Friday, January 7, 2011

The Quest for the Historical Jesus....

The Quest of the Historical Jesus (Collected Works of Albert Schweitzer)

Some thoughts::

I've heard often the quote of CS Lewis that goes along the lines that eventually you have to take the words of Jesus seriously: that either he was a mad man or what he said was true; and if you take his words as true you should start following Him. (Gulp I've even used it myself in sermons....)

I've come to the conclusion that its a fairly duellist type of question. There is pressure for listeners to make some sort of response. It is a typical sort of question that you would expect from CS Lewis in the era close to the end of modernity. My response now is that it is a fair to ask the questions who is Jesus?
Who you think Jesus was will ultimately require a response. Some repsonses that I've read heard::
  • Jesus never existed (not even Dawkins has this position)
  • Jesus was a Jewish mystic (There is a lot more in this position than is often published)
  • Jesus was the Son of God, God. (A 'Christian' response)
  • Jesus was a political revolutionary (A fair response, which is often the 'social justice' Christians Jesus)
This in turn leads to the 'Quest of the historical Jesus'. If you want to know who Jesus is you have to be convinced he lived, that the text are accurate (This is a real doozy, would you believe a document written second hand, and over 90 years after the event?) Consideration of extra biblical text (only an handful with only passing references to Christians, the other gospels eg book of Thomas are typically rejected by Christians?!?)

Thus my reading of the book by the author Albert Schweitzer. "The quest for the historical Jesus" Which was the first book to really question the 'Historical Jesus'.

This is the first book to my knowledge that I've ever read translated German. It is also an old book written over one hundred years ago. It is not an easy read.
From what I can understand Schweitzer wrote this book as a historical response to German theologians who examine Jesus life purely through a rationalist lenses.
Some inital thoughts so far::
The German theologicans would think of every conceivable rationalist answer in responce to Jesus and the miraculous they are quite amusing::
  • Luke the 'physican' carried around a bag of medicine so for example when it came to the demonic he would give the sufferer a 'sedative'
  • Around Jesus time 'early burial' often happened prior to actual death: As in Jesus case.
  • Jesus didn't die he went to India
Well I'm not quite half way through and I'm sure that I'll have a few more thoughts.....


Rich Griese said...

Hello Scott,

Noticed you are reading Schweitzer's _Quest_. So you are now familar with Strauss _Life of Jesus_. I recommend this as must reading for anyone seriously interested in the subject. The good news is it is available to read right on line. At this site a guy started to format it, and gave up, but the raw files are still all available at the bottom of the page.

Or you can read it on Google books at;

Or even buy a copy for $24 (I have this copy and it is great)

I am also interested in the study of early Christianity. Free free to email me any time if you want to talk further.

Cheers! RichGriese.NET

Scott said...

Hi Rich thanks for leaving a comment. Yes I am now familiar with Strauss, but to be honest as I've mentioned in the blog I find it hard going. Thanks for the links. I've also checked out your blog which I'll RSS it looks pretty interesting.

There are more thoughts coming on the 'Quest'


Rich Griese said...

Hey Scott,

Sorry you are finding Schweitzer difficult. I call that the "catch up" book. Meaning... once you read that you at least have been introduced to all the jesus thought up till Schweitzer's time. So it really is a book that can save you a lot of time.

At the same time, if you study the subject in any depth you will find that Strauss is the LANDMARK book on jesus research. Almost all works are judge BS and AS (before strauss and after strauss). He completely changed the way that jesus research was and is done. He is probably the most important author on the subject of all time.

What made you decide to read schweitzer btw.

I notice that your blog name has pastor in it. I am not a supernaturalist, but I am interested from a historical stand point one how early christianity began.

Cheers! RichGriese.NET

Scott said...

Hi Rich, I started pondering the question of the historical Jesus after reading Marcus Borg, and I'm sure he pointed me in the direction of Schweitzer.

Ultimately I think the search and what we actually know about Jesus as been very important to how we understand and practice Christianity.

So Yes I was a pastor and in many ways still regard myself as a pastor who at some stage may go back.

Interesting that you reveal that you are not a supernaturalist. I've moved away from some ideas of God just turning on miracles here and there, especially for those that follow him and do his bidding.
I like how Marcus Borg writes about 'paranormal' healing, it make more scene to me. I've written briefly on it here ::

One book which you may not have read but it sheds light on the history of Christianity is 'The Rise of Christianity' by Rodney Stark, it is written from a sociological perspective.

Thanks for the tip on Strauss, I will put him on my reading list.

Cheers Scott