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Ben Witherington has posted another video in which Martin Hengel discusses Jesus, history, and the Gospels.
More from Hengel on history and the four Gospels, courtesy of Ben Witherington.
Martin Hengel was always (and remains) one of my favorites. Thanks to Ben Witherington for sharing this video where he discusses the historicity of the Gospels.
According to the tag line, The Jesus Blog is “a weblog dedicated to historical Jesus research brought to you by a hillbilly and a treehugger.” Sounds like my kind of place!
I have to say that there are two approaches to the Gospels which I ardently despise. First, some über-secularists want to read the Bible as nothing more than a deposit of silly ancient magic, mischievous myths, whacky rituals, and surreal superstitions. They engage in endless comparisons of the Bible with other mythic religions to flatten out the distinctive elements of the story. Added to that is advocacy of countless conspiracy theories to explain away any historical elements in the text. This approach is coupled with an inherent distaste for anything supernatural, pre-modern, and wreaking of religion. Such skeptics become positively evangelical in their zealous fervor to prove that nothing in the Bible actually happened. Second, then there are those equally ardent Bible-believers who want to treat the Bible as if it fell down from heaven in 1611, written in ye auld English, bound in pristine leather, words of Jesus in red, complete with Scofield footnotes, and charts about the end-times. Such persons regard exploring topics like Johannine chronology just as religiously affronting as worshipping a life size golden statue of Barack Obama. Now I have to say that both approaches bore the proverbial pants off me. They are equally dogmatic as they are dull. They are uninformed as they are unimaginative. There is another way!
Tim Henderson has summarized Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. He looks in turn at five different hypotheses about what “really” happened. It’s a very helpful summary, and students in my CHR 150 class might appreciate these posts as a follow-up to Tuesday’s discussion of “The Quests of the Historical Jesus.”
Interesting thought from Larry Hurtado about unexplored premises in Historical Jesus study:
[B]oth sides have subscribed to a common premise, which goes something like this: If a serious difference can be shown between what Jesus himself taught (especially what he taught about himself) and what early Christians believed (especially what they believed about him), then this would comprise a major theological problem for the validity of traditional Christian faith. The one side seeks (with intent!) to establish such a major difference, and the other side seeks energetically to minimize it, both sides working on the same premise.
My own response is: Says who? What is the justification for the premise I’ve described? Why should a difference between what Jesus taught about himself and what believers subsequently came to assert about him be a problem? NT texts don’t say that the reason people should accept the christological claims that they advance is that Jesus taught them. Instead, NT texts typically assert that their christological claims are based in the actions of God, and the greater realization/revelation of Jesus’ significance that came thereby.
Indeed, NT texts quite candidly say that Jesus now bears a status and significance that was conferred by God (e.g., Philippians 2:9-11, et alia), and that it was only after Jesus’ resurrection that his full significance was apprehended (e.g., Matthew 28:18-20; Luke 24:44-49). Even the Gospel of John, in which we have the most direct christological claims on the lips of Jesus, tells us that these claims were revealed by the Spirit of God (“Paraclete”) after Jesus was “glorified” (e.g., John 14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15). Indeed, the Gospel of John should probably be read as an account of Jesus programmatically written in light of what the author regarded as the revelation of Jesus’ significance by the Spirit in the “post-Easter” setting.
In sum, the basis for the christological claims of NT texts was never that Jesus taught and commanded them, but, instead, rested in what God had done, in raising Jesus from death and exalting him to unique heavenly glory.