Quest for Historical Jesus
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With respects to the challenges that are faced to Christian theology through historical critical reading of the Bible, it never answered one question who was Jesus and when did he exactly live.
The research that I have obtained on the quest for historical Jesus comes from Hans Schwarz Theology in a Global Context: the Last 200 Years and also from Albert Schweitzer’s The Quest for Historical Jesus. These two novels helped my research tremendously and gave me a starting point in my quest for Historical Jesus.
During the nineteenth century a man by the name of Fredrich Schleiermacher began to lecture on the life of Jesus Christ. It was during this time that the search for Jesus Christ and historical artifacts was at an all time high. Three things factored in the search for Jesus. The first, being that there was a greater awareness of all the different sources that the New Testament contained.
The second was that there was more information for biblical texts. The third reason is that with the emergence of romanticism, in Italy and Germany many people became intrigued with the Holy Land so more travels to the Holy Land became more popular and people would go there to find artifacts.
With the artifacts that were being found it made more people interested in the life of the “founder” of the Christian Religion (Schwarz, p g 264). In 1819, Fredrich Schleiermacher was the first person to put the life of Jesus Christ into context where he could teach about it and have academic studies on it. At this point in time no one had ever tried to lecture on the life of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, it had only been written in books (Schwarz, p g 264). Schleiermacher’s Life of Jesus introduces humans to an order of transitional ideas that was quite different at the time.
The value of the book lies within dogma tics and not in the history of the life. It wasn’t until 1864 that he finally came out with his book. The book is reconstructed of student’s notes because they were said to be obsolete (Schweitzer, p g 63). Fredrich Schleiermacher was searching for Jesus Christ’s system of theology and not historical Jesus. The empirical had no existence to him; his dialect was a dialect of exposition and not dialect that generates reality. The limitations of Historical Jesus only apply equally to the Jesus of Dogma; his uniqueness is not to be messed around with (Schweitzer, p g 63).
With the course of dialectic treatment, all of the questions of the life of Jesus are hand in hand of one another, but none of them poses/solves the points of view rather they are just moments. “He is like a spider at work. The spider lets itself down from aloft, and after making fast some supporting threads to points below, it runs back to the center and there keeps spinning away. You look on fascinated, and before you know it, you are entangled in the web” (Schweitzer, p g 64). Schweitzer is explaining to his readers about Schleiermacher’s dialect and how magical it is.
Paulus’ view of the title Son of Man, the Messianic self-consciousness of Jesus should be interpreted with the passage in Daniel. Schleiermacher then goes onto say “I have already said that it is inherently improbable that such a predilection would have been manifested by Christ, because the Book of Daniel does not belong to the prophetic writings properly so-called, but to the third division of the Old Testament literature” (Schweitzer, p g 64). So here Schleiermacher is saying that there is no way that such a book could have been created by Jesus Christ because the book belongs somewhere else and not in the prophetic writings.
He then goes on to saying about the story of Jesus’ baptism “to lay such great stress upon the baptism, leads either to the Gnostic (of, relating to, or possessing knowledge, esp esoteric spiritual knowledge) view that it was only there that the logos unites itself with Jesus, or to the rationalistic (the doctrine that human reason, unaided by divine revelation, is an adequate or the sole guide to all attainable religious truth) view that it was only at the baptism that He became conscious of His vocation”(Schweitzer, p g 64).
Fredrich arranges the miracles of Jesus Christ in an ascending scale of probability to the degree in which they can be seen and depend on. The easiest explained miracle of Jesus Christ is the miracle of healing. “because we are not without analogies to show that pathological conditions of a purely functional nature can be removed by mental influence.”
He admits that in particular cases the rationalistic method may have a limited application for it, he also recognizes a difference in the miracle stories such as the Synoptic miracles and how their evidence is not resting of the same exactness or certainty. The question of Jesus Christ’s resurrection no comes into play as well, but Fredrich really has no interest in the subject matter he just goes on to state “is that even to those whose business it was to ensure immediate death of the crucified, in order that the bodies might at once be taken down, Christ appeared to be really dead, and this, moreover, although it was contrary to their expectations, for it was a subject of astonishment.
