Resurrection-Faith and the “Historical Jesus”
I’ve just received notice that my article, “Resurrection-Faith and the Historical Jesus,” has now appeared in Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus. The publisher (E.J. Brill) permit authors to post the print version on their personal web sites. So, I’ve put the PDF on this site, under the tab marked “Selected published essays, etc”. It’s marked “JSHJ”.
Essentially, my thesis is that the conviction in early Christian circles that Jesus had been resurrected by God and exalted to heavenly glory meant that the historical figure had been divinely vindicated against the charge(s) under which he had been executed. This in turn meant that this historical figure, his teaching, actions, etc., were validated powerfully. And this is why early believers cared about these things. The Gospels, our earliest extant narratives about Jesus, reflect a firm desire to anchor the spreading early Christian movement to the historical figure of Jesus. In that sense, the resurrection-faith prompted the earliest “historical Jesus” interest.
By common scholarly judgement, although the Gospels are the earliest extant narratives, they are likely not the earliest narratives. Both orally and in writing, there are good reasons to think that early believers were transmitting sayings and deeds of Jesus of Nazareth from the beginning. But by sometime in the late 60s or thereafter, various historical factors made several early believers (the four “Evangelists” who wrote our Gospels) feel the need to write more “joined-up” narratives with a certain “biographical” shape.