Lesson 5.1: The Historical Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth comes publicly as the Messiah and preaches on the Kingdom of God. The Book of John notes, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” This was because Nazareth was an obscure village where Jesus lives. The gospels identify Nazareth as an inconsequential village (Bosworth, 2005). Jesus is the founder of the Kingdom of Heaven here on earth he dies to consecrate humanity. Additionally, the Holy Quran mentions Jesus the Nazarene as an important person. The figure of Jesus has a popular historical treatment in the universe. Historically, Jesus was a Galilean the evidence to this assertion lays in his activities, in this place such as choosing the twelve disciples (Burtt, 2004). Most of the scholars hold claims that Jesus was a Jew from the tribe of Judah. The disciples appear in all the four gospels.
Many scholars in the contemporary world, as well as historians, attest to the existence of Jesus. In the era of classical antiquity, those who oppose Christianity claim the existence of Jesus in that period. The Biblical accounts of Jesus baptism by John the Baptist appears in one of the Gospels in the Book of Matthew (Bosworth, 2005). The story of John the Baptist is authentic and not an invention of the early Christian Church. The criterion of multiple attestations guarantees authenticity in the historic baptism of Jesus. Multiple accounts in the four detail the evidence of baptism performed by Jesus. The criterion of embarrassment is credible evidence to the baptism of Jesus and is a historic event. The crucifixion of Jesus as detail in all the four of the Gospels attests to the historical existence of Jesus. This concept emanates debates among the scholars since some deny the historical existence of Jesus. In this light, these two facts in the life of Jesus command a universal assent that is impossible to deny when one studies the historic Jesus. It is hard for one to dispute the event of Jesus crucifixion by Pontius Pilate (Bosworth, 2005). This marks a firm establishment as a historic fact. It is impossible for the Christian community to invent a painful death of their leader. The criteria of multiple attestations and that of coherence help to verify that indeed the crucifixion of Jesus is a historic fact. Some of the scholars who propose the existence of historic Jesus offer evidence of documentation that mentions him.
Two of the canonical gospels, Matthew and Luke describe the genealogy of Jesus. The Book of Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-28 trace the genealogy (Austin, 2011). Matthew traces the genealogy downwards while Luke traces the genealogy upward. Matthew says Jacob is the father of Joseph while Luke says Heli is the father of Joseph. Matthew and Luke detail the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem. The entire four Gospel mention the commissioning of the twelve disciples who assist him in the ministry in Galilee. This marks a foundation in Christianity since the disciples are the founders of the early church (Austin, 2011). The event of Baptism of Jesus is detail in the entire gospels. The Book of Matthew, Mark, and Luke detail the temptation of Jesus.
Jesus the Myth school of thought some scholars depict Heavenly Christ as being who does activities in a realm higher than other beings. The world crucifies the man outside Jerusalem to maintain order within the city (Burtt, 2004). Some scholars view Jesus in the revolution movements and rely on some of the historical scrolls that make a connection with the New Testament. My conclusion is that Jesus is truly a historical figure due to the following reasons: The evidence of historians and academicians attest to the existence of Jesus and John the Baptist at the same period. The evidence of the historical existence of Jesus lies in the Bible, early Christian narratives, and material of the early church. Academicians contend with the being of Jesus who lives in Galilee two millennia ago. The core of Christian theology has Jesus existence. The Gospels retell the life and death of Jesus to prove the legitimacy of his existence. The existence of modern Christianity evidences that Jesus caused a revolution to the Jews and Gentile community. Textual analysis in the biblical narratives mentions the existence of Jesus that is authentic. The accounts of historic Jesus appear in all the four gospels and are original and authoritative. The traditional church portrays the authors of the Gospel as apostles to enable them describe the stories. The Bible is a sufficient evidence to highlight and lay claim on the existence of historic Jesus.
Lesson 5.2: Early Christian Writings
Extracanonical refers to any text not available in the Biblical literature (Classen, 2012). Extracanonical writings contain some of the ancient text of religion and theology. Theses writings appear in the early seventh century. Some of the text appears before the assembly of the Torah. Canonization took place based on popularity of the works in the process some of the text did not meet the criteria and were subject to exclusion. Some of the later extracanonical writings have been discovered in Egypt in 1945 at Nag Hammadi (Classen, 2012). The later discovery of this extracanonical works helps in the proper reconstruction of the gospel cannon that extend the period of Christianity. The Gospel of Peter and the Gospel of Thomas are examples of extracanonical gospels that command authority in the early century.
