an introduction to appreciating who Jesus was as an historic figure. These four features are: the group nature of the effort, the study's combining and balancing of analysis and synthesis, its attention to historiographic method and many details of the Second Temple context, along with the study's claim to set a trajectory for considering who Jesus was. These features, as well as the results, made this study a valuable exercise for the participants. We have learned much from one another in the process. So we offer this collection of essays forged in over a decade's reflection on the historical Jesus. Our hope is that our interpretation of these central events provides insight into the central themes of Jesus' life and his aims.
Our study has discussed historical method and presented a dozen key events in the life of Jesus whose core can be credibly defended as going back to him historically. The primary contextual framework used in these essays to interpret these events is that of Second Temple Judaism, and this has resulted in an overall thesis that Jesus operated within the context of Jewish expectation and presented the hoped for kingdom of God as arriving with him as its central eschatological figure. This self-disclosure was complex and involved many interwoven elements that help to paint a unified portrait, some fitting into forms of Jewish expectation and other pieces building in creative directions from them. Jesus set the direction for the unifying of these various elements. The kingdom's disclosure and Jesus' self-revelation emerge primarily through an assessment of the socio-cultural significance of these key actions, as well as the teaching that surrounded these events.
In this final chapter, my responsibility is to summarize the results of the individual essays and their topics by showing a "depth coherence" that this portrait yields. By "depth coherence" I mean that not only do elements cohere, but in such a variety of ways and through such a plethora of themes that the coherence runs deep into the fabric of the presentation.1 It should be pointed out, that this depth coherence only gradually began to form for the members of this Study Group as we were part-way through the project, and it emerged more clearly as the final chapters were being completed. Al-though this concluding essay will have a deductive feel to its presentation, the assembling of this coherence was very much an inductive process that emerged as we proceeded. In spots, I will also suggest potential correlations with other aspects of Jesus' multi-attested teaching that begin to take us toward a more holistic appreciation of his ministry. These potential links, which we have not corroborated with detailed study, may well suggest paths for further development of the initial path these core events reveal.
In constructing a hypothesis about an ancient historical figure, one of the tests is whether the construct treats the variety of data well. The participants' research has concluded that Jesus is best placed in a Jewish prophetic / apocalyptic environment where both the arrival of the kingdom hope and the one who brings it are both important. Historical Jesus studies often highlight the difference in emphases between the evangelists in doing their work. However, a danger is that in rightly pointing to the diversity in the portraits, one might cease to pay attention to an underlying unity in these portraits. We think that these essays show that such a unity is rooted in Jesus' own activity.
We are not claiming a comprehensive treatment of the historical Jesus. Rather, we are arguing that key elements are present around which one can gain a core understanding of Jesus. The dynamic interchange between Jesus' acts, the experiencing of Jesus, his teaching, and the reactions to it reveals this core. These events claim to possess more than mere announcement. They involved authoritative action and an inseparable association with the God of promise. These key actions point to the core of Jesus' ministry. Details in making the case for their historical integrity, as well as their cultural and theological significance, are found in the essays themselves. I do not repeat the detailed cases made there, although in spots I will list key texts that serve as particularly significant pieces of ancient evidence for our synthesis. My goal is to pull together the key strands of what each of these events yields to see if a coherent portrait emerges. The details of how we can see this coherence is my own argument and represents my own way of seeing this synthesis. While the broad strokes of this presentation were discussed in the group and stand affirmed by the group as a whole, we do, as with all these essays, differ on some details and emphases. I shall also review key points that suggest the core of these events do reach back to Jesus. Our central question is whether there is a center around which the historical Jesus can be understood.
Jesus' Baptism by John the Baptist
As Robert Webb's essay on John the baptizer shows, several elements are important in setting the backdrop of what Jesus brought. Jesus' involvement with John and what the Baptist's ministry represented places Jesus in a Jewish eschatological framework. John called for spiritual renewal in Israel and the restoration of covenant faithfulness. John's distinctive eschatological baptism for repentance involved a call to people to turn and embrace this renewal. By coming to be baptized by John, Jesus was affirming this message. It means that Jesus was more than a teacher of wisdom and aphorisms. John's placement of this ministry in the wilderness had eschatological over-tones. Jesus embraced all of these themes by associating with John.
The case for authenticity relies on the criterion of embarrassment. Jesus' submission to John and his baptism was difficult for the early church as the unique Matt 3:14-15 shows. Nevertheless, all the Gospels note this John-Jesus connection.2 Jesus even mirrored the structure of John's renewal movement with disciples following a teaching leader. So Jesus shared John's call to the nation for renewal and identified with it. This means that there was more to Jesus than being a religious ethicist, although he also had this element to his teaching.' As we shall see, the key events of Jesus' ministry possessed these eschatological-apocalyptic dimensions.
In making this point, we are aware of the debate that has surrounded the use of terms like apocalyptic and eschatological!' Our point is that Jesus identified with John's claim that the time had come for God's decisive salvific act. Israel needed to be spiritually prepared for its arrival. This event involved a long hoped-for expectation of vindication and shalom for God's people. With it would come justice and righteousness. Although the details of such expectation took on a variety of distinct details within Judaism, de-pending on whose vision was embraced, what all these expectations shared was that God would embrace and vindicate the righteous during this special time. John's baptism fits into that kind of expectation. This eschatological starting point is crucial to appreciating all that follows with Jesus. John the Baptist helps us makes sense out of Jesus and his context within Judaism.
Exorcisms and the Kingdom of God Versus Kingdom of Satan
Craig Evans' essay on the kingdom of God teaching builds off of this eschatological-apocalyptic backdrop. The exorcisms Jesus performed fit into this conceptual frame. Jesus' challenge to the spiritual world of destructive forces fits the Second Temple Jewish backdrop that sees kingdom announcement as ultimately involving the defeat of Satan (T Mos. 10:1-2). It also fits with the Jewish polemic against Jesus reported in a variety of sources from the Gospels to Justin Martyr to the Talmud. In these texts, the Jewish sources accept the fact of exorcism and charge Jesus with using power from below. In his opponents' eyes, Jesus is a sorcerer (Mark 3:22; Matt 12:24; Luke 11:15; Justin, Dial. 69; b. Sanh. 43a).6
One of the least disputed facts about Jesus is that he taught about the coming kingdom.' Although not a common phrase in the Hebrew Scripture, the idea that God rules is a frequent concept within it. Second Temple Juda-ism also developed this idea.' However, Jesus' use of the kingdom concept is not about the inherent sovereignty God has as Creator, as is often ap-pealed to in the Psalms. Rather it treats the idea of his promised redeeming rule expressed afresh in the world in the arrival of a newly dawning age of shalom. This kingdom vindicates the righteous and brings ultimate justice. The defeat of evil was fundamental to this hope. This was a presence that kings and prophets had longed to see (Q: Matt 13:17 = Luke 10:24). Such a defeat involved acts that pointed to the arrival of something God has begun anew to do (Q: Matt 11:2-6 = Luke 7:18-23). This Matt 11 = Luke 7 passage alludes to salvation acts described in Isaiah; something Qumran also affirms in 4Q521. Yet at Qumran it is expectation that is expressed, while with Jesus it is fulfillment that is affirmed. Jesus' claim that the kingdom was coming placed him in a category where either he was a prophet proclaiming God's will in affirming the approach of the kingdom or one who risked being a false prophet. In the first century Jewish world, such claims would either be from God or from the devil. Jesus' exorcisms made the case that God stood behind Jesus' claims. Jesus claimed that the transformation of the possessed to people of sane mind served as evidence for something that was hard to see, the coming of the kingdom. This combination of word and act was central to Jesus' activity. It is present in several of his actions. God's kingdom was coming, so Satan's kingdom stood under attack. It is significant that Q, a source usually seen as lacking such Christological elements, also has this emphasis. Thus, Jesus' exorcisms point to a transcendent act that itself looked to a deeper claim about what came with Jesus. In other words, not only did Jesus announce a time of the arrival of God's promise, much as a prophet would, he helped to bring about the era announced and occupies an indispensable role in that new reality. It is in this link that implications for Christology can be seen.
The Choosing of the Twelve
Scot McKnight's treatment on Jesus' choosing of the Twelve continues to underscore the restoration theme in Jesus' activity. Covenant renewal and eschatological restoration were the point. For McKnight, Joshua and the leaders at Qumran serve as parallels. In addition, one should not miss the critique and authority claimed by such an act. The old structures of Israel were no longer seen as viable on their own terms. This was part of the "new wine skins" that Jesus brought to help accomplish the renewal effort. Thus, this action presupposed a leader, someone worth gathering around and someone who possessed a mission worth undertaking. God's people were being restructured, but that restructuring was based in part on the authority of the person whose teaching and work informed that renewal. The act raised a question: what kind of understanding of one's authority does Jesus' action indicate? Jesus gathered, but he gathered twelve in a manner that mirrored Israel's origins. He sent the twelve out with a message about the coming of God's new era. God's people and nation were being restructured around new leadership. Jesus called on these twelve to help lead the regathering nation in a new era of renewal and discipleship.
Where else do we see this kind of conscious mirroring
of the origins of Israel? John the Baptist had disciples
and his baptizing ministry was reconstituting the true,
remnant Israel. Others, like John the Baptist, had
disciples. But we do not see this conscious effort to
show a reconstitution
of God's people elsewhere. This act is both continuous and discontinuous with the church and with Second Temple Judaism — and it is specifically the feature of the twelve that makes it unique (Qumran had fifteen as McKnight notes).
Often scholars claim that Jesus proclaimed a kingdom, but did not present himself. Special attention should be given to the juxtaposition in the Synoptics between Jesus performing new salvific acts and the frequent lack of explicit discussion and direct declaration about Jesus' person. One of the features of Jesus' teaching, at least as it is seen in the Synoptics, is that he spends much time discussing what he announces (the kingdom of God) and what he brings (the forgiveness and the mercy of God) without making himself an explicit object of hope. This feature of his teaching can be mis-leading because his actions and other activities do give hints that he may be at the center of what is coming. In fact in many ways, the kingdom and its benefits implicitly arrive with his presence and activity. A careful eye on the extent of Jesus' authority revealed in this combination of actions actually begins to affirm much about how Jesus saw his role in this ministry. Jesus is believed in for actions, such as the exorcisms and healings, because they point to the time he brings. The lack of direct expression about the person of Jesus actually is evidence for the age of such traditions, because the case is not made as explicitly as it could be if it were created by a confessing church. These are claims implicit in the actions Jesus performs, because he is at the center of the benefits of salvation's presence. His disciples, who sometimes perform similar acts, do so by commission from him.
So Jesus opened a door of opportunity from God. The way in came with a call, one to embrace totally and receive without distraction the new reality God was bringing through him. So Jesus taught about a discipleship that demanded all, something other texts develop in a way that coheres with this starting point. The call to the twelve and to those called after them to discipleship in general meant primary allegiance to God, even over one's family. A series of texts, carrying a multiply attested theme, express this idea (Mark: Mark 8:34-9:1; Matt 16:24-28 = Luke 9:23-27; Q: Matt 8:19-22 = Luke 9:57-60; Matt 10:37-38 like Luke 14:25-26; L: Luke 9:61-62).
The uniqueness of how Jesus said and did this is another element of dissimilarity in his teaching. In the tradition, Jesus is the one teacher who people followed and he did the inviting, rather than the students coming to him.9 In the Gospel tradition, his teaching was the only "teaching" that really counts. We do not see teachers, highlighted within the Jesus tradition, arising alongside Jesus to give their take on the arriving kingdom in the Gospels or even adding a complementary word to what Jesus says. The disciples are very much learners only with a message Jesus gave, not independent teachers with their own distinct access to truth. His word alone was important. Everything else taught, even by theologians such as Paul, is commentary on the way he first established. So Paul called on people to imitate him as he imitated Jesus. These seem to reflect trajectories the historical Jesus set. Jesus called for a total commitment in entering into the way he was introducing. Jesus consistently insisted that his teaching was to be heeded, showing the importance of what he was bringing and announcing. This emphasis on his teaching alone was perhaps best indicated by his familiar multiply attested refrain, "the one who has ears, let him hear" and its variations (Matt 11:15; 13:9, 15-16,43; Mark 4:9, 23; 8:18; Luke 8:8; 14:35; Marcan, M and L traditions are included here). The twelve had a key role as those closest to Jesus in presenting these themes. However, the relation-ships Jesus sought out in his ministry raised afresh the question about who can be righteous.
Table Fellowship with Sinners and Outsiders
One of the areas where Jesus aroused opposition and controversy was in the relationships he initiated. He granted acceptance to a wide range of people through table fellowship. Meals played a significant role in Jesus' ministry, and imagery that pictured the eschatological banquet of God are a frequently attested theme in Jesus' teaching. Such passages extend from the Marcan tradition with the feeding of the multitudes to multiple, unique Lucan meal scenes. Craig Blomberg's study works through their importance and social message. Such scenes are distinct from the typical Greek symposia that sometimes are a point of scholarly comparison.
Jesus' actions illustrated that God welcomes and initiates relationships with all types of people, including many types that popular piety has excluded from the table. Jesus was neither an elitist nor a separatist. He displayed a special and focused concern for those that society had often made outsiders. So his meals included the poor and those who could not give a banquet in return.
These actions pointed to a kingdom that restructured social and relational concerns. Even the least of those present in society and those cast aside from it could gain his attention. So he took time for children who for this culture had little social value until they could contribute to it. This acceptance indicated a repriorizing of values and an affirmation that God valued all human beings. Whether one thinks of the call for a different kind of banquet in Luke 14:1-24 or looks to how Jesus treated the sinful woman at the meal in Luke 7:35-50, the teaching is the same. Forgiveness and acceptance pave the way for the pursuit of righteousness. The one who is forgiven much will love much.
Jesus revealed corporate values that differed from much of the social world of his first-century context. Rather than marginalizing what society regarded as fringe people, he pursued and embraced them as an example of those to whom God offered a fresh way through forgiveness and acceptance. This is seen even in how the twelve were structured, for in that group were average people from basic walks of life. Nevertheless, they differed significantly from one another as well. In the same tight fellowship there was a tax collector who labored for Rome as well as a zealot who stood opposed to everything Rome represented. What Jesus brought was bigger than politics even as it sought to reshape how one looked at society and its relationships.
So we see here another key multi-attested element of Jesus' ministry is his reaching out to those on the fringe of society. His association with people regarded as unclean or as likely reprobates was something that created both reaction against him and interest in him .1° This acceptance was seen in the table fellowship he extended to such people. He also urged those he taught to reach out in a similar manner, showing that the mission he had was to be continued and was to remain focused on people normally excluded as candidates for relationship with God. Jesus engaged with people in ways that led to the criticism of his associations (Q: Matt 11:19 = Luke 7:34; L: Luke 15:1). This was a way of indicating that he intended his message for a wide range of people because Jesus came to seek and save lost sinners (Mark: Mark 2:17 = Matt 9:13 = Luke 5:32; L: Luke 5:8; 15:1-32; Luke 19:10).
Jesus' actions contrasted starkly with the kind of elaborate piety some Jewish groups expected. One thinks here of the long initiation process required at Qumran. The elaborate discussions of sin, piety and purity were a part of movements within Second Temple Judaism that emerged even more fully after the temple destruction in works like the Mishnah. Before that period, works like Jubilees also reflected a concern to be the righteous in ways that could lead to a type of separation from other, more reprobate elements within Israel. Jesus' approach to holiness was different. The kingdom he brought was to be inclusive, inviting participation in it to all layers of society while calling for a renewed pursuit of righteousness. Appreciating being welcomed into the kingdom led to that pursuit of righteousness, rather than being an entry requirement. Exclusion involved a conscious choice not to enter into the forgiveness Jesus offered and demonstrated.
However this kind of social restructuring was not the only area that produced official offense. Jesus' actions roamed in sacred territory beyond defining how righteousness could come. These forays into other areas of Jewish piety brought official reaction as he invoked elements of traditional Second Temple faith in a manner different from the Jewish leadership.
