Friday, August 20, 2010

The Jesus of History and the Jesus of Faith

"The historical Jesus 'uncovered' (but actually reconstucted) in the Jesus Seminar . . . could scarcely be the object of Christian church proclamation. If Jesus was a wise Cynic preacher and teacher and nothing more, why should there be a religion based on him, given the prominence of other ancient teachers (Aristotle, Plato, Seneca, etc.)? If Jesus was chiefly a deluded apocalyptic preacher who wrongly thought the end of the world would come soon, why continue to proclaim him as the savior of the world? If Jesus' resurrection from the dead is simply a way of expressing the conviction that he is with God, why is he to be worshiped, given the many other saintly people who are surely with God? Those who advance such views of Jesus often claim they are trying to reshape Christian belief and proclamation. More bluntly, however, their views of Jesus would make traditional Christian belief illusory and traditional proclamation irresponsible."

-Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, 1997, pp. 828-829.

Brown's criticism of contemporary revisions of Jesus is direct and to the point. If the Jesus of history is not the same as the Jesus of faith, then why bother to preach the Gospel? Only if the Jesus of history really is the Jesus of faith - at least, if the historical Jesus claimed to be the Son of God - do we have any reason to dedicate our lives to him as we do. Anything less than the Jesus of faith would make him no greater than the other revered philosophers of antiquity. This is why it is so important that we not pick and choose from which teachings of Jesus we happen to fancy.

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