The Historical Jesus is the Jesus of Our Faith
“We know that You have come from God”

By Jon W. Quinn
In 1996 a group of unbelieving scholars conducted what they called "The Jesus Seminar". John Dominic Crossan and his friends set out to convince others that while Jesus was certainly a good teacher and philosopher, that He was not the Son of God. This being the case, He could not perform miracles and never made the claims later attributed to Him. They say He never intended for people to refer to Him as the Divine Son of God, and that happened only because in the generations to follow legends grew around Him. But there was that real, historical Jesus that can be discovered if you sift through the legends to find the historical man.

This approach to Jesus is not unique with the Jesus Seminar. Other unbelievers have tried similar approaches. “The Davinci Code” tells us it was not until Constantine in 325 A.D. a change in Jesus' identity was adapted. Up until then disciples of Jesus merely esteemed Him as a philosopher and not the Son of God. Both of these approach Jesus as a teacher/Rabbi who would not be accepted as the Son of God for generations, even as late as 325 A.D. which was just under 300 years after His death.

I want to say that I believe in the "historical Jesus" as well, and that the Jesus of the New Testament IS the historical Jesus. The Jesus of the "Jesus Seminar" is the fictional myth made up in the minds of unbelievers. Since there is so much in the news the last 20 years testifying against Jesus as the Son of God, I would like to consider with you why these theories have to be wrong.

A Closer Look at the Jesus Seminar
Though you would not have known it from all the newspaper articles and Time Magazine; these "scholars" were an extremely small number of the radical left fringe of scholarship, and they had an agenda, which did not include an unbiased quest for "what is true" (though they wanted you and others to think so-see 1 Timothy 6:20,21; Colossians 2:8,9 for warnings about this).

Since they do not believe Jesus did miracles or made claims to be the Son of God, they obviously do not think He really said or did anything of that nature which the gospels say he did. They do believe Jesus said and did some of the things attributed to Him in the gospels - but only those things that do not suggest that He is the Son of God.

The participants voted on the sayings of Jesus in the gospels using different colored beads. If one thought Jesus really said a thing - red bead. If Jesus "probably" said it - pink bead. If Jesus didn't say it, but did say something similar - grey bead. If Jesus certainly did not say it - black bead. The final outcome: Jesus did not say 82% of the things attributed to Him in the NT (i.e. 82% was legendary and attached to Him later… as late as 325 A.D. ). After also eliminating the "doubtful, we are left with a mere 2% that they determined to be authentic!!

For example; The Lord's Prayer (Matthew 6:9-13). The Seminar agreed that Jesus probably did use the words "Our Father"… and that was it! In fact, the Seminar then published a work called "The Five Gospels" which included the 4 genuine gospels and the gospel of Thomas (a fictional account). The words they determined to be accurate they printed in red. All others they printed in black. There is very little red ink used - "Our Father" is in red.

The Early Disciples
Shortly before his death, Peter wrote his own eyewitness testimony and affirms that it is not mere legend (2 Peter 1:13-21). Historical references affirm that Peter died in Rome under the persecutions of the emperor Nero in 64 AD. The earliest reference to Peter's death still in existence was in the writings of Clement of Rome (perhaps the same one as Paul mentions as being at Rome about the same time (Philippians 4:3). 20 or 30 years later he writes a letter to the church at Corinth referring to both Paul and Peter's deaths during Nero's reign.

Paul also wrote all kinds of things about the death, burial and resurrection of Christ, as well as about His Divine nature (Romans 1:1-4). John wrote about these things as well (1 John 1:1-4).

So, What did these early, first century disciples believe about Jesus? Is it true that they held Jesus to be a wonderful teacher but nothing more? Or did they hold Him to be the Son of God? Was Jesus as the Son of God a legend that would come in a future generation of a later century, or was Jesus as the incarnate Son of God what Peter, Paul and John were teaching in the first century?

The truth is obvious here. Any fair-minded individual can see it easily. As we consider the historical references in the Book of Acts and the names mentioned in the salutations of the epistles, the journeys of the apostle Paul and the spread of Christianity in the ancient world, we know what the earliest disciples believed! Jesus is God's Son!

The Early Enemies of Jesus and His Church
Even the enemies of Jesus get in on the act of affirming that He is the Son of God, though not intentionally. They charged that the miracles He did were by the power of Beelzebub (Matthew 9:33-34). Even among the Pharisees, some were convinced that Jesus was from God due to His miracles (John 3:1,2) but others still would not admit it (John 9:16). They also charged Jesus with making himself out to be God (John 10:31-33). The faithful were continually maligned for what they believed about the Deity of Christ (1 Peter 3:14-17; 4:14-16; 19).

We find corroboration of all this in other, non Christian, written records outside of the Bible. The historian Josephus in his Antiquities records how that following the death of the governor Festus that the High Priest Ananias took advantage of the temporary absence of a governor to call a session of the Sanhedrin to put James, the brother of Jesus and writer of the book of James, to death. Pliny the Younger (62?-c.113) was Governor of Bithynia. His correspondence in 106 AD with the emperor Trajan included a report on proceedings against Christians. He speaks of Christians singing hymns to “Christ as a god”. Tacitus was a Roman historian writing shortly after 100 AD and talks of Jesus' crucifixion under Pilate.

Early believers worshipped Jesus just as we do. These things were not legends that came later. Our faith in Jesus of the gospels is faith in the real, historical Jesus.

From The Bradley Banner 1/2/2011
Published by the Bradley Church of Christ
1505 E. Broadway

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