MeetUp and discuss The Quest of the Historical Jesus

Albert Schweitzer's book "The Quest of the Historical Jesus" is considered by most scholars as the foundational work for understanding historical Jesus studies. Why? The book is not merely Schweitzer's personal view but a summary of EVERY significant scholarly book or essay on Jesus from Hermann Reimarus (1774) to the beginning of the Twentieth Century. Not until the final chapter does Schweitzer final adds his own view in 1906. The book as whole though is an overview of ALL scholarly study on the subject.

Prior to Reimarus, if someone wanted to understand Jesus the consensus was they needed to look no further than the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Reimarus wrote the first complete model of a Jesus of History who was different than the Christ of Faith. For Reimarus, Jesus was a want-to-be Messiah figure who pushed to forcefully for Palestine liberation and ended up getting himself killed. The Disciples, according to Reimarus, had too much invested in the movement so they stole the body and circulated the myth of the risen Christ in order to perpetuate the movement.

Once Reimarus opened the door to the possibility that there was a historical Jesus who was not the same as the confessional Christ, there were a flood of additional theories along that line ranging from the truly bizarre (Karl Bahrdt, Jesus was a pawn of a secret society called the Essenes that used him as a tool to persuade the masses to give up hope in a political Messiah and focus instead on spiritual renewal, 1782) to the controversial (Bruno Bauer, there never was any person named Jesus. You’ll have to read the chapter on him for his explanation of how CHRISTianity could have started without a Christ, 1840).

The book conveys an incredible amount of research on the subject. The insight is brilliant but the sheer volume of content can be overwhelming so the discussion will be focused on Chapters 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 11, and 18. Which cover the broad themes of Rationalistic explanations of Jesus (ch. 2, 3), Fictitious lives of Jesus (ch. 4), growing skepticism of rationalism (ch. 6), the rise of Jesus-myth explanations (ch. 8), the theory Jesus never even existed (ch. 11) and scholars’ position on the subject going into the 20th century (ch. 18).

This book was so influential that after over 125 years of constant writing on the subject, no major work was published for nearly 60 years after Schweitzer’s work because most believed he had closed the case of the subject.

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  • A former member
    A former member

    "Faith sees the invisible, believes the unbelievable, and receives the impossible." (Corrie Ten Boom, 1892~1983).
    Faith means confidence, but not certainty, for if the outcome were certain, there would be no need for faith. So, as imperfect humans I guess it is perfectly normal to drift to and fro with faith once in a while. What do you think?

    August 28, 2013

    • Jue

      I think I'll see you next week :)

      August 28, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      I'm looking forward to learning something new and interesting. See you then! (smile)

      August 29, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Hi Ju: thanks for writing! As you can see I am simply thinking out loud. (smile)

    I guess one needs faith to believe in anything. At some level, you have to simply accept that something is true without any real basis for doing so. I once read that the "road to salvation is difficult to pass over as difficult as the sharp edge of a razor". So at times, perhaps it is not easy to walk in faith although millions of Christians have and sacrificed their lives in doing so. They say "Reason can go only so far, but faith has no limits".

    August 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    There are times when some Christians doubt their relationship with God and it appears that God is distant and silent but then there are times when the presence of God is so great that one becomes reassured. This is the puzzling mystery about God. I have no answer.

    August 28, 2013

    • Jue

      I'm not saying this is God's reason, but if we were 100% sure all of the time then would there be such a thing as (or a need for) faith? You know, the substance of things hoped for...the evidence of things not seen?

      August 28, 2013

  • Tim M.

    I didn't receive it as debating but thanks for clarifying.

    August 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    The only reason why Christ can be experienced by faith is because Christ is an entirely different reality that cannot be seen in the physical world or reasoned with the physical mind, so when the eyes of spiritually are developed one can see God.That is what Jesus meant when he said Happy are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. How shall they see God? By enlightenment. You are right, the beginning of faith has to be logical which comes in the form of knowledge, but spiritual knowledge. That is why Jesus said “this means everlasting life, there taking in Knowledge. “to know gonostic” John 19:3.

    This is simply an illustration:Non believers are like those who can only see the rain that falls from heaven, but the believers are those who can see the rain evaporate. The Christian experience is a realty that cannot be seen or understood in the physical world. However this illustration is certainly not suggesting that Christians are smarter only an illustration.

