Historical Jesus Term Paper

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¶ … Jesus

In looking to find the historical Jesus, the best source - the only source - are the Synoptic Gospels of the Bible. The "Synoptic" Gospels means that these are books, stories that can stand collectively because of their interrelationship with one another (Nickle, Keith F., 1980). This means that the Gospels are, for the most part, closely related in the expression of their theological views and in the telling of certain events the writer experienced during the life of Jesus; except for the Gospel of John (Nickle, 1980). The Gospel of John is the only "sanctioned" Gnostic Gospel in the New Testament (Brown, Raymond E., 1979). The Gospel of John stands apart from the Gospels of Mark and Luke, and appears to have been written at different point in historical time than the Gospels of Mark and Luke (Nickle, 1980). John has fallen under the label of "Gnostic" because it is more closely interrelated to the Gnostic Gospels than it is to the Gospels of Mark and Luke (Brown, 1979). This paper will look at some of the ways in which the three Gospels of Mark, Luke and John are similar, and the many ways in which they are different; and ways in which they might be alike.

The Gospel of John has long been deemed different from the other Gospels in that the theology of John is noticeably different than that of Luke, Matthew, or Mark (the Synoptic Gospels) (Brown, 1979). When reading the Gospels of Luke and Mark, the references to "the church," extensive throughout these texts (Brown, 1979).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Term Paper on Historical Jesus Assignment

The word church, (ekklesia) never occurs in the Fourth Gospel or in I and II John. When it does occur in III John, two of the three uses (vv 9-10) are associated with Diotrephes, an ecclesiastical leader of whom the Johannine writer disapproves (Brown, 1979, p. 13)." Also absent from the books of John, but, again, numerous references are made to in the Synoptic Gospels, is the terminology, "Kingdom of Heaven," with just two such references found in John 3:3, 5 (Brown, 1979). The language that is used in John and that of the language in the Synoptic Gospels is, therefore, different. That difference becomes important when the Gospels are examined in time and in place, because the Gospels were being delivered by the disciples of Jesus to people who would have looked for and noticed language in the oral traditions being delivered to them.

So far, the differences in the time in which the Synoptic Gospels appear to have been written as compared to that of John have been discussed here. Also, a comparison of language reveals yet another difference between the Synoptic Gospels and John. Another difference that is found in comparing the Synoptic Gospels with John is theology.

Raymond E. Brown, in his book, the Community of the Beloved Disciple (1979), refers to the Johannine theology as being a distinct and separate theology as expressed in the Synoptic Gospels. "He (John) deliberately rejects a distinctive tenet of Samaritan theology, for he denies that God is to be worshipped on Gerizim. At the same time (4:21) he assumes a peculiar attitude toward Jewish cult, for he predicts that God will not be worshipped in Jerusalem either. (This constitutes another difference from what we know of the Christianity proclaimed by the Twelve (and perhaps by the first Johannine Christians), for Acts 2:46 and 3:1 associated the apostles with faithful Temple attendance.) (Brown, 1979, pp. 37-38)." This, suggests Brown, is reflective of a "peculiar" anti-Temple view, and expresses a theology not centered on a Davidic Messiah (Brown, 1979).

While the theology of the Synoptic Gospels accept the Judaic tradition in the story of Moses, that Moses had received the Word of God and was the messenger of God with the steps, or Commandments, by which people should conduct their lives; John ignores that notion. John, Brown says, interprets Jesus as the only individual having received the Word of God (1979). It is a theology of "descent from above and -pre-existence (Brown, 1979, p. 45)."

Keith Nickle, in his book, the Synoptic Gospels: Conflict and Consensus (1980), says that many theologies existed in the early Church. "It took years of conversation and reflection before a consensus of acceptance on some particular beliefs could be accepted. However, John offers a theology that goes beyond "particular beliefs." Also, from the theology of the Synoptic Gospels, it becomes possible to think that the authors of Luke used the Gospel of Mark as a kind of roadmap for the theological discussion and framing the theological philosophies expressed in Luke (Nickle, 1980). That is because of the very similar nature and language of the Synoptic Gospels. While Nickle says that it is a distinct theology, of course proving the relationship and that Luke stood informed by the Gospel of Mark, is difficult to prove beyond the fact that there exists the similarity. There is simply not enough information about the Gospels and their authors to make definitive statements as to their sources. "Further, there are a few times when Matthew and Luke have a tradition whose same general features are in Mark, but which differs enough in detail from Mark's version to indicate that it has come from a different source (Nickle, 1980, p. 86)." The distinction between those general characteristics has come to be known as the "Q" factor, identifying the difference in authorship of the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew and Luke as having different authorship than that of Mark (Nickle, 1980). Q, then, is credited as having authored Matthew and Luke, which, again, stands informed by Mark.

It is impossible to say with reliable certainty who authored the Synoptic Gospels or the Gospel of John; however, we can identify, again, by language of time and theology.

The Gospel of John stands recognizably and distinctly apart from the Gospels of Mark and Luke by virtue of the expressions of theology.

John reflects a belief in Jesus that is a departure from the Synoptic Gospels as evidenced by the notion held in John that the Word of God existed "in God's presence" before creation, but only became the Word in the flesh with the presence of Jesus (Brown, 1979). Jesus, the book of John holds, was the light that made visible to mankind the Word of God (Brown, 1979).

Nickle suggests that the theology expressed in John served as a competitive theology, and refers to the followers of John as a "competitive sect" to those of what was to become mainstream Christianity in the Synoptic Gospels (1980).

The Narrative

What we know about the narrative of Mark, is that author was both a good writer who employed literary characteristics that held the reader's attention; like the element of "anticipation (Nickle, 1980). "We assume that he held access to some brief collections of Jesus traditions. Perhaps he drew from those already in use in his community (Nickle, 1980, p. 60)." It would be logical to think that the author drew from those traditions, because the Gospels were written to guide and address the problems of the communities for whom they were written; and to guide them in their religious practices on a going forward basis.

Using the stories of Jesus that seemed to flow in a life timeline, Mark reflects the author's use of "indefinite connectives" (Nickle, 1980). The indefinite connectives are identified by the author's use of words and word groupings that bring together the story sequences, seen as the use of "and; again; immediately; in those days; then going out (Nickle, 1980, p. 60)." Creating the sense of timelessness around the life of Jesus would have been important so that the members of the community would neither feel advanced beyond the teachings of Jesus, and so that Jesus could be understood as amongst them in the present even if in the form of the Holy Ghost.

The Gospel of Mark prepares Mark's community for the future. These preparations for the future are instructions from Jesus cited in the narrative; Mark 3:9, 4:1, 11:11. "For instance, in Mark 3:9 the disciples are instructed to secure a boat in anticipation of Mark 4:1 when Jesus instructed a large crowd from the boat (Nickle, 1980, p. 60)." The narrative is consistent in its logic and flow and description of the actions of the people and the events described. The author of Mark sets the stage, or the scene from the next or upcoming scenario, and then plays to that set up with a literary skill and expertise that demonstrates that the author stood informed of those events (Nickle, 1980).

Mark's narrative, by virtue of its detail and sequencing, provides a life sketch and image of Jesus (Nickle, 1980). The author has conveyed the life of Jesus in way that involves the reader and seems real (Nickle, 1980). Mark creates a "real" Jesus, by expressing the moods, emotions and physical characteristics the "man (Nickle, 1980)." Mark successfully draws his community into the life and events… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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