Monday’s Mtg (8/15/16): Does the “Historical Jesus” Matter?

I have been reading a lot of religious history the past few years. So, I thought we could explore the relationship between what have been called the “two Jesuses:” The Christ of Faith and the Jesus of History. How do both secular and religious people think about and reconcile the two? Do they even try?

Seeking out the historical Jesus” has been an entire field of scholarly study for more than a century. Since there is almost no mention of the man outside of the Bible, experts analyze the text of the New Testament to try to determine which parts are more likely to be authentic and which might have been added decades later by the Bible’s many authors.

Taken far enough, this method has led some non-Christians to argue that the Historical Jesus was very different from the Christ of Faith. Thomas Jefferson was one such person (albeit he was still a Christian). He rewrote the Gospels for his own use, excising all of the supernatural stuff. No miracles. No afterlife. No resurrection. No claim by Jesus that he was divine. To Jefferson, Jesus was the world’s best ever moral philosopher, but only that. Today, secular people love this notion because they prefer their Jesus as an ethical teacher, not the risen God or Holy Spirit or whatever.

The historical Jesus can also refer to the evidence that he actually did or did not exist, based on clues pulled from non-Biblical sources like Roman historians, archeology, and one’s opinion on how likely it is that the man around whom an entire faith revolves was just made up by men writing less than 50 years after the made-up events. (One of this week’s links below summarizes the arguments against Jesus ever existing. But, FYI, my understanding is that this is a tiny minority POV.)

My interest, FWIW, is broader than just separating historical fact from Apostolic exaggeration. People have been arguing about what Jesus really meant to say for 2,000 years, obviously.  But, I wonder how do Christians and the other great ancient religions deal with the uncertainty inherent in relying on 1,000+ year old sacred texts that might or might not accurately reflect the thoughts of God/their prophets?

On Monday I won’t have much to say by way of introduction. This topic is a bit beyond me. Still, maybe read a few of the links below, or just show up and we can dig in.

SUGGESTED BACKGROUND READING –  

Next Week (8/22):  Why has economic productivity slowed recently?  Is it permanent?

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5 responses

  1. There is a fellow called Richard Carrier–you can find him on the Net, I’m sure–who uses Baie’s Theorem to prove Jesus never existed.
    A waste of effort, I think; but for those who think the issue is important…

  2. Paul, in I Corinthians, states the unless Jesus was raised from the dead, “our teaching is wrong and our faith is vain” (Quoting from memory; not exact).
    Isn’t this correct?

    1. Good pt. I was planning on discussing this basic point in the mtg.

  3. “Let your women keep silent in the churches; for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience; as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home”
    I Corinthians 14:34-36
    I guess Paul didn’t know about political correctness?

  4. If you mean Bayes theorem, I believe it refers to how our assessment of the probability of something being true changes as we learn new information. I’ll bet the guy just assumed the a posteriori probability of resurrection/divinity was zero, so any new evidence of it does not matter; i.e., if p(something) = 0, then p(something) x new info = 0 as well.

    I don’t believe in Jesus’ divinity, either. But, using some probabilistic model to disprove it sounds a bit beside the point. Faith does not require empirical proof. A corollary to this, (to me, at least) is that faith can never be justified empirically, either. So, I am agnostic.

    Fun subject.

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