I've interspersed my own comments here. Sorry they're not clearly labeled or anything. I took these notes down rather quickly and a bit haphazardly too. I didn't intend to post these notes, but just started taking notes for myself so I could better follow Blomberg's lecture. These notes are pretty rough to put it mildly.
Anyway, please feel free to make corrections if you spot mistakes, poor points, etc.
Quest for the historical Jesus
- What is it? The quest to find the Jesus of history as opposed to the Jesus of faith (as if one can make such a distinction in the first place).
- When did it begin? Origins in the Enlightenment or Age of Reason era. A period perhaps most marked by man asserting his intellectual autonomy over and above all else including the Word of God.
- Three schools:
a. Rationalists and mythologizers. Jesus was a mere human being living in first century Israel. As such, he was similar to most Jews of his day and age. He wanted to overturn Rome. He falsely believed his death would spark a Jewish revolution that would unseat Rome. Notable proponents: Hermann Reimarus, David Strauss.
b. Romantics. Jesus meek and mild. Jesus was a gentle teacher who taught people the golden rule and so forth. That's all. Notable proponent: Ernest Renan.
c. Old liberals. Jesus was a moral teacher who came to improve 19th century society. Social progress and moral evolution. Jesus believed in the universal fatherhood of God over the universal brotherhood of all mankind. Notable proponent: Adolf von Harnack.
- Albert Schweitzer.
a. He rightly argued that these schools were just making Jesus into their own image, which in turn undermined the quest or search for the historical Jesus. In other words, what these scholars told us about Jesus told us more about them than it did Jesus. His arguments and insights effectively put an end to the First Quest for the historical Jesus.
b. However, Schweitzer's own alternative committed the very same fallacy. Schweitzer argued each of these schools minimized or marginalized the centrality of Jesus' eschatological and apocalyptical focus, wherein Jesus believed the end of the world was nigh (within his lifetime or soon thereafter) and thus taught and lived in light of this hope. As such, he believed Jesus' ethic was an interim ethic, that is, a way to live based on the fact that Jesus thought the world would soon end. But Schweitzer said Jesus was mistaken. Jesus' ethics were irrelevant to future generations.
c. In light of all this, Schweitzer believed the quest for the historical Jesus was at a dead end. Schweitzer quit theology, went to med school, and became a medical missionary in Africa.
- Martin Kahler.
a. Kahler pointed out that it was impossible to separate the historical Jesus from the Jesus of faith because we only know the historical Jesus through the NT which chroncicles the Jesus of faith.
b. However, Kahler went on to say the believer's faith need not be dependent on the historical record for Jesus. Rather, he argued, one can have faith in the Jesus of faith without reliance on the historical record. This in turn would prove influential for Paul Tillich and Rudolf Bultmann.
c. Of course, this too is heretical because it implies the historical facts of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection (among other things) are irrelevant to Christianity.
- Roughly 1900-1950. This is the period where no quest took place. Sure, scholars continued to write about the quest for the historical Jesus, but it was hard to escape the elephant in the room that in doing so scholars were doomed to remake Jesus in their own image.
- The predominant figure during this period was Bultmann.
- Bultmann said the only fact we can confidently know about the Jesus of history is *that* he existed.
- Interestingly, Bultmann was an existentialist in his philosophy. Likewise so was Bultmann's image of Jesus.
- Roughly from the 1950s to 1970s. Among other things, this was existentialist philosophy's heyday. It's no coincidence the Second Quest waned as Bultmann's influence as well as existentialist philosophy's influence waned.
- Pioneered by three of Bultmann's students, two German and one American: Ernst Käsemann; Gunther Bornkamm; and James Robinson.
- Contra Bultmann, his students argued Bultmann's skepticism about what we can confidently know about the historical Jesus was too radical and unwarranted. They believed we could know more about the historical Jesus than what Bultmann argued (e.g. they suggested Jesus could perhaps have believed he was the Messiah).
- A strong implication was that Jesus' teachings in the Gospels were indeed relevant to life. Although like Bultmann, his students made Jesus sound more like an existentialist philosopher than anything else.
- This began in the 1980s and continues today.
- Shared characteristics of the Third Quest schools excepting the Jesus Seminar include:
a. The conviction that any convincing portrait of Jesus must be grounded in first century Israeli Judaism.
b. Science has not disproven the miraculous in the least.
c. The historical support for the historical Jesus is extremely strong, not only with the NT itself but also outside the NT (e.g. see Jesus Outside the New Testament: An Introduction to the Ancient Evidence by Robert Van Voorst).
d. Jesus did see himself as some sort of a Messiah or Savior sent from God which would've been perceived by those in his society as an overly exalted claim which in turn could've led to his crucifixion.
