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Sunday, March 6, 2011
History ... Religion ...

I’m still a fan of the modern academic / historical approach to Jesus of Nazareth. I’ve sampled a bit of the various schools of modern-day thought on the life of Jesus, and I’ve come down on the side of the eschatological / apocalyptic approach. Under this paradigm, Jesus was trying to save Israel from Roman subjugation by preparing the people for direct intervention by God. Jesus did not have in mind some future heavenly realm; he felt that God was coming down to earth very soon. God would land in Jerusalem, and would orchestrate a series of marvelous events that would push the Romans out, cast out the bad Jews, and leave the good ones to live very long lives in a land of peace and righteousness. Again, not in some heavenly realm, but right on the dusty soil of Palestine.

One of the big controversies among the professors is whether Jesus saw himself as having a direct role in the big event and the administration of the “Kingdom of God”, once in place. A number of Historical Jesus researchers conclude that Jesus did NOT claim such a role, what could be termed a “messiah” role, despite various notes in the New Testament saying that he did. A handful of others come to the opposite conclusion, saying that the “son of man” and “messiah” lines and stories (e.g., entering Jerusalem riding a donkey, hearkening back to Hebrew Scripture stories of kings riding on donkeys) were original, if somewhat trumped up over the years by the Christian biblical redactors. But most seem afraid that if they accept this notion, they will be helping the “snake handlers”, those academicians who support a Christian proselytizing agenda.

I come down on the side of the snake handlers. But not because I believe that Jesus really was aware that he was God’s son and was bound for resurrection. I think that Jesus got caught in a “bubble”, a feedback-loop of expectation and wishful thinking on the part of his followers. Jesus was a victim of a runaway interactive dynamic between his supporters and also involving the greater societal notions and world views existing at the time. There occurred a brand of “temporary crowd insanity” in Galilee and Jerusalem around 30 CE, with Jesus at the pivot point.

Are we immune to similar psychological dynamics today? Given what I read about the mortgage crisis and financial collapse of 2008, the answer appears to be ‘no’. Recall the calm reassurances from extremely rational men and women that real estate default swaps and collateralized debt obligations designed with sophisticated quantitative tools could never lose value; it seems today rather ironic. And then of course there was the Internet bubble of the 1990s, the tulip bubble of the 1800s, and Bernie Maidoff’s ability to perform financial miracles for a credulous crowd of highly educated wealthy people . . . Jesus could well have been caught in a “messiah / son-of-man bubble”. And bubbles require that all parties involved believe; I don’t envision a “viceroy Jesus” bubble growing without Jesus’ compliance.

The Jesus Christ bubble had to break, and soon did. But that bubble changed the world; and I am on the side of those who think that more good was done than bad by the Christian movement, even if I am not a practicing Christian. Most other bubbles trigger things like economic crashes. The Jesus bubble has inspired some bad things, some holy wars and inquisitions, but has given billions of people over two millennium greater hope than the secular world, with its social and economic bubbles, can give.

◊   posted by Jim G @ 10:36 pm      
 
 


  1. Jim, I don’t know that I can take seriously all the interpretation of what Christ thought about himself. My reason for saying this is that those who wrote the Gospels told about the life of Christ as seen through their eyes.

    So, unless Christ himself can tell us what he was thinking about how he saw himself, I don’t think it’s possible to have an idea of what Christ himself thought about himself and his mission” in the world, if one wants to use that term and think in terms of his life in that way. The writers of the Gospels told the story as they saw/wished/wanted/interpreted/thought they knew the life of Christ.

    Actually, in some ways the life of Christ is a kind of “Rorschach”, allowing people to write on it their own opinions and views. This is not a bad thing and likely is (can be) a good thing, but it really says nothing about how Christ himself saw his life, which in the end will have to remain unknown. MCS

    Comment by Mary S. — March 7, 2011 @ 3:10 pm

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