It is no use going any further into the matter, since nothing can be ascertained in regard to it” (Schweitzer, p g 65). The Fourth Gospel makes everyone believe that Jesus Christ lived among his followers. Schleiermacher goes on to say that “If Christ had only eaten to show that He could eat, while He really had no need of nourishment, it would have been a pretence-something docetlc.
This gives us a clue to all the rest, teaching us to hold firmly to the way in which Christ intends himself to be represented, and to put down all that is miraculous in the accounts of the appearances to the prepossessions of the disciples.” When he revealed himself to Mary he was a human still and his presence was human life but he wasn’t sure about his continuance. He asked his disciples to come and meet him in Galilee because of the privacy that he had there.
The only thing that was different from the past is that he no longer showed himself to the world, he was worried maybe that a Messianic Kingdom might break out and that is why he stayed so low key (Schweitzer, p g 65-66). Schleiermacher goes on to say that if Jesus lived on after he was crucified that it was a condition of reanimation and that faith has no interest in the question of whether Jesus Christ rose from the dead or he just recovered from a state suspended animation. He is almost saying that maybe the people jumped the gun saying that Jesus was dead.
Rather Jesus could have just been in a comma or something, and he just woke up from it as it happens to people all the time. Is that really a miracle or is that just a normal life cycle. He then goes on by saying that the Synoptic story has no meaning to the life of Jesus because if the bread was needed then changing stones into bread would not be a sin rather a way of survival (Schweitzer, p g 66). With the story of the life of Jesus the miracles of birth and childhood should not be involved in the story. The same goes with the miracles at his death.
Some people think that Strauss influenced Schleiermacher when he said “If we give due consideration to the fact that we have certainly found in these the for the most part simple narratives of the last moments of Christ two incidents, such as the rending of the veil of the Temple and the opening of graves, in reference to which we cannot possibly suppose that they are literal descriptions of actual facts, then we are bound to ask the question whether the same does not apply to many other points.
Certainly the mention of the sun’s light failing and the consequent great darkness looks very much as if it had been imported by poetic imagination into the simple narrative.” Here he is saying that because of the differences in the stories around the time of his death that a rebuke could have no possible effect on the connection (Schweitzer, p g 66).
“I take it as established that the Gospel of John is the narrative of an eyewitness and forms an organic whole. The first three Gospels are compilations formed out of various narratives which had arisen independently; their discourses are composite structures, and their presentation of history is such that one can form no idea of the grouping of events.” Luke is the only Gospel that actually has some historical order in it as the rest of the gospels struggle to keep historical order. “The contradictions could not be explained if all our Gospels stood equally close to Jesus.
But if John stands closer than the others, we may perhaps find the key in the fact that John, too, mentions it as a prevailing opinion in Jerusalem that Jesus was a Galilean, and that Luke, when he has got to the end of the sections which show skillful arrangement and are united by similarity of subject, gathers all the rest into the framework of a journey to Jerusalem, the other two gathered into one mass all that happened there on various occasions. This could only have been done by Hellenists” (Schleiermacher, p g ). Higher Criticism is a mixture of pietism and rationalism. The anti-dogmatic and anti-institutional stance supported by pietism combined with scientific inquiry to create space for rational criticism to emerge.
Higher criticisms lead to the questioning of the actuality of biblical stories of the creation and the patriarchal narratives. The emergence of science however didn’t hinder a threat to Asian religions as it did to Europe. In Asia the advancements in both science and religion went hand in hand. Historical Criticism is good at providing a close reading of the text and identifying problems surrounding the textual history of a story. It has a weakness though of breaking these stories into separate pieces and exposes inconsistencies.