    August 28, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Jesus made a profound statement, he said that the “Kingdom of God is within you”. (Luke 17:21 KJ.) That is an entirely different approach to God vs. standard Christianity and historians studying religion. To awaken in the light of God's Presence and experience the peace of God that excels all thought one would have to let go of logic, reason and stop dissecting and dismantling the credentials of Christ or God. We are body, soul, mind and spirit and those who nurture their spirit are the ones who can see and understand spiritual things. There is no manual for Enlightenment, hidden knowledge. It just is! By the way I have read most of the assigned chapters from Schweitzer’s book and look forward to the meet up group in Sept. Also I am not a coffee drinker but I am willing to taste and see if I can change my mind and enjoy a cup of coffee among new friends with inquisitive minds. (smile)

    August 27, 2013

    • Tim M.

      "one would have to let go of logic, reason". This is my point. Christ can ultimately only be experienced by faith but, before someone is willing to take that final step, it needs to seem at least somewhat logical. It's like arriving at the airport in a Caribbean country where safety standards are way more lax than America. At the gate is a 1940's DC-3 with piston engines. The plane is rusted out and their is oil dripping from the engines but the crew says, "you just have to have faith". The object of faith must seem logically trustworthy before we put out faith in it. It is not our faith which makes it trustworthy but rather than condition of the object.

      August 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Do you think we truly need historic facts about Jesus in order to believe in him being the Son of God? Here's the problem. We tend to forget that we are made up of body, soul, mind and spirit. The body and mind need facts but the soul which is inspired by the spirit walks in a different dominion. It's a much deeper place and a different kind of existence that we cannot make sense of unless we walk in the spirit. . To my knowledge there are two worlds we live in one is physical and the other is spiritual. The two are in conflict with each other. When God's spirit connects to our spirit we are truly born again and I don't mean in religious service either but in a remarkable change in personality and the way we see and understand spiritual things. What do you think?

    August 26, 2013

    • Tim M.

      We did a book a few months back called "The Historical Jesus: Five Views". It was actually a compilation of essays from professors spanning give points of view on this exact issue. Professor Luke Timothy Johnson espoused the view you're referring to--"when God's spirit connect to our spirit". In other words, the study of Jesus in history is not as important as the experience with the living Christ in the present. However, as the other four writers pointed out in their critique while that is all good and fine for Mr. Johnson, it doesn't carry any weight for those who haven't had the same experience he has had. For example, for the writer Dominic Crossan who hasn't had that same experience, all he can say is, "my own experience has been different" and the conversation is at a dead end. So the historicity question remains important if for no other reason than to have a basis to connect with people who haven't had the same experience.

      August 27, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Though out history there have been many who claimed to be God's Son. But yet there was something different that forces Jesus Christ to stand out from all the other claimers. This Jesus from Nazareth truly loved God on a deeper level, a love and devotion that excels all consciousness. And if he really were not God's son he should have been. Jesus was powerful without using miracles. He liberated a nation of people from being enslaved to the Temple worship and animal sacrifice. He gave people the courage to let go of old ideas and traditions that blocked their inner spirit from connecting to God's spirit. He taught people how to seek for themselves, and how to arrive at mental clarity; instructing what was the more important things in life. Most precious of all Jesus taught us how to find enlightenment. Jesus touched the spirit of humans that changed their physical lives. He gave us hope!I could go on and on but the characters are running out. (smile). What do you think?

    August 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    These two lovely girls are my daughters. I am the lady in "blue".

    August 26, 2013

  • Tim M.

    Very insightful comment Gina. I think you hit the nail on the head with Jesus' claim to be God's son and offering a relationship to God "with his help". If he had only expounded a path to follow or a teaching to internalize, then the historical facts about him would not be so important, merely discussing his teaching would suffice. But since his PERSON was so central to his message, the historicity (or lack thereof) of his life becomes uniquely important. Fair warning, Scheitzer makes no attempt to write on a popular level. His style is very academic so, at times, it can get rather tedious but he raises very interesting points which we shall (hopefully) discuss in less academic terms.

    August 26, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    I wonder why there has not perhaps been any other historical person that has been subject to such intense scrutiny as Jesus of the bible has. It could be the fact that he insisted that no one can have any sort of relationship with God without his help. Or that there is no salvation in anyone else except by "Him", Who ever Jesus claims to be the fact is that He has made an impact on the world view of religion. To claim to be God or God's son is an astounding statement. I don't think anyone has changed the world the way Jesus has with his influence of all that is good, peaceful and encouraging. I will try to obtain and read the book "The Quest of the Historical Jesus" and be at the meet up group just to see and learn about an historical Jesus who may not have been the son of God. Personally, I love the thought of the real spiritual heavenly Jesus. (smile).

    August 26, 2013

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Rafaël

We just grab a coffee and speak French. Some people have been coming every week for months... it creates a kind of warmth to the group.

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