The Importance of the Historical Jesus: A Jesus Project Quodlibet

And he asjesus_photoked them, “Who do you say that I am?” (Mark 8.28)

For the last three years I have been associated—perhaps identified is a better word—with something called the Jesus Project.    Enough has already been said and written about that for me (mercifully) to be able to avoid another “introduction” to its aims and objectives.

This essay therefore is about something else.  It is about why we should care about the historical Jesus

My guess is that there are just as many people who sort of believe in God as there are people who sort of believe in Jesus.  But the two beliefs are different.  The existence of God can be argued theologically or philosophically.  If theologically (using archaic language) the proofs are usually called “demonstrations” and include some of the classical arguments of the theistic tradition—such as Anselm’s and Thomas Aquinas’s five ways.  It is quite convenient for philosophers to have these arguments because they don’t have to go about inventing their own. They can simply take aim at these rather good ones and fire away, and top it all off with a heavy syrup of philosophical naturalism.  If that last sentence sounds mildly sardonic it is because I think we are living in a post-naturalistic world and that philosophers had better find another island to swim to.  Theologians at least believe they have someone to save them.

“Believing” in Jesus can be argued historically or theologically, but not philosophically.  Historically, the existence of Jesus to be indubitable would need to be demonstrated in the same way the existence of any other human being can be shown.  The standard of proof is fairly high, making allowance for the age in which the person lived or is thought to have lived. Normally we would expect records, reports, artifacts (bones are best), or the writings of people who mention Jesus in their reports of other events.  For example, a chronicle of the Roman administration of Pontius Pilate in Palestine with a mention of the crucifixion of an outlaw named Jesus of Nazareth would be very helpful.  But we do not possess such a record.  Instead, we possess reports written by members of a religious group that had very specific and interested reasons for retelling his story.  And the way in which it is told differs so markedly from the sorts of histories the Romans were writing in the second and third century that scholars have acknowledged for a long time the “problem” of deriving the historical Jesus from the gospels—and even more the problem of deriving his existence from the letters of Paul or any other New Testament writings.

Having said this, I don’t mean to suggest that the gospels are made up, that they are like Greek myths, though bits are, or that they possess no historical value.  The Iliad is Greek myth, mainly made up, perhaps seven hundred years older than the earliest gospel, and yet seems to point (however obscurely) to actual events that transpired six centuries before Homer (?) immortalized them.  Herodotus, who lived more than five centuries before the gospels, is known to us primarily as a purveyor of history, but freely uses mythology and the supernatural without totally discrediting the stories he has to tell.

Why then, it can plausibly be asked, can we not assume the gospels point to events that transpired within (say) a generation of their tellers’ lifetimes?  It would be more unusual not to find the mythical and supernatural as part of their fabric than to find precisely the kind of documents we possess—especially coming from a class of writers who were not historians or literary craftsmen.

Belief in the existence of Jesus can also be argued theologically, but I am not good at it.   Paul does it this way by quoting (we assume) a hymn in Philippians 2.5-11. It locates Jesus in a cosmic time-frame that might be Gnostic except for the emphasis on his death and exaltation. The Eucharistic narratives do it this way as well, by making Jesus the centerpiece in an unfolding drama of betrayal and martyrdom.  The crucifixion story is as much a theological memoir as a historical one—or rather a peculiar blending of two interests, a kind of intersection between historical expectation and super-historical completion.  The earliest church fathers, especially Ignatius of Antioch, saw Jesus not just as the fulfillment of prophecy but as the way in which prophecy acquires its meaning through the Church.  The Quran also depends on the existence of Jesus, but rejects certain elements of the Christian story in favor of Islamic interpretation. Still, without the gospel its own claims are fatally jeopardised.  The increasingly elaborate theological framing of Jesus may distract from the fading image on the canvas, but it is the enthusiasm for ever-more ingenious frames that kept the historical figure from disappearing entirely.