The biggest damage that it did was that in its questioning of the veracity of the creation and flood narratives, or in exposing the inadequacy of biblical ethical codes. It made the contents of the Bible look ancient and uncivilized among the march of modern progress. It is seen as the literary product of tribal people at uncivilized times. The biblical myths and morality looked crude and in need of refinement and civilization. Scholars in the west found it hard to uphold the idea of the Bible as a uniquely distinguishable book that deserves special attention; it was more looked at as a piece of literature. Before the Bible played a role in providing spiritual as well as legal guidelines to cities. Schleiermacher was the first person to lecture about the subject.
Books had already been written about the life of Jesus, but it was not being studied. He attempted to recognize Jesus in the situation of his own time and right. Fredrich was convinced that the only way to have a firm faith is if we establish its foundation and the foundation of Jesus Christ. “If the person of Christ is not to be retained, then Christianity as such must be given up and only what is true for itself about it must remain”(Schwarz, p g 265). He was saying here that if nobody understands Jesus Christ then nobody should even be following the religion of Christianity.
Georg Friedrich Wilhelm Hegel tried to answer how Jesus’ religion was created into the religion of Christianity today. In The Positivity of the Christian Religion, Jesus was presented as a teacher of a moral religion. Schleiermacher and Hegel both believed that Jesus was a real person, unlike David Friedrich Strauss and Bruno Bauer who doubted that he was a human. Strauss believed at first that Jesus was some type of supernatural human being.
Due to the skepticism of these two men it lead to a novel by a French man named Ernest Renan, which depicted the life of Jesus Christ in a story like fashion. To Renan Jesus was a gentle man who John the Baptist turned into a religious revolutionary and a menacing spiritualist. Later on in the nineteenth century a man by the name of Albrecht Ritschl came out with a book titled The Christian Doctrine of Justification and Reconciliation.
In it he stated “beyond all doubt Jesus was conscious of a new hitherto unknown relation to God, and so to His disciple; and His aim was to bring His disciples into the same attitude toward the world as His own and to the same estimate of themselves that under these conditions He might enlist them in the world-wide mission of the Kingdom of God, which He knew to be not only His own business, but theirs” (Ritschl, p g 386). So pretty much here Jesus was saying that everybody should be united under the Kingdom of God and that they should waste their energy and time to better establish this Kingdom.
One of Jesus’ main messages as well was the Kingdom of God. Albert Harnack recognized the role that the Kingdom of God played in Jesus’ teachings. To him the Kingdom was a “still and mighty power in the hearts of men”, while the coming kingdom “was an idea which Jesus simply shared with his contemporaries” (Harnack, p g 54). Johannes Weiss was a professor of the New Testament in some foreign city. He wrote the book Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God. He was the son-in-law and former student of Ritschl. He went against his father in law by rejecting the idea that the Kingdom of God is an ethical ideal.
“This interpretation of the Kingdom of God as an inner worldly ethical ideal is a vestige of the Kantian idea and does not hold up before a more precise historical examination” (Weiss, p g 133). To Weiss the kingdom was of something other than what others saw of it, to him it was a realization that it is up to God on his own, and that the human race has nothing to do with the actions that are made. He believed that when Jesus talked about the Kingdom he did not think of it as a worldly development, he thought of it as already being commenced. Jesus was only expressing a prophetic, future directed view.
“The disciples were to pray for the coming of the Kingdom, but men could do nothing to establish it” (Weiss, p g 129). It rests in God’s hands and the kingdom that we see now is totally different from the one that God has envisioned. “The real difference between our modern Protestant world-view and that of primitive Christianity is, therefore, that we do not share the eschatological attitude, namely, that the shape of this world will pass away” (Weiss, p g 135).
