Who was Jesus? How would you answer this question?
Historical Jesus Born 4-7 BCE in Nazareth A carpenter’s son Born, raised, lived and died a Jew A wise, story telling teacher A miracle worker and healer A radical revolutionary Crucified at the hands of the Romans Jesus, the Christ Born to a virgin in a barn in Bethlehem Divine Son of God Messiah (Christ) Killed by the Jews Resurrected Savior Ascended into heaven Coming back The Historical Jesus vs. The Christ of Faith
Sources • New Testament gospels: • Only two of them tell the birth story and report events in Jesus’ early life • The synoptics vs. John • Other gospels • Josephus (1st century Jewish historian) • Archeology • Social & political history of the time
The New Testament Gospels • Written between 40 – 60 years after Jesus’ death • Written in Greek, but Jesus spoke Aramaic • Written from a perspective of faith (not an objective report of historical facts) • Not the only gospels written • Not canonized until 4th century
The Problem • Distinguishing between what Jesus said and did and what he is “said to have said” and done (as reported in the sources) – reading between the lines (The Jesus Seminar) • Reconciling Biblical scholarship (literary criticism, historical criticism) with faith
Historical Context • Greek culture, philosophy & mystery religions • Roman political power and religion • Jewish religion: • Sadducees: priests and temple Judaism • Pharisees: rabbis and synagogue Judaism • Esseans: ascetic and messianic Jewish movement • Zealots: Jewish political revolutionaries • Messianic hopefuls and followings
Jesus, the Jew • Hebrew name: Yeshu’a (Joshua) • Jewish from birth to death • Circumcision and redemption of the first born (LK 2:21-24) • Observing the Passover (as a youth and an adult) (LK 2:41-42, MT 26:17-19) • Reading and teaching in the synagogue (LK 4:15-22) • The Greatest Commandment (based on Torah) (MK 12:28-31)
Jesus the Teacher (“rabbi”) • Disciples and followers • The Sermon on the Mount (MT ch. 5-7) • Story telling (parables) (MT ch. 13) • Themes: • The Kingdom of God and the end-times • The nature of God • Forgiveness • The power of faith (MT 17:19-20, MT 21:21) • Imagery includes familiar settings and events:farming, fishing, herding, baking, business
Jesus the Miracle Worker& Faith Healer • Did he really do Miracles? • Did he really raise Lazarus from the dead? (JN 11:1-45) What about the little girl? (MT 9:18-26) And another dead man (LK 7:12-15) • Casting out demons? (MK 5:1-20) • Healing of Jews, Romans, Canaanites and Samaritans alike (JN 4:46-50, LK 7:2-10, MT 15:21-28) • “Your faith has made you well” (MT 15:28, LK 17:19)
Jesus the Social and Religious Revolutionary • Love over the “letter of the law” - mercy and compassion over ritual and rules (LK 14:1-6, Mk 2:23-28, MK 7:14-23) • A threat and challenge to authority: • Debates with Jewish religious authorities (MT 15:1-12, MT 21:42-46, MK 3:1-6) • Criticism of political and religious leaders (LK 13:10-17) • A favorite among the underdogs of society – the masses, the little people
Who Killed Jesus & Why? • Crucifixion: a common form of capital punishment for crimes against Rome (MK 15:27) • Claim to be “king of the Jews” (MK 15:2-5, 16-18, 26) • Role of Jewish authorities? (MK 14:10-11, 43-46) • Saw Jesus as a threat to Jewish security under Roman power
Did Jesus Raise from the Dead?Is He Still Alive? The empty tomb: • Was it empty? • Was the body stolen? • Was he not really dead? Did he ascend into heaven? Is he “seated at the right hand of God?” Will he “come again to judge the living and the dead?” A matter of faith, not history
Questions for Reflection • What was most surprising about the historical information? • How does learning new historical information affect faith? • What new insights do you have about Jesus and Christianity?
Resources on the Web • The Jesus Seminar: Scholars seek to identify the historical words of Jesus within the Gospel passages http://religion.rutgers.edu/jseminar/ • From Jesus to Christ: The First Christians: PBS Frontline four hour series explores the life and death of Jesus and the development of Christianity during its first four centuries http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/ • Pictures from: “Faces of Jesus”http://dsc.discovery.com/convergence/jesus/photo/photo.html Created by Laura Ellen Shulman