Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Which Jesus Will it Be?

posted by xscot mcknight

On the first day of my Jesus of Nazareth class I ask students to complete a “test” that explores how our self-perception influences our perception of Jesus. (The test: NEICE Images of Jesus (PDF)), but for some odd reason the pages are in reverse order.) The test demonstrates that we all tend to make Jesus in our own image. This idea seems to get the attention of most students, which leads me to a few more thoughts.
Here’s my question for the day: What is the most shattering thing you learned about Jesus in the Gospels that altered what you previously thought about Jesus?
First, I trot out seven “kinds of Jesuses” that we can find at the local bookstore. The traditional Jesus who was divine, the eschatological Jesus of Schweitzer who expected the end of history imminently, the social Jesus whose vision was a transformation of the social order, the political Jesus whose vision concerned the powers in Jerusalem, the liberal Jesus who exhibited the ultimate ethic of love, the religious Jesus who lived a life of communion with God, and the cultural-critic Jesus whose vision got to the core of the culture of Galilee and Judea.
Second, I suggest we need to challenge the view of Jesus that we bring to the text of the Gospels by reading the Gospels in several ways:
1. Historically — by asking how Jesus fit into his Jewish world.
2. Thematically — by examining specific themes in the Gospels from beginning to end.
3. Individually — by asking how Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John each present Jesus.
4. Comparatively — by comparing both major ideas in each Gospel and specific parallels between the Gospels.
5. Literarily — by reading each Gospel as a work of literature and art and rhetoric.
NEICE Images of Jesus (PDF)



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Jacob Paul Breeze

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:05 am


Two things. Fist, I vividly remember working through all of the “on earth”-ness of Jesus in GMatthew and GLuke. Previously, the only thing I “knew” about Jesus was that His ultimate concern was the destruction of space, time and matter.
It was like scales falling when I realized that Jesus was not a dualist.
Second, for so long I did not think Jesus was God. I remember reading GLuke and realizing by the Cross part of the narrative that God had returned to Israel in person. I was thrilled to discover Jesus as God in GLuke.



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Andy Cornett

posted August 30, 2007 at 7:11 am


Scot – this is super helpful to me, especially as this Sunday am I starting to lead some high schoolers through the gospel of Matthew this year!
The first huge window on Jesus that opened for me when several others lead me to see Jesus as a Master Teacher. He is one who knows what he is doing, what he is saying, and doing it in a way that not only enables others to understand, but to do what he is doing. I think especially of Matthew 5-11 in this respect.
The second revolution for me was linking Jesus’ story with Israel’s story; the way in which the arc of the birth, life and ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus both sums up and recapitulates Israel’s story and brings it to fulfillment. Wright was helpful here, as was Goldingay in his own way.
Since those two in context of study of the gospels – I haven’t seen him the same.



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Richie (Old Barbarian)

posted August 30, 2007 at 7:21 am


Interesting thoughts and discussion. Believe it or not, the movie “The Passion” had a huge impact on my image of Jesus. I watched the movie in the theatre on 4 separate occasions; and prior to each, I prayed that God would show me something new.
Lessons and Life Changing moments:
#1 – How brutal the crucifixion truly was and how unworthy of such subsitutional violence I truly was worth.
#2 – The humanity of Jesus. The scenes with his mother; and He and her joking and playing around, and just hanging with her and being human. The clips with his disciples and small snippets of discussions or teaching – conveyed both intimacy and relationship that was very human.
#3 – How difficult it can be to even understand the magnitude of how different our ideal God would be in comparison to Jesus. This is what led Judas to deception-no? If it was difficult for those that were with Him each day; how much more difficult for us to truly understand and live it out daily? We do have the advantage of the scriptures, but because of our ideal God or Jesus – man tends to manipulate those in order to make life easier or more difficult for himself.
#4 – The power of the Story – WOW! What a truly remarkable Love Story; and what is even more cool – We get to be part of it!
So.., as I read the Gospels, I tend to see Jesus through the lenses I had forged in the watching of that movie. I know that there is more to the story and even the lenses were created via a man made product. However, I feel my prayer time prior to entering that theatre each time – really helped to me to look for and to understand more of what God wanted me to see.
Of course, my prior understanding and reading of the Gospels helped me in the forging of those lenses too.
That’s my story and I’m stickin to it!
IHL,
Richie



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Victor

posted August 30, 2007 at 7:28 am


1. That he is Jewish (Pryor, Young, Wright, Bell)
2. That he is funny and makes fun of people (Driscoll – http://www.marshillchurch.org/sermonseries/vintagejesus/vintage_jesus_week_02.aspx)



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Matt

posted August 30, 2007 at 7:45 am


When I first read N.T. Wright and saw Jesus firmly grounded in Judaism, I was astonished. In many ways, I had grown up with a Docetic Jesus walking about a foot above the ground.
Also, Wright’s proposal that suggests Jesus’ self-understanding was vocational rather than a form of absolute certitude has challenged me deeply. I still wrestle with that one, even though I lean toward Wright’s position which takes Jesus’ full humanity very seriously. There are a few passages that I’d like Wright to struggle with a bit more than he seems to, however (eg. calming the stormy sea, seeing Nathanael under the fig tree, and several others!).