These theological arguments are better described as constructions of the “reality” or necessity of the human Jesus, and lead to various controversies that historians have left it to the theologians to sort through.  In effect this has created a kind of scholarly apartheid in which secular historians have treated the theological debates of the fourth and fifth century as the weird preoccupations of a bygone era, while (except among scholars who represent Anglican and Roman Catholic orthodoxy) many contemporary theologians regard the debates in just the same way.

Yet these debates irreversibly coloured the picture of the historical Jesus and created in his place the Byzantine cosmocrator who ruled the aeons.  The one-personed, two-natured Christ, the hypostatic union (the doctrine that Jesus is both God and Man without confusion or separation of natures) would probably count as myth if it had more of a story line.  But at all events the fully divine and human Jesus had become a theological necessity before the end of the second century. The historical presupposition was buried in this controversy, if it had ever existed independently.

Given the “two ways” of approaching the question of the historical Jesus, it may seem a bit strange that the theological comes first.  But there is simply no evidence that the early Christians were concerned about “whether” Jesus had really lived and died.  They became Christians because of the gospel, and the gospels were preached, not read—except by very few.  If there is one cold, hard, unavoidable historical datum that virtually everyone who studies the New Testament can agree on, it is that the early Christian community existed and came into existence because of the gospels.

It may well be true that the beliefs of these communities were as varied as coloured buttons for more than a century.  But the Jesus they “proclaimed” (a good first century verb) was part of a story, not a doctrine—a story they believed to be true.  You can’t go very far into the second century without seeing the story becoming clouded with doctrine and definition, however.

The church fathers and the Gnostics were really two sides of the same obscurantist process:  the Gnostics needed a Jesus whose humanity was transparent or unreal, the church fathers needed a Jesus whose humanity was real but disposable.  It is not surprising that the disposable won out over the unreal.

The resurrection stories, as they lengthened, seemed to suggest that a kind of transformation took place in the hiatus between death and being raised from the dead.  In other words, the historical (human) Jesus who rose from the dead won out over the Gnostic Jesus who does not, not because the gnostic story is fabulous but because the familiar story was human—grounded in history. Paul seems to have caught on to the market value of this fact very early (I Corinthians 15.4-8)

The historical Jesus is not important in the same way that a Roman emperor’s existence is important –that is, as a simple causa prius to his being declared divine, or (for example) as a way of averaging human and divine qualities, as the ancient world was fond of doing with demigods and heroes.  We tend to forget that men of the fourth century, confronted with defining the humanity of Jesus, still had the images and stories of Achilles, Dionysus and Heracles in view.  It was not a thoroughly Christian world, but a world still infused with the seductive images of demigods and their courtesans—the same world whose attractions Clement had anguished over a hundred years before Nicaea.  Saving the saviour from that kind of emulsion prompted some of the more intricate doctrines of the early period.

The preservation of the humanity of Jesus came at the expense of his historicity.  In making sure he would not be confused with Caesar, Apollo or Mithras, they focused on the way in which he was God and how God became man.  At the end of the makeover, however, no first century Jew remained to be seen.  Even a spirit-struck Pentecostal preacher who has only the dimmest idea of what Chalcedon was all about calls on a “Jesus” who was born there—a man-god who can walk on water, heal the blind and save from sin.

The historical Jesus is important because he is a presupposition for the faith that millions of people have placed in non-historical consequences, and not only Christians.  His status if primarily significant to Christians is also important, in different ways, to Jews, Muslims, and even unbelievers.

I do not know whether the recovery of a Jesus after two thousand years of theological repair is possible.  John Henry Newman died in 1890.  He was buried in a wooden coffin in a damp site just outside Birmingham.  To the disappointment of many, when he was exhumed as part of the normal process for canonization in October 2008, no human remains were to be found—only artifacts of wood, brass and cloth.  We are considerably better off of course, in the case of Newman.  The grave site was known, we have letters, diaries, treatises, biographies, the memories of friends and relatives—even his own instructions for burial.  But that is because he was a man living in an age of documentation, and moreover a man of some prominence and means.  We have photographs, and well into the twentieth century the recollections of people who had known him or heard him preach.

