Historical reliability of Jesus

In a discussion recently about the historical reliability of Jesus’ life, I realized it would help to compare it to our historical confidence in other events/people who are substantiated by documents or artifacts that are of less quality or quantity than we have for our Christian foundation. For instance, for Christ, we have the gospels and epistles (even if we pretend they are not inspired, they stand as historically significant texts), writings of early Christians, oral tradition, the testimony and martyrdom of the apostles (what am I forgetting?).

For some (mainly athiests), this simply isn’t enough. Yet, I’m sure that there are other figures or events in history that are believed to have existed/occured by the general historical community, and which ride on less proof. So …

How would some of you finish this sentence (please elaborate):

We have more historical evidence of Jesus Christ, including his death and resurrection, than we have for ___________________, whose existance (or occurance) nobody questions.

Nice question!

:hmmm: I would say Pocohontas.

:heart:

Pocahontas is plenty well documented. You should probably try for less recent personages :wink:

It is not necessarily the existence of Jesus that is questioned, but his claims to Godhead. I do not doubt that there existed an extremely charismatic preacher and moralist named Yeshua, the son of Joseph, in first century Judea, who among other things delivered the Sermon on the Mount and got himself crucified. What I doubt is that he was God incarnate; other than that, he seems to have been a pretty great guy.

Saint Paul? Jesus Mythism soon collapses into absurdity.

However the Resurrection is a bit different. There is no other event like it in history. So it is not clear how historians ought to handle such an anomaly. It cannot be ignored because the history of Europe from the first century is dominated by it.On the other hand it cannot be treated as a unexceptional, ordinary event, to be treated according to ordinary rules of evidence.

I suppose a good comparison is the existence of a historical person such as Socrates or Buddha. As with Jesus, Socrates and Buddha did not write their teachings down, but they were written down by their disciples. In the case with Jesus Christians assumed it was the Apostles, with Socrates it was Plato, and with Buddha, his monks.

With each figure certain claims were made or added onto those of the historical figure. It is clear the followers of Jesus reflected theologically on their experience of him not just as a preacher or teacher but also on what they believed was a true resurrection of him from the dead after his execution. There is also good evidence that the Apostles named (especially in the case of Paul) really did write the letters attributed to them, and reflect early Christian experience and reflection of Jesus.

The historical reliability or credibility has been examined but I think one thing is important; hermenutical assumptions. Some people approach the Bible and its accounts of Jesus as secular historians, regarding the accounts of miracles as no less fictional than those recorded in Greek or Roman classics such as the Iliad or the Aenid. Christian theologians however, generally assume the texts also have true theological content in the sense they teach the truth about Christian dogmas and beliefs, and the Bible is interpreted in this light.

I believe a dogma like the assumption of Mary or the resurrection cannot be proved using scientific history, as the hermenutical method of scientific history discounts miracles, myths or theological explanations and instead tries to find rational explanations for events. Dogmas instead involve a theological hermeneutic which assumes the dogmas are both true and the truth of dogmas can be demonstrated using the theological hermeneutic.

If theologians are trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus in a scientific sense, then I think this brings a lot of problems as scientific explanations and miracles are generally mutually exclusive categories. A miracle involves a suspension or change in natural law by a supernatural cause, which science cannot investigate. A scientific claim or explanation requires only explanation within the framework of known natural laws and through cause and effect relations. If either of these are broken then at attempt to provide a ‘scientific’ account becomes totally meaningless and contentless, from the view of science. However, if theologians use a theological method of interpretation of the text and its meaning, informed by what scientific history says, I think this is better both for the believer and also the non-believer (provided the assumptions of the theological interpretation are made evident or demonstrated coherently) in giving a reasonable account for their beliefs or dogmas, than strictly trying to prove a dogma using scientific history alone.

In terms of comparing the reliability of the depictions of Jesus in the New Testament with those of say of Socrates in Plato, or of Buddha in terms of his followers, in strictly scientific historical terms, then the theological content or mythical content needs to be examined and interpreted appropriately. Here we again get back to assumptions; a secular scholar does not need to believe Jesus actually rose from the dead, but the Christian apologist is bound to demonstrate this belief as true. This means the two will approach the text in different ways, and an interpretation alone does not automatically guarantee that interpretation is either infallible or true. This is why generally it is also a dogma in Christian churches that the interpretations of scripture by those who lived after the apostles, which set out key dogmas, is infallible and correct, and requires assent and belief amoung the faithful. All these assumptions and beliefs should be clearly outlined in any apology, and good arguments given to support their validity, particularly when the apology is made to a non-believer.

