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C.The Quest of the Historical Jesus

C.The Quest of the Historical Jesus. The Original Quest. C.1 The Enlightenment. 1. Terminological Note:. The phrase The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1910) was coined in hindsight by Albert Schweitzer at the turn of the Twentieth Century . 2. The Original Quest in a “Nutshell”.

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C.The Quest of the Historical Jesus

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  1. C.TheQuest of the Historical Jesus The Original Quest

  2. C.1 The Enlightenment

  3. 1. Terminological Note: • The phrase The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1910) was coined in hindsight by Albert Schweitzer at the turn of the Twentieth Century

  4. 2. The Original Quest in a “Nutshell” • The basic thesis is that there is a serious discrepancy between the real Jesus of history and the NT interpretation of Jesus as Christ

  5. 2. The Original Quest… • The purpose of the Quest was to go behind the “husk” of the NT interpretations in order to find the “kernel” of the history of Jesus

  6. 2. The Original Quest… • Subsequently, themes such as the cross and resurrection were downplayed and the role of Jesus as ethical teacher was highlighted.

  7. 2. The Original Quest… • 2.4. In other words, the Quest was a radical application of the “From Below” Method

  8. 3. The Conflict between Faith and History • A. McGrath: the basic elements in the conflict

  9. 3. A. McGrath: the basic elements in the conflict A chronological difficulty: the distance between the past and the present raises the question of the reliability of the Gospel stories • E.g., how should we regard the reliability of the narrative of resurrection?

  10. 3. A. McGrath: the basic elements in the conflict… • A metaphysical difficulty: how can the history of Jesus of Nazareth give access to (universal) truth. • E.g., provided that Jesus’ resurrection happened, is that a “proof” of the divinity of Jesus or just an occasional happening in history.

  11. 3. The Conflict between Faith and History… • An existential difficulty: what has the ancient history of Jesus to say to “modern” people? What is its meaning to “me”? • E.g., provided that resurrection happened and that it “proves” the deity of Jesus, what has that to do with my personal life?

  12. 4. The Beginning of the Quest: • The rationalist critique of Gotthold Ephraim Lessing exemplified the conflict between faith and history

  13. 4. The Beginning… • Chronological difficulty: there is no way for us to verify the Gospel accounts of the past. • How reliable, then, are the eyewitnesses?

  14. 4. The Beginning… • Metaphysical difficulty: how could the “accidental” truths of history (such as those regarding Jesus’ life and resurrection) give access to “universal” truths? • In Christology, this has to do with the “scandal of particularity”: How can one person’s life (of Jesus of Nazareth) have universal significance • Lessing spoke of an “ugly great ditch” between (accidental truths of) history and (“necessary” truths of) reason, i.e., ditch between history and faith

  15. 4. The Beginning… • 4.3. Existential difficulty: What is the meaning of Jesus’ life – even if the claims could be historically proven – to “modern” person?

  16. 5. H.S. Reimarus (1694-1768): Wolfenbüttel Fragments 5.0 An orientalist 5.1. He wanted to write a major book to show the shaky foundations of both Judaism and Christianity, titled An Apology for the Rational Worshipper of God • The book subjected the Bible under a radical rationalist critique • It was, however, published only posthumously, with the help of Lessing, now titled “Fragments of an Unknown Writer’ (1774), known as Wolfenbüttel Fragments

  17. 5.2. The last fragment, “On the Aims of Jesus and His Disciples,” • …argued that there is a radical discrepancy between the intentions of Jesus and those of the early church

  18. 5.2. The last fragment… • A) Jesus was merely an apocalyptic, messianic visionary but his disciples invented the idea of “spiritual redemption”, including the idea of resurrection from the dead • His followers stole his body and created a new story based on Jewish messianism • So Christianity was not the result of Jesus’ teaching, but the result of failed expectations

  19. 5.2. The last fragment… • b) Not only were the disciples mispresenting the meaning of Jesus but they were also to be regarded fraudulent since they claimed spiritual authority on the basis of their claims to Jesus’ resurrection and miracles

  20. 5.3. Reimarus’ work laid foundation… • …for many other similar quests which subjected the biblical stories under rationalist critique and argued for the distinction between the legitimate Jesus of history and the fictitious Christ of faith

  21. The Liberal Interpretation of Jesus

  22. 1. Features of Classical Liberalism • 1.1. Background: drawing from Romanticism and Humanistic movements, Liberal Protestantism wanted to balance modernity’s overemphasis on reason by focusing also on “feeling”

  23. F.D.E. Schleiermacher: The “feeling of absolute dependence” • a) The German term das Gefühl means not only “feeling” and “emotion” but also something that is oriented towards the infinite and eternal

  24. 1.2. Schleiermacher… b) Religion is a matter of “feeling” or “self-consciousness,” an authentic acknowledgment of one’s dependence on something higher, God • Theology becomes an exposition of this “feeling” rather than a propositional (factual) account of historical events as in older theology

  25. 1.3. Schleiermacher… Thus, Liberalism represents a turn to human subject and emphasizes immanentism instead of transcendence as in older theology a) The Bible was not anymore the divine revelation but rather a human interpretation of religious experiences

  26. 2. Classical Liberalism… …gave rise to the Quest of the religiouspersonality of Jesus rather than the mere search of the “history” of Jesus as in the Original Quest • 2.1. The religious personality of Jesus became the main focus and the divinity of Jesus was relegated to margins a) There was confidence in the possibility of writing a religious biography of Jesus based on the Gospel accounts when studied critically • The religious personality of Jesus was open to scientific and critical study

  27. 3. “Lives of Jesus” The Life of Jesus by David F. Strauss (orig. 1835) • 3.1. According to Strauss, “the Christology of the orthodox system” with its idea of resurrection, substitutionary death, and the like is highly problematic to Liberal mindset