Everything we  think we know historically about Jesus points in a more depressing direction: a man of no prominence, living in a widely illiterate age in a backward province, even by Roman standards, with few friends who could have told his story.  Yet the story is oddly similar—a remembrance of a life, wisdom, preaching, struggle, and death.  One of the fathers of the Birmingham oratory on being told that Newman was not to be found in his grave replied calmly, “It’s enough that he was here.”  In the long run, that may be all that can be said about the historical Jesus.

16 thoughts on “The Importance of the Historical Jesus: A Jesus Project Quodlibet

  1. Having just received notice from Dr. Hoffmann that he has yet not received my which he graciously included the link to this fine essay, without further word, I repeat the lettr for what it may be worth.

    Dr. R. Joseph Hoffmann, March 24, 2009
    Re: The Jesus Project

    James M. Robinson, named senior consultant for TJP, wrote in a recent article in CSER Review: “The Jesus Project is not to launch into endless, but ultimately unconvincing arguments that Jesus never lived, but to better understand that oldest layer of tradition and how it can be made a more influential force in our siociety”. Given the level of participation in TJP, one must conclude that this implies responsible recogition of his special status as a fellow crtical scholar and to thus accept his conviction as “a value in non-parochial religion scholarship”.

    The conviction that Jesuss in fact lived forces a historical paraphrse of a sentenc from the last paragraph of your first article: “Itroducing the Jesus Project”. The sentence reds: “- – this project is aiming at a probable reconstruction of the events that explain the beginning of Christianity – a man named Jesus from the province of Galilee whose life served as the basis for the beginning of a movement of events that led to the Jesus story being propagated throughout the Mediterranean”.
    The paraphrase: “- the project is aiminmg at a historical reconstruction of the events that explain the beginning of two movements both purporting to ecxplain the significance of a man named Jesus. Chronologically the first, a man named Jessus from the province of Galilee whose lif, defined by his words, served as the basis for the beginning of the Jesus Movement, the other movement which soon followed, a sequence of events that led to the man Jesus becoming transformed into “agod become man” the Christ Movement story being propagated throughout the Mediterranean”.

    Then meaningful period of origins for these two movements is 30-65 C.E., before the Gospels and before Christianity. The term “Christian” was first applied to the Pauline Christ Movement just before 70 CE when it became the “winner” in the struggle for dominance. As winner it could label the Jesus Movement heresy to effectively remove it from the pages of history. Robinson wrote: “Fortunately, the Jesus Movement Sayings Gospel Q did not fade from history along with the community whose Gospel it was. Rather, it survived in the gentile church’s Gospel of Matthew and Luke”. The term”Christian” was never applied to the Jesus Movement. Thus “Christian” Origins is a misnomer, properly origins is about the Origins of the Significance of the man Jesus. The Jesus Movement remained a sect of Judaism while the domain of the Christ Movement was Gentile. The Christ Movement became orthodox Christianity. Both movements are documented in Scriptural sources, the source for the Jesus Movement is lcated in “the oldest layer of the tradition”, the source of the Christ Movement is the writings of the N.T.. Of the two, only the Jesus Movement has claim to apostolic witness to the historical Jesus.

    I take Schubert M. Ogden to be the real prophet of the Quest for the HJ. He wrote using the term “christian” in its common convenient use: “We now know that none of the O.T. writings is prophetic witness to Christ in the sense in which the early church claimed them to be, but also none of the writings of the N.T. is apostolic witness to Jesus as the early church itself understood apostolicity. The sufficient evidence of this point in the case of the N.T. writings (without the tortuous details of what the N.T. does contain) is that all of them have been shown to depend on sources, written or oral, earlier than themselves, and hence not to be the original and originating witness that the early church mistook them to be in judging them to be apostolic. – – all appropriate ‘Christian’ faith and witness are and must be apostolic, one believes and bears witness with the apostoles, solely on the basis of their prior faith and witness – – the witness of the apostoles is still rightly taken to be the real ‘Christian’ norm, even if we today have to locate this norm not in the writings of the N.T. but in the earliest stratum of the ‘Christian’ witness (“the oldest layer of tradition”) accessible to us, – – the first step one must take in using (Scripture) as a theological authority is historical, rather than hermeneutical. Specifically,that is the step of reconstructing the history of tradition, of which the first three Gospels are the dcumentation, so as thereby to identify the oldest stratum of tradition, which is the real ‘Christian’ canon. The procedures required to execute it are identical with those long since worked out in the quest of the historical Jesus – – with the single,if crucial, difference that in this case (given our present historical methods and knowledge) there is no neeed to make any dubious inferences about Jesus himself, once the earliest stratum of ‘Chrstian’ witness has been reconstructed. Consequently, one may be quite confident of finding what we today can rightly take to be the apostolic witess and hence the proper canon for judging the appropriateness of all ‘Christian’ witness and theology.