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John Frye

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:24 am


As a pator (an undershepherd) what stunned me was Luke’s presentation of Jesus as a Spirit-empowered human. Jesus’ true, helpless humanity—“the Spirit of the sovereign LORD is on me and HE has anointed me to preach…” “Jesus returned to Galilee *in the power of the Spirit*” I was taken back by Jesus’ very close disciple,Peter’s, description of Jesus in Acts 2 and 10–“…a *man* whom God was with.” This helped me shed an almost docetic view of Jesus who hovered just a few inches above the nitty-gritty of absolute, helpless humanity. Even Jesus said, “The Son can DO NOTHING by himself.” This saved me from seeing Jesus as some magic guy who just pretended to be like us.



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Sarah Chia

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:34 am


I am with Richie (#3) that seeing those scenes in the Passion where Jesus and Mary interacted was very powerful.
I loved when Jesus was playful, but it was also very touching (as I am a mother) to see Mary’s flashbacks to when Jesus fell down and she helped him up.
I think the hardest thing for me to do is read the Gospels and to know what kind of tone of voice Jesus would have been using.
Has anyone else noticed that you can make Jesus be any kind of person you want him to be by quoting him with different inflections? I have to remind myself (and my husband!) that Jesus was gentle, so he possibly wasn’t as sarcastic as I am.



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Henriet Schapelhouman

posted August 30, 2007 at 10:17 am


Hi Scot,
Jesus continues to be shocking in many ways. When you think you see, there’s always more to Him than meets the eye.
The most impactful thing I learned was his treatment of and attitude toward women. He honored them, considered them equal and allowed them to participate in His life and ministry. When I was first called to pastoral ministry, this was life changing!
Secondly, the fact that He was truly human shook me up. I’d heard about it but never really embraced that…until one day it hit me. He felt, experienced, lived, breathed like a regular man. Wow.
I’m with Richie. The Passion of the Christ helped me to understand what Jesus actually endured for me. I counted the lashes, thought they’d stop at 40. They didn’t. The torture Jesus endured for me to have life is definitely the most shattering. I was stunned, numb and grieving for 36 hours after first seeing the movie.
Thanks for the great question.



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Ted Gossard

posted August 30, 2007 at 11:15 am


Yes, “the Passion of the Christ” impacted me too. But prior to that I really was strengthened in understanding better Jesus’ full humanity through N.T. Wright and “The Challenge of Jesus”.
Though I’m with Matt (#5) in not being sure how those passages fit into the picture. God is in this human Jesus, and speaks his word into creation.



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Mark

posted August 30, 2007 at 11:26 am


The historical has been hugely formational in helping me deconstruct some of my tradition’s readings (especially thematic readings) of the gospels. It has become so crucial for me to grasp a basic understand of Jesus’ Jewishness. Also essential has been the comparative and individual readings, which by the way often work in tandem. My weakest area is the literature angle.
Our congregation is slowly working its way through the Sermon on the Mount. In each passage we strive to first understand the Jesus’ Jewish context as well as the context of Matthew’s community. We often have seen how we have missed the importance of some phrases and words (such as Jesus’ “You have heard it said, …but I tell you.”) and we read into the text from our cultural perspective that suggests an inappropriate reading and application of the text.
In Christ,
Mark



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Ted Gossard

posted August 30, 2007 at 11:31 am


Another thing that has hit me is how all-encompassing Jesus’ message and work of new creation through the coming kingdom of God and his work in that, of course, just how all-encompassing it is. Again I have that book to thank.



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Mark

posted August 30, 2007 at 11:43 am


Scot,
I just looked at the Images of Jesus and NEICE website but I couldn’t easily find info on the “survey.” It seems like a good tool (measurements are often hard to find).
How do they score it? If they don’t score it, how do they compare scores?
How would I obtain permission to use it in a congregational setting?
Is validity and reliability data available?
Hope you can help with with these questions. blessings.
In Christ,
Mark



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Erika Haub

posted August 30, 2007 at 12:13 pm


1) That Jesus was Jewish
2) The political ramifications to what Jesus claimed/taught/did, and how that played into why he was killed, and how he was killed



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2007 at 12:37 pm


Mark,
Check L.J. Francis, J. Astley, “The Quest for the Psychological Jesus…,” Journ of Psych and Christianity 16 (1997): 247-259.
J. Astley, L.J. Francis, “A level gospel study and adolescents’ image of Jesus,” Research in Religious Education 14 (1996): 239-247.



