The Search for the Historical Jesus Essay
The Search for the Historical Jesus
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Historical Jesus refers to life experiences of Jesus of Nazareth, commencing from His birth in Palestine all the way through His execution in Jerusalem – The Search for the Historical Jesus Essay introduction. For Christians, questions concerning who Jesus was and what he did and said are important. Christian faith is not a set of undying teachings from an expert or an instantly created code of conduct, but a religion of history, a conviction whose deep-seated foundation consists of enormous revelatory events of God in human account, principally the existence, preaching, death, as well as resurrection of Jesus Christ.
However, at the beginning of early 18th century, scholars and liberal theologians started to construe the Bible as a historical document, instead of a holy document whose writers were moved by God. They concluded that the Gospels were really theological documents which contained greatly of made-up materials designed to advance the rapidly growing Christian faith, and were not in reality a life story of Jesus. For that reason, it opened the search for the historical Jesus; the chronicle of the real Jesus concealed in the Gospels under a cover of theological inscription.
Who Was Jesus?
Although there are few researchers who question the existence of Jesus, yet a number of Christianity’s adversaries are attempting to ascertain otherwise. The Roman Catholic Church was once charged of making up the account of Jesus’ existence in a lawsuit filed by Luigi Cascioli against the Vatican (Y-Jesus, 2007). Even more, according to scholar John Dominic Crossan, at present the original proverbs of Jesus comprise of no more than 20 percent of the entire written Gospels (Y-Jesus, 2007). All the same Crossan does not disagree that Jesus Christ actually existed. Notwithstanding Crossan’s analyses and some other great scholars, the concurrence of the majority of historians is that the Gospel stories present a comprehensible depiction of Jesus Christ.
One of the most extreme interpreters of the verification of Jesus is University of London’s G.A. Wells. Wells argues that Jesus was just made-up by a faction of first-century proto-Christians that expanded, and that He did not exist as a historical person (Heinberg, 2006). Expectedly, nearly all scholars oppose Well’s interpretation, as they conclude that the evidence portrays Jesus as a charismatic and remarkable individual, and the character and magnitude of early indications ascertain the unquestionable historicity of Jesus (Heinberg, 2006).
Nonetheless, notwithstanding the other positions, the wide-ranging conclusion is that Jesus must have regarded His own teachings, as well as Himself to possess divine authority; that He believed that in His own person and ministry appeared deliverance; that He took upon himself the divine sanction to pardon sins; that He conversed to God with apparently mystifying and unparalleled closeness; claimed that He judge all things and He is the Son of Man who would resolve every human’s definitive status before God; and declared to be the Son of the living God (Heinberg, 2006).
Periods of the Search
The quest or search for the historical Jesus is divided into three phases: (1) the old quest, which is stated from the early 18 century to around 1906; (2) the new quest also known as second quest, which started around 1953 to 1980; and (3) the third quest, starting from 1980 until the present, and is still ongoing (Religious Tolerance, 2004).
The Old Quest was initiated by French and German scholars and theologians. Albert Schweitzer, author of “The Mystery of the Kingdom of God” and “The Quest of the Historical Jesus” in 1901 and 1906 respectively, ended almost by himself the Old Quest. For nearly half a century, theologians received his conclusions that the gospels are not historical, but theological documents. That they contained no consistent records regarding the philosophy, acts statements, or beliefs of Jesus. The well esteemed Rudolf Bultmann, a German New Testament scholar, supported the conclusions of Schweitzer (Religious Tolerance, 2004). Bultmann concluded that the earliest Christian movement was not apprehensive about creating life stories of Jesus, but were inspired by the need to generate propaganda. In addition, he backed up that the Christ who preached is the Christ of faith and not the historic Jesus (Religious Tolerance, 2004). As a result, the no quest period of 1906 to 1953 started.
A German professor, Ernst Käsemann initiated the new quest during a 1953 lecture (Religious Tolerance, 2004). Käsemann believed that it will never be attainable to put in writing contemporary-styled memoirs of Jesus. Nevertheless, he believed that there is a connection between the Christ of faith and the Jesus of history that might be exploited to get hold of indications of the historical Jesus. Käsemann established the theory of dissimilarity as a method for separating records with regard to the historical Jesus from ensuing accruals that were not linked to the life and teachings of Jesus. The isolated documentations are believed to be elements in the New Testament that originated from the earliest Jewish tradition and Christian movement, which for the most part Christians discarded by the time the Christian Scripture books were written.
The third quest that started in the 1980’s and continues at present became the most important area of historical and theological study. The educational organizations, especially the Jesus Seminar, have been established to advance the quest or search (Religious Tolerance, 2004). Earlier works of the third quest had been for the most part completed by German and French Protestant researchers. At present, with the Roman Catholics’ foremost assistance, English speaking scholars took over the endeavor, in addition to the recent involvements of archaeologists, historians, and others. Astounding diversities of concepts regarding the life of Jesus have been suggested. In recent times, there is a growing attention that views Jesus’ Jewish origin as His primary influence in teaching. However, other researchers in the quest put emphasis on the Greek influence on Galilean culture.
The Search for the Historical Jesus
Some of the information found written in early non-Christian sources about Jesus revealed that: (1) Jesus was from Nazareth; (2) Jesus lived a righteous and sensible life; (3) Jesus was regarded as the Jewish king, and under Pontius Pilate was crucified in Palestine at Passover time during the reign of Tiberius Caesar; (4) Jesus’ disciples believed that He died and risen from the dead after the third day; (5) Adversaries’ of Jesus acknowledged that He carried out extraordinary feats they described as “sorcery;” (6) Jesus’ small group of disciples increased rapidly, proliferated as far as Rome; and, (7) Disciples of Jesus worshiped Him as God, and they lived honorable lives, as well as denied polytheism (Y-Jesus, 2007). Every one of these independent accounts, secular and religious, talks about a real man who amply coincides with the Gospels’ Jesus Christ.
At present, nearly every textual analyst concur that the earliest layer in the Jesus writing comprised of the untainted proverbs of the master. The Jesus Seminar has facilitated to some extent in explaining the conclusion that the majority independent researchers had previously accomplished. The seminar is an ongoing partnership of well-known New Testament scholars that seeks to establish the most indisputable teachings of Jesus (Heinberg, 2006). Although the scholars occasionally disagree on the genuineness of individual proverbs, nevertheless the general idea of Jesus’ original message appears adequately understandable amongst them.
In 1945 in Upper Egypt, in the surrounding area of the town Nag Hammadi, a significant discovery was made (Y-Jesus, 2007). In 13 leather-bound papyrus codices, 52 copies of very old writings, identified as Gnostic gospels were discovered. A small number of Gnostic scholars declared that the discovered writings are not the New Testament but instead the authentic history of Jesus. Consequently, a close examination of the Gnostic gospels reveals quite the opposite of the New Testament Gospels that contain numerous historical facts regarding of life Jesus as well as His words and ministry. As such, the Gnostic gospels are declared as not the chronological accounts of the life of Jesus but are just mostly esoteric sayings, covered in ambiguity, omitting historical information such as events, places and names (Y-Jesus, 2007). Raymond Brown, a New Testament scholar alleged that the Gnostic gospels did not present single confirmable new information in relation to the ministry of historical Jesus, but no more than a few new proverbs that might probably have been His (Y-Jesus, 2007).
Numerous non-Christians throw out the Jesus’ childhood accounts in Luke as myth-laden and fabricated, as well as refute the accurateness of any of the Evangelists’ chronologies. Of the comprehensive Passion accounts, they only acknowledge as historically sound the exposed information that: (1) at the end of Jesus’ ministry, He went to Jerusalem; (2) Jesus supped with His disciples for a time toward Passover; (3) Jesus stood trial before Pilate; and (4) Jesus was crucified (Time Magazine, 1963, p3). However, the claim of resurrection, which is very important to Christianity, was not acknowledged. For Christians, if God raised Jesus from the dead, then He has experiences and credentials that no other religious leader acquired.
After over 700 hours of studying the question on Jesus’ resurrection, as well as carefully exploring its foundation, researcher Josh McDowell have reached the conclusion that the resurrection of Jesus is either one of the most the most extraordinary fact of history, or one of the most heartless, inhuman, immoral deceptions ever imposed upon human minds (Y-Jesus, 2007). Nevertheless, as depicted in the New Testament scholars concluded only five conceivable rationalizations for the alleged resurrection of Jesus: (1) that in reality Jesus did not die on the cross; (2) the resurrection was a pre-arranged; (3) that the disciples were having delusions; (4) that the narrative is legendary; and (5) that the resurrection really took place (Y-Jesus, 2007).
Even though more than a century has already passed since its commencement, the search for the historical Jesus today is still exceptionally contentious, and any person who attempts even a perfunctory study of the pronouncements of New Testament scholars may immediately discern a noticeable inconsistency. Unfortunately, this experimentation has theological implications. Jesus is the foundation of Christian devotion, and the early church was founded by the same inclination to write the Gospels with stories in relation to who He was and what He performed, some three to four decades following its establishment (Davis, 1999). For Christians, their practice, worship, and thinking are accurately linked to Jesus. If Christian practices and beliefs are beyond the correlation with the Jesus, then Christian faith is in grave trouble, since it has no conceivable foundation.
A significant difference between a legend and a real person is how the subject influences history. Both historical impact and documentary evidence point to the verity that Jesus Christ did exist. Such substantiations convince even disbelieving historians that Christianity’s founder was neither legend nor myth. Jesus Christ has shaped the landscape of history like an enormous earthquake that has left an extensive trail. It is this trail of information that convinces researchers that Jesus actually did exist and definitely did shape our world some 2,000 years in the past. Nevertheless, Christians must approach the historical Jesus with interpretive conviction, as well as good judgments. This is exasperating to radical critics and nonbelievers, who see no basis to treat the Gospels in a different way than several other printed stories. All the same, if Jesus Christ is essentially joined up to subsequent human generations through written texts, and if through Him, God decides to present deliverance to human, it follows therefore that God will not allow the proclamation of those texts to be exceptionally false or misleading.
Davis, S.T. (1999, June). Why the Historical Jesus Matters? Worldwide Church of God. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from http://www.wcg.org/lit/jesus/davis.htm
Heinberg, R. (2006). In Search of the Historical Jesus. New Dawn Magazine Online. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from http://www.newdawnmagazine.com/Article/In_Search_of_the_Historical_Jesus.html
Religious Tolerance. (2004, November 3). The Search for the Historical Jesus. Retrieved February 12, 2009, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/chr_jcse_his.htm
Time Magazine Online. (1963, June 21). The New Search for the Historical Jesus. Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://www.spinninglobe.net/histjesusearch.html
Y-Jesus. (2007). Who was the real Jesus? Retrieved February 13, 2009, from http://y-jesus.com/gnostic_gospels.php