Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Cliff Notes: The Historical Jesus

The starting point of a liberating Jesus is the historical Jesus of Nazarath, his life, mission, and fate. This Jesus consists of both a historical element (Jesus) and a transcendental element (Christ). The recognition of this in faith is a gift from God. That is, one cannot simply accept that Jesus Christ was God; one must contemplate the details of the reality and its process.

That we must do so in the language of faith is difficult, as these limit-terms address transcendent processes that we must go through; faith is both word and walk, and one interprets the other. This is true for freedom, love, and life itself. For example, God became a liberator after leading the Hebrews out of Egypt- the term makes little sense before this.

So too did the first believers address the historical facts of Jesus's life- before they confessed him as Christ. Jesus is the way to Christ.

Yet the New Testament is not interested in portraying the historical Jesus, but only the Christ in Jesus. They are always already christologies, and not the materials for a study of Jesus Christ. That they themselves study Christ by going back to the historical Jesus is precisely our starting point as well.

And it has always been the starting point; early Christianity struggled above all else with the scandal of a human Christ. This is possibly because even the term Jesus Christ implies a split; Christ is an adjective, Jesus a noun. It has always been possible to worship a Christ that no longer describes the fact of Jesus of Nazareth.

We should not be surprised that this has happened because christology is, as is all else, a human process, and there exists in the very notion of Jesus Christ an unthinkable and scandalous novelty.

Yet we must make a crucial choice in talking about Jesus Christ, to say "Jesus Christ" or "Christ? He's Jesus." The New Testament says the latter. Thus, the best protection of Christ is to do what the Gospels do and return to the historical Jesus.

This concludes, under protest, this Cliff Notes series. Next I will be summarizing, in much more abbreviated form, a work on the formation of the early church.

1 comment:

Anders said...

There is only one way to follow the historial Jesus.

A quote from James H. Charlesworth – The historical Jesus:
“[Ribi Yehoshuas] devout Jewishness. [Ribi Yehoshua] was a very devout Jew. [p.48] (..) [Ribi Yehoshuas] devotion to Torah and Judaism is evident also in his actions. During his last week alive, [Ribi Yehoshua] was in Jerusalem. Why? Ha had ascended to the Holy City to celebrate Passover, as required by Torah. During this week, [Ribi Yehoshua] taught in the Temple and, quoting the revered prophet Isaiah, called the Temple “a house of prayer” (..) Thus, [Ribi Yehoshua] should not be imagined as the first Christian. He was a very devout Jew who observed Torah (the Law [Instruction is the correct translation] recorded in the Bible). Perhaps, as previously mentioned, he was so devout that he wore the religious garment of a conservative Jew, the sitsit [ציצית ; tzitzit], which pours outside the outer garment with fringes (..) “
The commentars in brackets are mine.

James H. Charlesworth is George L. Collord Professor of New Testament Language and Literature and Editor and Director of the Princeton Theological Seminary Dead Sea Scrolls project.

The way is to live as him.. That is by practising Torah non-selectively!

From Anders Branderud
Geir Toshav, Netzarim in Ra’anana in Israel (www.netzarim.co.il) who are followers of Ribi Yehoshua – the Messiah – in Orthodox Judaism