  28. 3. Lives of Jesus… • a) Instead, he sought to explain the meaning of Jesus apart from miracles and metaphysics • E.g., Strauss wanted to show how faith in the resurrection emerged even though in his mind there is not historical basis for it • b) Faith in resurrection is a matter of believer’s “subjective conception in the mind”: a dead Jesus is made – because of powerful spiritual experience – into a “mythical risen Christ”

  29. The importance of myth: • differently from Reimarus, Strauss allowed for the use of mythical stories by the Gospel writers because that is the way the people of the NT times shared about powerful spiritual experiences

  30. The importance of myth… • a) While the myths are not historically true, the Gospel writers should not be regarded liars • B) Myths – while not historically true – are important in that they communicate about something religiously important; the task of the “modern” interpreter is to interpret myths in a way that is in keeping with modernity’s mindset

  31. Lives of Jesus… 3.3. As a result of interest in the life of Jesus, a new genre of popular “Lives of Jesus” were produced

  32. 4. Other Themes and Issues in Liberal Interpretation of Jesus

  33. 4.1. Incarnation: Strauss • Borrowing from his teacher, G.W.F. Hegel who had offered a philosophical argument for the necessity of the idea of incarnation (divine-human union), Strauss suggested that it would make more sense to apply it to whole of humanity rather than one particular human person

  34. 4. Kingdom of God: Ritschl a) Differently from the past, Ritschl argued that the Kingdom of God is not an otherworldly, apocalyptic event but rather the idea “unity of humanity organized according to love” • This made the idea of the Kingdom of God wholly a this-worldly, ethical reality

  35. “Divinity” of Jesus: Ritschl a) Differently from the past, the only meaning of “divinity” according to Ritschl is the unique “vocation” given to Jesus by his Father and its influence on us in effecting our salvation • Jesus fulfilled perfectly the ideal of the Kingdom of God • The “newness” of Jesus is to be found in his unique religious consciousness

  36. Harnack: “What is Christianity?” • Harnack sought to present the key ideas of Christianity in their simplest and most authentic form without the layers of later interpretations because in his understanding the development of the Christian doctrine is nothing but the “deterioration of dogma” due to the Hellenization of the Gospel

  37. C.2.3. The Collapse of the Original Quest and Liberal Christologies

  38. 1. A. McGrath: 3 kinds of critiques • …caused the collapse of the Quest, both in its original form and in the form of the search for religious personality (this happened at the turn of the Twentieth Century)

  39. 1.1. Apocalyptic Criticism a) Meaning: The thoroughly eschatological nature of Jesus’ preaching can not be reconciled with the modernist and Liberal picture of Jesus as merely an ethical teacher

  40. 1.1. Apocalyptic… b) Johannes Weiss, Jesus’ Proclamation of the Kingdom of God (1892): the Kingdom of God of Liberal interpretation is a mispresentation of the radical apocalyptic preaching of the Kingdom of God in Jesus’ ministry

  41. Apocalyptic… • c) Albert Schweitzer argued that everything about Jesus’ preaching and ministry was eschatologically conditioned and therefore cannot be understood apart from it • Unlike Liberalism, the Gospels present Jesus as a strange figure, as an “unknown” person

  42. Apocalyptic: Schweitzer… • Thoroughgoing eschatology • Relationship of Jesus to Jewish eschatology and apocalyptic worldview of Palestine at the time of Jesus • Jesus’ call for his followers is a radical call to forsake everything for the sake of the Kingdom and its infinite value • Rather than an ethical improvement, the Kingdom meant an apocalyptic end-time transformation for Jesus • As a child of modernity and Liberalism, Schweitzer, however believed that Jesus was mistaken in his expectation of the coming of the end • Still Jesus’ mystical influence on our lives calls for forsaking everything and following him

  43. 1.2. Sceptical Criticism • Meaning: Since the Gospels are theological rather than historical interpretations of Jesus’ life, we have a hard time in getting access to the real history of Jesus

  44. 1.2. Sceptical… • Wilhelm Wrede argued that even Mark, the shortest Gospel is a theological interpretation

  45. Dogmatic Criticism a) Meaning: The irrelevance of “the historical Jesus” to Christian faith which was based upon “the Christ of faith” made the whole project of the Quest an exercise in futility

  46. Dogmatic… b)Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historic Biblical Christ (1892): “This historical Jesus of modern writers conceals the living Christ from us. The Jesus of the ‘life of Jesus’ movement is merely a modern example of a brain-child of the human imagination, no better than the notorious dogmatic Christ of Byzantine Christology. They are both removed from the real Christ.” • The “Jesus of history” lacks the soteriological significance of the “Christ of faith”

  47. Final Reflections: • The Significance and Problems of the Quest

  48. Significance a) attempt to ascertain the historical validity of Christian faith b) desire to make Christian faith understandable to “modern” person c) need to free Jesus from the confines of the ecclesiastical prison d) helped Christian theology to adopt historical-critical methodology even among those who oppose the agenda of the Quest e) practical: immensely popular in later public opinion

  49. Problems a) Bedrock for pluralistic and current Liberal thinking: Hick and others b) naïve view of history: as if we had an independent access to history apart from our interpretations c) faith-history –dualism (or: faith and reason), so typical of the Enlightenment • yet, Christianity is a historical religion

  50. Problems… d) selective reading of the NT • miracles, apocalypticism, etc. removed = canon within the canon • no more “neutral” than any other e) prejudice against the traditional Christianity • a protest movement f) an inadequate understanding of the development of doctrine/dogma • it can be maintained that Christian faith in Christ is a logical development of the NT events

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