Thursday, June 10, 2010

Christology: Athanasius Speaks with a Historical Jesus Scholar

Mediator: Hello, and thank you both for coming. Let’s get right to it – neither of you are saying the Incarnation’s not important.

Charlesworth (C): That’s right. Jesus Research allows us to see the world as Jesus saw it, and to know Jesus as the world first knew him. Christian theology is historical theology, and we start with the person of Jesus, or we start nowhere at all.

Athanasius (A): ...And it’s the Word becoming flesh that has salvific significance. Failure to understand this event has devastating impact. Jesus the incarnate Word of God appeared to his followers and five hundred other persons besides before ascending into heaven. This completed His triumph over death, or all is vain. Perhaps that is what you meant, Jim?

Mediator: Actually, I...

C: Historians cannot answer that question. It’s theological. We can only point to the faith of his followers.

A: Of course it was theological. Jesus was God. Do you think it wasn’t theological that Jesus was born in Nazareth rather than Bethlehem, as you say? Do you think it wasn’t theological that Jesus preached in Galilee? But are you saying that you have no answer to the one question that matters most of all?

C: You see it is a question of methodology. The faith of his followers might be some evidence of the resurrection, but it might also be evidence of later additions to the canonical texts, you see.

A: What later additions? Have people been adding to them since my list?

Mediator: A point of clarification, here,...

C: What? Oh, no, not in that way. We’re talking about the alterations to the texts before you collected them, from the original texts and oral traditions, the Q community, the M and L people...

A: Does the church not still judge the books I named as sufficient for salvation? Or is everyone saved, that you search for more? What are these 27 questions that you would ask of Jesus, and why are none of them whether or not He is the Son of God? How could you possibly ask everything but that?

C: I depends what you’re reading the gospels for. You see, history acts as a certain check on some more speculative theologies...

A: Indeed, the Incarnation ended much speculation about who the Messiah was and what salvation properly concerned. It sent our imaginations in the right direction, toward victory over death and the restoration of our nature in Christ. History and theology indeed! The heavens torn in two! God reaches right down in!

C: Now see here, history isn’t quite like that, it’s more a matter of certain inductive procedures....

Mediator: Well, it appears our time is up. Thank you both for coming.
C, A: And thanks for moderating...Josh, was it? Thanks again.

Mediator: It’s what I do.

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