The Historical Jesus

Something that many conservative Christians are guilty of is losing the particularity of Jesus. What I mean by that is that we are content that Jesus was born, lived, died, was raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. What we are less passionate about is that Jesus was a Jew, that he was born in the fullness of time exactly as God planned it, and the particulars about his ministry.

The danger in this is that we lose so much of the gospel. If we give up the particularity of Jesus, if we lose aspects of his identity and mission that the rest of Scripture considers essential, we lose orthodox belief.

N.T. Wright argues in his magisterial Jesus and the Victory of God that having Jesus as the center of our faith means having the real, historical Jesus of the gospels and not just some abstract idea of Jesus that checks the box that our camp demands be checked. Those boxes, at least in conservative circles, basically boil down to the virgin birth, the crucifixion, and the resurrection. While all of these are certainly essential doctrines for Christianity, they are not the only doctrines. Jesus was born of a virgin, yes. But he was born to a Jewish virgin. The Jewish identity of Jesus is an indispensable part of Christian faith, but one that is often pushed to the side. The ministry of Jesus as a preacher and miracle worker is often praised, but rarely explored for in-depth meaning for us today. These are aspects of the faith that cannot be ignored.

Consider an extreme example. Divorcing the man Jesus from his Jewishness, making him into the image of the Aryan superman, led to one of the worst atrocities of human history. It was such an abstraction that allowed Hitler to co-opt many German Christians and keep them from resisting his evil regime, thus allowing the Holocaust to proceed nearly unchallenged.

Such an example is, admittedly, extreme. Not every abstraction will lead to evil. But it enables the twisting of the gospel to nefarious ends.

It is essential that our faith be grounded in historical particularity.

To lose such particularity is to lose the gospel itself.

By Timothy


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