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Theology > Jesus > Introductory Considerations > Jesus of History or Christ of Faith  


The pursuit of the historical Jesus was predicated on a false dichotomy, and the pursuit also increased speculation concerning the dichotomy, with the opposing ideas being the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Such a contrast reflects, according to those who espouse this perspective, the evolving view and growing understanding of the early Church regarding the significance of Jesus; to the man Jesus, they affirm, the Church attributed the concepts associated with the Christ.

But such an undertaking is simple foolishness because of its presupposition: the separation of the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. Such division is the creation of vivid human speculation that refuses to accept the normative nature of the Text. If the character of Scripture is its normative nature, then there is a reliable record of the historical Jesus. There is no justification for a so-called search for the historical Jesus; there is no need for such a search; the search is false. We have the historical Jesus in the Text: His conception, birth, early life, baptism, temptations, public life and ministry, death, resurrection, and ascension. The historical Jesus is not elusive; He can be found by reading the Gospels and accepting their authority. In the Text is Jesus; the Text reveals Jesus. The Text is history, the history of Jesus. To search for what we possess is irrational (see: Relationship of Theology and History).

The Jesus of history did not become the Christ of faith. The One—Jesus Christ—who is the Jesus of history is the One—Jesus Christ—who is the Christ of faith. In other words, they are one and the same, and no separation should be proffered between the two (see: The Historical Christ). The entire supposition of an acute division between the so-called Jewish Christology and a Hellenistic Christology is a figment of creative imagination that flows from a low view of the Text. How can such a contention parade as scholarship? Why would it be accepted as viable Christian scholarship?

Defense of the orthodox position and attack on this innovative imagination is wasted intellectual ability. Affirmation of the Truth is the proper apologetic.

Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694–1768) is credited with initiating the quest for the historical Jesus: he was a German philosopher who embraced Deism and rejected the need for religion based on Revelation. He denied the supernatural origins of Christianity and the possibility of miracles; he also denied the authenticity and integrity of Jesus, claiming He was a deliberate imposter. Why would Christian scholarship give such a perspective a seat at the table of viable discussion? Why would Christian scholarship ever dignify such a quest by joining the quest?

As the quest developed in Christian circles the miraculous content of the Gospels came to be viewed as myth, or husks that must be removed in order to arrive at the ethical teaching of Jesus. From this thinking, it was easy to separate Jesus from His history, thus arriving with the dual concepts: Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. Of these two, it is argued, the latter is most significant for the Christian Faith, with the Jesus of history being somewhat meaningless.

Thus history is minimized and faith triumphs. But the very approach undermines and ultimately is destructive for the Christian faith, for it divorces the supernatural from the historical. With such a division the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith can never be united; they will always be separated. Dogma and myth are alien companions—they cannot coexist together (see: Relationship of Theology and History).

How can this variant approach be considered valid Christian scholarship and worthy of discussion (see: The Dilemma). In this so-called scholarship is rejection of the very foundation of the Christian faith—the Text, which is not accepted for what it claims to be.  And the Text also affirms historical events which are rejected. If the history is mythological, how can a Christ extracted from such a pit be worthy of trust?

When it is proposed that we modern Christians should be willing to regard the whole Christological and soteriological scheme as being merely what we call symbolic myth, there is no end to the objections that rise up in our minds (J. Baillie, The Place of Jesus Christ, 28).

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