The Early Christian Literature shows Gnostic influence that survives within Christian setting while outside the New Testament canon. Some of the Early Christian Writers author the Gospels and other manuscripts leading to the development of the New Testament (Austin, 2011). The Early Christian manuscripts date at the middle to the late second century. Some date from the early to middle third century, this makes them as the earliest Christian artifacts. The early Christian manuscripts derive a lot of detail that helps in writing the New Testament such as the Gospel of Thomas. All this manuscripts provide quality information as relates to the historic early Christians. Apostolic fathers are some of the prominent authors who borrow their wealth of knowledge from Jesus disciples. Church fathers have no contact with the disciples to claim the apostolic succession (Austin, 2011). For instance, the Gospel of Peter is a narrative that informs that Jesus felt no pain during the time of crucifixion since he remained silent. This narrative does not mention the aspect of death rather mentions ascension to depict direct access to God. This narrative exonerates Pontius Pilate from any responsibility in the crucifixion of Jesus. The Gospel of Peter depends on the canonical gospel since it embraces the gospel in the churches. The Gospel of Peter portrays no relationship with the Biblical narratives depicted in the Gospels. The infancy Gospel of Thomas alleges to inform on the preoccupation of Jesus from his infancy. This writing informs that Jesus was an infant prodigy at school since he instructs the teachers on the mysteries behind education concepts (Stenschke, 2009). The miracle that he performs fascinates his family and age mates at Capernaum. The language in this document is Greek since most of the historic manuscripts are in Greek language in the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The Infancy of the Gospel of Thomas contains Gnostic writings. I believe that the extracanonical works are valuable for the study today. This is because most of these writings help in understanding the biblical narratives. Similarly, one can comprehend the role of Jesus and Apostles in laying the foundation of the early church. These writings aim to propagate theological positions. The extra canonical works are not valuable and do threaten ones faith since they are incongruent with the Bible accounts. Modern historians often ignore the contribution and artifacts of the ancient Christians. This is because most are in fragments or papyrus so as to form a substantial canon of the Christian scriptures.
The Concept of the Historic Jesus
Historians, academicians, and other scholars make a valiant effort to apply historical methods to the existence of Jesus. Chronologically, the quest of historical Jesus takes place in the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries. The quest, unlike prior approaches, applies historical methods to verify and analyze Biblical stories (Classen, 2012). The quest for historical Jesus introduces new methods and methodologies to determine the validity. The worldview seems to agree on the historical existence of Jesus as detail in the gospel accounts.
In the first quest development, scholars produce biographies that detail the life of Jesus. The biographies apply new techniques that are in harmony with the gospel narratives to produce a new picture in the life of Jesus (Tyson, 2011). The appearance of new data leads people in reading and making diverse interpretation. Scholars include new elements in the life of Jesus that do not appear in the gospel or any other historic elements. One scholar uses the incident of the Jesus entry in Jerusalem to retell a story that Jesus owned a donkey that helped him to travel various places during his missions.
The production of Lives of Jesus reiterates three opinions. Firstly, the works elaborated by the gospel depict Jesus as a reformist. Secondly, The Lives of Jesus have exclusions that fail to fit in the gospel accounts (Tyson, 2011). Lastly, Scholars in those biographies make their own opinion contrary to the opinion of the prior historians. Scholars in the first quest have diverse opinion in view of Christianity. For instance, one scholar portrays Jesus as a successful politician who will seize power to become the next king of Israel. Some scholars reject miracles and spiritual exorcism and accuse Bible authors of perpetrating lies. Some academicians do not work to recover historical Jesus but to criticize the writers of religion. Strauss offers a systematic in depth account on the life of Jesus. His account is unbiased since he merges gospel stories and the natural miracles using psychological interpretations. Schweitzer abandons the quest for historic Jesus to end the first quest.
The second quest begins with the lecture highlighting the problems of historic Jesus by Kasemann. Prior to this, Bultmann argues, the quest for historic Jesus is futile while Kasemann disagrees this opinion (Burtt, 2004). Kasemann claims that the gospel accounts contain valuable historical memoirs about Jesus other than the interpretation of theologians. This initiates the second quest for historic Jesus carried out by the German descent. Some of the historians in this era claim that Jesus of Nazareth figure is genuine and authentic. This is due the depiction of the earthly figure of Jesus.
The criterion of dissimilarity analyzes bible narratives of Jesus in the Jewish custom and practices, in the medieval time. The criterion of embarrassment introduced in the second quest notes that the early Christian Church would never invent the story of Baptism of Jesus (Austin, 2011). This is because John the Baptist did his work to cleanse sins while Jesus had no sin and it would lead to embarrassment since Jesus is higher than John is. The baptism of Jesus is a historic event together with the appearing of the dove and Heaven’s voice during the ceremony. Some existentialist led to the disappearance of the second quest, and people forgot the quest enormous contribution.
The third quest emerges as academicians present a new approach unlike the criteria of dissimilarity and embarrassment. In this era, the criterion of historic plausibility emerges. The principle of this criterion is to highlight the repercussion of historical context by comparing it to the multiple attestations (Classen, 2012). The criterion of execution notes that Jewish people rejected Jesus as their own as the Romans executed him. The criterion of circumstantial evidence considers the historical hypothesis and cites the areas of consistency. Modern scholars work to verify the work of Jesus while in Galilee. A mix of scholars discharges the third quest to allow for diverse opinion. The worldview agrees with the notion of existence of the historic Jesus.
Austin, K. (2011). Jews and Christians in Early Modern Europe. Reformation, 16(1), 195-208.
Bosworth, E. I. (2005). The Historic Jesus in Our Present Religious Experience. Religious Education, 20(1), 24-27.
Burtt, E. P. (2004). The Faults of the Early Christians as Shown in the Epistle of James. The Biblical World, 4(5), 331.
Classen, C. J. (2012). The Churches of the Early Christians. Philosophy and History, 6(2), 180-181.
Stenschke, C. (2009). Mapping the New Testament: Early Christian Writings as a Witness for Jewish Biblical Exegesis. Religion and Theology, 16(3), 312-314.
Tyson, J. B. (2011). C.T.R. Hayward. Interpretations of the Name Israel in Ancient Judaism and Some Early Christian Writings: From Victorious Athlete to Heavenly Champion. Studies in Christian-Jewish Relations, 2(2), 22-47.