One of the major trends in modern (19th and 20th century) biblical scholarship is the effort to be objective

One of the major trends in modern (19th and 20th century) biblical scholarship is the effort to be objective

That is, scholars wanted to take the beliefs and opinions out of biblical interpretation, and excavate historical facts hidden in the text the way an archaeologist might excavate artifacts out of the ground, or even as a scientist might identify the structure of DNA. In the case of the New Testament, one of the major developments is the study of “the historical Jesus.” This means reconstructing the facts of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (and his followers) as objectively as possible, as one might write a historical study of Julius Caesar or Thomas Jefferson. In all cases, sources are biased, but critical historians read past the bias or correct for the bias to try to arrive at an objective truth, which generally means a truth that reasonable people can agree upon regardless of faith, opinion, or personal feelings.

The name of the human being is “Jesus

For example, the statement “Jesus is God” is a faith claim. Certainly there are many rational people who are not Christian who would not accept that as a scientifically demonstrable historical fact. However, one could shift the perspective just a little and turn it into a historical fact . Thus, “Jesus’ followers came to believe that he was God” is a provable fact, regardless of what one thinks about whether they were right. Proceeding in this way, one encounters questions such as “why did they think that?” “what did that mean to them?” “how did that belief change their lives?” and “how did that belief influence human history?” Similarly a claim such as “Jesus rose from the dead three days after he was killed,” is a faith claim, but the development and influence of that belief is a historical fact.

In general, historians love external sources because they are presumed more neutral. In the case of the historical Jesus, we do not have accounts of Jesus by people who did not believe he was the Messiah (although we do have Roman records of certain details of his times). We do not have any documents that he wrote himself. Even the documents written by his followers were written long after the death of Jesus. The earliest letters were written in the 50s by Paul, but he never met Jesus and actually does not tell us much about him as a person. The earliest Gospel was written shortly after 70 CE, and it would be another 30 years before all four would be written. More importantly, a Gospel is not, and never was, the same thing as a biography. The early Gospel writers, Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John were not trying to record historical facts, but tell a story which would lead its listeners to join them in belief that Jesus is in fact the Messiah (Christ) and Lord, which connoted divinity.

According to our sources Jesus is Christ. Historians of the historical Jesus do not necessarily accept or reject that claim, but they do set it aside and study the sources for information about the human being who started it all. ” The faith claim about him is “Christ.” The terms are used interchangeably by people who accept the Christian faith, but non-Christians and Christian scholars trying to be objective would distinguish the historical person and the system of beliefs that developed about him. One could say Jesus became Christ in the hearts and of minds of his followers (regardless of whether one believes he was Christ all along before they realized it).

3.3.2. Controversy

The “historical Jesus” approach was understandably controversial. At first it might seem to imply that only that which is provable historically is true. Some responded by insisting that the truth of Christianity is a proposition that must be rejected or accepted without questioning. However, the Catholic tradition (as we shall see more later) insists that faith and reason go hand-in-hand. It is possible for faith to go beyond reason, but it is not possible for reason to contradict true faith (although it can clarify it or fix where it had not been so true). So Catholicism would not say that something is not true just because it cannot be scientifically proven. More importantly, things (such as legends or stories) can be true in ways deeper than historical accuracy.

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