putting historical research in perspective

October 16, 2008

OK, so it’s not a secret that large parts of the church consider academic theology a waste of time. It’s not a secret that large parts of the church consider historical Jesus research heretical. I’m not part of this large group, but sometimes I think academics need to get some perspective.

I attended a public debate today titled: “Who is the real Jesus? Shaman, fatherless child, or more?” The speakers were:

I consider the historical Jesus quest to be of great importance. The best reason in my view remain the way in which early 20th century Germany was able to massacre the Jews, and that in the name of the church! They have lost their historical roots, and forgotten that Jesus was a Jew, something which all historical Jesus research emphasize.

Also today historical Jesus research always remain a critical reminder of the radical message of Jesus. Dominic Crossan’s story written at the end of Jesus: a Revolutionary Biography (a popular edition of his major work The Historical Jesus), of how Jesus congratulated him on The Historical Jesus, and then asked him: “Are you willing to follow me on my mission?”, remain that of many of us who get to understand something of the historical Jesus… we cannot do other but answer: “I’m not sure”. Because historical Jesus research remind us of how radical the message of Jesus really was.

And in future this will still be the case, I believe, and I will keep on reading work done on the historical Jesus. But sitting there today, I felt like I was taking a step back, looking at the broader conversation, and wondering why we were having this debate. Why do we make such a big thing about the small differances between different scholars? Within the big picture, with Christian fundamentalism on the one side, the new Atheist movement on the other, they seem pretty close together for me.

I sometimes wish academics will take some more time to point towards that which they do agree upon, and help develop tools for addressing the major questions of the church today, and less fighting about small things among each other. But maybe I’ll have a little more perspective tommorow, and understand that this is the task of academics…

One Response to “putting historical research in perspective”

  1. Eliyahu Konn Says:

    It is sad that you recognize that Yehoshua was a Jew only to displace what he taught. Yehoshua taught non-selective Torah observance, that is that one must follow the instruction given to Mosheh at Har Sinai. His first message was t’shuvah – return to the Torah. Study the Dead Sea Scrolls. See that all observant Jews would preach and teach Torah observance as Ribi Yehoshua did. Otherwise he would have been ignored in the 1st century. http://www.netzarim.co.il


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