A great guy huh Mirdath? Well that is something Jesus simply cannot be. Jesus was a Jew who claimed he was God. This makes him one of three things: a liar (if he knew he wasn’t God), a lunatic (if he thought he was God but wasn’t), or God Incarnate. Whatever Jesus was, he certainly wasn’t simply a “pretty great guy”.

Read this for a more developed argument. I’m still on my forum break so may not reply.

Yes, I’m quite familiar with the trilemma, thank you, and it is incomplete; is it not possible that he was a Jewish preacher and moralist who was deified after his death?

That’s a logical possibility. The statements where Jesus claims to be divine could have been put into His mouth at a later date.

It is obvious that Jesus did not promote Himself as a God, His claims to divinity are largely allusive. However they permeate all of the scriptures. For instance Jesus says “I am the bread that came down from heaven” and it is mentioned that there is an exodus of followers at this point. Why would the gospel writer want to admit to that, unless the historical Jesus really said these words and the loss of supporters was true?

The logical possibility doesn’t really stand up to closer textual analysis.

That particular verse of John 6 does not seem so much to me a claim to divinity as a statement of sacrificial intent: the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world is the important part. Remember Jesus’ background as a rabbi; it is reflected here, but with a radical twist – instead of merely offering sacrifices for the world, he is offering himself.

The people leave because they can’t handle this new development. Well – that’s okay, because it solidifies the faith of those who remain his followers. It’s a reference to the army of Gideon, who similarly shed those who couldn’t take it. Jesus’ brand of charismatic evangelism needs no weak wills or half-hearts.

Ah. The spectre of John Dominic Crossan rises yet again. :slight_smile:

Hm. I’d heard a little bit about the whole Jesus Seminar deal but not Crossan specifically. In essence – yes. Calling him an ‘illiterate peasant’ is a stretch, though, considering his literacy is a matter of record I see no reason to fault in that specific instance.

And while Crossan may be a spectre soon, he’s apparently still alive and kicking :wink:

Francois Dreyfus deals with this question in, “Did Jesus Know He Was God?” I think you’d enjoy his argument, so I’ll reproduce it for you as best as I can.

This is actually the typical argument which was introduced (in my mind, if the facts hold, a very respectable one). The argument was that in the beginning, around 33AD you had this great moral preacher, Jesus. As can be seen by the writings of the NT, it began with a very “low” Christology. By the time of the gospel of John in 90AD, only then did we get a, “high” Christology. The movement from low to high Christology shows that Jesus as God was invented by the community-- he was divinized.

The problem with this reasoning, of course, is that Paul’s Christology is equally as high as John’s, and Paul’s Christology is in the 50s, stretching back even further. Oftentimes Paul quotes hymns in his letters which have roots in much earlier Christian practice-- if you read the NAB bible, for instance, you can see these set off from regular type, because the meter in the Greek suggests that they are indeed hymns. And these have a very high Christology. Look at Colossians 1:12-20, Philippians 2:6-11, and first Corinthians 8:6, for instance.

He reasons: “2. A negative argument: the improbability of the invention of these doctrines by the community.”

a. In a pagan environment.

"At the beginning of this century, exegetes had a ready made solution to offer for this problem, namely, the very rapid appearance of the doctrine according to which Jesus was a being exisiting before the creation of the world who had to be placed on the same level as God and adored as he: This doctrine was born and developed not in a Jewish environment, which would have shunned it with horror, but in Greek-speaking Christian communities which came out of the pagan world.

“These communities preserved the memory of these “divine men” of paganism, of these mortals who were divinized after their death. Moreover, the doctrine of preexistence would come into existence in the same environment and its spread would be facilitated by the notion of some type of preexistence of souls, and opinion that was held by a significant segment of pagan philosophical thought.”