Controversy over the Sabbath with Jewish Leaders
Donald Hagner's essay treats the theme of Jesus and the Sabbath. Jesus' handling of this issue is important, for the Sabbath was a part of the Ten Words, rooted solidly in the Torah. Just as important, by the time of the Second Temple it had come to be seen in many Jewish circles as a pre-Mosaic and even pre-creation institution. The book of Jubilees shows this deepened emphasis about the Sabbath. For Jesus to make comprehensive Sabbath pronouncements was yet another act of authority mixed with word.
Jesus' actions on the Sabbath involved him permitting people to be fed or to be healed on the Sabbath. This also pictured restoration and deliverance. Jesus' restorative power pointed to the arrival of rest, a permanent kind of rest as opposed to a one-day-a-week rest. Thus these healings and acts anticipated the shalom that comes with the kingdom.
With these acts we again see the fusion of the arrival of a special time and the work of a special person. Who has authority over the day of rest? Jesus' claim to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28 = Matt 12:8 = Luke 6:5) says it directly. Here is the beginning of a surfacing of a series of claims about authority that attach to our core events, each in distinctive spheres. This is one of the places where our "depth coherence" begins to surface. These related claims need special attention as we proceed; they are keys to appreciating how these events link together, moving us inductively to deductions about Jesus.
Now I recognize that for many scholars one of the most controversial parts of Jesus' work was his miraculous activity. However, our ancient sources are consistent in not challenging that Jesus performed unusual works. What Jesus' opponents debated with him and his followers was the source of such acts. The Jewish retort that Jesus' power was either a reflection of magic, sorcery, or of satanic power was not a denial that these activities took place but an effort to place their origin in a sphere outside God's benevolent activity." Josephus, certainly no Christian, more neutrally and simply says that what Jesus did was unusual (1-capatov). Jesus' example through these works was intended to show that God cared. So those who walked in Jesus' footsteps should seek to give themselves to the kind of service (not necessarily miraculous) where word and deed said God reaches out and cares. The Sabbath healings fit here, pointing to what Jesus' action represents as well as exemplifying what his disciples were called to do.
Now some, as Hagner notes, do not see Jesus' words to heal as a Sabbath violation, so that these scenes are treated as artificially creating a tension that would not have historically existed.12 Such a reading of Jesus' action confuses how Jesus may have intended his word (no violation is present) with how such an effective verbal effort would have been perceived by those whose halachic Sabbath standards had little room for maneuver. It was Jesus using words with the intent to heal that was seen as a violation. Jesus would have been invoking action on a day of rest and acting as an working agent of healing on that day designed for non-activity. So Jesus' action correctly would have been seen as a sovereign act as well as possessing eschatological overtones. No text showed this more clearly than Jesus' retort, when healing a woman, that there is no more appropriate day on which to free one from the bonds of Satan than on the Sabbath (Luke 13:10-17). Jesus is not rejecting the Sabbath here but placing it in its complete context, pointing to its expectation that one day God would give permanent shalom. These actions, then not only point to a time, but to a person who brings a special time. Part of what shows the person being in part the issue are the very controversies about Jesus' authority these actions generate. In these acts, again often tied to words, Jesus is shown to bring the new era.
Peter's Declaration at Caesarea Philippi
No one who has traveled to this region of the Holy Land can forget seeing the rock cliff at Caesarea Philippi with its many niches. Here is where idols once stood, though some of them do postdate the period when Jesus was there. The setting of this declaration is a surprising one. A created event with such a central Jewish declaration about Messiah might well have been expected in an Israelite setting, in keeping with much of Jesus' ministry. Yet Caesarea Philippi was a region full of the Roman gods' spiritual influence. By Jesus' time, it had been a spot of polytheistic worship for centuries. Peter's statement about Jesus was not one only about Israel. However, a created church statement surely would have been less ambiguous than this text is. Nor would it have ended with a note of silence about making such a confession public. Such factors speak against an event created by the church.
Michael Wilkins argues that Jesus elicited from his disciples a recognition that distinguished between Jesus as a prophetic figure and Jesus as the "anointed one." Peter's declaration affirms that Jesus was the core eschatological figure of promise. The setting is no accident, because in bringing God's kingdom, Jesus was bringing something that transcended the nation of Israel alone. At the center of the kingdom program stood Jesus. His combination activity and teaching had made this evident to Peter.
A careful reading indicates that Jesus accepted the title of Messiah, but with key qualifications. He spent much of the remainder of his ministry developing the nuances of what Peter's declaration really meant. This disciple's idea needed shaping, so there is an aspect of denial in Jesus' response and a call to be silent. Jesus needed to reconfigure Peter's expectations, adding notes of suffering to precede the vindication Peter anticipated. The church surely understood the thrust of Jesus' response as positive because without it, there never would have been the common association of Jesus as "the Christ." The common church name Jesus Christ says as much.
The initial introduction of these themes about suffering caused Jesus to challenge Peter as speaking for Satan at one point. This strong retort points to the authenticity of the entire sequence through an appeal to the criterion of embarrassment. So the full force of Peter's declaration about Jesus as the Christ, though embraced by the disciples he represented, was not yet completely appreciated by those confessing it. A restructuring and reorientation was required.
Alongside hopes of victory and vindication, there would be pain, suffering, and rejection. The road to shalom was not paved in an exercise of power or domination. At its core were acts of service and sacrifice. Jesus would be a leader-prophet, delivering much as Moses had, but by means of a route that had not been so anticipated, neither by those opposed to him nor by those now walking with him down this new way.
The hesitation immediately to go forward in public with what Peter said here has been a source of controversy. As was noted in the essay on this event, Wrede made the messianic dilemma famous by initially arguing that the "messianic secret" is something Mark created to make a messianic ministry out of something that was not messianic under Jesus. It is hard to understand why the early church would have gone forward to call Jesus the Christ if the impetus to do so had not come from Jesus. It is even harder to understand how Christ became so quickly and deeply attached to Jesus' name in the early church if he had not accepted the claim that he was the messiah, especially if he explicitly had refused to take on the term in private or public discussion as some claim. In fact in a little-known historical detail, before he died, Wrede renounced his own view of the messianic secret in a private letter to Adolf Harnack." So even Wrede came to see the weakness of this understanding of Jesus. A messianic impulse for understanding Jesus came from Jesus' own acts and responses.
This declaration also develops what we have already seen. First, the presence of the promised one meant that John the Baptist's hope of immanence gets reconfigured, because the new era came through both judgment and service. John anticipated the judgment, but not the service. It also reinforced what was seen in the exorcisms, the claims to defeat Satan in the kingdom's victory. In Sabbath acts, Jesus points to the authority the eschatological figure possesses. He not only heralds the kingdom; he demonstrates the arrival of its authority in his own declarative action. This scene also develops why the twelve were formed. They have come to have access to Jesus and his teaching. Such access placed them in a unique position to appreciate and teach what it was Jesus sought to achieve. Ben Meyer's study, The Aims of Jesus, highlights this difference by distinguishing that which Jesus taught publicly from that which he taught the disciples privately. The trajectory of these depth linkages is that Jesus intended himself to be seen as the eschatological figure in God's promised program.
Peter's declaration forms the pivot from events in Jesus' earlier ministry to the core events in Jesus' last visit to Jerusalem. It is here that these strands weave together even more tightly and comprehensively.
Jesus' Entry into Jerusalem
Brent Kinman's essay highlights the fact that Jesus' public entry into Jerusalem was a distinctive and public display of his activity. Everything about this entry presented Jesus as a regal figure, but one pointing to humility, not just power. In that sense this entry was a-triumphal. This arrival to Jerusalem provided an opportunity for people to embrace Jesus and his claim to be the central eschatological figure. His disciples embraced the act, but many others did not. As an event involving the approach of many pilgrims, it may have appeared to many, including the Romans, as a the confused throng of activity tied to a massive celebratory migration into the`city. This may explain why there was no effort to arrest Jesus at the time.
The idea that Jesus so purposefully entered Jerusalem has raised questions about the event's authenticity. Surely, if Jesus had entered the city in such a bold manner he would have been stopped immediately. However, this challenge to the scene argues for too much. Jesus was one among many pilgrims approaching Jerusalem. The sacred city's population was said to triple during such pilgrim feats, reaching up to 100,000 from tens of thousands. Pilgrims entering the town would have been in a celebratory mood, probably singing among other activities. They might well have chimed in with the act of the disciples, but in Matt 21:11 they did so only seeing Jesus as a prophet, a reputation he had established popularly, but one short of what the actions implicitly represented. Some others may well have joined the disciples in calling out in praise of the entering Son of David (Matt 21:9). This mix of praise makes it likely that the event was more ambiguous than the way the disciples and Jesus had intended it. The kingdom hope Jesus generated up to this point had some wanting to make him king, others seeing him as a prophet. This ambiguity may have led to a mixed response, but how many actually appreciated all that he had been doing here was not clear — it may have been far less than the vast crowd that is often suggested. The Lucan text might be of help by attributing the laying down of palms to disciples. This group of believers is modestly numbered at just over a hundred in Acts. An action like this by an isolated few, during such a commotion, would not necessarily attract a great deal of attention except from those keeping a specific eye on Jesus, namely, the religious leadership. They did challenge Jesus about his entry according to Luke 19:39-40. Even if they had wanted to act, to seize Jesus immediately in this celebratory crowd would have risked really setting off an uproar.
A second feature that raises authenticity issues involves the explicitness of Jesus' act. Is not this kind of public disclosure out of character for his ministry? The answer to that question is certainly yes, but the contrast is the point. Jesus now approached the capital to press the issue of his identity. He entered the city with actions that evoked kingship like Solomon's entry (1 Kgs 1:33-37) and the hope of a coming king like that in Zech 9:9. Yet, unlike the arrival of other dignitaries, the civic leaders of Jerusalem did not come to meet Jesus. There were no speeches for him as there were for other dignitaries who entered ancient cities with pomp. It was a presentation of kingship made in very modest terms. This entry lacked the sense of awe and wonder that most dignitaries received, even though those who appreciated Jesus called out in praise. This is another reason why the entry can be described as a-triumphal.16
This event is one of the few told in all four Gospels, underscoring its importance. The variation in the accounts show that more than one source likely is in view. An early church careful about antagonizing Rome would not have created such a story. Why would they create this event if such a potentially provocative act could be denied? Its presence throughout the material suggests it was there because it did occur. Its memory lingered. Its presence also suggests that Jesus entered the city intent on being reckoned with and assessed. His disciples knew he entered the city making kingdom claims and said so. His opponents, if Luke can be accepted, challenged his claim, something their later action confirmed. Jesus' entry set the stage for the decisive confrontation.
This event frames everything that happened later in Jerusalem. The actions and disputes that followed rotate around the authority that this entry suggests Jesus was implicitly claiming. Kingdom hope and a fresh, reprioritized portrait of kingship came together in this entry. As such the event is in line with the themes already traced in the other events.
Jesus' Action in the Temple
Klyne Snodgrass's study of the temple incident shows that this event accomplished several things at once: (1) It served as a prophetic protest against certain temple proceedings. (2) It also was a messianic act of cleansing the temple in an eschatological context, making an implicit claim of authority. (3) As such it represented stepping on priestly toes, directly challenging the religious leadership's authority in Jerusalem. The action forced the leader-ship's hand, demanding either a positive or negative response. The incident was eschatological in force. Jesus declared what the temple was designed to be and what it should be. In remarks that appeal to Isa 56, the temple is to be a gathering place for all nations. This public event reinforces who has the right to undertake such a symbolic act on Israel's behalf. Who really speaks for God's chosen people? Jesus makes his claim in Israel's most sacred space, a place all Israel regarded as the earth's most sanctified place.
Few doubt the authenticity of this event. It is multi-attested in at least two distinct versions (Mark: Mark 11:15-19 = Matt 21:12-17 = Luke 19:45-48; John: John 2:13-22).17 It is one of the few events to appear in all four gospels. It is seen as a catalyst for Jesus' arrest in the Synoptics, a view that makes cultural sense. Moreover it is not clear why this event would have been created had it not taken place. What would have been gained by creating such an event? The early church sought to be careful about being seen as seditious and yet this event plays right into that danger. Thus, its occurrence best explains its presence.
Herod the Great rebuilt the temple mount and expanded the area so that it covered about thirty-five acres. Jesus' action likely took place near the Royal Portico at the southern end of the temple mount, where the money-changers and traders would have been. Temple worship required pure doves and animals. The money-changers allowed men needing to pay the temple tax to purchase the required Tyrian shekels. Although these shekels had symbols on them offensive to Jews, they were of the highest quality and silver content available for this purpose. These were the least offensive, yet suitable, coins available at the time.
Scholars have interpreted Jesus' action in various ways: a protest against the commercialization of the temple, a protest against the temple itself with a prediction of its destruction, or as a call to spiritual reform beginning at the temple. At the least, Jesus' overturning the tables involved a prophetic action. It served as a rebuke of the leadership and the way it ran the temple. As such, Jesus challenged what was regarded as official religious authority, which was why the scene following this event had the leadership pose the question about where Jesus got the authority to do such things."
The reason for Jesus' action may well be complex. Although Jesus did predict the destruction of Jerusalem and although at a later time sacrifices were viewed as unnecessary, Jesus was not pronouncing the destruction of Jerusalem or the cessation of sacrifices with this incident.19 The evidence of various sources, especially the Qumran Scrolls, shows that many Jews had concerns about corruption in the temple. Those guilty of corruption were almost exclusively seen as the ruling priestly families, not the regular priests who served daily in the temple.2° Jesus speaking about what the temple should be in the future argues against a prediction about the temple's destruction. Nothing Jesus said here pointed to a transformation of imagery or perception of the temple as a non-existent place of worship. So we should not read his remarks as anticipating a spiritualizing of the temple developed later in Christian theology. Judgment in the imagery of the withered fig tree was not aimed at the temple, but at the nation.
The confrontation Jesus had with the leadership may well have been an element in play here, but it is unlikely to be all that was at work. So although such corruption might have been a factor, Jesus' purpose was likely more comprehensive. Proclaiming eschatological hope was more important than the replacement of corrupt leadership. Jesus looked to the future in saying the house will be a house of prayer for the nations. Like the prophets before him, Jesus took strategic action in the temple to reorder how people viewed the temple and its proceedings. He looked forward, not just back or to current failures. Numerous Jewish texts point to the expectation that at the end time the temple worship would be what it should be. People from many nations would come there to worship (Ezek 40-48; 4Q174, where the house of David arises and the temple is rebuilt, an act pointing to restoration). So Jesus' action was a critique of the current worship and the ruling priests. This critique expressed his conviction about the temple's sanctity. The action implied an unparalleled authority, one that probably carried messianic overtones because this event followed his entry and the eschatological meaning of the series of acts tied to it. The temple challenge also pointed to the fulfillment of promises that God (or the messiah) would set things right in the temple. The juxtaposition of the revived Davidic dynasty and the hope for a restored Jerusalem, expressed in the fourteenth benediction, reflects such a linked hope. Jewish eschatological expectation expressed in regular prayer linked Jerusalem's sanctity with the work of the promised one. This view also appears in the hope of Messiah's transforming Jerusalem into a place of righteousness (Pss. Sol. 17-18). In sum, the temple incident was a symbolic messianic act. Jesus had the right to do this not only because he represented God and spoke in his name, but because of his own role within God's program.
Jesus' Last Supper with his Disciples
Our study has been tracing two sets of themes tied to Jesus: one is related to the time he brings, the other treats who brings that time. In many ways, the Last Supper brought these two themes together. In Howard Marshall's study, Jesus took a meal tied to the season, the Passover, and altered its symbolic significance in a way that pointed to his own work and action. Was it a Passover meal? The tradition of the Synoptic Gospels says so (Mark 14:1-2, 12-17), although John leaves another impression (John 18:28). Again, what could be said was that the mood of the Passover season was surely a part of the scene, given the meal at the least came on the edge of Passover, making the association a simple transition. In either chronological setting, Jesus' declaration at this meal pointed to a new covenantal reality coming into existence through what God was about to do through Jesus.
