The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives


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There were just different points of view, and different sects and groupings — Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Zealots. Some became followers of Jesus, seeing him as Messiah. The followers of Jesus became first a Messianic sect within Judaism. I associated it more uniquely with Jesus.

Jesus and the Word

But your neighbour is primarily your fellow Jew. Jesus apparently said love your enemies as well. Also, putting love God and love your neighbour at the centre. Loving your enemy is very untypical, some Jews would say. Jesus is thoroughly Jewish and his relationship to other Palestinian Jews is therefore a crucial question about him.

This is from Yes, this book is nearly years old, but I would put it top of my list of the classics. I think to get at Jesus through what other people have made of him is the best way of going about it. Then he gives his own account of Jesus, which is partly wrong, I think.

He was the missionary doctor in Africa from to We were brought up to admire him. So he goes through the historiography, looking at how some 19th century scholars looked at Jesus. Yes, and one rather earlier. Reimarus died in and was part published by Lessing in Liberal theologians disliked dogma or the doctrine, even though the Gospels are themselves interpretations. They wanted to get behind them to Jesus as he really was. But they can only give their own interpretations.

Even their own historical accounts of how they think he really was, are interpretations. Jesus was totally and utterly and completely different. He was expecting the end of the world and he was completely wrong. Somebody has to do a Schweitzer on Schweitzer himself. And your Schweitzer on Schweitzer would focus on Jesus saying the end of the world was nigh….

Even though one or two sayings do sound a bit like that, on the whole Jesus is much more of a prophet and a wisdom teacher.


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This nightmare scenario, of an apocalyptic end of the world like you get in the book of Revelation is really rather removed from my mental picture of Jesus. But that may be because I imagine the Jesus I love and want to follow. He points us to God. Jesus was all about God. Being about God means being about the meaning of life, about how the world is and our moral responsibilities, to save the planet and to love our neighbours.

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Yes, he does a bit. He would never have said that! I would find it very difficult to pick one. I would pick about , among them the ones you picked out.

The love commandment is certainly central. Attitudes to material possessions are important. Most people agree he was a good man, and that he was unjustly executed. I think he probably saw his execution as following through what God was wanting of him. His self-giving love inspired others to live that way. But how much the high priest, Caiaphas did, is a nice question. I think he probably was helped by one of the inner group of 12 disciples to make the arrest possible away from the crowds.

They would naturally be nervy and what St. But clearly his crucifixion was a Roman decision and carried out by Romans. The idea that the Jews killed Jesus is a grotesque defamation. You hear that people normally end up believing what their parents believe, so someone born in Syria is likely to be Muslim, Brits are likely to be Church of England. What I find interesting about Jesus is that there is much in this teaching that is attractive to a non-believer. I thought you were going to say being Dutch you were Calvinist. I would say the Church of England has plenty of humanism in it and Jesus has a lot of humanism in his teaching.

So, yes there has got to be common ground in terms of moral values between Christianity and a lot of other people. The sense of wonder is basic to religion, and, in that sense, a lot of humanists are probably more religious than they think. Ethics and philosophical ethics can be discussing moral principles without much sense of wonder about why there is a world at all. Your third choice of book is yet again by a German. Why are there so many Germans on your list? It was the 18th century Enlightenment. In France, it was often anti-religious, or anti-Catholic.

In Germany, the Enlightenment was quite religious and quite Protestant and therefore German theology, like German philosophy, took on board the Enlightenment early on, and a big strand in German academic theology was infused with Enlightenment beliefs and values. In the early 18th century, English Deists were pioneers in criticism of the Bible and dogma, but in the 19th century all the leaders were German or German influenced.

That remained roughly true till about Some did, but generally no. Unlike Roman Catholicism there was no mechanism for chucking you out if you were a Bible critic. The conservative side of the German church was hostile to Biblical criticism. But the German theological faculties in state universities had some independence while closely tied to the provincial churches. Theologians were able to follow the evidence as they saw it.

They divided into different schools but the radicals were allowed to publish books and teach students who then became clergy. So the German church as a whole was open to Biblical criticism sooner than the Church of England. Greek is your starting point, because the New Testament is written in Greek. Most people in Palestine at that time would be speaking Aramaic. Jesus may have understood some Greek, and he would have understood Hebrew. But it was the Hellenistic age, Greek was the lingua franca and a few miles from Nazareth there were Greek towns.

