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Old 03-16-2001, 02:33 PM   #1
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Post The Jesus Quests

From the mid to late 19th Century, various scholars began to apply historical-critical scholarship to the Four Canonical Gospels. These scholars put forth radically different versions of the historical Jesus. These new images were not gleaned from new sources, per se, but rather from new methods of studying the New Testament. With the publication of David Strauss' Das Leben Jesu and Joseph Renan's Die de Jesus, this "first" Jesus quest were based on the assumption that the Gospels were not historically reliable records of Jesus' life. It became incumbent on these scholars, at least in their minds, to wade through the Gospels and other sources and distinguish between the fact and fantasy of Jesus' life. This First Quest came to an end with the publication of Albert Schweitzer's The Quest of The Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede (1906). Basically Schweitzer demolished the scholars' efforts and demonstrated that they tended to reveal more about their own philosophies than they did about Jesus. Moreover, Schweitzer made the convincing argument that these scholars ignored or minimized the eschatological and apocalyptic aspects of Jesus' ministry.

Between the First and Second Quests for Jesus, Rudolf Bultmann published several influental works about Jesus, but sought to separate the Jesus of Faith from the Jesus of History.

In 1953, the Second Quest for the Historical Jesus began with Ernst Kasemann's lecture, "The Problem of the Historical Jesus." A student of Bultmann, Kasemann argued, against his teacher, that the Gospels did preserve some historical memories, and that good scholarship could uncover it. Scholars such as Gunther Bornkamm followed in his wake and the Second Quest came to emphasize Jesus as something akin to an existentialist philosopher. Eventually, the enthusiasm for, and faith in, the Second Quest's scholarship waned. It eventually died out by the early 1970s.

We are now in the midst of the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus. In my opinion, this quest is marked by more diverse opinions about what can be historically learned about Jesus and his ministry. It began in the early 1980s, spurned on by new archeological and manuscript discoveries. The Jesus Seminar, notoriosly skeptical, is one participant in this Third Quest, as is N.T. Wright, a unique combination of a conservative scholar with bold new ideas.

A quick run down of some of the leading participants and their focus. Much debt is owed to Ben Witherington's The Jesus Quest for this list:

John Dominic Crossan. Jesus as an itinerant cynic philosopher who is a radical egalitarian. Deempasizes any focus Jesus may have had on eschatology (the "end times"). Heavy reliance on Q, the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the "Secret" Gospel of Mark. Participant in the Jesus Seminar.

Marcus Borg. Jesus as a "Man of the Spirit" who had vivid and frequent experiences of another level of reality and became a conduit through whom the power of God flows into our lives. Rejection of Jesus as having an eschatological or apocalyptic focus. Also noted for rejecting the Gospels as historically reliable sources of Jesus' life and ministry. Participant in the Jesus Seminar.

Raymond E. Brown. Known for being very methodical and unbiased. His most important works have focused on the birth and death of Jesus. I've read most of his two volume work, "The Death of the Messiah." Goes through them methodically examining every text in all Four Gospels relating to the Passion of Jesus. Other suggested reading: An Introduction to the Christology of the New Testament.

Geza Vermes. Views Jesus as a "hasid," a pious Jew that is a charismatic figure working wonders and operating outside the channels of usual religous power and authority. Heavy reliance on the Talmuds.

E.P. Sanders. Perhaps the leader in N.T. studies in the U.S. and an expert in first century Judaism. Focuses on Jesus as an eschatological prophet and believes that the Gospel are the best sources of information about Jesus' life and ministry, although the historical-critical methods much be applied to them. Suggested reading: The Historical Figure of Jesus; Jesus and Judaism.

Ben Witherington III. Focuses on "Jesus the Sage, the Embodiment of God's Wisdom." See Matth. 11:19; Luke 11:49. One of the few Third Quest scholars to accept the idea that Jesus believed he was God incarnate. Suggested reading: The Christology of Jesus and The Jesus Quest.

John Meier. A leader in the field whose three volume work, "A Marginal Jew" have been well accepted. The first volume discusses why the Four Gospels are the most reliable historical sources and why such works as the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, and the "Secret" Gospel of Mark are unreliable or derivative of the Four Gospels. The second gospel examines Jesus' relationship with John the Baptist, his miracles, and his message. Very methodical and unbiased.

N.T. Wright. He has currently published two volumes in a five volume series regarding the historical beginnings of Christianity. The New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God. Believes that the way to find the historical Jesus is by moving forward from early Judaism and backwards from early Christianity. A process he refers to as double dissimilarity. Sees Jesus as a radical, but utterly Jewish figure, who saw it as his purpose to die an atoning death on behalf of Israel and the world.
 
Old 03-16-2001, 11:40 PM   #2
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What are the standards and methods of "historical-critical scholarship?"
 