    Hans Dietr Betz, the expert on this “oldest layer of tradition”, identifies it to be the Sermon on the Mpunt (Matt.5:3-7:27, the SM). Robinson wrote:”The first and most important collection of Jesus’ sayings in Q grew to become the Sermon on the Mount”. Betz writes on the required level of involement before a scholar may come to recognize the special significance of the SM: “- – a task to which specialized knowledge in the areas of philology, form and redaction criticism, literary crticism, history of religions, and New Testament theology necessarily applies”. These are areas of knowledge necessarily restricted to the discipline of the critical hstorical theologian, as well as areas essential for establishing the SM as “a value in non-parochial religion scholarship”.

    I make note of a statement from your “Memorandum to Myself” which reads in part: “- – what was happening at Claremont – – seemed robust and real -“, during your PhD, 1976-1980. I believe that for much of this time Robinson and Betz were “what was happening at Claremont” which must say that as a fellow scholar you are knowledgable of Betz’s essays and commentary of the SM and his important hypothesis that the Sm was a pre-Matthean source composed by a redactor, freeing the SM from the limitations and distortions of its Matthean context. Betz writes: “This source presents us with an early form (deriving from the Jesus Movement) of the ‘;Christian’ faith as a whole, which had direct links to the teaching of the historical Jesus and thus constitutes an alternative to Gentile Christiaity as known above all from the letters of Paul and the Gospels, as well as later writings of the New Tstament. – -If the SM represents a response to the teaching of Jesus critical of that of Gentile Christianity, then it serves unmistakably to underline the well known fact, frequently forgotten today, of how little we know of Jesus and his teaching. The reseon for our lack of knowledge are of a hermeneutical sort and cannot be overcome by anexcess of good will (apologetics). The Genile-Christian authors of the Gosels tranmitted to us only that part of the teaching of Jesus that they themselves understod, they handed on only that which they were able to translate into the thought categories of Gentile Christianity, and which they judged worthy of transmission. By contrast, the SM stands nearer to the Jewish thought of Jesus, and manifests its characteristic affinty and distance over against later Christianity”.

    A brief reconstruction of the history of the two movements:
    The Jesus Movement: After the crucifixion the disciples fled to their native Galilee. Emboldened by Perer’s and others aberration experiences the key disciples Peter, James and John, soon there after, returned to Jerusalem to again take up the message of Jesus. Betz writes: “A truly disturbing problem arises for the community only when they discover that there are other ‘Christians’ who have drawn very different conclusions from the teachings of Jesus (the Gentile Pauline Christ Communities). It is not only their task to maintain and defend the teachings of Jesus, but to establish, first of all, what Jesus taught and desired of others and what he did not teach and desire. The strange fact that such conflicting interpretations of the teaching of Jesus could arise so soon constituted the profound dilemma of the SM in relation to the historical Jesus”. Robinson writes: “Perhaps it was the Roman war in the 60’s, which devastated Galilee before reaching Jerusalem that finally forced the remnants of the Q community to join the refuges fleeing norh to Antioch. Here facing the relentless pressue of the more successful Gentile church, the Jesus Movement gave way to the Gentile church with its Gospel of Mark. – – It is Betz who desreves credit for calling our attention o the unavoidable fact that the SM is something special, not only as the classic statement of Jesus’s teaching, but also the way it came to be – – when one turns to Matthew, the contacts with the Sayings Gospel Q are so striking that one has to realize that the Gospel of Matthew was written in a congregtion that itself had been part of the Sayings Gospel’s movement”.

