The categorical identification of the historical Jesus continues to be a central challenge in Jesus Research yet the identification of the historical Jesus as a first-century Jewish mystic has long been a popular topic among Western esotericists, Christian mystics, contemporary New Age authors, and some biblical scholars. Taking a critical look at the category and study of mysticism in Jesus Research in light of the ancient etymological origins of modern mysticism, the concept of ‘religious experience,’ and the epistemological problems associated with perennialism as a religionist discourse, this article argues that the comparative study of mysticism still proves to be an explanatorily powerful analytical, theoretical, and interpretative lens in Jesus Research.
A Course in Miracles represents a modern-day neo-gnostic scripture that reflects significant trends in contemporary Western religiosity, especially the quest for alternative forms of esoteric “spiritual” knowledge and experience in a nominally Christian or post-Christian Western world. While this text has largely been ignored or marginalized in mainstream scholarship, a critical evaluation of the Course, its editing, reception, and contemporary interpretation not only represents a fascinating case study in how “texts” become invested with “scriptural” authority, but illustrates how the Course’s claims about Jesus and God exemplify the gnosticizing trajectories in the contemporary New Age movement.
The Temple incident was a pivotal moment in the ministry of the historical Jesus, if not the causal factor that led to Jesus’ execution. Yet the incident continues to present interpretive problems, not least of which is determining precisely what Jesus objected to about the Temple and its administration. This study proposes a new working model for Jesus’ critical stance towards the Temple, identifying the Temple incident as a symbolic act of eschatological Temple restoration.
In Jesus and the Chaos of History (JCH), James G. Crossley invites us to ‘rethink some of the ways we approach the historical Jesus.’ The result of many years of critical engagement in Jesus Research, JCH is a helpful overview of the current state of the field and a programmatic set of essays seeking to ‘redirect’ Jesus Research by finding new ways to account for the social, economic, and political factors inherent and implicit in ‘historical change.’ In this review, I would like to engage and think with four of Crossley’s proposals: (1) the concept of an ‘Earliest Palestinian Tradition’; (2) the construction of Jesus as a ‘Great Man’; (3) the Jewish Jesus’ Torah observance; and (4) Jesus’ relationship to politico-military revolution and ‘(non)violence’.
Since its publication in 1975, A Course in Miracles (ACIM) has continued to grow in popularity as a major feature of New Age spirituality. While the text of the Course is not a direct imitation of any particular form of ancient Gnosticism, A Course in Miracles represents an example of the emergence, reception, and popularity of gnosticizing trajectories of thought in the New Age movement. As a modern-day neo-Gnostic text, A Course in Miracles reflects significant trends in contemporary Western religiosity, especially the quest for alternative forms of esoteric, spiritual, and mystical knowledge and experience in a nominally Christian or post-Christian Western world increasingly disillusioned with traditional orthodox theology, Christology, and ethics.