“But, at the present time, this explanation is justifiably being rejected by the great majority of critics. We find reasons for this rejection analyzed, in a very convincing fashion, by the Protestant exegete, Martin Hengel. (13)”

“Moreover, the chronological argument is by itself alone absolutely decisive. In line with the approach of Martin Hengel, let us recall what has been said previously: The doctrine of Phillipians 2:9-11, in which Jesus is adored as God, is presented as a doctrine known by the Philippians. It is certainly the faith that paul had preached to them when he evangelized the Philippians in the year 49. Since the Hymn is prior to Paul, this proves that this doctrine was widespread among Christian communities by the 50s, which places its origin several years prior to this time. But at this point in history the ideological influence of Christians of pagan backgrounds was nil since, at this particular period, almost all of those overseeing the young Church were of Jewish origin.”

b. The Jewish milieu

“Eliminating the Pagan world, the Jewish world still remains. Among the Jews there are models, texts,* and* doctrines which have served as very effective aids in thinking out and giving expression to the doctrine of the divinity of Jesus and his preexistence. In the Old Testament the Word of God, the Wisdom of God were considered as preexisting and present at the work of Creation: Proverbs 8:22; Wisdom 7:26, Ben Sirach 24:1-5; Isaiah 55:10f; Wisdom 18:15, etc. All these texts have been understandably utilized by the New Testament in order to comprehend better the mystery of Christ, Word, Verbum, Wisdom of God. Moreover, the Judaism, which is contemporary with Jesus, presents an entire palette of notions concerning the preexistence of the Messiah, the Law of Moses, the people of Israel, Gehenna, the Garden of Eden.”

“But that Jesus might be a divine being having to be adored like the heavenly Father and not being confused with him, a Jew would never one his own initiative, conceive of anything as apparently contrary to the monotheistic faith of Israel, this faith which Israel deemed its exclusive privilege and which it had to manifest ot the world. On this point, the sources make no distinction between the palestinian Jew and one from the Disapora. But to accord a rank and some divine prereogatives to a man, even after his death, to delcare that he was with the Father before the creation of the world, all of this was absolutely impossible for a Jew. This would have been idolatry and there is no parallel either in the bible or in the thinking of those rabbis who were contemporaries of Paul. No man my note: he is referring to Philippian 2:6-11 here], however great he might have been, would have been presented as receiving the name above every name (Yahweh), neither Abraham nor Moses, nor any patriarch, nor any prophet. To ben the knee before him means to adore him, to believe in him, to convert to him; all of this would have been blasphemous. Moreover, everything which was suspected of favoring idolatry was rejected with revulsion and the pious Jews had to rend his garments in order to express his horror (cf. Mt 26:65; Acts 14:14; and the indignation of paul at Athens (Acts 17:16).”

It would be tedious and boring, and without any real value, if we were to continue multiplying references. Let us, however, point out those texts of the bible which express the horror and the righteous indignation on the part of pious Jews when faced with divine honors being accorded to a man: Daniel 3:1-23; Wisdom 14:12-20. Let us recall the specific details on this point which the Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, (first century of our era) gives us. In order to respect the religious sensibilities of the Jews, Roman armies were ordered not to enter Jerusalem with standards bearing the portrait of the divinized Emperor (Jewish Antiquities 18:4, 1; 5, 3; The Jewish War 2 9:2). Jews were dispensed from offering worship to the Emperor. And when the Emperor Caligula (37-41 of our era) wanted to impose his worship on Alexandrian Jews and Jews in the Holy Land, he ran up against their desperate resistance which is recounted in detail by the Jewish philosopher, Philo of Alexandria (at the beginning of the first century of our era), as well as by Flavius Josephus (Philo, Legatio ad Caium 162: 330-67; Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 18, 8:1-9; The Jewish War 2 10:1-5)."

And so he rules out that Jesus was divinized either in the Pagan or Jewish milieu. Hence, it came not from either milieu, but from Jesus Himself.

“Let us summarize: The rise of this doctrine in the Christian environment of pagan origin is scarcely any longer admitted today; it is impossible for the chronological reasons set forth above (pp. 57-58), since these doctrines are already present when the evangelization of the pagans only began to take place. its creation in a Christian environment of Jewish origin is ruled out for the reasons which we have just given. However, this doctrine of preexistence and of the divine rank of Jesus really existed less than twenty years after Easter. Does not the historian have the right, even the duty, to say that there remains only one other possible explanation, namely, that it had its origin in a teaching of Jesus himself, so totally incapable of being questioned that it could rise above all the resistance which it would necessarily provoke; and, above all, a teaching confirmed by that event which, to the eyes of the early Christians, constituted the proof that their master had told the truth: the Resurrection of Jesus.”

