Saturday, October 27, 2007

More "historical" nonsense

Sorry to rant, but I just wanted to point out my other main objection to much of the field of historical Jesus scholarship, which is illustrated in the opening paragraph of the course description for Thomas Sheehan's Historical Jesus course at Stanford University, the lecture audio of which is available on iTunes U:

"Who was the historical Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actually say and do, as contrasted with what early Christians (e.g. Paul and the Gospel writers) believed that he said and did? What did the man Jesus actually think of himself and of his mission, as contrasted with the messianic and even divine claims that the New Testament makes about him? In short, what are the differences -- and continuities -- between the Jesus who lived and died in history and the Christ who lives on in believers' faith?"

I think the most startlingly arrogant aspect of this paragraph is that Sheehan grants that the writers of the New Testament actually believed that Jesus had said and done the things that they wrote about Him saying and doing. It would be one thing for Sheehan to argue that Paul and the Gospel writers had fabricated fictional yet edifying stories about Jesus to fit their quasi-mystical experience of His whatever. But he doesn't. He concedes that they wrote what they "believed . . . he said and did."

And yet he contends that modern historians nearly 2,000 years removed from the lifetime of Jesus have a better grasp on what Jesus said and did than the people who lived at the same time and in the same place as Jesus and who were writing within a few decades of His death!

And these modern historians can know what Jesus really said and did, "as contrasted with what early Christians . . . believed that he said and did," despite the fact that the only historical data about Jesus that these modern historians have to work with are the writings of those stupid early Christians who knew so little about what Jesus said and did!

I would say that this is pure arrogance, except that there's a good amount of nonsense mixed in there, too.

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