Term Paper: Jesus Gerd Theissen and Annette

Pages: 8 (2372 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Mythology - Religion  ·  Buy This Paper

SAMPLE EXCERPT:

[. . .] "Historical criticism of the Gospels and the story of Jesus has long neglected archaeology and territorial history," (181).

The "Activity and Preaching of Jesus" is examined by Theissen and Merz in Part Three. Chapter Eight addresses Jesus as a charismatic, focusing on his social relationships. The question of Jesus' relative self-awareness, of his self-ascribed messianic nature, and his reception by the social world around him, is examined in light of the psychological and sociological nature of charisma. Additionally, historical context is offered, including Jesus' baptism and his relation with women and with his opponents. According to the authors, "Jesus was a charismatic who had an almost inexplicable aura," (235). Theissen and Merz infer that the legacy Jesus left with his charismatic disciples entailed a transformation of Israel from a monarchy to a "representative popular rule," (235). The nature of charisma is examined in extensive detail, providing a thorough and objective examination of the nature of the historical Jesus.

Naturally following the chapter on Jesus' charismatic role and how it transformed his community, Chapter Nine is entitled "Jesus as Prophet: Jesus' Eschatology." In particular the authors discuss ten questions relative to Jesus' eschatology, including whether Jesus continued with Jewish traditions or deliberately departed from them and Jesus' exposition on the "Kingdom of God." Chapter Ten, "Jesus as Healer" delves into the miracles ascribed to the historical Jesus. "Just as the kingdom of God stands at the center of Jesus' preaching, so healings and exorcisms form the center of his activity," (281). Theissen and Merz. The authors distinguish between Jesus and contemporary miracle-workers such as Magical and rabbinic miracle-workers of the era. Different perceptions of miracles and different interpretations of them are offered, as they pertain to modern historiography. In Chapter Eleven, "Jesus as Poet: The Parables of Jesus," the authors remind readers that the parable was not a unique literary form for Jesus; he was employing a form already in widespread use. However, biases toward Christianity have distorted their historical relevance. Theissen and Merz show that "in recent years research has shown that Jesus and the rabbis drew on the same store of familiar fields of imagery and motifs and create basic narrative structures," (317). Based on this premise, the authors examine Jesus' parables with a literary eye, paying attention to similar themes contained not only in rabbinical parable but also in ancient animal and plant fables. Based on the "individual stamp" of Jesus' parables, however, they can be used as a scholarly source and do directly derive from the historical Jesus (338).

Jesus' ethics and his teachings' cultural and historical context is discussed in Chapter Twelve: "Jesus as Teacher." Attempting to put together the historical Jesus demands a close examination of these teachings to ascertain potential influences and textual discrepancies. Moreover, Theissen and Merz discuss the tendency for the teachings of Jesus to relax the common Jewish norms of the time and again speculate that Jesus was influenced by his social and cultural environment as much as he eventually influenced that same environment.

The Fourth and final Part of The Historical Jesus deals with the Passion and with Easter. In many ways the most difficult portion of an academic historiography of Jesus, this section proves the author's dedication to unbiased scholarship. Although the authors clearly state that the modern picture of the world has no room for the resurrection and claim that the event cannot be historical, the authors examine each theological and allegorical claim and its counterpoint in light of available sources. The first chapter in this section is about Jesus as the founder of a cult and deals with the role of ritual in religion. Chapter Fourteen is entitled "Jesus as Martyr: The Passion of Jesus," and as its title suggests, examines the death of Jesus. The authors note that the passion especially confounds scholars because of inherent biases in the source materials and a confusion of political and religious realities. The "Risen Jesus: Easter and its Interpretations" is dealt with in Chapter Fifteen and critiqued in light of the difficulties an academic investigation into the resurrection entails. "The Historical Jesus and the Beginnings of Christology" is the final chapter in Theissen and Merz's book. Here the authors trace the development from Jesus' self-image to his being publicly worshipped and show that early Christology changed the ways human beings interpret the historical Jesus and might have tainted any possibility for an accurate historiography. The closing section of the book offers a brief retrospective, a piecing together of some of the author's premises and conclusions about the historical Jesus.

Although Theissen and Merz write with academic authoritativeness, their style of writing is familiar and uses first and second person. The "Task" sections supplied throughout the text are almost workshop in nature. In fact, the authors will suggest writing activities. Theissen and Merz's The Historical Jesus remains remarkably unbiased but still presupposes a theistic approach to the historical Jesus. However, because the historical Jesus forms the basis for Christian theology, it would be impossible to exclude theism from their historical account. Theissen and Merz prove that a historiography of Jesus is only possible when biographical, social, cultural, archaeological, literary, and ritualistic factors are taken… [END OF PREVIEW]

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