“Searching for Jesus”

“Searching for Jesus” April 22, 2020

 

Polenov at the Sea of Galilee
Vasily Polenov, “On the Tiberiad Lake” [the Sea of Tiberias, or the Sea of Galilee), 1888 (Василий ПОЛЕНОВ. На Тивериадском озере; Wikimedia Commons public domain image)

 

Robert J. Hutchinson is a full-time writer who studied Hebrew while living in Israel and who holds a graduate degree in New Testament.  He describes himself as an open minded though believing Christian.  Here are some extracts from Robert J. Hutchinson, Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth — and How They Confirm the Gospel Accounts (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015):

 

[I]n the past few years I’ve been amazed to discover that leading experts in the field of historical Jesus research have been drawing startling new conclusions that are dramatically at odds with the skeptical theories I was taught in college and then in graduate school — skeptical theories that often dated to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Even more startling to me was the fact that these newer conclusions were often not showing up in the media — even though in many cases they were being proposed by secular experts at top universities.  In the TV documentaries I watched and magazine stories I read, the reporters often seemed oblivious to these new developments and merely repeated the older, hyper-skeptical conclusions from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries: for example, that belief in Jesus as a divine being only emerged very late as the Jesus movement spread out into the pagan Greek world.  Yet every month, it seemed, archaeologists in Israel and biblical scholars at major universities around the world were announcing new discoveries that, rather than undermining the basic portrait of Jesus in the Gospels, were actually confirming it.

This book . . . is my attempt to bring some of these recent discoveries and scholarly developments to a wider audience.  (xxvi-xxvii)

 

What’s more, most of this book is about what secular, Jewish, and not necessarily Christian scholars and archaeologists are discovering and concluding — and how their recent research is, to a surprising degree, supporting much of what the Gospels say about Jesus of Nazareth.  Thus, this book is not primarily a work of Christian apologetics as such but rather a brief overview of the changing world of New Testament scholarship.

In a very real sense, this book is also something I’ve been working on all my life.  It is a very personal project for me.  Like any modern person, I have the same natural skepticism toward the miracles in the New Testament, and the strange talk of atonement in the writings of St. Paul, as my secular, non-Christian friends.  But unlike them, I have spent a lifetime thinking about what Jesus of Nazareth was trying to achieve and a decent amount of time studying some of the very best contemporary New Testament scholarship.  Having been raised on that scholarship, and taught in high school and college that parts of the New Testament were legendary, I was never disillusioned or shocked.  Instead, I’ve just been curious — and able to see how many of our older scholarly ideas about Jesus are being aggressively challenged today, often by Jewish and secular experts who don’t really have an axe to grind.  (xxvii-xxviii)

 

What I find exciting . . . is that many of these unquestioned assumptions of New Testament scholarship are now being forcefully questioned, and we’re discovering that many of them may well turn out to be false.  (xxviii)

 

 

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