The wording of the event comes down to us in two forms, one seen in Matthew and Mark, the other in Luke and Paul. An allusion to the new covenant, a move the Pauline-Lukan version made specifically (1 Cor 11:25 = Luke 22:20), is clear in either version. The Matthean-Marcan version speaks of the "blood of the covenant" without specifying its character as new (Mark 14:24 = Matt 26:28). However, placed in the eschatological context of all of Jesus' acts, the remark points to a new era of salvation, so a new covenant tied to that new period is invoked. At the least, Jesus' death represented an act of service that cleared the way for others to be blessed. Also likely, in addition, is that this death served as a sacrifice on behalf of others, an act of substitution which God honored in such a way that others could be brought into a new relationship with him. Jesus' suffering would bring a fresh covenantal reality. Jesus memorialized his death as a renewed representative act on behalf of many/you (many: Matt 26:28 = Mark 14:24; you: 1 Cor 11:24 = Luke 22:19 [also in v. 20]). An allusion to Isaiah 53 was possibly intended in the appeal to the "many."" Jesus is seen as a righteous sufferer, but his death is more than an example of righteous service. As a sacrifice, it procured a way to forgiveness that participants in the new era are to embrace. Everything about this teaching pointed to the arrival of both an era and of a central figure bringing that era. Jesus both announces and acts.
Jesus' radical altering of sacred Exodus liturgy also points in this direction, because Jesus does not merely harken back and strengthen the links to the Exodus as the old liturgy did; he points exclusively forward to a new era, distinctively altering the imagery of the old rite. Jewish liturgy was often reworked, but how often was it transformed to refer to a completely separate event? Such an act again raises the question: who has the authority to make such a move and to what kind of authority does it point?
This meal pointed back to the various acts of authority he had already undertaken in Jerusalem. Jesus had already taught a prophet could not die outside of Jerusalem (L: Luke 13:33: Q: Matt 23:37 = Luke 13:34), a claim that cohered with what was taking place here. This act indicated that Jesus saw himself as the center of eschatological activity and the one whose act of suffering brings the new era. At the least, this was an act of the eschatological prophet, one who functioned as the expected leader-prophet like Moses. However, Jesus' other acts during this week also frame this event. I speak of his entry, his challenge at the temple and his challenge to understand what Ps 110:1 meant. Taken together these intend to raise messianic implications. Jesus acts as a leader-prophet who delivered in such a way that the eschaton came with him. This sacrifice opened up a covenant. In addition, a call for Israel to turn back to God meant this sacrifice dealt with sin to clear the way for a new relationship to God. So whether Jesus spoke of the sacrifice being for you or for the many, it was the representative feature on behalf of God's responding people`that was present in either version. These variations in wording are simply synonymous ways to express the idea. That this meal will be celebrated again in the eschatological future invoked the idea of the messianic banquet. So Jesus saw himself acting as the leader who ushers in the new era.
It is important to note that this event took place among the disciples alone. It was not a public declaration. It served to make clear what Jesus saw himself as facing. It provided the early church with an event for reflection, something the meal certainly quickly became. The scene made it clear that Jesus knew he was facing rejection and death, something subsequent events would prove to be the case.
Jesus' Examination Before the Jewish Leadership
The issue of Jesus' authority is the central point of contention in the scene of the Jewish examination of Jesus. This is not a formal trial, because only the Romans had the authority to put someone to death. The key exchange in this scene treated Jesus' comprehensive claim of vindication and authority. Jesus argued that God would welcome him, not only into heaven as a righteous one, but with a seat by God's side, sharing in divine ruling authority. The remark also suggests that the leadership would be subject to judgment by him one day. The scene involves two distinct judgments about Jesus. One judgment is Jesus' claim of exaltation to come. The other judgment is the leadership's perception that such a claim is blasphemous because it com-promises Gody;s unique, sacred glory. The scene permits no middle ground between these two options.
Mark's`discussion of the examination begins with Jesus' statement on the temple. This introduction suggests that Jesus' temple act was a key catalyst in Jesus' presence before them. This act was seen as a direct challenge to the leadership's control of the temple. Such a challenge had to be met or else the suggestion would remain that the temple was operating in an unsanctified manner. This scene is also corroborated in a general way by the testimony of Josephus in Ant. 18.63-64, which most likely attributes Jesus' death to both the Jewish leadership and Pilate.
An often-made challenge to the authenticity of this event involves the claim of a lack of potential sources from the Christian side`who could serve as witnesses. These objections are not persuasive. The lines for possible pub-lic disclosure here are multiple. First, we have the potential for witnesses, like Nicodemus or Joseph of Arimathea. Second, another potential source was Paul, who as a one time opponent had access to the leadership during the period when he persecuted the church. Third, there was a decades-long debate between Jesus' followers and the leadership in Jerusalem. In this debate the key issues would surely have surfaced. Annas II, a descendant of Annas and Caiaphas, was responsible for James's death in the early sixties. This event, described by Josephus, shows how long the debate over the new movement lasted (Ant 20.200). In the public debate over Jesus, the Jewish leadership surely would have been made their case against Jesus public. The "Jerusalem grapevine" serves as a credible means for the surfacing of what took place.
At the event's core was the exchange between Jesus and the high priest. Jesus was asked to explain who he was. His reply, as recorded in the Synop-tic Gospels, invoked Ps 110:1 in all versions (Matt 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 22:69) and Dan 7:13 in Matthew and Mark. This was the crux to this scene. In my essay on this event I have argued the likelihood of both citations be-ing linked by Jesus originally, given the likelihood that both texts appeared to have mattered to him
However, despite what I have argued, it is important to note that all one needed to trigger the offense was that Jesus alluded to one of these two texts. The high priest would have responded with a blasphemy claim had either text been noted.
The appeal to Ps 110:1 with its reference to being seated at God's right hand meant that Jesus anticipated divine vindication and expected to be ushered into God's very presence, in some way sharing God's presence and glory. This thought of shared glory was controversial to Jews. Some Jews entertained the possibility of something similar for a few potential figures, while other Jews regarded such exaltation as unthinkable. So for the Jewish leadership a Galilean teacher like Jesus did not qualify for such a claim. He lacked the credentials of greatness that the other candidates had, that is, if they even accepted such a possibility.
If Jesus had only appealed to Dan 7:13-14 with its image of the Son of Man riding the clouds, then the high priest also would have reacted because such riding of the clouds was something only deity did in the Hebrew Scriptures. The implication in such a reply was that Jesus would return as the Son of Man to exercise judgment. Jesus' response included the idea that one day Jesus would judge his current opponents! So this would be seen as a claim to share divine prerogatives, not to mention functioning as a direct challenge against the leadership. If Jesus uttered both sayings, then the point was that one day he would sit in God's presence and exercise such judgment authority.
In any of these three scenarios (Ps 110:1 alone, Dan 7:13-14 alone, or both texts noted), Jesus' reply either claimed an equality with God, or, at least, a kind of sharing in authority with God, that the leadership would have judged as slander against God's unique glory. Jesus' remark in any form, made it clear that he not only anticipated reception in heaven but far more. With a Danielic allusion, the challenge to the leadership was more direct, as the defendant Jesus claimed that he would become their judge. This role also could have been seen as blasphemous in light of Exod 22:28 [Eng]. A way to contextualize this reply is to think of it as worse than claiming to be able to live in the temple's Holy of Holies, the earthly symbol of God's presence in heaven. Part of what makes the remark so offensive to the leadership was Jesus' placing the locale of vindication so clearly in terms of heaven. Jesus invoked not the symbol or representation of God's presence on earth, but his own presence next to God in glory.
To present Jesus' response as blasphemy was not a charge the leadership could have brought to Rome. The Romans would have refused to enter into a religious dispute among Jews. However, what Jesus' remark permitted the leadership to do was raise the issue of Jesus being disruptive to the pax Romana in Judea. If Jesus had claimed to be a figure who bears authority apart from Rome, this claim could be taken to Pilate and presented as a disruptive factor in the province. To translate a heavenly kingship claim as a claim to be a king independent of Rome was all that was needed to merit
Pilate's consideration. So the leadership saw itself as having a basis to go to Pilate. They could raise a charge of sedition. Pilate would be forced to act, because he was responsible to protect Caesar's interests. This leads directly into our next key event.
Jesus' Roman Examination by Pilate and his Crucifixion
The essay by Robert Webb focuses on the cultural context that would lead Pilate to get involved. Jesus represented no military threat to Rome. His threat involved social upheaval. The involvement of the Jewish leadership bringing Jesus to Pilate underscored this potential. Here were the Jewish elites with whom Pilate worked the closest alerting him to a figure who in their view was disturbing the peace. These leaders claimed that Jesus easily could destabilize a sensitive, religiously rooted region. Their charge was that Jesus had the potential to be a cause of serious political unrest.
Working backwards towards Pilate's examination is the best way to understand its role. Pilate placed the charge that accompanied Jesus' crucifix-ion on what has become known as the titulus. It described Jesus' crime as claiming to be King of the Jews. Since Rome appointed kings, Pilate would see the claim to be king without Roman approval as a form of sedition. Sedition leads to crucifixion, a most horrific form of death. The Romans used it as a deterrent to say if one acts against us, excruciating suffering lies ahead. As such, this kind of death became an opportunity to broadcast to Roman subjects, "Don't act like him or you will end up like this." The fact that Pilate had Jesus crucified meant that it was the claim to be a king that registered with the prefect. Jesus' crucifixion is among the least disputed facts of Jesus' life. Jesus was not crucified merely for being a prophet.
This kingship charge fits closely with where we have seen Jesus' claims leading. It also coheres with the first century context for crucifixion, namely, charges of political upheaval against Rome. It also confirms what we have seen elsewhere. The key perception about Jesus for those opposed to him was that he claimed to be more than a prophet, taking to himself a social-political authority they did not recognize. As we noted already, the Jewish discomfort with Jesus involved a direct challenge to their religious authority. The leadership translated that threat into political terms Pilate could grasp. Jesus' actions in support of his claim to bring a new era also had implications for Roman authority that saw itself as bringing a new era. Jesus' new era claims suggested that Roman authority was not alone. Rome would see this as sedition, something that could not be tolerated. Jesus' movement had already shown it could generate an emotional, popular following, challenging key social institutions. So elements in the Jewish leader-ship closest to Pilate brought their concern to the prefect. Other examples, such as Theudas and the anonymous Egyptian, show how seriously the Romans handled such situations.
Our earliest sources' core portrait agrees. Pilate became convinced that Jesus and his claims had the potential to disrupt the religiously sensitive Judean province.25 The Jewish leadership presented the Galilean teacher as a threat to Judean stability. They did so with some insistence. The charges the Jewish leadership brought had to do with Jesus inciting the people, and certainly Pilate could read that the leadership was concerned. The sources consistently argue that the issue was whether Jesus claimed to be a king of the Jews (Mark 15:3 = Matt 27:11, elaborated in Luke 23:2-3). The titulus confirms that charge. In my view, another supporting strand of evidence involving Jesus' status in seen in the mocking tied to Jesus' various examinations. They also were directed at regal claims (Mark 15:18 = Matt 27:29; John 19:3). It is unlikely that the early church fabricated such mocking, given how much trouble it would have raised for credibility and social acceptance had it not really been a part of the original story. The scene gives an unflattering portrait of Roman justice and government. So the Jewish leadership notes that Jesus' "appointment" as king had not come from Rome. Pilate had better not allow such a claim to persist. Pilate could not allow such a poor precedent in a potentially unstable region, especially when his top priority was to keep the peace and protect Caesar's interests.
The Jewish leadership appeared to have pressed the point. In many ways, they had to do so. If Jesus had gone before Pilate and been released, Jesus would have received the equivalent of political immunity, since Rome would have examined him and found him no threat. The argument to Pilate became that he should take care of this threat now or else it might grow worse. The Jewish leadership's strategy before Rome was to "nip it in the bud" now before things got worse. One death now might be the end of potential trouble, as often was the case with such movements.
Pilate faced a very practical choice. Option one was to act against Jesus, who clearly had stirred up the leadership in Jerusalem and seemed quite capable of generating popular excitement and religious fervor. Option two was to release him, inciting the anger of those he worked with on religious issues. In addition, it was crucial to act aggressively against Jesus, because the Galilean teacher had raised the specter of independence from Rome in regal-oriented claims. Our knowledge of how Pilate minted coins (the first to mint coins with Roman symbolism in Judea) and how he acted to confirm Roman authority, even to the point of causing religious offense, shows he was very interested in making Roman authority clear. To have the support of the religious authorities made more palatable what might be seen as an excessive use of force against a non-militaristic Jesus. We need to remind ourselves that this linkage of the Jewish leadership and Pilate was not something limited to early Christian sources. Josephus also makes this association in his brief discussion about Jesus (Ant 18.63-64). So we have multiple attestation of dual responsibility for Jesus' death that stretches across ideological lines. Jesus' crime was to act in ways that led others to regard him as king of the Jews, which in turn would have been seen as a threat to Judea's peace and well-being.
This portrait connects with much of what we have seen in the other key events. The idea that Jesus presented a kingdom in which he has a key role sets the backdrop for the kind of charge that is brought before Pilate. The declaration at Caesarea Philippi also moves in this direction. The charges also fit with the events of the entry and temple incident. Those events may well stand behind the leadership's claims that Jesus was challenging Jewish practice in ways that disturbed the peace.
One other feature tied to this title should be noted. It is that the new community quickly came to call Jesus by the name Christ. The question be-comes why choose such a name to be the moniker for Jesus if (1) he denied the connection, (2) he did not teach about himself in such a role, and (3) to raise such a title could be seen as a challenge that would bring the reaction of those in authority? It seems far more probable that people made the association so publicly and prominently because the connection came from Jesus. This conclusion is historically likely, even if Jesus gradually disclosed the idea and went more public about it toward the conclusion of his ministry. So assessing the social context for the titulus is one of the key ways to gain an appreciation for how people saw Jesus by the end of his ministry. They saw him as a messianic claimant, because what he did and said pointed in this direction. However, from what Jesus also taught his disciples privately it seems quite likely that this category needed refinement in terms of its detailed understanding, something his very death demonstrated. There was more to this messiah than the mere exercise of power; suffering and ultimate divine vindication were a part of his story.
Jesus' Resurrection as Vindication after a Certain Death
In one sense to come to the resurrection is to move beyond historical Jesus study. This is for two reasons: (1) Jesus does nothing here; he is portrayed as the beneficiary of a divine act, and (2) normal historical means can hardly confirm such a claim. All that one can do is to trace the event's impact. Nonetheless, the resurrection is significant to cover because it completed the claim of vindication that Jesus had raised at his Jewish examination. Such vindication became a catalyst for theological reflection in the move-ment Jesus launched.
So Grant Osborne's essay covers resurrection. One can hardly under-stand the historical Jesus without looking to the event of vindication that explains Jesus' post-execution impact.
Before getting to the resurrection, we must confirm that it was likely Jesus was dead and buried. Do the details we have of such a burial in our sources fit with Jewish custom?26 In short, they do. Numerous details of the burial that can be checked fit within the cultural backdrop. In the Mishnah, Sanh. 6:5-6, a corpse's burial, even that of a convicted criminal, was to take place before sundown. The Romans were known to permit such burials. How-ever, the family was not permitted to receive the body, nor could they place the criminal's body in the family's tomb. This explains Joseph of Arimethea's involvement. Buried bodies were washed, wrapped, and anointed for seven days after the burial as part of the mourning. So the women went as soon as was permitted, given the late afternoon burial, the Sabbath's having intervened, and their knowledge that an initial anointing had taken place. This means that our sources leading into the scene are completely culturally credible, even down to the details of why the women waited to anoint Jesus and the kind of tomb in which Jesus ended up.
Several features of this event at a historical level suggest that the early church did not invent this event.
First, the first witnesses to the empty tomb were women, according to the gospel sources. In a culture where women did not have the right to be witnesses, would one make up a story to sell a difficult idea (physical resurrection) to a skeptical culture by beginning with people who had no cultural value as witnesses? The detail not only shows the value of women to the movement but also suggests that the women were in the story because they were key to the event's disclosure."