He discovered that Jesus’ announcement focused on actual transformation of the world (Schwarz, p g 266). In 1901 a man by the name of Albert Schweitzer published a book titled The Mystery of the Kingdom of God: The Secret of Jesus’ Messiah ship and Passion and it was based on trying to portray the life of Jesus Christ. This book contained enough thoughts in it to shatter the many thoughts that people had of Jesus Christ. The book instead of starting off with the beginning of Jesus’ life, it started out at in the middle of his life. He asked the question if Jesus called himself the Messiah and if he did then why did not Jesus act like the Messiah.
If Jesus did not think of himself to be the Messiah than how could people label him as the Messiah? He was convinced that Jesus knew that he was the Messiah, so he took eschatology to try and understand Jesus. The secret of Jesus being the Messiah was disclosed at his baptism when God chose him to become the Messiah ( Schwarz, p g 267). His task was to suffer and labor for the Kingdom of God. He shared a similar message with John the Baptist, which was “repent and attain righteousness, because the kingdom of God is Close at Hand” (Schweitzer, Mystery of the Kingdom, p g 254).
But unlike John, Jesus had performed miracles, but on the other hand his life lessons and preaching’s where not that good and did not give much success, so the coming of the Kingdom of God was delayed. His life was a complete disappointment; the final sign in his life of disappointment was the beheading of John the Baptist. Realizing still that the kingdom of God was still not there, Jesus knew that he had to sacrifice his life in order for the Kingdom of God to appear. So he went with his disciples to Jerusalem and claimed that he was the Messiah.
The Jewish officials where always suspect of Jesus Christ so they charged him with blasphemy and killed him. Martin Kahler got away from relying on historical Jesus to find a new theology. In 1892 he wrote a book titled The So-called Historical Jesus and the Historic, Biblical Christ. To him searching for a historical Jesus is going the wrong way. There are no sources around the time that Jesus lived to allow anyone to write something about his life that any historian would claim be reliable and adequate because the New Testament was not written for that purpose. He questioned himself and answered it.
“Why do we seek to know the figure of Jesus?” his answer was “I rather think it is because we believe him when he says, ‘He who has seen the Father’, because we see in him the revelation of the invisible God” Kahler, p g 58). He went on to say that the reason we seek historical Jesus is not to establish a basis for historical Christology, the reason that we want to know more about him is to prove that he is more than just a person, and that he is the one who allows us access to God. “Now if the Word became flesh in Jesus, which is revelation, the flesh of the Word?” “How he was like us is self-evident” (Kahler, pg 58-59).
This says that Jesus was a human and that because Jesus was a human then there is no interest in it. He goes on to say the reason that we want to establish contact with Jesus is because he was gods right hand man and God told Jesus everything about himself. The Angelo-Saxon approach to finding out who is historical Jesus took roots back to the United States. Charles H. Dodd, taught the New Testament at Oxford. The Gospels to him were religious documents that tire bystander to the trust of the church. He also asserted, they are historical documents and their authors had interests in historical facts around that time.
In his book The Origins of the Gospel Traditions he is quoted “the attempt to make a sharp division between the fact and interpretation and set them over against one another is misguided” (Dodd, pg 27). He then went on saying, what is now an accepted secular historiography quote “the interest and meaning which an event bore for those who felt its impact is a part of the event (Dodd, pg 28).
What facts are in the New Testament the authors of it thought of them to be there true meanings and that there is not a biography of Jesus. Dodd continues on to say “of the kind of thing that Jesus did, the kind of attitude which his actions revealed, the kind of relations in which he stood with various types of people he encountered, and the causes of friction between him and the religious leaders” (Dodd, pg 36).
Dodd focused his research on the Fourth Gospel trying to figure out if it really was historically accurate, as his predecessors in Germany before him thought of as inaccurate. The Gospel reflected an Aramaic background and provided information to correct the Synoptic (Schwarz, pg 286). “It transmitted a credible account of an early ministry of Jesus … preserved a considerable body of topographical information, indicating at least certain steps in the itinerary of Jesus and some of the scenes of his work” (Dodd, pg 429).
