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Finding the Core of the Historical Jesus

 

 

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What Did Jesus Say?

FCHJ.com determines what Jesus really said and did from reports of the Jesus Seminar as published in its seminal work, The Five Gospels. This book is on our Reading List for anyone who wants to order a copy. We also consult biblical research from other sources and biblical archeology. In fact, we take inspiration and inferences from souces in all manner of disciplines.

The challenging thing about Jesus' message is this: It varies depending on which "Jesus" is talking. (See The Three Jesuses for a more detailed discussion.) If we listen to the Miracle Worker, then the message is this: Faith in God is all you need. Your faith will heal you. If we listen to the Prophet, then the message is more complex: Jesus turned the first century C.E. world on its head. He said the first would be last and the last first. The poor, the sick, the unhappy and the meek are most important in God's eye. God does not want you to hate. Not only that, he wants you to love those who hate you. God wants you to forgive those who have done wrong to you. He wants you to turn the other cheek when struck. If you are rich, he wants you to give away all your money and work for the poor. This is what I refer to as "Facing the Challenges of the Historical Jesus." Jesus, in fact, is telling us that there's nothing we can do to be perfect in God's eye. That we all fall short. That we are all sinners. But he is also saying that God loves us anyway.

The third Jesus, the Savior, has a different message altogether. His message is that God will sacrifice him, a lamb to the slaughter, for the collective sins of the world. Then, the path to salvation lies only through the Savior. If you don't believe in the Savior, you don't go to Heaven. I'll say right now that FCHJ.com rejects this message, and thus, rejects the doctrines of Pauline/Johanine Christianity. However, this site will still study the development of Christianity, to learn of the roots of the movement, and hopefully discern how that movement co-opted the sayings and parables of our Historical Jesus, along with the life narrative of the Miracle Worker, to create the canonical Gospels.

So, Jesus did not proclaim that he was the Messiah (or Chosen One, Annointed One). He did not predict that God would come back and bring all the Christians to Heaven while sending the rest of us to Hell. He did not say that you couldn't get into Heaven unless you accepted him as your personal savior. He did not predict his own death and resurrection. He did not say men could be priests and women could not. He did not pronounce his mother, Mary, was somehow holier than anyone else. These are all words placed on Jesus' lips by theological writers after his death, and subsequently written into the gospels.

While we remember that Jesus was a Jew and believed in Yahweh, the God of the Bible, I should admit that I, myself, am an atheist. I say I'm an atheist because I do not believe in the supernatural. There is nothing above the laws of nature and physics. Nothing exists outside of our universe of matter and energy, and nothing within it can work against its laws. So why, then, do I even bother with Jesus, historical or not?

I would say that it comes down to a concept much like Karma or "What goes around, comes around." Even though Jesus may not have said, "Do unto others like you'd have them do unto you," (it was a common saying at the time) the theme is there in his teachings. Love your fellow man, think happy thoughts, endeavor to be a good person, and what we call "The Kingdom of God" will be open to you. Maybe you define it as simply as, "being happy," or, "having a contented life." That's a good way to think about it. The glass is half full, not half empty. Money does not buy happiness. When told they're going to die, no one ever thinks, "I should have spent more time at the office."