|The Real Jesus?
||[Jun. 14th, 2004|09:53 am]
Was there ever a real Jesus of Nazareth? |
I've wondered this for years. You look at the gospels and the historical context seems fluffy and the central character oddly blank.
Albert Schweitzer's classic The Search For the Historical Jesus- which I read in theological college- makes the point that every would-be biographer of Jesus ends up creating an idealized self-portrait. "Strauss looked into the dark well of history and saw the reflection of a liberal Protestant face" (I quote from memory.) It's a very funny book.
But Schweitzer chickens out at the end. Instead of concluding that there was no historical Jesus he goes into preacherly raptures about the unknown "true historical Jesus"- who turns out to be an imperious theocrat not wholly unlike Schweitzer himself.
But just suppose...
Last night my attention was drawn to this site- http://human.st/jesuspuzzle -which argues that Christianity began as a mystery religion (along the lines of Mithraism or the Attis cult) with Jesus as a wholly mythological central figure. It was only in the second century, a hundred years after the birth of the cult, that the the Logos, the Divine Son of God, acquired a human biography.
The arguments are persuasive: the gospels are not really biography, but a midrash on Old Testament texts; the earliest Christian documents, the Pauline letters, betray no knowledge of Jesus the man; the deification of a real man is almost inconceivable in a Jewish context- and so on.
The received account of Christian origins never quite made sense- historically or humanly. This one does.