    The Christ Movment: Talk pof Jesus rising frmthe dead resonaed with a group of hellenisr Jews with their traition of rising and dying heore or gods, together with the Jewish animal sacrificial system,to suggest that Jesus’ death and resurrectionwas a proper sacrifice fro mankind’s sins which abrogated the Torah. For Temple autjhorities this constituted an act of treason. The Acts story of the stning of Sthephen, a Hellenist Jew, seems to document a put-down by Temple authorities, driving the group out of Palestine, they ended up i Damacus. Paul is named as a paricipant, holding the garments of those csting the stones. It was this Hellenist group that Paul was pursuing as persecutor when he had his “vision experience on the rad to Damascus. It was from this roup that Paul received his gospel. Only later is there evidenc that Paulwas aware of or concerned with the Jerusalem Jesus Movement. Paul was never a member of the Jesus Movement nor did he proclaim or know Jesus’ message. Only after develoments resulting from challenges by missionariesfrom the Jesusalem Jesus Movement, which threatened the very existence of his Gentile mission ddoes Paul turn to the Jesusalem disciples seeking their acknowledgment of his Christ myth gospel, for only the Jesus Movement had claim to apostolic witness.During the apostolic period the Jesus Movement was dminant. By 70 CE the Gentile chjurches became doinant, now identified asd Gentile Christianity which became orthodox Christianity.Throughout al of its twists and turns Christianity’s basic tenet remained Christ’s salvific death and resurrection (the passion kerygma).
    More later. Ed Jones

    • Ed Jones said,

      The above Comment was a lettr mailed to Joe Hoffmann. Whoever or whatever produced the statement: “Your Comment awaits moderation “, I ask that you await my reply from Joe Hoffmann. I am emailing him now seeking his help.
      I have no clue as to what is meant.

    • The Quotes are from:
      Essays on the Sermon on the Mount and the on-line articles”
      Faith aand Freedom by Schubert M. Ogden and
      The Real Jesus of the “Q” Sayings Gospel.

    • This is not to suggest that the Gospels may be disregaded. They do contain important data about the HJ. The issue is with which Scriptural source one one begins his/her understanding. Dom Crossan uses an idiom, but in another context, which seems to well serve this question of where to begin one’s search: “If you begin with Paul you will understand Jesus incorectly;. If you begin with Jesus you will understand Paul differently.
      The real Jesus requires that one begins with the Jesus kerygma the earliest stratum of the jesus tradition, specifically The Sermon on the Mount. The Gospels are interpreted from this earliest source.

  2. Ed Jones said:

    Please whoever or whatever produced the statement: “Your Comment is awaiting moderation” Give me time to email Joe Hoffmann to seek is help. This was a letter to him. At age 90 and not computer savy I have no clue what brought this on. I think the letter is important for TJP. It took 4 hours of hard work. I ask that it be maintained until I can get word from Joe. Thanks

  3. This is to complete my Comment which “is now uo”:

    My comcern for TJP might be expressed in Lao-tzu’s famous definition of the baffling paradox surrounding the term Ultimate Concern: “Those who know don’t say, and those who say don’t know”. It is apparent that a number of the real authoritative critical historical scholars who “know” will not become members of TJP nor will they speak out. Perhaps from some position like that expressed by Betz in a note to me stating his reasons for not joining the Jesus Seminar, saying in effect: “My position has been made clear in my works which are public to anyone concerned to know”. Might not Jesus, with his idiom the Kingdom of God, have been about Ultimate Concern – the ultimate solution to the human condition, hence our problem with Ultmate Concern (God-man relationship – mysticism) may yet be the basic cause of our difficulty with knowing who Jesus was or even if he was.
    An after word: As teacher, Jesus was faced with an enormous problem. He wanted to proclaim the ever-present reality of something not readily recognized (“few are they who find it”) and for which there was no familiar language with which it could directly be described. Thus he employed a different kind of language, parable, to speak of the Kingdom of God indirectly. Only words, not deeds, could describe this way of being in the world. Hence Jesus may have been identified with no objective thing (deed) to which secular history might have recognized as beeing worthy of rememberance.