- Several schools in the Third Quest.
a. Jesus Seminar. Much has been said about the absurdity of this school. No need to reproduce it.
b. Jesus as a charismatic holy man. Someone who was outside the established Jewish religious institutions but who had a charismatic personality and taught religious truths to the masses. He eventually got into trouble with the authorities. Notable proponents: John Dominic Crossan, Burton Mack, and F. Gerald Downing.
c. Jesus as a social reformer. He went around as an itinerant teacher who tried to bring Jews back to the Torah. Who preached love for his enemies. Non-violence. He likewise protested against the corruption and injustice in his society. Notable proponents: Gerd Theissen, Richard Horsley, and R. David Kaylor.
d. Jesus as an eschatological prophet. An attempt to revive and revise Schweitzer's thesis about Jesus. Notable proponents: E.P. Sanders, Maurice Casey.
e. Jesus as a wise sage. Focuses on Jesus' sayings, parables, proverbs, and so forth in the context of Jewish wisdom literature. God himself personified as wisdom rather than an abstract wisdom. This school can be further subdivided into two parts.
First, there's a divine feminine wisdom tradition. Since wisdom is personified as a woman in Proverbs. Notable proponent: Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza.
Second, the Jewish precedence for how Jesus could use the language of divinity. Notable proponent: Ben Witherington.
f. Jesus as the marginalized Messiah. Probably the most conservative of the options, according to Blomberg. Although I didn't find Wright so conservative. Maybe I misunderstood it.
Blomberg focuses on N.T. Wright. As Blomberg sees Wright, Wright believes the Jews are God's chosen people. The people with whom God made a special covenant. If they obeyed the terms of the covenant, then they would be blessed by God. However, the Jews in the time of Jesus lived under Roman rule. So the question is, what went wrong and what can be done to reclaim the promises and blessings of the covenant. This is the problem of exile for the Diaspora Jews. And it's the problem of not being able to live in freedom for those in Israel under Roman rule. That's the framework with which Wright begins.
Wright continues to say it's in this context that Jesus enters announcing the exile is over. According to Wright, Jesus redefined five Jewish tenents. He redefined monotheism to include Jesus himself. He redefined the doctrine of election to include the Gentiles. He redefined salvation from physical salvation under Roman rule to spiritual salvation from sin and death. He redefined the concept of the Messiah from Israel having to suffer corporately to Jesus himself having to suffer in place for the sins of his people. Finally, he redefined the Messianic Age to come in two stages rather than one wherein the Messiah will come again to restore the kingdom.
Again, I didn't find this summation exactly conservative if by conservative we mean something like close to orthodox Christianity. If this is an accurate summation of Wright's position, then I think one problem is that Wright gives too much credence to the rabbinic Jewish interpretation of Scripture. At least from what I understand, rabbinic Judaism has its origins in the Council of Yavne with prominent Jews like Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai. This was where the Mishnah, Gemara, and so forth were collated into what would become the Talmud. Again, as I understand, the Talmud isn't exactly friendly to Christians (and the first Christians were predominantly Jews whom their fellow Jews rejected, which we also see in the NT). Plus, Medieval Judaism with rabbis like Rashi, Maimonides, and Nachmanides have shaped modern day rabbinic Judaism. What I'm suggesting is that I think that rabbinic Judaism originally interpreted a passage like Isaiah 53 to refer to corporate Israel rather than an individual "Suffering Servant" in reaction to the early Christians (who were Jews) interpreting it to refer to the Messiah and specifically the Messiah Jesus. After all, Acts 8:34 records the Ethiopian eunuch asking Philip: "About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this [in Isaiah 53], about himself or about someone else?" I could well be wrong about all this, but that's my understanding at this point.
Notable proponents: John Meir, Peter Stuhlmacher, James Dunn, Marinus de Jonge, Markus Bockmuehl, and N.T. Wright.
- Various proponents of these schools may weave in and out of different schools. Various proponents could subscribe to more than one school. Many take a holistic and integrative approach.
- Not all involved are evangelical Protestants or even Christians. Notable Jewish scholars like Jacob Neusner and Geza Vermes have written about the quest for the historical Jesus.