Sunday, October 13, 2013

There is no other Jesus to know...

The wearisome and oft repeated mantra of critical history, theology, and exegesis is that we do not know the "real" Jesus -- only the one manufactured by the Church, Constantine, one party within Christendom, etc...  It is the familiar and predictable fruit of a quest for the historical Jesus that began with the presupposition that the Jesus we know from Scripture and tradition is NOT credible, real, or authentic, but created -- the stuff of myth and legend, whether will intended or diabolical.

For nearly a couple of hundred years this skepticism has been accorded the status of scientific truth and the Scriptures and the creedal claims of the Church have been called "theological truth" or truth not really true or factual or historical.  This poison has infected not only academia but the teaching institutions of the Church.  Worse, it has built up suspicion in the minds and hearts of God's people.  They have been led to wonder how much of what they see and hear on Sunday morning is not merely a matter of invention or personal preference, without basis in truth and without credibility as once the prophets proclaimed "Thus saith the Lord."  Why go to church on Sunday morning or Sunday school or Bible study in order to get the opinion or idea of somebody else when you can read the Scripture, distill its truth into a compact and reasonable little paragraph, and worship your deity all by yourself?   Indeed, why not?

It seems obvious to me but perhaps not so obvious to others.  What other Jesus is there to know and how would you know Him?  What we have is the record of those who knew Him, heard the sound of His voice, and walked with Him the narrow path of salvation through His death and resurrection.  The earliest of Christian records (sermons, writings, apology, account, etc...) all are pretty united in who Jesus was.  Why do we presume them wrong or mistaken or devious?  There is no Jesus to know but the Jesus whom we know through His Word and Sacraments.  Any other Jesus but the Jesus of Scripture, tradition, and the means of grace is a purely manufactured Jesus, distilled from whim, wonder, and will.  If there were any Jesus different from the Jesus of the Gospels, we could not ever know Him since we have no record on which to base our idea of Him and no people who carried forth His memory.  We have only the Gospels, the application of the Gospels in the rest of the New Testament, the manifold writings of the early church fathers, and the creeds themselves.  This is the only Jesus there is to know with any certainty.  Everything else and anyone else whom we might desire to know is only as wide and deep as one person's imagination.

Episcopalian Fleming Rutledge has written well:

It must be stated as clearly as possible: we do not have access to "the historical Jesus." Every single one of these attempts to discover the historical person behind the New Testament text is doomed from the start. All that is known of Jesus is in the New Testament, which was written by faith for faith. In that sense the entire Bible is indeed a unique document, because it simply does not yield its mysteries except to those who receive it in faith.


Like it or not, therefore, we must rely upon the Scripture as our only witness to Jesus. There is no other witness.

We have no confidence or assurance except in the word of Scripture and we arrive at this confidence and assurance not by reasoned and impassioned argument but the by leading and guiding of the Holy Spirit, the gentle call of Him who gathers the Church by the voice of the Word, enlightens darkened human hearts with the light of faith, and sanctifies what is unclean and unrighteous with the holiness and righteousness of Christ as our baptismal clothing.  It is this or nothing at all....


Anonymous said...


Janis Williams said...

Maybe Constantine wasn't real, either. Wish we could know the real Josephus or the real Tacitus.

And now, we have "scholars" debuting the latest drivel: Jesus was actually the invention of the Flavian Caesars.

The Covert Messiah: