THE 19TH AND 20TH CENTURY QUEST FOR THE HISTORICAL JESUS

 

Five Quests of the Historical Jesus

 

1.  Harnack’s Jesus was the reflection of liberal Protestantism, the face at the bottom of a well.

2.  Schweitzer’s Jesus had the demeanor of Nietzsche’s Superman.

3.   Bultman’s New Quest sounds like an existentialist philosopher summoning his hearers to make existential decisions.

4.  The Jewish Jesus

5.  Pluralism of Christologies (Black, Feminist, Liberation, New Age Gurus)

 

Hermeneutical Circle:  The Quest for Unity of Hermeneutical Horizons

 

1.  Questions and outlook that helped shape the answers that were given.

2.   Pluralism of Quests and their Hermeneutical Circles preclude attaining absolute results and driving all rival theories from the field.

3.  Hermeneutical theorizing claims are all open to evaluation in light of the methods pursued.

4.   Battles between rival schools of thought and in the process of successive approximations that belong to all scholarly inquiry, positive gains have been made.

5.   It is no longer possible to have a Doecetic Christ.  Jesus was a particular historical figure rooted in his times, but speaking to all times.

 

Six Foundational Questions Involved in the Liberal lives of Jesus

 

1.  Is it possible to write a biography (history) of Jesus?

2.  What is the place of miracles in the life of Jesus?

3.  How should the Resurrection be interpreted?

4.  What is the nature and place of theology in the New Testament/

5.  What is the historical value of John as compared with the synoptics?

6.  What is the central significance of Jesus?

 

The study of Jesus and the Gospels in light of the social, economic, political and religious conditions of His times has immensely enriched our understanding of not only history but also theological issues embedded in history.

 

Jesus as Liberator—Jesus for the Third World

 

1.   Jesus in the Global Village (Robert McAfee Brown, Liberation Theology: An Introductory Guide (John Knox Press, 1993).

2.  The Biblical Christ and western Christianity as the text to be interpreted.

3.   Seeing Jesus through the lens of liberation theology.  Jesus dwelt among the am-ha-aretz of the land (the poor had no privileges or rights).

4.   Jesus’ unpretentious credentials—“Who is this man?”  Jesus’ mighty impact from nowhere; Jesus’ agenda—the poor, prisoners, slaves, the elderly (Jesus in a nation of victims)  Jesus was so radical that his message only lasted three years on the public scene; His life and message generated a phony trial, which resulted in judicial murder.

5.  Seeing Jesus from a different perspective—Generation X.

 

The Names of Jesus:  Jesus as God’s loving subversive

 

1.  Jesus of Nazareth                     6.  Teacher

2.  Master                                     7.  Victor

3.  Son of God                              8.  Lamb of God

4.  Son of God                              9.  Healer

5.  Son of Man                              10. Savior/Liberator of the world

 

Jesus set us free from destructiveness of social structures, from fate, and from personal sin and guilt.  There is a perpetual tension between the Christ from above and the Christ from below.

 

The Truth and Relevance of Jesus in the Maze of Feminists and Black Christology

 

Latin American Theology—The Man for Others (Bonhoeffer)

 

Jesus liberates us from fear, despair, hunger, hopelessness and meaninglessness.  He alone is the Man for All Seasons.

    

The Church’s great challenge in our postmodern culture is the same as during the first century Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism and the pantheistic view of the Greco-Roman culture.  Christians are once more faced with resurgent Gnostic denial of the historical credibility of the Biblical Jesus.

 

The New Age Jesus—C.S. Lewis stated that the alternatives for Jesus were that “he was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord.”

 

1.  The birth of New Age heresy; evangelists of the great lie.

2.  God is not personal—He is the “Force.”

3.  Man’s problem is ignorance, not sin.

4.  Jesus’ mission is to “show the way” for humanity

5.  Salvation is by enlightenment.

6.  Re-incarnationism displaces the resurrection

 

Christ and The Koran—Resurgent non-Christian religions and New Age Pantheism (see my paper, “Christ and The Koran”).

 

Questions regarding Jesus in the Secular City:

 

Is Jesus just a Palestinian Jew with noting to say to postmodern man? 

 

Albert Schweitzer said, “He passed by our time and passed to His own time.”  Schweitzer’s dilemma was touched by the Lazarus story outside the gate of the rich man.  He gave up a comfortable life in Europe to found his hospital for man like Lazarus in Africa.  How are we to communicate the Biblical Christ to the postmodern listener?  How are we to hear the Gospel again for the first time?

 

Bibliographical Horizons

 

C. Aulen, Jesus in Contemporary Historical Research (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976).

C. Brown, Jesus in European Protestant Thought (new edition, Baker, 1988).

Rudolph Bultmann, Primitive Christianity in the Contemporary Setting, p.b.

J.A. Fitzmeyer, Scripture and Christology: A Statement of the Pontifical Biblical Commission with a Commentary (NY: Paulist Press, 1986).

H. Harris, David F. Strauss and His Theology (Cambridge University Press, 1978).

________.  The Tubingen School (2nd edition, Baker, 1990).

A. Hultgren, New Testament Christology: A Critical Assessment and Annotated Bibliography (NY: Greenwood, 1988).

L.E. Keck, A Future for the Historical Jesus (Nashville: Abingdon, 1971).

A.E. McGrath, The Making of Modern German Christology (Oxford: Blackwell, 1986).

I.H. Marshall,  I Believe in the Historical Jesus (Eerdmans, 1977).

J.P. Meier, A Marginal Jew:  Rethinking the Historical Jesus (NY: Doubleday, 1991).

Anthony Thieselton, The Two Horizons (the Ancient and Postmodern Worlds

 

James D. Strauss, Emeritus

Lincoln Christian Seminary

Lincoln, IL 62656