John A. T. Robinson was just as convinced as Dodd was that the fourth gospel gave us a good account of chronological framework and that the early Christians wanted it to be historically accurate for the sake of them. The next professor of the New Testament was Thomas W. Manson. Manson said that Mark contained historical information on the life of Jesus Christ; there are four motifs to Jesus’ teachings. “First, there was the pastoral work of the churches, to find out from the acts and words of Jesus what his will and spirit were for the lives of the people.
Second, there was the personal interest of the disciples in their Master, “who ponder His sayings in their hearts, not with an eye to the future needs of the Church, but simply because they had known the author of them and loved him” (Manson, pg 10). Third, such teaching had apologetic value in the Gentile world, where, especially for the better educated, missionary preaching alone did not suffice but had to be supplemented by the sayings and deeds of Jesus to demonstrate the value of new religion. And Fourth, the Palestine community needed to defend itself against Jewish misrepresentation” (Schwarz, pg 286).
These teachings where a big problem in the Jewish community because it brought propaganda to their religion, which made some students show more sympathy to Christianity than to Judaism. Manson thought that teaching about Jesus lay upon a broader basis than one in which we imagine. “The Church’s task in meeting the problems which arose in its own life and in its relations with Jewish authorities was not of creating words of Jesus applicable to these situations, but rather that of selecting what was relevant from the available mass of reminiscences”(Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, pg 13).
This was a denial to the critics out there who saw the creativity of Jesus’. Vincent Taylor wrote The Life and Ministry of Jesus talked about the idea of how there was a distinction between Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. He said “we cannot see the Jesus of history if we close our eyes to the Christ of faith; we do not see the Christ of faith except in the light of the Jesus of history” (Taylor, pg 36). So pretty much what he is trying to say here is that in order to see one of these things we need to see both of them and that we should not shut the door on one of them individually. “We simply cannot proclaim Christ unless we know of Jesus” (Schwarz, pg287).
But dealing with Jesus there are a lot of things that can be distorted about his life as well as the many things that are understated. “provided we do not make impossible demands upon it”(Taylor, pg 33), we will never know who Jesus was to every detail and things about him will never be solved but, Taylor goes on to say “within their limitations, the Gospels, while always subject to literary and historical criticism, are a reliable guide to the study of the mind and purpose of Jesus and to the turning points of his ministry in Galilee and Jerusalem, the Fourth Gospel, along with the interpretative element in it, supplies independent tradition of great value to the historian”(Taylor, pg 27).
Another philosopher by the name of Norman Perrin came along and was convinced that “the early Church absolutely and completely identified the risen Lord of her experience with the earthly Jesus of Nazareth and created for her purposes, which she conceived to be his, the literary form of the gospel, in which words and deeds ascribed in her consciousness to both the earthly Jesus and the risen Lord were set down in terms of the former” (Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus, pg 15).
In searching for Historical Jesus no one has obtained perfect information on who Jesus actually was. People just have to believe what they are told about him and how by having these believe it will make you stronger as a human being. By using these books it allowed me to understand more about how many people devote their time to studying Jesus.
Not only are people trying to study the Religion that he created but they are also trying to find who he was. The more facts that are found the better these historians are but without many facts people just have to go with what they were taught about him and continue on because there is no proof that he was real or anything that he did was true but its within you to think positive of him and that he can help you and he was the Messiah.
Manson, T. W. The Sayings of Jesus: As Recorded in the Gospels of St Matthew & St Luke. [S.l.]: [s..n.], 1949. Print. Schleiermacher, Friedrich, Jack C. Verheyden, and S. MacLean Gilmour. The Life of Jesus. Philadelphia: Fortress, 1975. Print. Schwarz, Hans. Theology in a Global Context: the Last Two Hundred Years. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 2005. Print. Schweitzer, Albert. “The Quest of the Historical Jesus by Albert Schweitzer.” Early Christian Writings: New Testament, Apocrypha, Gnostics, Church Fathers. Web. 17 May 2011. .