So Jesus would have heard Greek spoken and a couple of his disciples have Greek names: Latin, not so much: The Roman authorities would have spoken Greek as well as Latin. OK, so this book number 3. I knew him even before he was a professor, when he was teaching in a school and writing this book. But those who know what to look for will see layers of theological reflection in there as well. In the course of that, it says a lot about the Judaism of that period and of the political situation between the Romans and the Jews. Theissen also manages to feed in some of the apocalyptic, the nightmare stuff.

Anyone who gives a direct portrait of Jesus is likely to be partly looking in the mirror. To try and get at him through an indirect method, of which this book is the clearest example, actually catches some things that a straight biography might miss. Everything Theissen writes is creative. Biographies vary, but they do try to give the meaning of the person. Attending to someone else reflecting on him can get more of the inwardness of what is going on in Jesus, which Christians call God.

Of the outward picture, a number of important facts are pretty clear. But even when all agree that a central theme was Jesus proclaiming the Kingdom of God, God ruling, God in charge, how Jesus understands that remains elusive. The book originated in a teacher entertaining the kids as well as informing them. To write something really good, yes. Any New Testament scholar can write a book about Jesus, it goes with the turf. But to write a good book about Jesus is difficult. When I was a student in Germany we spent a lot of time on the history of the interpretation, but that tended to be what theologians thought about it.

I put Raymond Brown in for two little reasons and one big reason. The little reasons are that it would be monstrous not to have a Roman Catholic, because there are now many good biblical scholars. I also needed to have an American, because in the last 40 years, Americans have been the most productive in writing about Jesus. But, more importantly, I wanted to include a commentary. This book is a commentary on those two chapters in Matthew and two chapters in Luke. Brown was an exegete. And his mother was Mary. Nevertheless, these stories are fraught with both religious and deep theological meaning.

They are important for that reason. As a Catholic priest, Brown wants to say how these texts relate to Catholic doctrine, especially what Catholics believe about Mary. How much of that depends on the historical reality?

Quest for the historical Jesus

Except that Jesus was born and that Jesus was important. As is the crib. Brown is also focusing on the fact that the Christmas story has been put in there by Luke—and to some extent Matthew—for a reason, it was important to them, it signified their way of interpreting what had happened.

His main point is that all this happened to fulfill what the Old Testament prophets said was going to happen. He sees the spirit of God is at work in all this. Luke wanted to write history when he wrote the Acts of the Apostles. But in the birth narrative Luke knows perfectly well that he is telling a story to bring out the real meaning, and he even does it in Biblical language. Around December 25th was already a Roman pagan festival, Saturnalia.

The Greek church actually celebrates it more on January 6th. The western church plumped for December. I suppose because it was close to the solstice. The title is a question: Born of a Virgin? The reason I included it was the sheer theological seriousness of it. He could have written a commentary on this like the Ray Brown book, but actually to have a big theological reflection on it, including what the greatest 19th century theologian—there is a chapter on Schleiermacher, the founder of modern of theology in the book—made of it all, is an amazing achievement.

He says all the things an exegete is going to say by looking at the text. And a certain amount about what it means to be a Christian today, which is to be loyal to the tradition but also critical of it. I find it persuasive, right across the board. He says there are three possibilities: Joseph was the father, 2. Johannes Weiss — and William Wrede — brought the eschatological aspects of the ministry of Jesus to the attention of the academic world. New contributions to the Christ-problem published in English as The rise of Christianity wrote, "A Son of God, Lord of the World, born of a virgin, and rising again after death, and the son of a small builder with revolutionary notions, are two totally different beings.

If one was the historical Jesus, the other certainly was not. The real question of the historicity of Jesus is not merely whether there ever was a Jesus among the numerous claimants of a Messiahship in Judea, but whether we are to recognise the historical character of this Jesus in the Gospels, and whether he is to be regarded as the founder of Christianity. Albert Schweitzer — , a historian of theology, presented an important critical review of the history of the search for Jesus's life in The Quest of the Historical Jesus — From Reimarus to Wrede , first edition , denouncing the subjectivity of the various writers who injected their own preferences in Jesus's character.

There is one chapter Ch. Bruno Bauer — was the first academic theologian to affirm the non-historicity of Jesus. However his scholarship was buried by German academia, and he remained a pariah , until Albert Kalthoff rescued his works from neglect and obscurity. Schweitzer highly praised Bauer's early work, prior to his later period work and conclusion regarding the ahistoricty of Jesus.