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Peggy

posted August 30, 2007 at 1:07 pm


The image from The Passion that stuck and has stayed with me is Jesus crawling up on the cross. From before the creation of the world, Jesus knew that moment was coming. It was always there in the back (front?) of his mind. And he was able to restrain his God-ness in order to embrace his human-ness and see the long, challenging, painful plan through without getting sidetracked by all the “good” he could have done. Hebrews 12, indeed…. No one took his life from him…he gave it freely, lovingly, purposefuly…he crawled up on that cross to cut the final covenant that includes me…



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Dana Ames

posted August 30, 2007 at 3:59 pm


1) Jesus’ treatment of women. Various sources.
NT Wright for:
2) The Jewish-prophetic stance of Jesus challenging the nexus of the political/religious/”spiritual” collusion (even by sincere -but perhaps very frightened?- people who would never overtly collude with Rome or the satan) in such a way that there was no other outcome possible but for Jesus to be put to death.
3) The image of YHWH returning to Zion- in a weeping prophet riding on a donkey knowing fully what was ahead.
When I finished reading Wright’s “Jesus/Victory of God” I could hardly pull my mind away from two thoughts:
from #2 above: He absorbed all the effects of our every collusion with evil. I hardly have words to explain all the subtleties I could see in what Jesus’ death meant.
from #3 above: My Lord and My God!!!
Dana



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Ross

posted August 30, 2007 at 7:48 pm


Hi Scot
Interesting that you do not include ‘theologically’ in your ways of reading the Gospels. Maybe the historical Jesus (in the way meant by NT scholars) is seeing Jesus in our own image too. After all, our culture loves to deconstruct all the heroes of the past. Maybe a bit of the divine Jesus isn’t a bad idea as a corrective?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:05 pm


Ross,
I suppose it depends on what is meant by “theologically” for in some ways “thematically” covers that. Do you mean in terms of orthodoxy or dogmatic theology?



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Ross

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:39 pm


Scot
I rather liked this quote from John Webster posted by Michael Bird on his blog Euangelion:
“The only historical Jesus there is is the one who has his being in union with the Son of God who is eternally begotten of the Father. Those who pore over the gospels searching for another Jesus (whether their motives be apologetic or critical) pierce their hearts with many pangs, for they study a matter which does not exist.”
I completely agree that we have to make sense of Jesus in his historical context, but I think that maybe we have swallowed the demyth stuff so much that we think that we cannot talk about the Jesus we now worship in relationship to the person who lived in Palestine 2,000 years ago and vice versa.
If the person we worship now has any connection with the historical Jesus, then that surely must have implications for our study and understanding of the historical Jesus – if you see what I mean!
By leaving the Divine Son of God at the door of historical study we are a) being cowards and b) being dualists.



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Scott M

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:53 pm


The test was interesting. My image of Jesus isn’t particularly similar to my self-image at all using that scale. I noticed a number of the questions were the introvert/extrovert sort of questions and other categories that were fairly easy to see. It makes me curious what sort of correlation they are finding through the survey.
The most shattering thing I learned about Jesus that was made real to me (or incarnated for me) through the gospels (and through a number of Christians unknowingly undoing the work of other Christians)? That he was not simply a divinized man, avatar, or other manifestation of a god, but rather the trustworthy God (big ‘G’ vs little ‘g’) who took on our whole experience so that we could actually know and relate to God. The most “shattering” thing for me was ending up in a place where I found I not only believed these stories were true but that I could trust this God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth.
Since I danced around Christianity and slid into it from such an odd angle, I didn’t have a bunch of the odd preconceptions a lot of Christians seem to have. And I didn’t tend to adopt them. So there has been nothing shattering in that way. We had Jewish friends and neighbors growing up, so I always thought it was weird that people didn’t talk about or treat Jesus as though he was a good Jewish boy long before I ever heard of Wright or any of the others. I’ve always been interested in history, especially ancient history, so it was natural for me to turn to the history of the place and time to better understand the setting of the gospels, though I keep learning more all the time, it seems. And I suppose my experience with other sacred writings had taught me not to simply read for information, but to actually try to meditate on the writings and allow them to shape me.
And I’ve always spent much of my time in the Gospels. I don’t often open my Bible without turning to at least one of them for at least part of the time. I do remembered being surprised when I discovered that many Christians did not seem to try to understand everything else in our Scripture through the lens and illumination of the Gospels. I still think that’s odd. After all, if we hang everything on him — as our label for ourselves implies — shouldn’t Jesus be the center through which everything else is understood? And in Scripture, he seems to me to be most present in the Gospels.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2007 at 8:56 pm


Ross,
I think you’ve confused “historical Jesus” with the real Jesus. The historical Jesus is a construction by historians, on the basis of evidence sifted by methods, and limited to say only what can be seen in that evidence.
I’m in agreement with Webster’s statement in this sense: the Jesus of any value for the Church is the Jesus of the Church, as long as the Jesus of the Church is challenged by the Jesus of the Gospels.



