Thursday, March 27, 2008

Celebrating Easter with the Historical Jesus

In college I took a class called "Jesus in the Gospels," a seminar class with Dr. Bob Berg that was one of my favorite classes in my time at EU. One of the topics we talked quite a bit about in the class was the idea of "the historical Jesus," that is, the Jesus we know existed from history, removed from all of the faith claims of resurrection, God incarnate, and others (Note: searching for the historical Jesus is not denying the faith claims, it is just not concerning itself with answering the faith questions in the search.)

Anyway, one of the optional texts in the class was A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus by John P. Meier. I had asked for this three volume work on a Christmas list before, but apparently they came in the mail a few weeks after Christmas, so my mom just gave them to me for Easter. I was excited!

It is a three volume work (volumes 1 & 2 are here, 3 is on the way) of about 1500 pages, so needless to say I haven't finished them yet. It is actually more of a reference source than a cover to cover read. Nonetheless, it has some very interesting content, I am finding as I plow through it.

The approach Meier (a Catholic scholar, shown here holding volumes 1 & 2) uses is this:

Suppose that a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic--all honest historians cognizant of 1st-century religious movements--were locked up in the bowels of the Harvard Divinity School library, put on a spartan diet, and not allowed to emerge until they had hammered out consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended in his own time and place. An essential requirement of this document would be that it be based on purely historical sources and arguments.
pg 1

An interesting quest, to say the least. That is what Meier is attempting for in this work. I'll let you know as I come across more interesting nuggets.


nate said...

This is also on my reading list. Speaking of Catholic scholars, I just ordered two books by G.K. Chesterton.

Have you read, "from Jesus to Christianity?" It is a great shorter read (500pg) for getting to know the historical Jesus.

Nick said...

thanks for the tip, Nate. i'll have to check that out.