A direct challenge to the first quest was The Christ Myth , first published in by Arthur Drews on the Christ myth theory and the denial of the existence of a historical Jesus. Drews, by amplifying and publicizing the thesis initially advanced by Bruno Bauer, [32] rose to international prominence from the resulting international controversy provoked by his book. In , Shirley Jackson Case noted that within the last decade, doubts about Jesus existence had been advanced in several quarters, but nowhere so insistently as in Germany where the skeptical movement had become a regular propaganda, "Its foremost champion is Arthur Drews, professor of philosophy in Karlsruhe Technical High School.

Since the appearance of his Christusmythe in the subject has been kept before the public by means of debates held in various places, particularly at some important university centers such as Jena, Marburg, Giessen, Leipzig, Berlin. To discuss Drews's thesis , Schweitzer added two new chapters in the second edition of his work, The Quest of the Historical Jesus. Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschung , 2. Schweitzer himself also argued that all the 19th-century presentations of Jesus had either minimized or neglected the apocalyptic message of Jesus, and he developed his own version of the profile of Jesus in the Jewish apocalyptic context.

Some scholars such as Paul Zahl argue that the last two paragraphs of Schweitzer's book aptly summarize the end of the first quest, Schweitzer stating "Jesus of Nazareth will not suffer himself to be modernized as a historical figure He comes to us as One unknown". Stanley Porter states that Schweitzer's critique only ended the "romanticized and overly psychologized" studies into the life of Jesus, and other research continued. Streeter 's work on Markan priority and Q source which affected future research. A key figure in the relatively quiet period from to was Rudolf Bultmann , who was skeptical regarding the relevance and necessity of historical Jesus research and argued that the only thing we can or need to know about Jesus is the "thatness" German: Dass of his existence and very little else.

Bultmann believed that only a few scattered facts could be known about Jesus, and although a few things could be known about Jesus such a search was pointless for all that matters is following "the call of Jesus" which can only be known through an existential encounter with the word of God.

Robinson 's book A New Quest for the Historical Jesus was reprinted numerous times, indicating the high level of interest in the subject during the s. Much of the stronger claims, and the emphasis on the redeeming power of Christ's death on the Cross, could be seen as reworkings by St.


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Paul, who was probably influenced strongly by the Graeco-Roman traditions. By the early s the initial momentum of the second quest had all but disappeared. The second quest reached a plateau in the s and by the s a third quest had started and gained a formal following. Wright coined the term "third quest" to refer to these new approaches. Beyond the previous criteria of multiple attestation , dissimilarity also called discontinuity and embarrassment , a number of other criteria have been developed through the third quest.

A number of other proposed criteria are viewed as dubious and unreliable by third quest scholars. Jeremias which evaluates a biblical saying based on the presence of possibly Aramaic vocabulary or grammar; and the similar criterion of the Palestinian environment which considers a saying authentic if it fits in the Palestinian setting of Jesus' time. A new characteristic of the modern aspects of the third quest has been the role of archeology and James Charlesworth states that few modern scholars now want to overlook the archaeological discoveries that clarify the nature of life in Galilee and Judea during the time of Jesus.

Jewish scholars involved in historical Jesus research have contributed their detailed knowledge of Second Temple Judaism as the backdrop for the third quest. While there is widespread scholarly agreement on the existence of Jesus as a historical figure, the portraits of Jesus constructed during the three quests have often differed from each other and from the image portrayed in the gospel accounts.

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The many differences of emphasis among mainstream interpretations in the third quest may be grouped together based on a number of primary interpretations of Jesus as variously an apocalyptic prophet, charismatic healer, cynic philosopher, Jewish Messiah or prophet of social change. Borg and Mack differ on that issue. In his book The Quest of the Historical Jesus , Albert Schweitzer noted the similarities of the portraits to the scholars who construct them and stated that they are often "pale reflections of the researchers" themselves.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This article is about the history of academic Jesus research. For discussion of the historical evidence of his existence, see Historical Jesus and Historicity of Jesus. For portraits of his life, see Portraits of the historical Jesus.

Life in art Depiction Jesuism. The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth. The Oxford dictionary of the Christian church. The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Retrospect and Prospect by Kelly R.

The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives
The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives The Gospel of John and the Religious Quest: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives

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