Guest Post: Who was Jesus?

My in-laws have sent a list of questions.  This is my husband’s reply

______________________________________________

1. Was Jesus a Historical Person?
The consensus among both Christian theologians and secular historians
is that Jesus was a historical person. I agree as well based on what
I’ve read so far. Of course, there is varied speculation as to who
exactly this historical person was. The gospels are the oldest
detailed record of Jesus to date. This can be problematic considering
there is an inevitable pro-early-Christian bias to the gospel record
and the natural human tendency to back-write history to favour current
trends in thought and ideology. Plus, the purpose of recording
historical events within the cultural context was rarely to generate
an accurate, chronological, detailed record  with efforts to minimize
bias, as we would expect today from a historian today. A common
example of non-literal record keeping within the Jewish culture is
Midrash (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midrash)

1a. Who was Jesus?

Therefore to understand who Jesus was requires an attempted
understanding of who, what, where, why and when the gospels were
written. What we can know about Jesus ranges on a spectrum from
“educated guesses with strong backing” to “pure speculation”. I am
focusing primarily on the initial side of the spectrum. The far side
of the spectrum can be fun, but not necessarily constructive.

The general consensus of secular historians and some Christian
theologians (non-literalists) is some of the following educated
guesses that range from moderate to strong backing:

* Jesus was a Jew, likely born in Nazareth (as opposed to Bethlehem).
* Joseph may not have been Jesus actual father, but Mary likely was his mother
* Jesus had a significant following and was considered a great teacher
* Jesus was likely much more anti-Roman than anti-Jewish/Pharisee
* Jesus would have been considered quite “liberal” in his culture
(anti-fundamentalist)
* Jesus likely made an entrance into Jerusalem during the Feast of
Tabernacles, spring, that was recorded as the “Palm Sunday” event (not
during autumn Passover as portrayed in some gospels)
* Jesus was very likely crucified by the Romans
* Jesus was not likely physically/bodily resurrected (original
resurrection concept likely as a “spiritual” resurrection)

These are educated guesses that I am currently studying about and in
process of determining my own thoughts on. I would not say I have
conclusively formed an opinion on any of them. However, I will admit
the case for some of these theories are worth looking into and do have
strong backing/explanation for them. Of course, there are a lot of
other ideas that do not. With more historical documentation we could
know more, but of course we don’t have that luxury.

6 thoughts on “Guest Post: Who was Jesus?

  1. Lorena says:

    Interesting point of view. My favourite part of this writing is the assertion that in those days–paraphrasing here–writing truthful accounts wasn’t a requirement, like it is nowadays.

    Extremely interesting. I’ve heard this before but I never really thought about it. The ancient Hebrews had their own genre, and it wasn’t journalism. I’m sure scholars have a name for it– It mus be something like “fictional realism.” A bunch of fiction with a faint piece of reality.

  2. Suggested reading: Bart D Ehrman’s Jesus Interrupted. Looks at who worte the New Testament, when and possibly some why’s too. Great book.

  3. Ahab says:

    I second the Blog Fodder’s suggestion. Ehrman makes for fascinating reading.

  4. limey says:

    Sadly I can’t remember all the details, but a podcast I listened too earlier in the year put a decent argument forward to Jesus not being a real person and is actually an amalgamation of several traditions and legends.

    I’ve come to a greater acceptance of the possibility that Jesus was not a real person and currently I am sitting on the fence as to what I really believe about him.

    • prairienymph says:

      Personally, I think it likely that Jesus existed but that the mythology around him is exaggerated, or that he is a conglomeration of a person with his name and several others. We see that with people like Mother Teresa and Gandhi too.

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