The end of this paragraph then becomes the next subject which he treats, and, IMO, he does a very good job. In any case, the idea of the community divinizing Jesus is quite unlikely, the source is in Jesus Himself. Dreyfus also deals with what he sees as authentic sayings of Jesus regarding His filial knowledge (speaking of the Father, and Himself as the Son) which are also show virtually the same thing. (As for the supposedly low Christology of the gospels, on a more careful scrutiny they reveal a high Christology. I’ll leave that for another post.)

-Rob

:thumbsup:

Theological claims can’t be sunbstantiated by historical evidence - H.E. can only show that (to take a later cult) the serpent Glycon was worshipped; as to whether Glycon was a god, that’s a theological judgement; & H.E. has no competence to pronounce on whether a decision on the theological status of an historical character, is valid or not.

Augustus Caesar may be a god - H.E. cannot judge of that, but only of the historical data about him: it can discuss his relations with his successor Tiberius, or his foreign policy; but not the rightness of the Senate’s numbering him among the gods.

H.E. can discuss Jesus with the same general equipment as it uses for the Herods or Pilate - but as far as historical evidence is concerned, the claims of Deity made for Jesus are as much beyond its competence as claims of that kind made for Augustus or for Glycon. Jesus of Nazareth probably did exist as an historical character - he is far from being the only character in antiquity about whom there is conflicting evidence; but no amount of H.E. can show whether the claim of divinity for him is valid.

Thanks, that was a very interesting read :slight_smile: It makes some excellent points; however, in the end I must beg to differ.

One must keep in mind that Jesus was not the only Messianic figure running around at the time. There was a whole rash of would-be Saviors around then; the social climate of conquered Judea, steeped in its religious past, was ripe for unrest both in the civil and religious arenas. Yet somehow Jesus is the only one who stuck. This says quite a lot, both about him and about his followers.

We have here a man, by all accounts possessing incredible charisma, skilled in oratory, adept at handling people; and his message, a new philosophy of morals that turns the Old Law on its head. No longer is it about what thou shalt not, but thou shalt. In that place and time, it’s revolutionary. It’s the sort of thing that changes peoples’ lives.

His followers are also an impressive list. Peter, the leader; Matthew, the recorder; James, the zealot; Thomas, the skeptic; John, the visionary; and of course Judas, the betrayer – and yet for all that, a necessary figure. Jesus couldn’t have picked a better set if he wanted to be deified (and I cannot entirely discount that possibility, either; is ensuring the existence of a doctrine of love and compassion through the rest of history worth a little blasphemy? It might just be…).

Dreyfus seems to forget that in the course of Jesus’ peregrinations, the Apostles start rethinking some things about their faith. No longer are they really Jews; they are now consumed by this new teaching and by his charisma. One can’t overlook the cult of personality, which already inspires them to break the Sabbath while Jesus is still alive! The possibility that Jesus as God was their invention cannot be entirely discounted.

A crucified Messiah is a failed Messiah. Why, then, did He stick? N.T. Wright offers some applicable thoughts on this, but unfortunately my copy of The Challenge of Jesus is currently on loan! :rolleyes:

What was it, what could it possibly be that made this crucified Messiah not be a failed Messiah? IMO, only the victory of the Son of God in the Resurrection is a plausible explanation. N.T. Wright, I believe, explains that people weren’t shy about quickly changing allegiances when it came to messiahs-- in fact, people would shift from one messiah, and upon his defeat, to his brother. Imagine that, going down the family chain of messiahs! :slight_smile:

But with Jesus, despite the apparent defeat of the Cross, which His followers all professed, they did not see Him as a failed Messiah, but as a victorious Messiah.

Food for thought.

We have here a man, by all accounts possessing incredible charisma, skilled in oratory, adept at handling people; and his message, a new philosophy of morals that turns the Old Law on its head. No longer is it about what thou shalt not, but thou shalt. In that place and time, it’s revolutionary. It’s the sort of thing that changes peoples’ lives.