  4. Ed Jones said,
    A related Comment to the letter to Joe Hoffmann.
    A quote from the article “Beginning from Jerusalem – -“, Re-examining Canon and Consensus by Merrill P. Miller. (Article dated 1995 before Betz’s Commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, 1997).

    “In this paper I have argued that modern scholarship has followed the canonical lead on unitary origins but ignored any actual political implications of the canonical account of the execution of Jesus and the caonical account of the origins and identity of the Jerusalem church. Surprisingly, this holds true especially for those who wish to take the political context of Christian origins most seriously into consideration. In the remainder of this paper, I want to raise as matters for an agenda, several other reasons why the scholarly consensus on the unitary origins of Christianity needs to be re-examined.

    First, it leaves out of consideration studies that are important because they do not support and may prove to be incompatable with the predominant paradigm of Christian origins, Resent studies on the genre and literary history of Q, on approcryphal Gospels, especially the Gospel of Thomas, and the pre-Markan gospel traditions, have shown that there were early Jesus traditions that cannot be accomodated within the Easter kerygma and which do not evidence an apocalyptic context or persuasion. However, this is only a minimal statement of the significance of this recent work. An alternative picture of Christian origins has already been argued on the basis of it, namely,that Christian communitiees were at first formed in the name of Jesus as the founder-teacher. The teacher-sage was invested with the authority of Wisdom’s envoy to enhance the significance of the teaching as various Jesus communities confronted challenges and sought a place in the social landscape of Galilee and southern Syria. Along these lines, a continuing wisdom trajetory can be traced into second century Christian gnosticism. On this view, the resurrection of Jesus is not the common center of all expressions of early Christianity. Moreover, the communities whose foundation myth was the kerygma of Jesus saving death and resurrection do not represent the dominant basis of association from the beginning and arose in circumstances different from those of the Jesus mvement. These are the pre-Pauline and Pauline congregations of the Christ located at first in northern Syria and Asia Minor. As a consequence of this recent work, it is possible to pursue the question of community formation in Jerusalem by folowers of Jesus without assuming the model of the kerygma-oriented Christ congregations as the only possible model.

    • Note to the above sentence: “Recent studies on the genre and literary history of Q, – -“:
      “These studies are to a large degree the work of scholars who have been influenced and set in new directions by the work of James M. Robinson and Helmut Koester, see “Trajectories through Early Christianity – -“

  5. Musings on the Deepak Chopra phenomena.
    First off, my critical stance in no way is a critique of Chopra’s interpretation of the teachings of Jesus. Clearly his primary source is the Sermon on the Mount, thus I am in full agreement with his picture of “Jesus the teacher of what the spiritual life (God – man relationship) looks like”.
    My concern is Chopra’s evident complete disregard of the cumulative results of over 200 years of the critical historical quest for the historical Jesus, beginning with Reimarus’ challenge that our scriptural sources present two radically different images of the man Jesus – the historical person and the mythical Christ of faith. The task of research has been to reconstruct the Jesus tradition to recover the true scriptural apostolic witness to Jesus. Who Jesus is, must have the norm of a credible eyewitness scriptural authouity if it is to sustain the test of history (secular criticism).
    To name one crucial historical mistake, the statement: “The historical Jesus – – whose teachings are the foundation of Christian theology and thought”, thus forcing the notion of “The Third Jesus”. Historically, the foundation of Chriatian theology and thought is Pauline kerygma, the salvific death and resurrection – the very opponent kerygma to the language of the Sermon on the Mount.
    I believe the Hoffmann letter does connect the crucial dots of the Jesus tradition to serve as a frame of reference for its reconstruction.