Second, it would have been possible within Judaism to create a vindication story of Jesus that would have been less problematic. Much of Judaism held that the resurrection would come at the end of history. So why not create a story (if we are to argue the story was created) that simply says the resurrection would come at the end with Jesus leading the judgment? Think how clean an approach this is. It fits Jewish theology. There would be no need to claim an empty tomb. Only appearances would be options. The fact the story did not take this route means that what we have in our sources is a "mutation" on this Jewish expectation.29 The early Christian sources and preaching claimed that Jesus was raised within history, an unprecedented exception to the expectation. The question is why create a "mutation," when a less problematic alternative existed. More compelling is that something in the experience of the disciples created that change of view. More than that, these early disciples were willing to die for this belief. Is that likely if someone among the disciples had created the claim?
Third, the reaction to the women reflects the criterion of embarrassment. When the women reported their story of the empty tomb, the reaction was not, "Well, of course, it is Jesus!" No, rather these future church leaders saw the women as hysterical and did not initially embrace the women's claims. The new community leadership acted much like one might expect modern, skeptical people to react. Is this likely if one creates the account? Why not have them be in simple awe?
Fourth, if the event's creation is a solid explanation for this teaching, then why are there no detailed stories about Jesus appearing to Peter or James, two of the key leaders of the church? If these stories are so easy to create, then why not have detailed appearance accounts to two of the most important early leaders who the sources suggest saw Jesus ?
A resurrection pointing to vindication would lead to the conclusion that God had vindicated the historical Jesus, giving credibility to his claims and mission. To the church such an act would serve as a divine vote for Jesus in the public dispute. Resurrection affirms his claims of bringing the new era promise with him at its center. This helps to explain why the resurrection became so central in the early church's message. It was a heavenly confirmation of all Jesus stood for and affirmed. For all the debate around the details of these accounts, this core theme is something they all share.
These essays have explored twelve core events. Each presents evidence and arguments for their probable historicity and discusses their significance for understanding the historical Jesus. Jesus' activity centered in a call to Israel to come back to covenant faithfulness and to recognize the arrival of a new era, the promised era of deliverance. His actions supported these claims. In this ministry Jesus extended the work of John the Baptist, working in the same realm of hope rooted in Jewish promise. Eventually the apostles took this message of new covenant deliverance to all the nations.
Jesus presented himself in act and in the words tied to those acts as one who stood at the center of God's program and as the inaugurator of the kingdom. There is an implicit claim of significant authority in virtually all of these core events. Much of this authority is connected to divine prerogatives. Jesus exercises a claim of authority to choose new leaders and reconstitute a people (the Twelve). He claims power over hostile forces (exorcisms), over sin and forgiveness (associations), over sacred space (tem-ple incident), over the Sabbath (healings on the Sabbath), over liturgy (Last Supper), and over judgment (Jewish examination). Such comprehensive authority points to the kingdom's coming. God's rule is at work afresh. Through such a comprehensive, new-era authority, Jesus claimed a role that many Jews would have seen as eschatological and in some sense messianic. The disciples acknowledged this. In his representative confession at Caesarea Philippi, Peter indicated that Jesus was more than a mere prophet; he was the promised anointed one of God. To that portrait at his final meal Jesus added the idea that this deliverer must suffer to initiate the new era's covenant. Jesus revealed these notes of suffering selectively, especially to his disciples.
Jesus' actions showed him consistently reversing the evil present in the world. Such acts could be interpreted as Satan's defeat, and thus pointing to the new age's arrival. He also called for a restructuring of how people related to God and to others. This teaching served as a radical ethical challenge to the way the world tended to see such relationships. Because people could not see demonstrated in an empirical way such comprehensive claims about spiritual relationships, Jesus linked words and deeds together so that what could be seen testified to what could not be seen. If God was acting through Jesus to do the kinds of things he was doing, then there could be no doubt about the kingdom's presence, nor Jesus' role in it. Teaching tied to the exorcisms of Jesus, events we treated, point to this connection.
Such acts of authority were also threatening to many Jewish leaders. They feared a destabilization of what was a tenuous arrangement with Rome. This threatened the largely Sadducean, temple leadership and the comfort- able relationship they had with Rome. In addition, the way he handled the law, for example, in his actions tied to the Sabbath, served to undercut the "human traditions" layered on top of the law. This strand of Jesus' activity challenged the most pious of Torah oriented Jews present in Jewish society, mainly the Pharisees. Jesus' values about association and purity as reflected in his reaching out to those outside could be seen as socially destabilizing to those in power and as presenting a serious challenge to a culture built around status, honor, and shame. This threat and Jesus' claims implied in his actions of the last week led those leaders to attempt to stop Jesus. They took the charge to Pilate that Jesus claimed to be a king independent from Rome. In the discussion that followed Pilate could see the potential for destabilization in the leaders' insistence that Jesus must be removed. These were leaders with whom he regularly worked on matters associated with the Jewish faith. So Jesus went to the cross accused of claiming to be King of the Jews, a charge that pointed to sedition and that was recorded on the titulus for all to see. Rome was saying, "Do not stir the pot." So Jesus died, and for a brief time all seemed lost. All that was left was a tattered message, severed from the one who had promised to bring it. Then everything changed.
For the new community, the resurrection represented the ultimate ex-ample of the divine vindication of Jesus' activity. So they preached Jesus and his divinely vindicated claims through resurrection, vindication that reached back into his earlier activity. Their message was that he was and is the central figure of God's program. As a result of resurrection and consistent with claims Jesus made that led to his death, Jesus now resided at God's side, sharing in the divine mission and serving as a part of the authoritative sacred presence. This association with heavenly presence carried with it implications about the person of Jesus. The earliest church claimed that the reality of resurrection disclosed the fullness of who Jesus is and was. The resurrection also explained why Jesus called God his Father, and how he had the authority to define God's will on matters such as the Sabbath, authority over the demonic, the nature of temple practice, and other activities tied to Torah, all events we have treated in detail. In fact, this relationship under-scored the source and range of authority he had enacted during his ministry; it was comprehensive authority from above. What emerged from the Jesus of history was the Christ of faith.
Our essays have argued that the linkage between what Jesus announced and who Jesus is was no accident, even at a historical level. Jesus saw himself situated at the center of God's program. He anticipated being completely vindicated as the Son of Man at God's side. The activity tied to this under-standing produced a coherent narrative for the early church, where he and the promise he brought became the inseparable message. Such an account of him stands solidly rooted in what the historical Jesus actually said and did.
The gist of these core events provides a coherence working at several levels of the tradition. They point to a historical depth within the early church's tradition about Jesus. The linkage between these events does not have the feel of elements added bit by bit over time. Rather, there is a coherent core around which we get a solid glimpse of the aims of the historical Jesus.
Summing up, the historical Jesus presented the kingdom of God and the opportunity for participation in it. Such participation involved a turning in repentance to reaffirm the covenantal responsibility God originally gave to Israel, something Jesus' participation in John the baptizer's baptism and the selection of the twelve introduced. Jesus' activity called for a restored people of God and a renewed relationship with God that was built upon his own authority. This new relationship, evidenced by the call to outsiders to come in, ultimately would reform the disciples' relationship to others, leading in directions of righteousness and reconciliation. With the privilege of being connected to God's rule came the rest of Jesus' teaching, which we have not sought to corroborate in our study. This teaching called for the pursuit of a challenging personal and societal righteousness that honored God, recon-figured our role as God's creatures, and served as a contrasting paradigm to the world about how to live. This trajectory appears to cohere with what we have established. By acting to show this decisive era's arrival, Jesus affirmed his central role in its coming, calling on people to believe in what God was doing through him and, in doing so, to follow him. In this way, his actions spoke as loud as his words, giving his words presented in conjunction with such acts a context in which they could be illustrated and appreciated.
Understanding the historical Jesus requires appreciating the scope of the significance of his acts and the element of authority implicit in them. Those acts pointed to a new time and an appointed person. Jesus presented himself in his activity with both a demand and an invitation to participate in God's restorative rule. It was a rule that the historical Jesus' ministry in core events and activities sought to illustrate and to inaugurate.
Jesus and His Death: Historiography, the Historical Jesus, and Atonement Theory by Scot McKnight (Baylor University Press) Recent scholarship on the historical Jesus has rightly focused upon how Jesus understood his own mission. But no scholarly effort to understand the mission of Jesus can rest content without exploring the historical possibility that Jesus envisioned his own death. In Jesus and His Death, Scot McKnight contends that Jesus did in fact anticipate his own death. McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor in Religious Studies, North Park University, and author or editor of twelve books, including The Historical Jesus, Turning to Jesus, and Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, says that Jesus understood his death as an atoning sacrifice, and that his death as an atoning sacrifice stood at the heart of his mission to protect his followers from the judgment of God.
Part One: The Debate: The Historical Jesus, the Death of Jesus, Historiography, and Theology; Jesus' Death in Scholarship; Re-enter Jesus' Death
Part Two: The Reality of a Premature Death: The Leading Foot in the Dance of Atonement; A Temporary Presence in God's Providence; Jesus and the Prophetic Fate
Part Three: A Ransom for Many: The Authenticity of the Ransom Saying; [Excursus: The Son of man]; Jesus and the Scripture Prophets; The Script for Jesus; Jesus and the Servant; The Passion Predictions
Part Four: Jesus and the Last Supper: Pesah in Jewish History; Pesah and the Last Supper; This Bread and This Cup; Jesus and the Covenant; "Poured Out" and Eschatology; Conclusions; [Excursus: Chasing Down Paul's Theological Ship]
In Jesus and His Death McKnight finds that Jesus believed the kingdom was yet in the future and that his own death was what would guarantee participation for his followers.
Scot McKnight is fully aware that making claims about the historical Jesus is like entering a minefield. But he combines wide-ranging knowledge of and a willingness to interact with the extensive literature to build a careful, brick-by-brick argument. The sheer breadth of issues covered separates this work from what might otherwise have been its competitors. In ways reminiscent of Stephen Neill, McKnight also has written a book that is never dry or dull. Joel B. Green, Dean and Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary
This is a brave book. With due awareness of the historical traps and with a mastery of the recent relevant literature, McKnight here asks the crucial question, how did Jesus interpret his own death? His answer, which hearkens back to Albert Schweitzer, does full justice to Jesus' eschatological outlook and makes good sense within a first-century Jewish context. Even those who see things differently I do not will enjoy how the detailed and rigorous argument develops and will find themselves learning a great deal. Dale C. Allison, Jr., Pittsburgh Theological Seminary
[Scot McKnight] moves back and forth with careful transitions between contemporary hermeneutics and the ancient texts. As he does so, he also provides a rich and often entertaining account of the secondary literature. The volume can be read both as an address of its central questions and as a well-informed introduction to New Testament theology. Bruce Chilton, Bard College
Jesus and His Death is a far-reaching study; in it McKnight outlines a carefully reasoned and compelling argument that Jesus believed his death would not destroy the imminent arrival of the kingdom and that, when it arrived, he would once again be in fellowship with his followers. The book will appeal to both scholars and general readers interested in Jesus death.
With the explosion of critical studies of ancient traditions and a more tolerant respect for the integrity of traditions the sayings of Jesus are made accessible in several new volumes.
Historical Jesus: Critical Concept in Religious Studies, 4 volume set edited by Craig A. Evans (Critical Concepts in Religious Studies: Routledge) The Historical Jesus constitutes a selection of seminal essays in Routledge's Critical Concepts in Religious Studies series. Ten topics are covered in four volumes. These topics are judged to be representative of the essential components that make up this interesting field of research, a field that opened up more than two centuries ago.
This field of inquiry is often called the "quest of (or for) the historical Jesus," implying that the goal of research is to discover the Jesus of history, the Jesus who really lived – what he said, did, accomplished, and what he was really like. This quest got under way during the so-called period of Enlightenment, itself a child of the Reformation, when long-standing cultural, institutional, and intellectual givens were subjected to critical evaluation. This critical review included ecclesiastical dogmas and the principal source of Christian teaching itself - the Bible. No longer could it be assumed that the Jesus of the New Testament Gospels was the Jesus of history.
The designation of "quest" came about from the English translation of Albert Schweitzer's Von Reimarus zu Wrede ("From Reimarus to Wrede"): The Quest of the Historical Jesus (see below, pp. 99–120). The designation gained even greater currency when James Robinson's assessment of the 1950s' debate among Rudolf Bultmann's students was published under the title A New Quest of the Historical Jesus. Since then scholars have spoken of an "old quest" and a "new quest."
Today scholars speak of "life of Jesus research," or simply "Jesus research" – not a "quest" (though the current work is sometimes called the "third quest"). Scholars are reluctant to refer to their work as a "quest" in part to avoid association with the older quests, which were for the most part guided by heavy-handed apologetics and theological agendas (often emanating from Germany). In essence, most of the contributors to the older quests were in search of a Jesus relevant to their faith, to their church, to society, or whatever. Trying to find a Jesus compatible with one's world view seems often to have been the driving force. It has been remarked that most of the work of the older quests was not historical at all, that it was not the historical Jesus that was being sought, but the relevant Jesus.
In contrast to the older work, the newer research is more ecumenical and multi-disciplined. The object of this research is to gain a clearer, more nuanced, contextualized portrait of the Jesus of history. Instead of minimizing the Jewishness of Jesus and his earliest following (which is often the case in the older quests), or trying to show how he was unique or superior to his predecessors and contemporaries, scholars now take seriously in what ways Jesus was part of his world. Judaism in all its diversity, including the economic, political, and social realities of first-century Pales-tine, archaeology, and a host of related disciplines and literatures are taken into account. Protestants and Catholics, both liberal and conservative, are engaged in aspects of this study. Jewish scholars have also entered the discussion, making many valuable contributions. Accordingly, Jesus research today is dynamic and progressive.
Nevertheless, many of the older studies laid the groundwork on which current research is based. Important aspects of the problems that attend this field of study were identified long ago. Even in cases where thinking has significantly evolved, we understand much better where we are today and how we got here by having appreciation for important contributions to the older discussion. That is the purpose of the present collection of studies. They are intended to give readers a sense of how study of the historical Jesus took shape, how it has evolved, and where we are today.
The ten topics that make up the contents of the four volumes in this reader include the history of the discussion, presuppositions, the development of methods, several specific topics, and a variety of sketches of the life of Jesus. The first three topics are treated in Volume I: (1) classic studies, that is, those studies widely regarded as pivotal, shaping the discussion and setting the agenda; (2) critical questions surrounding the issues of miracle and myth, issues that have posed the most difficult questions to historians; and (3) critical questions surrounding presuppositions and appropriate criteria for determining what is authentic and what is not. This volume will give readers a sense of how the discussion got under way and took the shape it did. Readers will be introduced to many of the major players and the critical questions with which they grappled.
In Volume II the teachings of Jesus are treated under two broad topics: (1) parables of Jesus and his proclamation of the kingdom of God; and (2) the ethics and piety of Jesus. Readers will be exposed to the debate surrounding questions of definition and authenticity of the parables, and the role of the Jewish law in Jesus' ethical teachings. Volume III covers three topics: (1) Jesus' mission and self-understanding; (2) the death of Jesus; and (3) the resurrection of Jesus. All three of these topics lie at the heart of Christology, that is, who Jesus was (or thought himself to be), what he conceived his mission to be, why he was executed, and in what sense he was resurrected and what it meant to his followers. In Volume IV two final topics are treated: (1) lives of Jesus and (2) Jesus in sources outside the Bible. In "Lives of Jesus," readers are treated to excerpts taken from well-known attempts at producing biographies of Jesus, while in the last topic readers are exposed to critical discussion of the many sources outside the Bible that purport to tell us things about Jesus that in some cases find no parallel in the New Testament Gospels and other writings.
It must be remembered that the selections reprinted in these four volumes represent only a small sampling of what is a vast literature, a literature especially well represented in English and German, but also represented to a significant degree in many other languages. One will also observe that most of the older works are by German scholars (which here are reprinted almost always in English translation), while most of the newer materials comes from English-speaking scholars (mostly from the USA, Britain, and the Commonwealth). Some may object that the works chosen for these volumes almost exclusively reflect the West. This is true, but the obsession with a critically understood Jesus of history has been largely a Western one. That in itself is part of the story, a part that calls for critical reflection in its own right.
