Friday, July 4, 2014

What is "The Quest for the Historical Jesus?"

Since the dawn of the Enlightenment, a tremendous amount of scholarly energy has been spent searching for the “Historical Jesus,” but it has not always been exactly clear who that "person" is or precisely how this so-called "Quest" is to be conducted. The “Historical Jesus” is not the man who walked along the Sea of Galilee. The “Historical Jesus” is Jesus as he can be reconstructed using scientific historical methods.

    While few professional biblical scholars claim that an historical figure named Jesus (or Yeshua) did not exist, the basic problem is that every scholar’s historical Jesus is different. So there is not one Jesus, but many. The Quest for the historical Jesus attempts to identify the earliest traditions about Jesus, but again, there is not one Gospel, but many. The Quest for the historical Jesus has also been shaped by a worldview that rejects the possibility of “miracles.” Historians are not supposed to appeal to extraordinary “acts of God” to explain historical events but must bracket their personal theological beliefs (if any) and re-construct the most likely cause-and-effect explanations for historical events.

   The problem, of course, is that the story of Jesus contains numerous accounts of extraordinary phenomena. Our problem is, in part, one of language and definition. The words “miraculous” and “supernatural” are theological terms that presuppose the existence of God or some realm “beyond the natural.” Put this way, it is easy to see why historians do not allow for the “miraculous”: scientific naturalism precludes itIf history is the study of the past and theology is the study of God, it is not surprising that the disciplinary dichotomy of "the Historical Jesus" vs. "the Christ of faith" are so different: they are based on two different paradigms of interpretation.