  6. Betz writes: “In reality, the Sermon on the Mount is the New Testament text most remote from modern men and women.” ((Including scholars)
    “As one penetrates more deeply into this work – – a task to which specialized knowledge in the areas of philology. form and redaction criticism, literary criticism, history of relligions, and New Testament theology necessaily applies — a theological problematic becomes increasingly more evident –” I.e. The NT writings are not reliable sources for the real Jesus
    research. It is the Sermon in the Mount which “presents us with an early form — deriving from Jewish Christianity (more properly the Jerusalem Jesus Movement) — of the Christian Faith as a whole, which had direct links to the teaching of the historical Jesus and thus constituted an alternative to Gentile Christianity as known above all from the letters of Paul and the Gospels, as well as later writings of the New Testament.”
    All of which says, until one comes to terms with Betz’s understanding of the Sermon on the Mount, one will not recognize the true Scriptural witness to the Real Jesus. (The Apostolic Witness).

    I make the claim that the above reconstruction of the Jesus tradition is consistent with Betz’s position as well as that of Robinson and Ogden.

    • We now know that the writings of the NT are not reliable sources for knowledge of Jesus. They were written by followers of Paul to propagate the Christ myth, not by followers of the Jesus tradition, thus not written to convey history so they are not historical science. The foundational historical post-Easter event is the NT documentation of the return of the key disciples to Jerusalem (within weeks), purposing to again take up the teachings of their revered Master. This marked the beginning of the Jesus Movement from which we obtain the original and originating faith and witness of the apostles. They made collections of sayings which grew to become the Sermon on the Mount; its final redaction was around 50 CE. We have this only because the author of the Gospel of Matthew chose to include it. However it radically counters Matthew’s Christ myth story and theology. Under the force of present historical methods and knowledge certain of our top NT scholars find sufficient historical NT data to reconstruct a viable historical account of origins of post-Easter Jesus traditions which took place during the apostolic period 30 CE – 65 CE to sufficiently authentic them as credible historical science. All legitimate NT Studies must be consistent with the origins of the Jesus tradition which has the sole claim to sources containing apostolic witness.
      The term “Christian origins” is a misnomer, an anachronistic term suggesting serious historical distortions and misconceptions. Jesus traditions did not begin with Christianity, the word Christian was first used of Barnabus and Paul’s mission in Antioch after 65 CE; it was never used of the Jesus tradition. Christianity developed from a Jerusalem Jewish Hellenist group which began soon after the beginning of the Jesus movement, hearing talk of visions of the resurrected Jesus with their traditions of dying/rising gods, took up a totally different interpretation of the Jesus event, to begin the Christ myth tradition. By a series of documented circumstances, Paul first as persecutor, then converting to this group in Damascus; taking over their Christ myth gospel, proclaiming it to the Gentile world, meeting with ready success, becoming winners in the struggle for dominance it could soon label the Jesus tradition heresy, to effectively remove from the pages of history.
      This is but the briefest sketch, for a more detailed reconstruction see my reconstruction in the form of a letter to Hoffmann, 1. Comment above.

  7. Pingback: The Importance of the Historical Jesus: A Jesus Project Quodlibet (via The New Oxonian) « The New Oxonian

  8. I like this post alotalot – tres elegante, tres belle! I like your accurate image of a ‘makeover’ and the church’s embracing of a Jesus whose humanity was ‘real but disposable’. It’s so ironic that the humanity of Jesus came at the expense of his historicity. And absolutely, two thousand years is a very long time for a human’s remains to be found especially with all that theological repair. (Perhaps Newman rose from the dead). The standard of proof is high and so much is at stake. As Schweitzer says at the beginning of the twentieth century, “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the Kingdom of God, who founded the Kingdom of Heaven upon earth, and died to give His work its final consecration, never existed. He is a figure designed by rationalism, endowed with life by liberalism, and clothed by modern theology in an historical garb. ” (478, 2nd edition, 2nd translation)

    However, with much trepidation and hesitation, I wonder if it is possible that the gospels came into existence because of those early ‘communities’.

  9. Steph,

    Having posted the 14th comment following my 13, either you found them not worth the read or simply not meaningful, which must say that you have let go of the three named schoars. Kindly offer a word of reply.

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