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RJS

posted August 30, 2007 at 9:19 pm


Scot,
Problem is that a lay audience will nearly always confuse “historical Jesus” with the “real Jesus” and interpret statements in the media and books along these lines – that in the “historical Jesus” we have now gotten to the “real Jesus” or as much as can be known about the “real Jesus.” And – most historians won’t challenge that assumption.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 30, 2007 at 9:34 pm


I agree, RJS, but when John Webster says what he says he confuses the issues.



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Ross

posted August 31, 2007 at 12:31 am


Scot
I don’t think I agree with your comment at 23. I think Webster has raised an issue that many scholars refuse to even entertain. I am happy with the distinction you make between the ‘historical Jesus’ and the ‘real Jesus’, but, as RJS says, most lay people think he is one of the same. And I would imagine so do quite a few historians and Christian teachers as well. Furthermore, I am not sure what use the historical Jesus, as you define him, is to anyone: historian, theologian, or otherwise.
If, instead, you wanted to discover the ‘real Jesus’ of Nazareth, then surely you would need to use St John as a source as well as the synoptics? I wonder how many college courses on Jesus of Nazareth beginning this term will do that?



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RJS

posted August 31, 2007 at 8:29 am


Scot,
Webster’s statement may confuse the issue, and I don’t know enough about him to interpret his statement – but when “Historical Jesus” scholars start with and hold to the foundational proposition that Jesus was a first century man – no more, no less – and look to develop a portrait of the man, Webster may be right – scholars may study a matter which does not exist, and certainly a matter which does not allow a connection with the “Jesus of the Church.”
When these scholars proclaim discovery of the “Real Jesus” on the basis of historical method which precludes the Jesus of the Church at the outset, is it of any real use to anyone?
If one starts with the assumption that Jesus was a first century man and also admits the possibility of a supernatural reality – the same historical methods may develop a picture of Jesus of use to the Church and capable of informing the understanding of the Church – on the nature of Jesus, the nature of scripture, the nature of inspiration, and theology.



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Scot McKnight

posted August 31, 2007 at 8:49 am


RJS,
Agreed. I just wouldn’t call the latter paragraph something pointing at what we call the “historical Jesus.” Historical Jesus studies, in my judgment, are an exercise in historical thinking with limited direct value for the Church. There are by products, such as learning about the historical situation, but the Jesus of such approaches is necessarily and inevitably tied to what empirical sciences can show.



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RJS

posted August 31, 2007 at 10:35 am


Which means that Wright, for example, does not and can not find “The Historical Jesus” by this definition?



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Scot McKnight

posted August 31, 2007 at 10:56 am


RJS,
In my judgment, Tom is barely a historical Jesus person. He has in fact given us a Jesus — the exile shape of Jesus — that is reconstructed history, but his Jesus is quite comfortable with Nicea and that makes for tension with HJ studies.



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Mariam

posted September 1, 2007 at 3:55 am


I think the single thing that struck me most forcefully in learning about Jesus as an adult was his humanity. The childhood Jesus I had learned about was the divine walking around in a human body – sort of like in science fiction when an alien takes over a human host. He was certainly God but human only in that he took a human physical form. Whereas the Jesus I am getting to know and follow now was very human – he had emotions, he had doubts, he learned, he grew, he was influenced by the faith and example of others. He may not have sinned but I think he made mistakes for the same reason all humans do – he didn’t have enough information. I don’t believe he was always sure of himself or his mission; God the Father was sometime silent to him as well. That Jesus gives me much more hope than super-hero Jesus. I mean if I was God I could probably perform miracles and lead a blameless life as well. As a mere human it is much easier to follow someone who was “one of us.” I had a discussion with a gentle and kind neighbour who has kept me and my family in her prayers. She is very conservative and she is worried about the direction my new faith has gone. Her version of Jesus is quite similar to my earlier version of Jesus. She said to me a little anxiously one day – “but you do believe that Jesus was God, that he was the Son of God?” and I said, “Yes, but maybe not exactly in the way you do.”



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