RE: [XTalk] How about Jesus?
- Well, time to break out the pink beads again.
From: Bob Schacht [mailto:r_schacht@...]
Sent: Monday, July 30, 2001 11:39 PM
Subject: RE: [XTalk] How about Jesus?
At 04:19 AM 7/30/01 -0700, Loren Rosson wrote:
>Bob Schacht wrote:Loren,
> > Few things are more reliable than than Jesus
> > *was regarded* as a prophet by his
> > contemporaries.
>I agree; one can hardly banish the entire catalog of
>relevant texts to later invention (Mk. 6:4/Mt.
>13:57/Lk. 4:24/Jn. 4:44; Mk. 8:27-28/Mt. 16:13-14/Lk.
>9:18-19; Mk. 6:14-16/Mt. 14:1-2,5/Lk. 9:7-9; Mt.
>21:11, 21:46; Lk. 7:39, 13:33, 24:19b; Jn. 4:19, 7:52,
>9:17; etc.). Taken together, these texts imply not
>only that others perceived him as a prophet, but that
>he acknowledged his role as such.
> > But by this I do not mean that Jesus was
> > *only* a prophet, or that that
> > label adequately describes who he was.
>Again, I agree. But could you elaborate a bit here?
>What other labels (or general ideas) do you have in
First, let me set a ground rule concerning who Jesus was: Let's take into
consideration only what Jesus' contemporaries said that he was. As you've
pointed out above, we have many attestations that Jesus was regarded as a
We also have plenty of evidence that he was regarded as a healer -- see,
for example, Stevan Davies' Jesus the Healer.
We also have evidence that he was regarded as a teacher. Here we start to
encounter some difficulties, however, because the content of Jesus'
teaching appears to be full of contradictions (according to Davies, in
extended discussions on the old CrossTalk.) About the only thing certain is
that the Kingdom of God figured prominently in his teaching. Davies was
always looking for some kind of axiomatic system of content, and I don't
think that's the kind of teacher he was. Socrates, for example, was the
kind of teacher who got people thinking rather than presenting some sort of
detailed axiomatic system of philosophy. Jesus teaching, I think, had more
to do with trying to get people to think theologically-- but somewhat at
the freshman level, rather than a grad level, because what he had mostly to
work with was high school dropouts and freshmen (so to speak). But that is
conjecture, based on E.P.Sanders.
And then there's the Son of God thing. And the Messiah thing. I think
there's pretty good evidence that *some* of his contemporaries thought that
he was the Son of God. What they meant by that is another story! But I
think that this idea was not widely accepted, even among his disciples. I
think some of them thought he was the Messiah, too, but were very wrong
about the kind of Messiah he thought he was. But in fact our texts always
allow some ambiguity about whether or not Jesus thought he was the Messiah,
and I'm rather inclined to think that the idea occurred to him, but that he
was not very sure about it.
Then there's the Cynic/Sage thing. It is my understanding that the argument
here is that although Jesus didn't say he was a duck, he walked like a
duck, and quacked like a duck, so then maybe he was a duck. I think that
some among the Greeks thought of Jesus in those terms, because that
category was familiar to them, and it seemed to fit. But I don't think that
Jesus thought about himself in that way.
All of these give us different perspectives on who Jesus was. I don't think
any of them are "the" way to view Jesus. Like the blind men and the
elephant, each tells us something about Jesus, but none of them gives us
the whole picture.
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