The paper seeks to shed light on the ministry and reception of Jesus of Nazareth as perceived through the lens of the Gospel of John in the light of Samaritan, Galilean, and Judean perspectives. Flavius Josephus and the Samaritan tradition help us to gain a better understanding of certain details expressed or alluded to in the gospels. In particular, on the basis of these two sources the paper puts into context the gospel passage that is best informed about the relations between Samaritans and Jews, viz. John 4:1–42. It thus aims at elucidating the Samaritan references in the Gospel of John by current research on Samaritanism.
The consensus of present-day historians that Jesus was crucified around the year 30 ce has been challenged by a minority of scholars who argue that the execution of John the Baptist could not take place earlier than 35 ce, and for that reason Jesus must have been crucified at the Passover of 36 ce. This paper argues that both parties have strong and convincing arguments, and for that reason we must conclude that John was probably executed after Jesus’ death. The collective memory of the early Christians did not succeed in retaining the chronological order of these events, and this circumstance allowed the synoptics to turn the Baptist into a forerunner of Christ.
Alan Segal rejected the claim that the “empty tomb” must be taken as the fulcrum of analysis for Jesus’ Resurrection. He characterized that argument as the project of “a small group of scholars made up entirely of the faithful trying to impose their faith in the form of an academic argument.”1 Although Segal’s criticism is too broadly articulated to be convincing, it identifies a weakness in recent discussion. The tomb of Jesus, judged by the statements of the texts involved and their developing tendencies, is better described as “emptying” as time went on than as “empty” from the outset. More importantly, reference to the tomb conveyed differing emphases among tradents, and distinctive outlooks on the Resurrection. Awareness of both the exegetical trajectory of the relevant texts and their varying perspectives leads to the suggestion that the “empty tomb” needs to be replaced as the point of departure in discussion.
This article is devoted to Leon Modena’s anti-Christian polemical work Magen ve-herev (1643 ca.) as a useful source for the reconstruction of notions about the historical Jesus in the early modern period. In this work, Modena depicts Jesus in a sympathetic way, placing his religious activity against the backdrop of second Temple Judaism. Modena’s Jesus is fully Jewish, and Magen ve-herev offers different perspectives on the religious and historical context of Jesus’ life, and on the development of Christianity. The text is interpreted not exclusively against the backdrop of Jewish anti-Christian polemics but as the result of an increasing interest in the history of Christianity and ecclesiastical history, mainly as a response to the religious strife that resonated in the Republic of Venice and its ghetto.
Jesus in the Rhetoric and Methods of Early Modern Intellectual History
Jonathan C.P. Birch
This article contributes to a new perspective on the historical Jesus in early modern intellectual history. This perspective looks beyond German and academic scholarship, and takes account of a plurality of religious, social, and political contexts. Having outlined avenues of research which are consistent with this approach, I focus on radicalised socio-political contexts for the emergence of ‘history’ as a category of analysis for Jesus. Two contexts will be discussed: the late eighteenth century, with reference to Joseph Priestley, Baron d’Holbach, and their associations with the French Revolution; and the interregnum period in seventeenth-century Britain, with reference to early Quaker controversies and the apologetic work of Henry More. I identify ideas about Jesus in those contexts which have echoed in subsequent scholarship, while challenging the notion that there is a compelling association between sympathetic historical conceptions of Jesus (as opposed to theological) and a tendency towards radical and revolutionary politics.
This study helps critically distance future scholarship from the rhetorical and religious agenda of Albert Schweitzer’s Quest of the Historical Jesus, with the corollary aim of problematizing the widespread ‘Three Quests’ heuristic, so dependent upon it. The pronounced ambitions and strongly marked German Protestant social location of Schweitzer’s project will be exposed by calling to witness a very early, yet widely neglected reception of his work: Marie-Joseph Lagrange’s The Meaning of Christianity according to German Exegesis (1917). The quite different, though no less contextualized socio-religious location of this French Catholic priest will serve to highlight some significant phenomena obscured by the standard picture of the history of Jesus research, above all its deep theoretical roots in the Radical Reformation.
A Proposal for a Paradigm Shift in Understanding the Quest
Criticisms addressed to the historiographical paradigm of the so-called ‘three quests’ by several scholars with different ideological backgrounds and who have worked independently have debunked it by proving its untenable character. The present paper makes a proposal for a new paradigm which allows us to understand the quest of the historical Jesus in a more comprehensive, lucid and explanatory way. This proposal has been articulated through a set of theses, accompanied in each case by an explanation (and, sometimes, by corollaries), accomplishing a threefold task: a broader characterization of historical Jesus research, a summary discussion of the main distortions contained in the ‘three-quests’ model, and, more importantly, an exposition of the basic principles of a new paradigm.
On the Place of the Sefer Hizzuq Emunah in the Quest for the Historical Jesus
The Jewish anti-Christian polemical literature includes in its arguments the figure of Jesus of Nazareth, since one of its main goals is to discredit certain attributes of the Christian Messiah. This literature, however, has been so far almost completely overlooked in the Leben-Jesu-Forschung. The present paper draws attention to the figure of Jesus that can be seen in the famous text of Isaac ben Abraham Troki, the Sefer Hizzuq Emunah (end of the 16th century), whose controversial deconstruction of the Christological figure of Jesus allows us to discover a particular type of historical construction.