I would argue that it’s not quite so distant. Jesus does often quote the Old Testament–, i.e, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and many of the Psalms also testify that one’s inner disposition is what matters in worship, that God gains nothing from sacrifice. Even the Law of Love is taken directly from the Old Testament-- Hear O Israel! the Lord is our God and the Lord alone. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deut 6) And again, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.(Leviticus 19:18). Granted, love of neighbor was understood in the context of one’s countrymen only, but it isn’t quite so far from what I’ve stated to Jesus’ moral teaching.

His followers are also an impressive list. Peter, the leader; Matthew, the recorder; James, the zealot; Thomas, the skeptic; John, the visionary; and of course Judas, the betrayer – and yet for all that, a necessary figure. Jesus couldn’t have picked a better set if he wanted to be deified

All Jews, of course.

(and I cannot entirely discount that possibility, either; is ensuring the existence of a doctrine of love and compassion through the rest of history worth a little blasphemy? It might just be…).

Jesus was a Jew in the first century, Second Temple period. Jews in the Second Temple period did not think like that. If we are to ground Him credibly in history we can’t make Him think like a 21st century agnostic (no offense meant, of course, to you). The error of the first quest writers of the historical Jesus is precisely that they imposed onto Jesus their views, 19th century liberal Enlightenment views… and, surprise surprise, they came up with a Jesus who was a 19th century liberal Enlightenment thinker. :rolleyes: Schweitzer famously (and decisively) critiqued them for this.

Dreyfus seems to forget that in the course of Jesus’ peregrinations, the Apostles start rethinking some things about their faith. No longer are they really Jews; they are now consumed by this new teaching and by his charisma. One can’t overlook the cult of personality, which already inspires them to break the Sabbath while Jesus is still alive! The possibility that Jesus as God was their invention cannot be entirely discounted.

The idea that it arose with the disciples is perhaps more credible, but, IMO, still not credible. It had to have, at its source, to have been from the teachings and actions of Jesus, or these Jews would have no reason not to think of themselves as idolators of the grossest degree. We all know that when we make stuff up our consciences don’t let us get away with it.

The idea that the Apostles started rethinking, and if fact, contemplated Jesus’ teaching deeply is not at all something foreign to Drefyus’s writing, in fact, he devotes much time to explaining how this factors in to John’s developed Christology. Jesus, the master teacher, understood most clearly of all the doctrine that He was teaching, and the apostles, by contrast, often had to be corrected or have things explained to them. The apostles are even portrayed as stupid by the gospels. The full implications of Jesus’ teaching did not occur to them immediately. In fact, the gospels are quite clear that it was only in the Resurrection that they truly began to understand Jesus’ Messianic role (which they understood perhaps according to the wordly, political messiah paradigm, i.e., reference Christ’s rebuke of Peter).

The problem with your explanation is that it still doesn’t explain the origin of these beliefs. There’s a difference between differing interpretations of varying Jewish schools (i.e., the Pharisees who were indeed the strict observers who interpreted the Law to mean that one couldn’t heal or pick a head of wheat to eat [Jesus Himself refutes this amply, I think]), and something which totally breaks the paradigm of different Jewish schools.

Besides, you unintentionally give the game away-- Jesus calls Himself the Lord of the Sabbath, and in the well-known Temple episode gives Himself authority over the Temple. As more explanation, the money changers in the Temple were necessary because sacrifices could not be bought with unclean Roman money, instead one had to exchange for, ‘pure’ Hebrew money (i.e., shekels). By turning over the tables Jesus was stopping sacrifice in the Temple, because as long as no one had pure money, no one could buy any sacrifices-- he was acting out an eschatological sign for when the Temple itself would no longer have sacrifices!

Perhaps they were willing to listen to Jesus, but these very claims Jesus made could only, ultimately, have been made by YHWH Himself. Who else has authority to interpret the law as such? i.e, It is written… but I say to you… (in the Sermon) Who else has such sovereign authority over the Temple and the Sabbath? The simple fact is that Jesus both taught and acted as if He was YHWH Himself. Pay closer attention to the gospels next time and observe how He must hint at His divinity in this Jewish context… one greater than Solomon is here, one greater than Moses is here, one greater than Abraham is here. There is no one greater than Moses in Jewish thought, save YHWH Himself.

Jesus at every turn, as N.T. Wright would say, is subversive of traditional Jewish symbols-- the land (give away your possessions! remember, Jews and their connection to the land of Israel), family (hate your mother and father? let the dead bury their dead?), Temple/Priesthood, and in turn gives new symbols-- supplanting the Temple with the universally attested ritual, the Last Supper, the, “new covenant in His blood” (again, a clear reference back to when Moses inaugurated the first covenant).