Part 1: Classic studies
The beginning of life of Jesus research is traced back to the posthumous publication of seven fragments of an otherwise unpublished manuscript by Hermann Samuel Reimarus. It was particularly fragment 7, entitled Von dem Zwecke Jesu und seiner Jnger ["On the Aim of Jesus and His Disciples"], published in 1778 (see Chapter 1), that provoked reaction. Reimarus believed that Jesus had not anticipated his death, but had hoped to become Israel's earthly Messiah. After the crucifixion, his disciples reformulated Jesus' teachings and proclaimed his resurrection and return as Israel's king. This critical assessment of the Gospel story of Jesus inaugurated the scholarly quest of the historical Jesus.
The nineteenth-century "old quest" of the historical Jesus represents the first major phase of this scholarly quest. In his Das Leben Jesu kritisch bearbeitet ["The Life of Jesus Critically Examined"] (1835-6, see Chapter 2) David Friedrich Strauss argued that the Gospels do not present us with history, whether embellished with supernatural elements (following the liberals), or not (following the conservatives), but present us with myth. Liberal and conservative scholars alike opposed this radical skepticism, and searched for what was then regarded as "historical" material. For a short time, the Gospel of John was viewed as the best source, since it lacked some of the miraculous features of the Synoptics (e.g., virgin birth, demon exorcisms), which many scholars viewed as mythological. But Ferdinand Christian Baur's Kritische Untersuchungen ber die kanonischen Evangelien ["Critical Studies on the Canonical Gospels"] (Tbingen: L. F. Fues, 1847), which concluded that John was written late in the second century, brought an end to this thinking. It was then concluded that the historical Jesus would have to be found in the Synoptic Gospels after all. In his Die synoptischen Evangelien: Ihr Ursprung und geschichtlicher Charakter ["The Synoptic Gospels: Their Origin and Historical Character"] (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1863) Heinrich Julius Holtzmann showed that Mark was written first, and that Matthew and Luke used it and another source of sayings (eventually called "Q" for the word Quelle, "source"). Mark and Q became the sources from which a historical Jesus might be reconstructed. Most scholars assumed that these sources were relatively free from mythological embellishment. That same year French romanticist and philosopher Ernst Renan published his La Vie de Jsus ["The Life of Jesus"] (see Chapter 3). Chapter 28 of this work is reprinted in this volume, in which the author presents in almost poetic form his assessment of the person and impact of the historical Jesus. His portrait of a divine Jesus who shares his divinity with humanity depicts in French tones the popular conception in the latter part of the nineteenth century.
With the appearance of certain publications at the turn of the century, it became evident that the old quest had not been successful. Martin Khler's Der sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus ["The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ"] (1892, see Chapter 4) argued that the historical Jesus of the nineteenth-century quest bore little resemblance to, or had little significance for, the Christ of faith. That same year Johannes Weiss published Die Predigt Jesu vom Reiche Gottes ["The Preaching of Jesus Concerning the Kingdom of God"] (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1892; rev. edn, 1900), in which he argued that Jesus was not a social reformer, but an apocalyptic prophet who summoned people to repent because judgment was near. In 1901 William Wrede published Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien ["The Messianic Secret in the Gospels"] (Gttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht; ET: Cambridge and London: James Clarke, 1971), in which he argued that far from being a simple historical account, Mark's Gospel was a theologically`oriented document comparable to John's Gospel. Finally, the appearance of Albert Schweitzer's Von Reimarus zu Wrede ["From Reimarus to Wrede"] (1906, see Chapter 5), in which he concluded that Jesus had died a deluded apocalyptic fanatic, led many scholars and theologians to believe that the quest of the historical Jesus was impossible (as argued the form critics) and perhaps even illegitimate (as argued many neo-orthodox theologians). Speaking as a form critic, Rudolf Bultmann once stated that "we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus" (Jesus and the Word, 1926, p. 8; see Chapter 6). The popular neo-orthodox theologian Emil Brunner claimed that "the Christian faith does not arise out of the picture of the historical Jesus" and that "the Jesus of history is not the same as the Christ of faith" (The Mediator [London: Lutterworth, 1934; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1957] p. 159). Moreover, the recognition, thanks largely to Schweitzer, that the lives of Jesus of the old quest reflected the issues and emphases of each generation of scholars (the major error of the old quest) led many to suppose that the objectivity necessary for a truly fair portrait of Jesus simply could not be had. Therefore, in many circles the scholarly quest was abandoned.
When in 1953 Ernst Kasemann read his paper, "Das Problem des historischen Jesus" ["The Problem of the Historical Jesus"] (published in 1954; see Chapter 7), a new quest of the historical Jesus was inaugurated among Bultmannian scholars. Ksemann argued that a new approach, one that was careful to avoid the errors of the old quest, was historically possible and theologically necessary. A link between the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history was necessary, if Christianity were to avoid lapsing into a form of docetic Gnosticism. While Ksemann emphasized the recovery of certain authentic sayings of Jesus, Ernst Fuchs (1956; see Chapter 8) argued for the presence of certain authentic actions or attitudes. Other Bultmannians who participated in the new quest included Flans Conzelmann, Erich Dinkler, Herbert Braun, Gerhard Ebeling, and James M. Robinson (see Chapter 10; for Bultmann's response, see Chapter 11). The new quest is part of what is sometimes referred to as the "post-Bultmannian" movement.
In the 1960s and 1970s Jesus research continued, but often the emphasis was placed on Jesus as a social or political figure, rather than as one relevant for faith (as the emphasis had been during the new quest). For example, Jesus became the champion of the poor and the oppressed and as such is sometimes the inspiration for liberation theologies. Although the legitimacy of some of this work cannot be denied, one cannot help but wonder if the basic error of the old quest was recurring.
Some of the studies that appeared in the 1970s and 1980s, however, seem to represent a return to a quest not governed by theological or political agendas. The emphasis now is on seeing Jesus against the background of first-century Palestinian Judaism. Unlike the "new quest," which had emphasized discontinuity between Jesus and his contemporaries, the more recent studies tend to emphasize continuity and context. This phase of the quest has been marked by real progress thanks to archaeological discoveries and the recent publication of many writings from late antiquity. Prominent among these are the Dead Sea Scrolls and the writings that make up the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha.
As we move into the twenty-first century, there seems to be no let up in academic and lay interest in the historical Jesus. Journal articles, chapters, and full book-length monographs continue to appear. Progress in archaeology, especially in Galilee, has clarified aspects of language, commerce, social structures, and culture. The evidence suggests that the Jewish population of Galilee in Jesus' day was strongly Torah-observant, resistant toward but not entirely free of Greco-Roman influences. The evidence has also done away with the romantic and uncritical notion of a place-bound Jesus, who grew up in a pastoral setting, unacquainted with urban life and the mix that is part of a cosmopolitan world. The evidence has also called into question the recent and faddish portrait of Jesus as a Cynic philosopher, who cared little for Israel's scriptures and the fulfillment of prophecy. The Jesus that continues to emerge in critical scholarship that takes into account archaeological, literary, and linguistic data, that is con-versant with expressions of Jewish faith and practice in late antiquity, and that is guided by a cautious approach to the primary sources, is a Jesus that called for Israel to repent and embrace the rule of God.
Part 2: Critical questions: miracle and myth
One of the major factors that launched the old quest of the historical Jesus was the growing doubts, fostered by skepticism and deism in eighteenth-century England and Germany, in the miraculous reports found in the Bible. If miracles are part of the mythology of an ancient past, and if the New Testament Gospels narrate several miracles, then perhaps we have no solid reasons for accepting these narratives as historical. Of course, if the Gospels are not historical, then perhaps we really do not know what Jesus said and did.
It was this sort of thinking that led Reimarus to write his lengthy manuscript, portions of which, as mentioned above, were published after his death in 1768. Skepticism with regard to the New Testament Gospels, primarily due to the presence of miracles, was the driving force behind much of the old and new quests. Indeed, it was this preoccupation with miracle and myth that defined some 200 years of scholarship (i.e., from the 1770s to the 1970s; for a study of this dimension, see C. A. Evans, "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology," Theological Studies 54 [19931 3–36). In recent years this attitude has changed. Again, it is because historiography has asserted itself above philosophy, theology, and metaphysics. Not bogged down by debate over the definition of miracle, recent researchers have asked how Jesus was perceived by his contemporaries. Does the evidence suggest that he was viewed as a healer and exorcist? And if so, then in what light did it place Jesus and his message?
The selections that follow testify to the struggle that took place over the question of miracle and myth in the Gospels. David Strauss (1835-6; see Chapter 12) assumed that the Gospels were highly mythological and there-fore could tell us very little about the historical Jesus. Strauss' approach was taken to extremes by his successors – men like Bruno Bauer (mid-nineteenth century) and Artur Drews (early twentieth century) – who actually argued that the person of Jesus himself, not just his biographies, was a myth. It is to this question that Maurice Goguel in 1925 (see Chapter 13) and Rudolf Bultmann in 1941 (see Chapter 14) reply. Goguel challenges this radical skepticism, arguing not only that Jesus existed in history but that the Gospels are largely reliable sources. Bultmann, however, acknowledges the presence of myth in the Gospels, but he wishes to interpret, not eliminate, it. He attempts to find in the mythology that served well humankind long ago, but cannot serve modern humanity, its true existential meaning. To do this, Bultmann instructs us, we must "demythologize" the message of the Bible.
The final selections in this section are in response to Bultmann's novel and daring suggestion. Amos Wilder (1950; see Chapter 15) provides a succinct statement and evaluation of Bultmann's hermeneutical approach, while Gnther Bornkamm (1951; see Chapter 16), himself a pupil of Bultmann, looks at the other side of the issue, arguing that the Gospels — as Gospels — constitute a rejection of myth, even if they are not entirely free of it.
Today's readers who are only acquainted with recently published works on the historical Jesus will observe that the mythology debate has dropped out of the discussion. This has happened because of a change in world view and understanding of science, as well as in a new understanding of what role historiography can and should play. Nevertheless, the myth debate should not be passed over in a survey of the history of Jesus research, for it played an important part in the development of the discussion and helps us appreciate how much the intellectual landscape has changed in the last quarter of a century.
Part 3: Critical questions: presuppositions and criteria of authenticity
One of the byproducts of the quests of the historical Jesus has been the development of criteria for identifying material that probably goes back to the historical Jesus, in contrast to material that probably does not, but derives from the early Church. It is not surprising that an important part of this discussion is taken up with issues surrounding presuppositions and the burden of proof.
Depending on how one divides and subdivides the various criteria that
have been proposed, one may have as few as four or five criteria thought to be valid, or as many as a dozen. The three principal criteria, widely accepted and employed, are (1) multiple attestation, (2) embarrassment, and (3) dissimilarity. The second and third are logically related, but there are important points of distinction. Let us briefly review these three criteria. The studies that are reprinted in Part 3 will review them and others in greater length and detail.
Multiple attestation. This criterion argues (or assumes) that material that appears in two or more independent sources has a stronger claim to authenticity than does material found in only one independent source. The assumption here is that multiply attested material is less likely to be the result of post-Jesus fabrication. Thus, if material is found in Mark and in Q, the sayings source on which Matthew and Luke drew, then it is reason-able to assume that it is early and widespread and therefore probably derives from Jesus himself. This criterion, of course, presupposes the two-source theory for understanding the literary relationship of the Synoptic Gospels; that is, that Mark and Q were independent sources that Matthew and Luke utilized in the composition of their respective Gospels. Some three dozen sayings have been identified as multiply attested. Some scholars have expanded the inventory of multiply attested materials by arguing for the independence of other sources, such as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and other extra-canonical writings. But this position remains controversial and problematic.
Embarrassment. This criterion argues that material that causes awkwardness or embarrassment for the early Church is best explained as deriving from the historical Jesus and not from a later tradent. If from a later source and if embarrassing, then why not expurgate the material from the tradition? Examples include Jesus' baptism at the hands of John, who preached a baptism "for the forgiveness of sins." Because early Christians believed that Jesus was sinless, it is hard to account for the creation of the tradition of Jesus' baptism. One can observe Matthew, Luke, and John, in their respective ways, attempting to mitigate the embarrassment of this tradition. The Markan evangelist may also have mitigated the embarrassment of the tradition, in his own way, by linking the baptism to the vision of the opened heaven, the descent of the dove, and the affirming heavenly voice, "You are my Son."
Dissimilarity. This criterion is perhaps the most debated. In its classic form it argues that material that is dissimilar to tendencies and traditions in Judaism and emphases in the early Church may safely be assigned to the historical Jesus. The problem with the application of this criterion is that it cannot help but eliminate material that is probably authentic, simply on the grounds that it parallels something another Jew may have said or something that the early Church clung to, held dear, and taught. The negative application of this criterion has been sharply criticized in recent years. The tendency now is to make positive appeal to it. That is, if material cannot easily be explained as originating in conventional Jewish teaching and does not advance specifically Christian ideas, then its presence in the Jesus tradition is probably best explained as deriving from Jesus himself.
Ongoing research, which takes more fully into account the Judaic context of Jesus and his movement, has lent an important measure of nuance to these three criteria. Multiply attested sayings of the rabbis have shed light on the implications of multiply attested (and somewhat different forms of) sayings of Jesus, while the Jewishness of Jesus' setting has tempered our understanding of what may have been unique, awkward, embarrassing, or even dissimilar in his time and place.
Volume 2: At the heart of Jesus' teaching lay his proclamation of the kingdom of God, and his favorite way of explaining it was through the use of parables and similes. Jesus also had things to say about ethical issues (such as loving, forgiving, and caring for others) and about piety, or putting one's religion into practice. However, lying behind his teaching on ethics and piety was the proclamation of the kingdom of God.
Part 1: Parables and kingdom of God
The central element of Jesus' message was his proclamation of the kingdom of God, though the precise meaning of this proclamation often eluded interpreters. Although some scholars in recent years have tried to explain the kingdom of God in terms of community (i.e., Jesus' followers make up the kingdom of God), it is now widely recognized that by "kingdom of God" Jesus meant "the rule of God." On this point, one will want especially to see Bruce Chilton's essay (1978; see Chapter 34).
Jesus' preferred mode of explaining his understanding of God's rule was by parables. Because some of his parables contain allegorical elements, it became popular in the Church to allegorize the parables. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30—37) became an allegory about the fall of humankind, the inability of the Jewish Law and Prophets to save, and salvation that comes through Christ who takes upon himself the sin of the lost and delivers the lost safely to the kingdom of God (as interpreted by most Church fathers, though with some variations).
Reacting against this allegorical approach, Adolf Jlicher in the nineteenth century argued, in a massive two-volume work, that not only was allegorizing the parables hermeneutically inappropriate, allegorical parables (such as the parable of the Wicked Vineyard Tenants in Mark 12:1—9) and allegorical features in what are otherwise non-allegorical parables do not derive from Jesus but are products of the early Church, influenced by allegorical approaches in Hellenistic circles.
The influence of Jlicher's study was widely felt ans still lingers to this day. But Paul Fiebig and others have challenged this thesis, noting that the Hebrew parable (or mashal) frequently contains allegorical features and that therefore the presence of allegory provides no sure grounds for judging parables inauthentic. Again, the Judaic background of Jesus' parables assumes an important place.
Another issue that appears in some of the selected readings in this volume (see especially Gerhardsson, 1991; Chapter 27) concerns original meaning and context. Parables may well be judged authentic, but what was the point originally scored? To what was Jesus referring when he crafted it? Sometimes the Gospels provide a context (again, as seen in the case of the parable of the Wicked Vineyard Tenants, or the parable of the Good Samaritan), but scholars are divided over whether the contexts provided by the Gospels reflect the original context and therefore the original meaning. The fact that the parables often do not have a specific context suggests that the evangelists were not in the habit of providing artificial contexts. This may suggest that when a context is provided, it reflects the original context; when the original context is not known, no context is provided. Related to this debate once again is the question of what contribution the extra-canonical Gospel sources can make. Some of these sources, especially the Gospel of Thomas, present the parables in different con-texts.
