Thursday, September 22, 2005

Klausner and the Historical Jesus

I would agree that the Third Quest has brought Jesus' Jewishness back to center stage in historical Jesus studies, but it would be wrong to conclude that studies dated pre-Meyer, Vermes, or Sanders completely ignored the Jewishness of Jesus. One book, greatly underused in historical Jesus study, is Joseph Klausner's Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times, and Teaching (trans. Herbert Danby; London: Allen & Unwin, 1929). Klausner says things in the book which only now are becoming common place - it is a must read for anyone starting out in HJ studies.

Here are some great quotes from my own notes:

‘But to cast wholesale doubt on the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels become more impossible the more widely we study all the branches of Judaism during the period of the Second Temple. Notwithstanding all the efforts of the authors of the Gospels to stress the great opposition between Jesus and Pharisaic Judaism, every step he took, everything he did, every word he spoke, all recall to us – chiefly by conformation though sometimes contradiction – the Palestine of his time and contemporary Jewish life and Pharisaic teaching.’ (pp. 126-27)

‘Only after such a process of selection [of material] can we come to recognize the historical Jesus, the Jewish Jesus, the Jesus who could have arisen out of none other than Jewish surroundings, but whom the Jews, from certain historical and personal reasons which we shall understand later, could not receive as their Messiah nor his teaching as the way of redemption.’ (p. 127).

‘The whole nation looked forward to the coming of the Messiah: but the degree of expectation was not the same with all.’ (p. 210)

‘A theory has been put forward [Wrede] that Jesus never regarded himself as the Messiah and only after his death was he acclaimed as Messiah by his disciples. But had this been true it would never have occurred to his disciples (simple-minded Jews) that one who had suffering crucifixion (“a curse of God is he that is hanged”) could be the messiah; and the messianic idea meant nothing whatsoever to the Gentile converts. Ex nihilio nihil fit: when we see that Jesus’ messianic claims became a fundamental principle of Christianity soon after his crucifixion, this is a standing proof that even in his lifetime Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah’. (pp. 255-56)

When Jesus abrogated the food laws in the law of Moses. ‘The breach between Jesus and the Pharisees was complete’. (p. 291).

2 comments:

Michael Pahl said...

Good stuff! Now I must read Klausner on top of everything else I'm wading through this year! Of course, one can argue that in a sense even earlier scholars such as Johannes Weiss brought 'Jesus' Jewishness' back to the forefront. But one of the things that has characterized the 'Third Quest' is not just an emphasis on Jesus' Jewishness, but a greater knowledge and awareness of what 'Jewishness' in Jesus' day would have meant, which earlier scholars did not have access to (cf. the DSS, archaeological excavation in the Galilee, etc.).

TheBlueRaja said...

Is there broad acceptance of the historical fruitfulness in studying the Gospels themselves within the third quest? This is reflected by the "hypothesis-verification" (rather than form-critical) outlook reflected in the following quote:

"Ex nihilio nihil fit: when we see that Jesus’ messianic claims became a fundamental principle of Christianity soon after his crucifixion, this is a standing proof that even in his lifetime Jesus regarded himself as the Messiah’."

Having been limited to Wright in any reading of historical Jesus studies by third questers (the constraints of pastoral ministry!), I'm wondering how much the refusal to bracket out questions of theology from the enterprise of history is somehting that could be said to characterize the 3rd Quest as a whole.