All of this, which the disciples did, albiet, without understanding fully, follow Him in. If you take it as evidence of them defecting from the Jewish faith, as you did with the Sabbath, it is only evidence that Jesus taught things which only YHWH Himself could teach-- in other words, that Jesus taught these doctrines concerning His divinity.

I think you still need to try to explain, plausibly, how these Jews could take on what would apparently be such idolatrous and blasphemous positions, if it were not that Jesus taught them. And also, that they weren’t also confirmed-- if Jesus taught them, and was crucified (and they clearly did not understand the idea of the Suffering Servant adequately during His life), then He was a failed Messiah and His teaching was bankrupt. A successful Messiah was excepted to be a political conqueror, and that perhaps would have been enough, but Jesus was not this type of Messiah and He was also crucified. We need both Jesus to teach this doctrine, and for God to confirm it. Let’s not forget, we’re talking about first century, Second Temple period Jews. Religious tolerance, and such, the idea that all religions are equal, etc., these aren’t exactly the mode of operation for Jews of the time. They had to have some reason why they could overcome these objections. As Dreyfus said, “if we are to surmount these obstacles, we certainly need a number of extremely strong reasons which will produce crystal clear certitude.” I want to emphasize, especially for Jews, they would have needed a tremendous reason not to abide by the reasoning which he included in, “b. the Jewish milieu.”

What he says is that the failure to explain the very rapid rise of these doctrines, except for the appeal to Jesus Himself, which has been hypothesized, must now be looked at-- and indeed, Dreyfus then culls evidence of special teaching of this, esp. as evidenced to Peter, James and John which seem to have a privileged position in the college of the apostles, and in the Johannine tradition which also testifies to this. So the reason why they believe this is because He taught it, and then…His argument ends up being this:

“Such a doctrine could only take hold as a result of a certitude capable of breaking through all these obstacles: Jesus had taught this doctrine and God had confirmed his teaching by his Resurrection. It doesn’t seem possible to present any other solution.”

-Rob

Dedicated, talented followers and a worthwhile message that reaches far past what was expected of a Messiah. Martyrdom is failure for a general, but it’s ultimate victory for a teacher and prophet. Jesus failed as a Messiah, but succeeded in every other respect.

I would argue that it’s not quite so distant. Jesus does often quote the Old Testament–, i.e, I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and many of the Psalms also testify that one’s inner disposition is what matters in worship, that God gains nothing from sacrifice. Even the Law of Love is taken directly from the Old Testament-- Hear O Israel! the Lord is our God and the Lord alone. Therefore you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. (Deut 6) And again, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD.(Leviticus 19:18). Granted, love of neighbor was understood in the context of one’s countrymen only, but it isn’t quite so far from what I’ve stated to Jesus’ moral teaching.

Hm, this is new to me. I’ve read most of the bible, so I guess I’ll have to chalk this lapse up to the last three books of the Pentateuch being the most mind-numbing of the collection :wink:

I would still argue that the law of love is not what was being focused on by the culture at large in first century Judea. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not seem particularly concerned with it, at any rate; and as the leaders of the people, they were what Jesus was preaching against. And the extension of ‘neighbor’ to the Gentiles and Samaritans was certainly new.

Jesus was a Jew in the first century, Second Temple period. Jews in the Second Temple period did not think like that. If we are to ground Him credibly in history we can’t make Him think like a 21st century agnostic (no offense meant, of course, to you).

None taken :slight_smile: But ideas have made people do funny things as long as we’ve been around. The discovery of water displacement, according to the tale, got Archimedes to run down the street buck naked. And in a more spiritual vein, principles, morals, and beliefs have given people the strength to stand up to or even sometimes encourage martyrdom. Ideas have made people claim to be God before as well, from Aten to Caesar Augustus to the schizophrenic hobo on the street corner.

Perhaps they were willing to listen to Jesus, but these very claims Jesus made could only, ultimately, have been made by YHWH Himself. Who else has authority to interpret the law as such? i.e, It is written… but I say to you… (in the Sermon) Who else has such sovereign authority over the Temple and the Sabbath? The simple fact is that Jesus both taught and acted as if He was YHWH Himself. Pay closer attention to the gospels next time and observe how He must hint at His divinity in this Jewish context… one greater than Solomon is here, one greater than Moses is here, one greater than Abraham is here. There is no one greater than Moses in Jewish thought, save YHWH Himself.

