Friday, September 08, 2006

Jesus and Christian Theology: A Challenge

"So what are we doing now, talking about the historical Jesus and Christian theology? We are taking Hermann Reimarus’s challenge seriously: investigate Jesus and see whether Christianity is not based on a mistake.1 We are taking Albert Schweitzer’s challenge seriously: put Jesus within apocalyptic Judaism and watch bland unthinking dogma shiver in its shoes.2 If this is too dangerous, escape routes are available. First, Wilhelm Wrede: Mark is theological fiction, and Jesus is a non- apocalpytic, teasing teacher.3 This is alive and well over one hundred years later. Second, Martin Kahler: the true Christ is a Christ of faith detached from the Jesus of history.4 This, too, is alive and well today. The church may urge this latter escape route, part of the academic guild may urge the former. Both should be resisted. Instead, we should accept both Reimarus’s challenge and Schweitzer’s proposal."


1 See Charles H. Talbert, ed., Reimarus: Fragments, Ralph S. Fraser, trans. (London: SCM Press, 1971), 146-51. It provides two extracts from Hermann Samuel Reimarus’s Apologie oder Schuzschrift fur die verünfügen Verehrer Gottes. Reimarus (1694-1768) refrained from publishing the Apologie during his lifetime, but after his death these and other parts of it were published in 1774-78 by G. E. Lessing under the general title Wolfenbüttel Fragments.

2 Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus: A Critical Study of Its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede, W. Montgomery, trans (New York: Macmillan Publishing, 1910, 1960), 330-403. Originally published as Von Reimarus zu Wrede: Eine Geschichte der Leben Jesu-Forschung (Tübingen, Germany: J.C.B. Mohr, 1906).

3 Wilhelm Wrede, The Messianic Secret, J.C.G. Grieg, trans. (Cambridge, England: James Clarke, 1971). Originally published as Das Messiasgeheimnis in den Evangelien: Zugleich ein Beitrag zum Verständnis des Markusevangeliums (Gottingen, Germany: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1901).

4 Martin Kähler, The So-Called Historical Jesus and the Historical Biblical Christ, Carl E. Braaten, trans. (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964). Originally publish as Der Sogenannte historische Jesus und der geschichtliche, biblische Christus (Leipzig, Germany: A. Deichart, 1892)

The other day, a friend asked me whether the third historical quest for Jesus is not redundant since the conservative side of it is substantially the same as orthodox tradition. That kept me thinking, if the quest is redundant, shouldnt i stop wasting hours and dollars on it. The personhood of this ancient Galilean is attractive. I deem his life in all sense interlocked with every nerve of this world. His words and deeds are being investigated and studied not only because of its religious worth but of its fundamental relation to the current operating world system, especially ethics.

Thus, my guess is, in order to really not only to understand but to appreciate this galilean, we have to go back to 1st century studies instead of dwelling on established dogma of the so-called orthodox claimed by the Church. And from there, we theologize. This is to be true not only to Jesus, but to God who sent him. My guess.

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