This Jesus: Martyr, Lord, Messiah

ISBN: 0830818758
ISBN 13: 9780830818754
By: Markus Boxdkmuehl Markus Boxdkmuehl

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About this book

Markus Bockmuehl argues that while different views of Jesus are in theory possible, not all views are equally probable. This book points to a Jesus of history who makes sense within the world of Palestinian Judaism and the faith experience of the early churches.

Reader's Thoughts

Cj Guth

Bockmuehl's thesis is that the Jesus discovered by rigorous history--the "historical Jesus"--can legitimately be interpreted along the lines of traditional, orthodox Christian theology. This cautious thesis reflects his conviction that the historical data on Jesus can be interpreted in numerous ways (a case of the "underdetermination of theory by data," as it were). Nevertheless, Bockmuehl arguments are subtle, and demonstrate impressive learning. Together, this care and subtlety represent a pleasant change from the dogmatic claims made by many popular presentations on the historical Jesus, both by apologists seeking to "prove the divinity of Christ," and revisionists offering "the straight historical facts," which often conveniently dove-tails with their prescriptions for a new spirituality. There is much to learn from this thoughtful, mature book. However, two weaknesses must be noted, one dealing with biblical studies, the other with theology. First, Bockmuehl gives very scant attention to issues of methodology, and also to source criticism and issues of reliability. The result is that he'll often argue that the historical Jesus did something significant on the basis of passages from the Synoptics (for instance, the pre-Easter Jesus interpreted his mission increasingly in terms of a martyr, and that this sacrifice was intimately tied to his view of the Kingdom being inaugurated in his person) without discussing the source of this, and whether it's likely its an early church creation or is authentic to Jesus. Bockmuehl has a very common-sense, moderate position regarding these issues, it seems, but one cannot really take that for granted given the radical skepticism the is prominent in some circles. Second, his thesis is that the historical Jesus is compatible with the Christ of orthodoxy, but his discussion of the theology is rather weak. He frequently seems to dodge the big question, what was Jesus' status vis-a-vis the divine (was he God incarnate?). He seems to waffle on this at some points. Issues of the Trinity are also discussed in disappointing ways. He rightly argues the Trinitarian theology affirms the oneness of the God of Israel; nevertheless he seems surprisingly uninformed of, or at least unwilling to engage with, the philosophical theology developed by the Fathers. His cavalier request for a moratorium on language of "substance and natures" in Trinitarian theology is strikingly naive; the difference between Christ being "the same" or "of like" substance as the Father would seem to matter a lot, especially if we worship him--as Bockmuehl notes the earliest Christians did. That language matters if you're going to attempt to make sense of the claims about Jesus the early Christians make, and orthodox theology cannot be understood without it. It's unfortunate Bockmuehl, like many NT scholars, is so unwilling to engage with it, especially since his thesis is that orthodoxy is defensible.

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