Interpretation of the law does not necessitate divinity; making the law does. As to hinting at his divinity, remember that these words and actions are what I’m saying could have been added to the myth later on :wink:

In the end, of course, I do not know whether Jesus was, in fact, divine. It’s possible. I do not think it likely, but neither can I flat-out deny it. But whether or not he is worthy of worship as God, he’s certainly worthy of considerable admiration as a teacher, prophet, and moralist – and that I have no problems giving.

But that’s precisely the problem. In the view of the apostles Jesus didn’t fail as a Messiah. They proclaimed Him as the Christ all the louder.

According to the prevalent view of messiahship current at the time, he did fail, and according to what the disciples themselves thought while Jesus was teaching them, He did fail, seemingly. Remember Jesus rebuking Peter for telling Him not to suffer? It is constantly Jesus’ reminder to them that He must suffer and die.

Something in His death made them radically reinterpret messiahship from what they had thought it was. They were following Jesus because He was the Messiah. That’s a concept Jews of the time could latch onto. If He failed as a Messiah, then they no longer had that reason to follow Him.

Listen to how wistfully the disciples on the road to Emmaus explain themselves to the unrecognized Jesus (Luke 24).

19And he replied to them, “What sort of things?” They said to him, "The things that happened to Jesus the Nazarene, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20how our chief priests and rulers both handed him over to a sentence of death and crucified him. 21But we were hoping that he would be the one to redeem Israel; and besides all this, it is now the third day since this took place.

He was crucified… but we were hoping He would redeem Israel. This statement puts a seeming tension between being crucified and redeeming Israel-- something later Christians would not have done, but which the disciples just after Jesus’ death did do. Quite clearly this made no sense to them and their view of messiahship. It is the resurrection experience which transforms their view.

This is where I have to disagree strongly with your assessement, crucifixion was also a failure for a teacher and prophet who claimed to be the Messiah. Indeed, all the failed Messiahs, and there were many, failed precisely because they died.

I would still argue that the law of love is not what was being focused on by the culture at large in first century Judea. The Pharisees and Sadducees did not seem particularly concerned with it, at any rate; and as the leaders of the people, they were what Jesus was preaching against. And the extension of ‘neighbor’ to the Gentiles and Samaritans was certainly new.

You’re right… the law of love was not being focused on. That’s exactly why God in the flesh had to come. :slight_smile: THE ENFORCER. :wink: I pity the foo’ who doesn’t love.

The extension was new in a sense, but again, Jesus preached to have been honoring the spirit of the law, which, imo, undeniably it was.

…Ideas have made people claim to be God before as well…

Indeed, but this gets us into the traditional Christ arguments, which I’m not sure we want to rehash here. The important question here is on what claim, and whether the person claiming it has legitimate reason to think so. :slight_smile:

Interpretation of the law does not necessitate divinity; making the law does. As to hinting at his divinity, remember that these words and actions are what I’m saying could have been added to the myth later on :wink:

But then we also have the problem which I was alluding to earlier-- either Jesus taught He was God (not in such a crude way, but you understand what I mean) or not. If He did not, we must ascertain where this teaching came from-- and that means we must ascertain what caused a bunch of first century Jews to do what was apparently idolatrous and blasphemous to the highest degree. And I would like a better explanation for that one, really. If the Jews who followed Jesus made that up, then well, they’d know they made it up, and it would grate against their conscience, esp. as you suggest that Jesus possibly didn’t hint at His divinity at all and they added that part of the myth themselves-- in which case they did make it up out of whole cloth, and that is completely implausible in the Jewish context given.

It is far more likely that Jesus Himself taught this-- the formula of the Sermon (it was written… but I say unto you), the Temple episode, the filial relationship to the Father, the claims to be greater than all the past great Jews, these are all very well attested to in Christian literature, and by method of historical critical method, thus, very likely to have had their source in Jesus Himself. It’s too complicated to claim that He didn’t think these, especially becaue they correspond perfectly to the much earlier Pauline theology which has a much more explicit and higher Christology.

-Rob

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