Part 2: Ethics and piety
One of the major issues that confronts interpreters of Jesus' ethical teachings is whether Jesus held to an ethic that differed in any significant way from Jewish thinking and practice in his day. The Golden Rule ("What-ever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them") was often thought to be a brilliant, original, and succinct expression of Jesus' ethics. However, this teaching, usually in the negative form (i.e., "And what you hate, do not do to anyone"), is found in several Jewish sources (e.g., Tobit 4:5; b. Shabbat 31a). The Golden Rule, therefore, is not original with Jesus. His use of it suggests that his ethics stood in the center of Torah-observant Jewish faith.
Another major issue concerns Jesus' attitude to the Jewish Law. At one time it was in vogue to think that Jesus opposed the Law or was against the Jewish practice of sacrifice. Jesus demonstrated in the Temple, so it was believed, because he saw no point in offering sacrifices. Although it is true that at some points Jesus held different views of purity and perhaps emphasized different elements of the Law (especially in contrast to Sadducean and Pharisaic teaching), most now recognize that Jesus held the Jewish Law in high esteem: "If you do it, you will live" (Luke 10:28, slightly adapted).
Jesus' teaching on ethics and piety is now seen in more thoroughly Judaic light. Now that some halakic teachings (i.e., legal interpretations of the Jewish Law) can be traced to the time of Jesus – thanks in large part to the Dead Sea Scrolls – those points where Jesus' teaching is consistent with or in tension with the teachings of others are more clearly understood.
Volume 3: Quite apart from the issue of the actual content of Jesus' teaching—his proclamation of the rule of God and the impact on human behavior that that entails—is the question of how Jesus understood himself, both with respect to his mission and then, later, with respect to his death. Wrapped up in these issues is the question of whether Jesus thought of himself as Israel's Messiah and, if he did, in what sense he understood the messianic role. Yet another issue concerns the factors that led to Jesus' arrest and execution. Was it because of his teaching, or was it because of his claims about himself, or was it neither of these?
Part 1: Jesus' mission and self-understanding
One of the most hotly debated questions in the long history of Jesus research focuses on Jesus' self-understanding. Closely related to this issue is the question of his mission. That is, what did Jesus see as the purpose of his ministry? Was he merely proclaiming the rule of God, or did he envision himself playing a more active role in the coming rule of God?
Christological titles usually figure in this discussion. Did Jesus think of himself as the "Son of God?" And, if he did, in what sense? Also, why did Jesus refer to himself as the "son of Man"? What did he mean by that curious epithet? Did it have messianic connotations? Was it a title of some sort?
A major difficulty is differentiating between what Jesus probably said about himself, and what his earliest followers came to believe about him. We must also be sensitive to the cultural and religious context of the early Christians, who may well have employed titles and terminology that helped "translate" the significance of a Jewish Messiah for the Roman world.
Today most scholars recognize that Jesus referred to himself as the "son of Man." It is hard to attribute the origin of this epithet to the development of Christology among early Christians. Christians preferred calling Jesus "Messiah" (or Christ), "Son of God," and "Savior"—not "son of Man." The ubiquity of the epithet "son of Man" (and it is multiply attested), an epithet not easily explained as deriving from the Church (and here we are appealing to the criterion of dissimilarity, if not embarrassment as well), is probably best explained as deriving from Jesus himself.
But what did Jesus mean by it? In all probability Jesus had in mind the son of man described in the vision in Daniel 7. This explains why every time the epithet appears in the Gospels it is articular. The definite article does not mean that "the son of Man" is a technical title, whether messianic or otherwise, but that reference is to a specific son of man, the son of man of Daniel 7, who was presented to God himself and from God received the kingdom and the authority to proclaim it.
Quite apart from titles, self-designations, and their meanings, there is the question of Jesus' mission and his understanding of what role he was himself to play in it. Titles and self-references may provide important clues to the answer of this question, but the activities of Jesus, including symbolic acts, such as the appointment of the Twelve, as well as his teaching, have to be studied carefully.
Part 2: The death of Jesus
The death of Jesus has been a particularly sensitive issue in Jewish–Christian relations. Often the question is framed in terms of who was responsible for Jesus' death. Uncritical Christian scholarship, sometimes itself infected with anti-Semitic tendencies, often asserted that the Jewish people in general, or at least the Jewish religious leadership, was responsible for Jesus' death. Jewish scholars sometimes replied that`Jews them‑
no involvement in Jesus' death, that it was entirely a Roman affair. Scholars today recognize that both the Jewish leadership (primarily the ruling priests) and the Roman authorities were involved.
Scholarship concerned with this question often focuses on the legal aspects of Jesus' hearing before the ruling priests and his later appearance before the Roman governor. Part of the debate centers on what aspects of (the later) mishnaic law may have been observed in the time of Jesus. Related to this is the question of in what sense Jesus may have committed blasphemy and how the charges brought against him by the Jewish ruling priests related to this blasphemy.
Many studies have appeared that treat the Roman practice of crucifixion and how we may understand better Jesus' execution in light of it. The burial of Jesus has also become a subject of debate. Who buried him? Where? Was he buried at all? Questions such as these have prompted recent study into Jewish burial practices and Roman law.
Part 3: The resurrection of Jesus
Lying at the very heart of the Christian faith is the belief that God raised Jesus from the dead. This belief has been controversial from the very beginning, with the proclamation of the empty tomb attributed to grave robbery (Matt 28:11–15) and the idea of resurrection scorned as madness (Acts 26:24). Scholarly study has probed every conceivable aspect of this remarkable tradition: the number and complexity of the resurrection accounts, the nature of the appearances, the antiquity and reliability of the narratives, and their importance for understanding the emergence of the Christian church.
In many studies of the historical Jesus the resurrection, if not skipped altogether, is often treated as an appendix. In the past this was done because it was thought that the resurrection was simply a matter of faith on the part of the disciples, perhaps arising upon reflection of the significance of Jesus' ministry. Today, however, there appear to be more scholars willing to approach the resurrection much as they do the miracles. That is, the resurrection, like the miracles, is interpreted in terms of what Jesus' followers experienced and described. The historian is not required to explain what exactly happened, only that something did happen that Jesus' followers could explain in no other terms than resurrection.
The resurrection needs to be taken into account in the study of the historical Jesus, for it may well relate to his eschatology and proclamation of the rule of God, as well as relating to what Jesus may have said about his death and its meaning. It will simply not do to bracket off the resurrection as though it stands outside of history. It does not, for the resurrection tradition is rooted in eye-witness testimony, much as the teaching of Jesus itself.
Volume 4: The nineteenth-century quest for the historical Jesus largely consists of a great number of books that constructed lives of Jesus. In this volume are excerpts from some of the classic attempts to do just that. Although it is no longer fashionable to write lives of Jesus, in essence that is the goal of Jesus research, which hopes ultimately to describe and appreciate the life of Jesus.
Many of the old lives of Jesus were little more than syntheses of the portraits of Jesus offered by the New Testament Gospels, with some ingredients added from later Church tradition. In more recent years it has become fashionable to explore the less conventional and less known portraits of Jesus found in sources outside the Bible, and in some instances, outside of the Christian sphere itself.
Part 1: Lives of Jesus
The goal of a life of Jesus is to trace the development of Jesus' life, teaching, and ministry, from the beginning of his public ministry (perhaps even from his childhood) to his death in Jerusalem. Most of these lives assume that the materials in the Gospels are in chronological order. Accordingly, writers of these lives believed that they could infer the very mind of Jesus, as his ministry unfolded.
Scholars today are less sanguine about these attempts. It is recognized that the Gospel materials are seldom in chronological order (except perhaps in the most general terms) and that the logical progression of the narratives has more to do with the respective evangelists than with eye-witness recollection. Moreover, it is also recognized that the Gospels do not provide us with the kind of information that is needed if one is to trace the development of Jesus' thinking. Often what happens is that the scholar writing a life of Jesus imposes upon the sources his or her an own perspective, values, and preferences.
Nevertheless, the lives of Jesus are worthy of study, for in them scholars struggled to make sense of the narratives, to find coherence and meaning development, In criticizing these efforts we are able to appreciate more fully how challenging the task is and how limited our sources of information really are.
Part 2: Jesus outside the Bible
Finally, sources outside the Bible should be taken into account. Some of these sources are Christian. These include Gospels and Gospel-like sources. Some of these are preserved as quotations in Christian writing. In writers such as Jerome, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, and others we hear of the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Ebionites, and so forth. The extra-canonical Gospels that scholars today regard as most important are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Egerton Gospel (or Papyrus Egerton 2), and the Secret Gospel of Mark. These latter four sources are treated in Chapters reprinted in this volume.
The so-called Secret Gospel of Mark is an interesting case, for it may well be a modern forgery. Some suspect this, not only because no one besides the late Morton Smith has actually seen it (written in the back of an old book, "discovered" by Smith in the Mar Saba Monastery in Israel in 1958), but the discovery itself bears an uncanny resemblance to a fictional work published in 1940, in which a long-lost extra-canonical Gospel source — embarrassing to Christianity — is discovered at Mar Saba (cf. James Hogg Hunter, The Mystery of Mar Saba [New York and Toronto: Evangelical Publishers, 19401).
There also is a host of sayings of Jesus, called agrapha (because they are "not written" in the New Testament Gospels) found in a variety of sources, Christian and otherwise. And of course, there were non-Christian writers, like Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Lucian, and Pliny, who refer to Jesus and/or to his followers. These isolated sayings and related traditions are also treated in chapters in this volume.
The principal value of this extra-canonical material is the perspective that it offers. It gives the historian the opportunity to compare the New Testament Gospels — which the Christian Church included in its canon of Scripture — with those sources, which either the Christian Church rejected or which were written by people outside the Church. Often these sources in various ways shed light on or lend nuance to our understanding of the biblical sources.
in His Jewish Context by Geza Vermes
(Fortress Press) With the discovery and study of the Dead Sea Scrolls and other
archaelogical treasures, and the corresponding improvement in our understanding
of the ideas, doctrines, methods of teaching, languages and culture of the Jews
of New Testament times, it is now possible, not simply to place Jesus in relief
against this setting, as students of the Jewish background of Christianity pride
themselves on doing, but to insert him fair and square within first-century
Jewish life itself. The questions then to be asked are where he fits into it,
and whether the added substance and clarity gained from immersing him in
historical reality confers credibility on the patchy gospel picture. –
from Chapter 1
In Jesus in His Jewish Context, Geza Vermes, Emeritus Fellow of the British Academy, and Emeritus Professor of Jewish Studies and Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford University and international leader in the field of Dead Sea Scrolls research for more than forty years, explores how Jesus, his followers, the proclamation of the kingdom, and the earliest Jesus movement fit into the Jewish world of Judea and Galilee.
Vermes includes five new chapters in
this revised edition. Lucidly written, Jesus
in His Jewish Context is addressed to all readers interested in ancient
religions, history, and culture, and especially college, university, and
seminary students; biblical scholars; and the clergy. With his sharp historical
sense and unrivaled knowledge of ancient Judaism, Jesus
in His Jewish Context opens new windows on Jesus, the Gospels, and
In Search of Jesus: Insider and Outsider Images by Clinton Bennett (Continuum) provides a survey of the pious and academic inquiries into both the Jesus of Faith and of history and what is involved in seeing Jesus within the lights of many approached. As an introduction to the study of Jesus this work offers both respect for faith and tradition as well as a critical and fair account of the many images of Jesus emerging from academic study of religious formation and scripture exegesis. In Search of Jesus is a good introduction to the field and is useful as a guide to current literature and major themes of study.
Bennett is clearly both a liberal Christian believer and a pluralist. Here he presents of images of Jesus, both historical and current, arranged in insider (Christian) and outsider (non-Christian) categories. The book gets to grips with questions of interpretation and image of pictures of Jesus starting from the belief that Jesus is interpretation from the first. Interpretation, for Bennett, leads to plurality, even if only as an empirical fact. He suggests this mandates an attitude of humility towards Jesus in place of a more dogmatic, and unsubstantiatable, certainty.
Bennett is clearly concerned not to sideline what might be described as marginal voices on Jesus. He writes in a consciously inclusive way. Space is given here to black, feminist, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, film and fictional images in addition to more traditional ones and ones more related to the study of Jesus as an historical figure (i.e. that which is academically known as the Quest of the Historical Jesus).
The book is clearly aimed at a general readership. It contains a chapter on sources for the life of Jesus that, to a student or scholar of Jesus, would be largely mundane and uninspiring. Yet Bennett explicitly believes that the sources wrote about Jesus what they already believed to be true. If only he could have written more about this. Indeed, the trouble with this anthology, as with others, is that there is plenty of detailing of various images of Jesus but oh so little critique of these images. At one point Bennett remarks that we need to read not only the images of Jesus but the biography of the imager of Jesus. This is more intriguing stuff but Bennett doesn't really interact any further with his interesting suggestion.Finally Bennett subsumes Jesus, in his image, under the rubric "a liberated and liberating Jesus". Bennett, who was a Christian missionary in a former life, offers us a liberal Jesus who can bring us peace, love and harmony. He writes, "Only when Jesus is Chinese for the Chinese, Indian for the Indians, will he be regarded as truly FOR these contexts". In this he may be right but he does not discuss this theoretically so much as land the belief in our laps without further discussion. This I regard as an oversight and a lack of persuasion on his part. There is also little attention to the Jesus of history as a constraint on pictures of Jesus (whilst the Jesus of history is discussed as a subject in itself). Indeed, a discussion of constraint more generally seems mandated by the subject matter here. Bennett offers us a tantalising and interesting selection of Jesus images, playing on what he remarks as "Christianity's belief in the translatability of the Gospel", but now I'm looking forward to the day when he can present us with a coherent presentation of how the multiplicity, plurality and translatability he presents might be regarded. Legitimate or legitimate? What controls, what should control, how Jesus is viewed? If Bennett's book be a guide, these questions are highly relevant for millions, if not billions of people.
Against Christianity: Reclaiming the Missing Jesus by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer
(Trinity Press) For the last ten years scholars such
as Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Luke Timothy Johnson have dominated
the popular conversation about the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. In the process,
the historical figure known as Jesus has been repeatedly separated from the
Christ of faith, worshipped in the Christian tradition. This practice, however,
is not new. The Gospel writers themselves sometimes misrepresented Jesus in
order to further their own particular understandings or agendas. Consequently,
writes Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer, Christianity, both in content and actual practice,
is radically disconnected from the Jesus of history.
While Jesus embraced a nonviolent God and set himself against the domination system of his time, Christianity frequently sanctions violence as the servant of powerful and domineering institutions. Nelson-Pallmeyer argues that Christianity can do this specifically because it has articulated a Christ distinct from the historical Jesus. Without roots in the life and faith of Jesus, Christianity easily reconciles God and Christ with the distorted values and priorities of the dominant culture that both ignores and accelerates a global crisis of violence, injustice, and meaning. Jesus Against Christianity explores the mystery of how and why Jesus disappeared from Christianity, the troubling religious and historical consequences traceable to his disappearance, and alternative approaches that place Jesus of Nazareth and our own religious experience at the center of Christian faith.Nelson-Pallmeyer, while clearly committed to the Christian faith, looks at some of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures and says the God portrayed in some of them is a pathological killer. But he is not willing to stop there. He sees in Jesus' life and teaching a relationship with a God we can embrace. The author looks at who Jesus was and how he related to God and then sets that as his standard for evaluating whether an image of God resonates with the God Jesus knew and experienced. He helps the reader understand the apocalyptic views of some of the Biblical authors and his evidence on why he thinks Jesus broke with that view that was shared by one of his mentors, John the Baptist. Jesus embraces a God who is non-violent and one who suffers along with us rather than the omnipotent, all-knowing deity people believed in until our world was confronted with the horrors of the Holocaust, Pol Pot, Rwanda, and other tragedies. The message of this book is crucial in a world obsessed with violence and environmental devastation. If our image of God is distorted, so will our values. This book will disturb you, challenge you, and hopefully give you substance to live a life of grace and mercy in the midst of one's commitment to justice. If we really want to change our image of who God is, we will have to do a lot more work not only in changing the language of worship to be more inclusive, but we must re-visit (and reject) the blood sacrifice/atonement theology found in much of the contemporary church scene.
