Friend of this site Anthony Le Donne has suggested that he and I do an interfaith back-and-forth on the topic of how to read “troubling passages” in the Bible. He suggested that I post something here, then he’d respond on his blog, and we’d continue until we’ve achieved a resolution or (more likely) mutual exhaustion. Naturally, I agreed. Talking to Anthony is great fun, and besides, interfaith dialog is what this blog is all about.
I’d like to start the dialog by selecting a single “troubling text” to help focus our discussion. But which text to select?
You’ve read his book (or at least, my post on his book). You’ve read his guest post. Now you have the chance to take an online course taught by Dr. Anthony Le Donne called “Portraits of Jesus”.
Here is the course description:
In this course we will examine some of the different “Jesuses” who have emerged through the ages, including several interpretations of Jesus in historical studies, and several interpretations of Jesus from art and literature. This course will weave together three primary threads: 1) the Jesus of history; 2) ancient representations of Jesus; and 3) the various modern Jesuses who embody various symbols, ideologies, collective memories, and cultural identities. Through lecture and discussion, we will examine diverse portraits of Jesus in history, literature, art, song, and film throughout history.
Click HERE for more details and instructions on how to let Anthony know you’re interested.
This is the final piece in my series about the historical Jesus. You can read the first four parts of this series here, here, here and here. In this last part, I’m going to sum it all up, not just how we understand the historical Jesus, but how we can talk about him in interfaith dialog. I will do this with a discussion of Anthony Le Donne’s book Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It?
But this isn’t going to be easy.
For one thing, Le Donne is a thorough-going, card-carrying postmodernist, and postmodernists are a pain in the neck to write about. One reason postmodernists are a pain in the neck is that they’re having more fun being postmodernist than you’re having trying to understand them. Think of postmodernism as Groucho Marx playing the college president in “Horse Feathers”, mocking the faculty with what may be the best song in the Marx repertoire:
Your proposition may be good
But let’s have one thing understood
Whatever it is, I’m against it!
And even when you’ve changed it
Or condensed it
I’m against it!
In my last post I sketched out the history of The Quest for the Historical Jesus (yes, that history has a history of its own!). You may have wondered why I spent so much time describing what’s come before … one reason is that this history helps explain what we see now, in the present-day Quest.
Let’s talk about the present day. We are in the midst of what the scholars call the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus. Characteristic of the Third Quest is an effort to understand Jesus within the context of first century Palestinian Judaism, and to ask how the historical Jesus led to the rise of early Christianity. In this way, the Third Quest is a change in direction – the criterion of double dissimilarity (discussed in my last post) led earlier scholars to judge as authentic the acts and sayings of Jesus that differed from Judaism and the early Church.