Old 03-17-2001, 01:13 AM   #3
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You may want to check out James Still's summary of the Jesus Quest on this site. He discusses the methods of historians.

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...us_search.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...cal_jesus.html
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Old 03-18-2001, 09:27 PM   #4
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The most important thing to note about the wide variety of scholarship focused on the historical figure of Jesus is not the different spin each scholar gives to the evidence but the extent of the consensus.

And the majority of scholars share similar methods and presuppositions--among which are the gospel writings are faith documents as well as passed-down oral historical memories, the existence of a "hidden gospel" in Matthew and Luke that can be found in the text when they are not following Mark, and an eye-opening look at first-century Judaism in all its multifaceted density.

Today's scholars also use anthropology, sociology and even DNA research in their studies. And there is much more "cross pollination" between scholars and different disciplines of scholars.
 
Old 03-19-2001, 11:37 AM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by aikido7:
The most important thing to note about the wide variety of scholarship focused on the historical figure of Jesus is not the different spin each scholar gives to the evidence but the extent of the consensus.

And the majority of scholars share similar methods and presuppositions--among which are the gospel writings are faith documents as well as passed-down oral historical memories, the existence of a "hidden gospel" in Matthew and Luke that can be found in the text when they are not following Mark, and an eye-opening look at first-century Judaism in all its multifaceted density.

Today's scholars also use anthropology, sociology and even DNA research in their studies. And there is much more "cross pollination" between scholars and different disciplines of scholars.
</font>
I agree with many of your points. IMO, the Third Quest has produced much better results than the previous ones. Especially notable is the contributionof Jewish scholars, and the increased understanding of Jesus' Jewishness.

I would disagree with your characterization of the source material of Matthew and Luke of "hidden gospels." Q, for example, is a source for various of Jesus' sayings and some actions. But I'm not sure the characterization of "gospel" is accurate. It might be more accurate, however, if you are referring to "L," Luke's special source. It apparently did include a Passion Narrative. However, even today most scholars reject the "pro-Luke" hypothetis.

 
Old 03-29-2001, 08:40 PM   #6
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
You may want to check out James Still's summary of the Jesus Quest on this site. He discusses the methods of historians.

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...us_search.html

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...cal_jesus.html
</font>
I was skeptical, and I disagree with much of them, but I have to admit that the links were to good articles. Have any of the skeptics here read them?

Thanks Toto
 
Old 04-01-2001, 10:28 PM   #7
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Layman -

I posted the links because I thought your summary was a bit disingenuous. You refer to Meier and Brown as unbiased, but both are Catholic, and limited it what they can conclude and still retain their professional standing. Witherington is highly partisan. You also gave the impression that there is some unbiased body of evidence for some view of the historical Jesus. I haven't heard of any evidence that would convince someone who didn't start out believing in Jesus.

I find Christian apologetics entirely unconvincing. But I and other non-believers seem to be fascinated by Jesus and the mystery around him.

Since you are in LA, you might check out this play: www.partyof13.com
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Old 04-02-2001, 07:50 AM   #8
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
Layman -

I posted the links because I thought your summary was a bit disingenuous. You refer to Meier and Brown as unbiased, but both are Catholic, and limited it what they can conclude and still retain their professional standing. Witherington is highly partisan. You also gave the impression that there is some unbiased body of evidence for some view of the historical Jesus. I haven't heard of any evidence that would convince someone who didn't start out believing in Jesus.

I find Christian apologetics entirely unconvincing. But I and other non-believers seem to be fascinated by Jesus and the mystery around him.

Since you are in LA, you might check out this play: www.partyof13.com
</font>

Meier and Brown are very unbiased. They are very methodical in their approach and have stellar representations.

I don't hold their Catholicism against them.
If you have other scholars criticizing them for being biased though I'd be interested.
 
Old 04-09-2001, 02:32 AM   #9
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
From the mid to late 19th Century, various scholars began to apply historical-critical scholarship to the Four Canonical Gospels. </font>
Hermann Reimarus posthomously had his "The aims of Jesus and his disciples" published in 1778, ie, late 18th century not 19th. He was the first to take a historical approach to the life of Jesus.

To your list of scholars I would cautiously add Bart Ehrman who in my opinion is very balanced. His "Jesus: Apocalyptic prophet of the new millenium" is the best book on the historical Jesus I've read, having read Crossan, Borg & Sanders. I haven't been able to get my hands on a Meier book yet but would love to.

If anyone gets really keen, Albert Schweitzers "Quest of the historical Jesus" (1906) is a book worth reading which summarizes the quest up to that point and I think nails (even way back then) the essential message of Jesus.

James.

[This message has been edited by james-2-24 (edited April 09, 2001).]
 
 

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