The Quest of the Historical Jesus: Complete Edition by Albert Schweitzer, edited by John Bowden (Fortress Press) In this revised translation and retrieval of the full text of the revised German edition, Schweitzer describes and critiques 18th and 19th century attempts at retrieving the "Jesus of history" and stands at the crossroads of the 19th and 20th centuries to bring closure to the former, and to open the latter for New Testament scholarship. Schweitzer saw the problems of historiography, theology, and politics in the ways the issues were formulated—and the answers proposed—and refocused attention on Jesus’ "eschatology" in a way abandoned by his predecessors. Issues of the messianic secret, the nature of the kingdom of God, and Jesus’ mission are addressed. Albert Schweitzer wrote this great classical study in 1906, back when historical criticism was predominantly a German enterprise. "The Quest of the Historical Jesus" eulogizes the quest of 1778-1901, indicting every scholar of this period for making Jesus over in his liberal self-image, for replacing the original Jewish apocalyptic prophet with a moral and ethical teacher suited to the Protestant temperament. As the reviewers below have observed, Schweitzer demonstrated that everyone had been peering into the well of the Gospels only to see themselves at the bottom. It's now become a cliche in historical-Jesus studies to speak of the painting telling you more about the painter than the subject being painted.
So who was the historical Jesus? For Schweitzer, he was an heroic, albeit deluded, messianic prophet dominated by the conviction that he was God's chosen instrument to announce the imminent end of history -- burning with apocalyptic zeal, marching to Jerusalem, confident that he could compel the Kingdom's arrival on earth through a voluntary death. But the anticipated divine intervention failed to occur, and Jesus was crushed by the system he defied, the entire drama ending on the cross. No resurrection.
Even if Schweitzer's portrait of Jesus is a bit extreme, he at least got the basics right -- that is, Jesus as an eschatological prophet -- and he rightly sounded the death knell for the liberal quest of the historical Jesus. And Schweitzer was a true prophet, for there has been a resurgence of the liberal quest, particularly in the work of the notorious Jesus Seminar. Just as the quest of 1778-1901 made Jesus into a liberal German Protestant, so now the Jesus Seminar of 1985-1999 has made him into a liberal North American secular humanist, fitting this mold in the guise of a non-eshatological Cynic-Sage divorced from Judaism. This Jesus is, as Schweitzer could have easily predicted, made over in the image of the Jesus Seminarians. Because of the new invigorated study of Jesus in his first-century context, informed readers will desire Schweitzer as a reference point for the mistakes of the past and the possibilities of new directions.Albert Schweitzer (1875–1965) was born in Alsace. He was Professor of Theology at the Theological Seminary of St. Thomas in Strasbourg. Schweitzer spent most of his life as a physician in Gabon, Africa, in the village of Lambarn; and in 1953 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace. He authored numerous works, including the renowned The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, The Mysticism of Paul the Apostle, and Out of My Life and Thought.
Jesus After 2000 Years by Gerd Ludemann (Great Minds Series: Prometheus Press) It is widely recognized by New Testament scholars that many of the sayings and actions attributed to Jesus in the gospels cannot be factually traced to him. The gospels, written many decades after the death of Jesus, are composites of hearsay, legends, and theological interpolations, reflecting the hopes and beliefs of the early Christian community more than the actual teachings of the Galilean prophet.
Despite these difficulties, Gerd Ludemann shows in this fascinating analysis of early ‑_
Christian documents that the tools of historical research can succeed in reaching at least a close approximation of some of the original words and deeds of Jesus. Unique in its comprehensiveness, Jesus After 2000 Years covers the canonical gospels, as well as the more recently discovered Gospel of Thomas and apocryphal Jesus traditions.
Ludemann concludes with a short life of Jesus in which he pieces together in narrative form what can be known about Jesus based on the historical evidence. Also included is an index of all authentic sayings and actions of Jesus. For all those with an interest in Christian origins, this volume is an invaluable resource. Ludemann’s antimystical bias and rationalist approach to the evidence may make the faithful feel queasy while helping the agnostic to reconcile with the best historical reckoning of the evidence for Jesus and his mission.
Gerd Liidemann (Gottingen, Germany) is a professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Gottingen, and the author of many books and articles on early Christianity, including The Great Deception: What Jesus Really Said and Did.
A synopsis of what we know historically of Jesus:
`The race of Jews and Christians is comparable with a swarm of bats or ants teeming out of a building, or frogs squatting together round a pool, or earthworms gathering in the corner of 4 dunghill, and argue with one another about which of them are the worst sinners. They assert: `In the first place God reveals and proclaims everything to us. He lets go of the whole world and the course of the stars of heaven; he even neglects the wide world and concerns himself with us alone. To us alone he sends his messengers and does not cease to send them and to ensure that me are always together with him' (Celsus, c. 178).
If the images people use in their speech accurately reflect their surroundings, then it is certain that Jesus came from a village. For the world of his parables is a rural one. Jesus knows the sower on the field (Mark 4.3‑8) and the mustard plant in the garden (Mark 4.30‑32); he sees the shepherd with his flock (Mark 6.26), the birds under heaven (Matt. 6.26) and the lilies in the field (Matt. 6.28). Even the sparrow which falls to the ground (Matt. 10.29) brings Jesus, the man from the village, near to the omnipotent activity of God.
Jesus grew up in a circle of more than five brothers and sisters in the Galilean village of Nazareth. He was probably the oldest. His mother tongue was Aramaic, but this does not rule out the possibility that he understood some bits of Greek. He learned a building craft from his father. Like most of his contemporaries, he could not read or write. But the local synagogue near his home was the place of his religious education. Here and on other occasions he learned parts of the Torah by word of mouth: commandments, prophetic instructions and predictions, and exciting stories from the scriptures, for example the narratives about Elijah and Elisha, the prophets who did miracles, which excited many of the pious people of that time.
The limits of his environment at that time can be seen by a comparison with the apostle Paul, who was of the same age.`Paul did not come from a village, but from a city. That again is indicated by the images that he uses. His letters show city life with the stalls of traders (II Cor. 2.17), past which the tutor (Gal. 3.24f ) goes to school holding the hands of his little charges, and the street through which the solemn triumphal procession moves (cf. II Cor. 2.14). Paul often takes his imagery from the life of soldiers (II Cor. 10.3‑5), and even their trumpets provide him with a comparison. Similarly, he uses parallels from the legal sphere (Gal. 3.17), indeed even from the theatre (I Cor 4.9) and from athletic competitions (I Cor. 9.24), for his argument. Jesus, however, probably never saw a theatre or an arena, though the city of Sepphoris, stamped with Greek culture, where for example he would have found work as a craftsman, was barely three miles from Nazareth. In contrast to Jesus, Paul was highly literate, indeed he had received both a Jewish and a Greek education. He also had a command of Aramaic, though his mother tongue was Greek. As a Roman citizen he was endowed with numerous privileges. In origin and education, Paul was a cosmopolitan and Jesus was a provincial. Had they ever met in person, they would presumably have had little to say to each other. Social barriers would have discouraged communication. Most likely Paul would simply have chuckled at such a country bumpkin from Galilee, or he might just have shrugged his shoulders. Jesus would probably not have reacted to Paul any differently. In any case he would hardly have understood Paul's stilted theological arguments, for the pedantic, strict exegesis of commandments, prophets and scriptures with all their fiddly distinctions would not have been to his taste.
But despite all the differences, the two would have had things in common. Jesus and Paul were committed Jews, proud of their God, who had created heaven and earth and chosen Israel. Both lived in the certainty that their God had destined Jerusalem to be the centre of the earth. Here the `Saviour' would come at the end of days; and here, as ordained by God, sacrifices were offered for the sins of the Jews. Until then the great festivals like Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles, also ordained by God, held the cycle of the years together. Jesus and Paul shared this basic framework of religious convictions with most other Jews. In addition it may be observed that both Jesus and Paul had the special gift of driving out demons, and that both thought that they were in contact with the devil.
Biographically, there are special features in the life of every individual, ranging from natural disposition to strokes of fortune. In the case of Paul this was probably an illness which tormented him to the end of his life and which evidently made him particularly susceptible to ecstatic experiences. He speaks about this in hints as the thorn in the flesh, the angel of Satan which ‑ of course at God's bidding ‑ keeps pummelling him (II Cor.12.7). Jesus was burdened with an even harder blot on his reputation, one which also overshadowed his mother Mary. Jesus, her oldest child, had been fathered in dubious circumstances. If in the earliest source he is contemptuously called `son of Mary' (Mark 6.3), Matthew's birth story (1.18‑25) recognizes the lack of a father and immediately introduces the Holy Spirit as a begetter. At the same time Mary is defended against the charge of immoral behaviour, for the ancestors of the Messiah, too, had been entangled in immoral behaviour. But none of this had deterred God from his plan to raise up Jesus, the son of Mary, the Messiah and Son of God, from the family of these notorious women.
However, theological interpretation against a gilded background is one thing. The often brutal history in the dust of this earth is another, and Jesus came to feel this to an increasing extent. From the very first, people in his home town of Nazareth bombarded him with comments that he was a bastard without a proper father. Hence the taunt `son of Mary'. The later adoption by Joseph ‑ long before Jesus' public appearance ‑ did not alter the fact that Jesus must have been stigmatized by this shadow in his background. Sooner or later he learned what it means to be regarded as the son of a prostitute. Perhaps one of the roots of his later leaning towards people who were despised, to prostitutes, toll collectors and sinners, lay here. And possibly this explains his broken relationship to his own biological family. For after the evidently early death of his adoptive father, in normal circumstances, as the oldest he would have had to look after the family, especially his mother. But here the sources tell another story. For Jesus the fourth commandment, which prescribed honouring father and mother, no longer applied. He chose the way of radical separation.
Now insults and inclinations are not in themselves enough to bring a movement to life. There must be other reasons, and stimuli from other people. That happened for Jesus in the figure of John the Baptist.
John the Baptist stood in a long line of Jewish prophets of doom who called for repentance in the face of the imminent day of God. At the same time, he combined his preaching of judgment with the announcement of a forgiveness of sins in which all those who had themselves baptized by him were to share. This guaranteed that they could escape the wrath to come. His preaching went round like lightning and led numerous Jews to come to him beside the Jordan. Among them was the Galilean Jesus of Nazareth, who had come south. He too was seized with a nagging unrest, which found at least temporary relief in the circle around John the Baptist. By joining him, Jesus had found a new family which was very different from his biological family. Now he belonged to a group of ascetics who wanted to be obedient only to God and were grateful to God for having given them one final opportunity for repentance.
The members of the priestly aristocracy in Jerusalem must have been provoked by this eccentric by the Jordan and his followers. Had not the supervision, administration and execution of the sacrifices which brought about atonement been entrusted to them alone by God in person? But as long as the temple was not in immediate danger, they left the exotic‑looking Baptist sect by the Jordan alone. Moreover at that time, too, there were inspired prophets in abundance who were claiming now this, now that. But John was in fact dangerous. If people began to spell out his indirect criticism of the temple, things would heat up for the authorities, as his preaching had political implications. The ruler of the area in which Jesus lived, Herod Antipas, began to realize that, and subsequently had John executed in summary fashion as a messianic pretender.
We do not know how long Jesus spent in the company of John the Baptist.
However, it is certain that he detached himself from John well before John's execution. The rivalry between the disciples of Jesus and the disciples of John shows that Jesus must have already gone his own way before the Baptist's death. That is not to be understood as a break with the tradition, but as a development or focussing of John's preaching by Jesus. For Jesus this new beginning was connected with three things: first, in the long term he did not like John's fundamentally ascetic attitude. In keeping with this, secondly, he had a tremendous experience of the kingdom of God which was prefigured in meals with him to which anyone could come. And thirdly, he found his capacity to heal an overwhelming experience which he also associated with the coming of the kingdom of God.
We can no longer be completely clear about the connection between these three points, in either substance or chronology, but it is nevertheless important to note that none of the three characteristics is attested for John himself. So we have to speak of a turning point which inaugurated a new stage in Jesus' activity. However, essential features of the preaching of John the Baptist remained elements of Jesus' religious conviction: first an imminent final judgment and secondly an inexorable seriousness in expounding and following the will of God. Finally, like John, Jesus remained unmarried. The two of them had this in common with the apostle Paul. This point is all the more worth noting since it was the duty of every male Jew to father descendants.
Jesus' newly‑discovered capacity for healing soon became known in Galilee. His exorcisms, in which he healed the psychologically sick, are the best‑attested miracles in the New Testament. At that time sicknesses affecting the nerves and the mind were attributed to demonic possession. Satan was regarded as the chief of these evil spirits. Jesus lent reality to the battle against him. In anticipation of the kingdom of God he had seen Satan fall like lightning from heaven and thus had become stronger than Satan himself. He could therefore heal men, women and children by snatching them from the rule of the devil with the promise of the forgiveness of sins. For him, sickness and sin were joined by an unbreakable link. In this, too, Paul resembled him. Paul could explain the numerous cases of sickness in the community in Corinth only by the sinful misuse of the eucharist. According to Jesus, however, the kingdom of God did not only consist of healings and liberation from sicknesses and evil of every kind. Its other aspect was the rule of God and the rule of Jesus together with the Twelve. Underlying the latter was the reckless hope that at the imminent end of time, when God brought in his kingdom, those ten tribes which seven hundred years previously had been crushed by the Assyrians would also be restored. At the time of Jesus only the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained. According to Jesus, at the end of history, each of his twelve disciples would judge one of these tribes. The status of acting as judges alongside God and his elect as representatives of Jesus could hardly be surpassed.
And indeed the apostle Paul also had a similar hope. He called on the members of the community in Corinth not to go to law against one another, since they themselves, each individual, would judge angels (I Cor. 6.3). Here we see directly into the heart of the early Christians and the community gathered by Jesus. The roots of their faith were not reason or reflection, but the prospect of sharing in God's rule. And this rule did not extend only to human beings. Rather, it embraced the whole cosmos, which had to be brought back to the rightful order willed by God. Of course all this was conceived from a Jewish perspective, since it was exclusively about the Jewish people, and with the new Jerusalem in the centre; other peoples were in essence no more than neighbours. Jesus fulfilled an ardent hope that God would soon keep his promise. And in the course of his activity ‑ after his departure from John the Baptist ‑ he became convinced that he himself had to play the most significant role in this final drama. Here too the parallel with Paul is striking and illuminating, since Paul, too, a few years later, thought that he was the incorporation of the Gentiles into the future kingdom of God was up to him. In its decisive phase, Jesus' life was shaped by the unshakable faith that he had to interpret God's law authoritatively in God's name. Broadly speaking, his interpretation was to be perceived as an accentuation of the will of God. Thus he`forbade divorce with an appeal to God's good creation, by which in marriage man and woman irrevocably have become one flesh (Mark io.8). He focussed the commandment to love on the demand to love one's enemy (Luke 6.27). He forbade judging (Matt. 7.1) and swearing (Matt. 5.34). Now and then he reduced the law in a sweeping manner and by so doing in fact made the food laws irrelevant (Mark 7. 15); he focussed the sabbath on human well‑being (Mark 2.27). But anything that ‑ in modern terms ‑ looked like autonomy was grounded in theonomy. Jesus could ordain this free and at the same time radical interpretation of the law only because he had received the authority to do so from God, whom he addressed lovingly, as Paul did later, as Abba (a term denoting deep intimacy and affection). At this point Jesus and his heavenly Father were almost one, and that must have been most offensive to his Jewish hearers.
He drove out demons and expounded the law, but at the same time he was also a poet and wisdom teacher. Jesus told exciting stories about cheats, and drew morals for himself and his own disciples from their realistic estimation of particular situations. Morally speaking, his life itself resembled that of an immoral hero, all the more so since because of his itinerant mode of living he had no income, but accepted the support of sympathizers, or simply trusted in God. Embedded in his stories are shrewd maxims, of a kind that one would have expected more from philosophers. In other parables he showed vividly how God will bring in his kingdom: gently and yet at the same time irrevocably. Yet others give a striking account of the way in which God seeks the lost. Jesus provided the commentary for this in his own life: he was often the guest of tax collectors and prostitutes. Sometimes his parables also took on a threatening tone: there will be judgment in the end, and God will destroy his enemies. At the same time God will then make good the fate of the pour, the hungry and those who weep, as the beatitudes of the Sermon on the Mount impressively indicate.
It has been asked how the almost timeless wisdom rules in Jesus relate to those passages which bear witness to an unbroken expectation of an imminent end. Some scholars cut the knot and declare that one element is authentic 03 the other inauthentic. That at least produces a Jesus whom we find easier to understand today. But that kind of thinking is probably too modern. What we cannot reconcile may be far from incongruous for someone living in the first century. Jesus' contemporary Paul is a striking example of the juxtaposition of timeless wisdom and the impetuous expectation of an imminent end. Paul was convinced that he himself could live to experience the coming of his Lord Jesus on the clouds of heaven it'd as almost obsessively wanted to carry on his mission throughout the Roman empire before the return of Jesus. But at the same time we find in his writings almost timeless remarks about human wisdom being foolishness before God (I Got t‑2), and he himself has left to posterity the magnificent hymn to a kind of love which knows no expectation of an imminent end. In I Cor. 13 he says that love is greater than hope (for the end) and greater also than faith (in Christ who first made possible the expectation of an imminent end). It follows from this that in the case Paul, as with Jesus, expectation of an imminent end, wisdom teaching, contrary to all modern logic. Probably for Jesus the expectation of an imminent end had the upper hand, as will emerge from a consideration of the Last days of his life.
Jesus had experienced great success in Galilee. The crowds had respond to his call. Now that same call drew him to Jerusalem. There he wanted to call on the people and its leaders to repent. He marched to Jerusalem, accompanied by a host of disciples, men and women. In a symbolic action he expressed his hope for the new temple in the temple forecourt by overturning some tables of motley changers and traders. The Jewish aristocracy could not forgive him that. What happened next bore no similarity to the occasional clashes between Pharisees and Jesus in Galilee. Whereas there Jesus had received no more than insults, here in Jerusalem things were in real earnest. Jesus was slandered as political king of the Jews, and Pilate made short shrift of him. Evidently Jesus had not prepared his disciples well for this. Otherwise they would not all have fled. Finally on the cross, Jesus became the he had neither victim in a criminal setting. He suffered here for something which what he had told his attempted nor desired. Things had turned out differently from disciples and the Jewish people. But probably he had not seen it life that. Here once again a look at the apostle Paul helps; when Paul observed that Jesus had failed to return, he did not give up his faith because people were dying, n" lived or died he the more strongly. He came to the conclusion that whether he belonged to the `Lord'. That is how Jesus must have thought and felt on the cross, surrendering himself to his Father. No faith can ever be refuted by reality, let alone by arguments.
And, to be brief, the story of Jesus after his death is also part of his life, since it is only because of this history that we still know anything about him. The disciples who passionately appealed to Jesus began by making Jesus the Jew a problem case of the first order. For soon after his death they claimed that Jesus had been raised from the dead and would come again on the clouds of heaven as Son of God, as Saviour, as Christ, as the Son of man. Even more important, followers of Jesus drove out demons in his name and performed miracles similar to his. Indeed, some even functioned as the mouthpiece of the risen Jesus and, as his representatives, filled with the Holy Spirit, dealt with problems in their communities. The conversion of Paul, the persecutor of Christ, who after being commissioned by the heavenly Christ gave the decisive impulse to the mission to the Gentiles and organized it in grand style, became the prime example of this phenomenon.
What now followed was an unparalleled confusion, out of which emerged a church of Jesus Christ consisting almost exclusively of Gentiles, who without delay branded Jesus' fellow‑countrymen as deicides. The flood of bizarre interpretations which began with the `resurrection' of Jesus was unstoppable. Everywhere the dams of reason, which had hitherto held religious fantasies of omnipotence partly in check, broke. At many points in the Old Testament ‑ according to the Christians ‑God had already spoken of Christ and announced his coming. Indeed Christ had stood at God's side at the beginning of world history. If the way in which the authoritative exorcist, the expounder of the law, the prophet, the poet and the wisdom teacher Jesus fell victim to a political intrigue in Jerusalem was already a tragedy, the way in which Jesus has been interpreted and misused for the interests of particular people throughout church history to the present day is an even greater one.
Nevertheless the question remains: what does Jesus mean for the present once his ecclesiastical trimmings are recognized as a masquerade? I have come to the conclusion that Jesus is a sympathetic, original figure, a man of humour and wit at whom I sometimes chuckle. There can be no reasonable doubt about the earnestness of his own career on the periphery of the Jewish society of his day. Jesus is the paradigm of someone who will not be deterred from following a path to the end, once he has chosen it. But in his interpretation of the law, which at the same time both accentuated the Torah and tore it off its hinges, he sometimes becomes too serious for me. I can no longer take seriously his enthusiasm which tramples reason under foot, since the kingdom of God which he announced has failed to materialize. Finally, in his confident dialogue with God, Jesus seems to me to be almost ridiculous, for here he makes the mistake of so many religious people: he sees himself at the center of the world.
Therefore as a whole person Jesus remains a problem, and we cannot expect a problem to provide us with an answer to the questions which haunt us. So with this book I am putting him on file: `A good world needs knowledge, goodness and courage; it does not need any painful longing for the past, any fettering of the free intelligence by words which have been spoken a long time ago by ignorant men. It needs hope for the future, not constant looking back to a dead past which we are convinced will be far surpassed by the future which our intelligence can create' (Bertrand Russell).What Did Jesus Say?
Jesus: The Evidence by Ian Wilson (Regnery) Wilson uses Scriptures, non-canonical writings, and research from a variety of disciplines to penetrate pious mythology and historical distortions. To committed Christians, this book offers a fascinating new perspective on their beliefs. To the skeptic, it provides a convincing explanation of why the beliefs centered on this one man have proven so powerful and pervasive. Illustrated.
Nearly two thousand years ago a Galilean called Jesus suffered the most degrading of public executions, nailed up on a cross to hang until he was dead. To the powerful Jewish priests who had decreed his death, this proved him a failure, an impostor, a passing irritant who would quickly be forgotten. But Jesus was not forgotten. Empires came and went while testimonies of Jesus' life and teachings spread inexorably by word of mouth and by papyri gospels to inspire millions of ordinary men and women, often in the teeth of intense persecution. In the midst of our materialistic age they continue to do so today.
Just who was this Jesus? And what can one believe about him? Was he really born of a virgin? Could he genuinely heal the sick? Did he truly `rise from the dead' three days after his execution? Was he/is he the `Son of God'?
The first edition of Jesus: The Evidence offered answers to these questions so dispassionate yet compelling that it became an instant bestseller. But discoveries about Jesus have not stood still. In 1986 a fishing boat in which he might have sailed was retrieved from the Sea of Galilee. In 1990 the bones of his priestly arch‑enemy Caiaphas were found in a Jerusalem tomb. In 1995 scraps of the Matthew Gospel preserved at an Oxford college became recognized as probably the oldest in the world, written within little more than thirty years of Jesus' lifetime. Now Ian Wilson has incorporated these and many other new findings into this fully revised and beautifully illustrated new edition, which brings us closer than ever to the real Jesus and his times.
Born in London in 1941, Ian Wilson was educated at Emanuel School, Wandsworth and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he graduated in modern history in 1963. During his early career he became deeply interested in the Turin Shroud, and articles based on his researches led to a commission to write a book on the subject. Published in the UK and US in 1978, this became a worldwide bestseller. Simultaneously he co‑authored a television documentary on the Shroud, The Silent Witness, which received wide acclaim and won the BAFTA award for TV documentary films. He revisited his views in Blood and the Shroud. In 1979 Ian Wilson became a full‑time author, his Jesus: The Evidence, published in 1984 as a companion to a major three‑part TV series of the same name, proving another best‑seller and attracting critical acclaim, Shakespeare: The Evidence was published in 1993 to comparable acclaim and The Bible is History is also a popular project.
THE UNKNOWN SAYINGS OF JESUS by Marvin W. Meyer (Editor) ($18.00, hardcover, 128 pages, Harper San Francisco, ISBN: 0060655887)
JESUS AND BUDDHA: The Parallel Sayings, selected and edited by Marcus Borg with an introduction by Jack Kornfield ($19.95, hardcover, 272page, Ulysses Press, ISBN 1569751218)
Jesus was a street preacher who taught by way of pithy sayings. Irony and paradox were his favorite way of teaching:
If you have a mustard seed of faith, and if two of you in peace together become as one as I and my father are one, you can say to the mountain Move away! and it will.
THE LOGIA OF YESHUA reintroduces us to this teacher, whose succinct and powerful words ring anew in this fine new translation that draws from Greek texts. The term logion (plural logia) is from the Greek, for "saying." Each of the 105 logia that make up this little collection is metaphoric, self-contained, memorable, and infinitely quotable. Antedating the Gospels, the logia were written down by Jesus' followers while he still lived or shortly after he died. At first glance, these sayings are simplicity itself, and yet they contain profound paradoxes, like Zen koans or Sufi stories. They startle us and shake our conception about who Jesus was and what be might have hoped to accomplish. THE LOGIA OF YESHUA: the Sayings of Jesus through the immediacy of direct quotation, we gain a clear idea of the living teacher.
Some of the Logia:
Why do you wash the outside of the cup? Don't you understand that the maker of the outside also made the inside?
Our father's kingdom is not going to come with people watching for it. No one is going to be able to say, Look, here! or, Over there! For the kingdom is inside you, waiting for you to find it.
Be as watchful as snakes and as innocent as doves.
Whoever has will be given more, whoever has nothing, it will be taken away. This world is a bridge. Do not build your house on it. Be a traveler passing through.
Do not swear by the heavens, because they are the throne of God. Do not swear by the earth, as it is his footstool. Do not swear at all! Let your yes be your eyes, and your no your no!
Say your prayers in a room by yourself and shut the door.
Guy Davenport received an award for fiction from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 198, MacArthur Fellowship in 1992, and the Harold Morton Landon Translation Award from the Academy of American Poets for Seven Greeks (New Directions) in 1996. Author of more than a dozen books, he lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Benjamin Urrutia is a teacher, linguist, and scholar who has published numerous articles about biblical subjects. Born in Guayaquil, Ecuador, he served for a time in the Israeli army and now resides in Chicago.
Marvin Meyers definitive translation of The Gospel of
Thomas: The Hidden Sayings of Jesus (Harper San Francisco) (Ten Speed Press AUDIO BOOK)
disclosed to readers profound and provocative sayings of Jesus that are now considered
authentic. In The
Secret Teachings of Jesus : Four Gnostic Gospels translated by Marvin Meyer
(Vintage Books) provided us with an authentic version of the Gnostic myth of the evil
creation as revealed Secret Gospel of John, and three others.
The Gospel of John tells the story of Adam and Eve's escape from the laboratory of the Chief Ruler ("God")! who is not the true God but an abortation of Sophia. Now in this intriguing new collection, THE UNKNOWN SAYINGS OF JESUS, he goes beyond the Gospel of Thomas and the New Testament to cull the most significant sayings of Jesus from other texts of the ancient world, Christian and non-Christian, offering a fresh translation of previously unknown or little known sayings of Jesus.
Stories and traditions about Jesus spread far and wide over the first centuries of Christianity and appear in early Christian, Gnostic, Jewish, and Islamic texts. Meyer presents a series of fascinating sayings of Jesus, some of which certainly are early and true to Jesus teachings. "Doubtless some of these unknown sayings of Jesus reflect what the historical Jesus actually said," Meyer tells us, and this prospect is exciting indeed. From the absorbing introduction and annotations hat put the sayings into perspective to the compelling selection and original translations, this beautiful book will appeal to all those who love the Gospel of Thomas and the gospels of the New Testament. It makes wonderful reading for anyone interested in the historical Jesus and his many sayings that failed to be included in the four canonical gospels.
you see Me in yourselves, as one of you sees yourself in water or in a mirror."
"Whoever seeks the world is like one who drinks sea water. The more he drinks, the more his thirst increases, until it kills him.
"Whoever is near me is near the fire; whoever is far from me is far from the kingdom."
"Possess nothing on earth."
MARVIN MEYER is an authority on Gnostic and early Christian texts and the premier scholar on the Gospel of Thomas. Meyer was the managing editor of The Nag Hammadi Library in English, the editor and translator of The Gospel of Thomas and The Ancient Mysteries, (Harper San Francisco), considered the best anthology of forty sacred texts describing the mystery religions of the ancient Mediterranean world. And a gift edition of The Secret Book of John (Ulysses Press) He is also the author of many other books and professor of religion at Chapman University.
Through their teachings, Jesus and Buddha not only created two of the worlds major religions, they also transcended traditional thought to reveal many of the universal truths of human existence. As a result, the sayings of Jesus and Buddha are often nearly identical.
JESUS AND BUDDHA reveals how these two great teachers whether talking about love, wisdom or materialism were guiding us along the same path. , this remarkable collection presents over one hundred parallels in a beautifully fashioned design on facing pages.
"It is easy to see the fault of others but hard to see ones own: Buddha remarked. "Why do you see the splinter in someone elses eye," Jesus asked, "and never notice tile log if) your own?"
At the heart of these amazing parallels lie two mysteries. How could Jesus, living 500 years after Buddha in a land 3000 miles from India, embody the same teachings? Some historians believe that Buddhist principles were known throughout the Roman Empire. Certain fringe theorists claim that Jesus was trained in Buddhism and some even insist that he visited India!
Since theres little evidence to support these claims, most scholars dismiss them, leading to the larger mystery. If Jesus was not subject to Buddhist influences, why do so many of his sayings parallel these teachings? Is it possible that the wisdom of Jesus led him not only to lay the foundation for the Wests predominant religion but also to communicate many of the eternal truths upon which Eastern beliefs are based?
JESUS AND BUDDHA delves into the mysteries surrounding Christ and the Buddha while tracing the life story and beliefs of both. However, the centerpiece of the book remains the parallels. Here are the shared teachings of Jesus and Buddha presented for the first time in a fashion easily accessible to all those seeking to better understand their singular message.
Marcus Borg is the editor of The Lost Gospel Q (Ulysses Press) (Ten Speed Press AUDIO EDITION)and a member of the Jesus Seminar. He is the author of Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time HARDCOVER, PAPERBACK (Harper San Francisco) and the recently released, The God We Never Knew PAPERBACK (Harper San Francisco).
Jack Kornfield was trained as a Buddhist monk in Thailand, Burma and India, and is the
best-selling author of several books on Buddhism including A Path With
Heart: A Guide Through the Perils and
Promises of Spiritual Life PAPERBACK (Bantam Doubleday Dell)( and Buddha's Little Instruction Book PAPERBACK (Bantam Doubleday Dell)
EXCERPTS OF SOME NONCANONICAL SAYINGS OF JESUS:
Be eager about the word. For the first aspect of the word is faith, the second is love, the third is works, and from these comes lie.
For the word is like a grain of wheat. When someone sowed it, he had faith in it, and when it sprouted, he loved it, because he saw many grains instead of just one. And after he worked, he was saved, because he prepared it as food, and he still kept some out to sow.
This is also how you can acquire heavens kingdom for yourselves. Unless you acquire it through knowledge, you will not be able to find it.
The savior said to me, "That one whom you see upon the cross, glad and laughing, is the living Jesus. But that one into whose hands and feet they hammer the nails is the fleshy part, which is the substitute that is being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."
"If you are in my embrace and do not do the will of my father in heaven, I shall cast you away from me."
The other rich man said to him, "Teacher, what good must I do to live?
He said to him, "Mister, do what is in the law and the prophets.
He answered him, "I have done that."
He said to him, "Go sell everything that you own, distribute it to the poor, and come follow me.
The savior himself said, "I have come to do away with the works of the female, " by female meaning lust and by "works " birth and death."
"Whoever does [not (?)] know [the] work of perfection does not [know] anything. If one does not stand in the darkness, one will not be able to see the light."
"So, then, you are children until you become perfect."
Jesus was asked by some people, "Show us the way by which we may enter paradise.
He said, "Do not speak at all."
They said, "We cannot do that.
He said, "Then say only what is good.
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