We have a book study at our place that meets Thursday mornings. I call it Thursdays with Jesus. We just completed The Long Descent by John Michael Greer. Before that we set our faces like flint toward Jerusalem and persevered through The Trouble with Resurrection by Brandon Scott.
For awhile we are taking leave of "the book" and will instead watch "the tube".
Our group purchased the set of lectures by Bart Ehrman,
New Testament and Lost Christianities that is produced by The Great Courses.
I am happy to watch these courses from Dr. Ehrman. I like to compare and contrast his viewpoint alongside that of the Jesus Seminar Fellows.
The big difference between the Seminar's Jesus and Ehrman's Jesus is the apocalyptic thing. Ehrman believes that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet and the Seminar doesn't.
Did those passages that have Jesus predict "the last days" and "the coming of the son of Man" come from Jesus or was Jesus framed that way by those who wrote about him? Ehrman believes that's Jesus. The Jesus Seminar says he was framed.
I tend to think Jesus was not apocalyptic. I think his parables were not about a cataclysmic supernatural future. I like to think of Jesus as more of a poet and a sage than an apocalyptic prophet. Notice I use words such as "tend" and "like". I am not hardcore one way or the other.
For full disclosure, I confess that I don't like the apocalyptic Jesus. "Apocalyptic" is a nice word for someone who is superstitiously unhinged. Think Tim LeHaye or Harold Camping.
If Jesus was that, at best, he was wrong. The notion that "God" is going to intervene, end the current world, and start a new one is not only wrong, it is ethically wrong. It is not good for us as Earthlings to believe that stuff. It is wrong on so many levels.
Recently a friend responded favorably to a sermon of mine about the ishta devata. He wrote on his Facebook page that he thought it would be cool to wear a t-shirt that says,
"The Historical Jesus is My Ishta Devata."I would wear it. However, I wouldn't wear it if I believed the historical Jesus was an apocalyptic fruit cake. There is no way that guy gets to be my ishta. I don't need any more of those people (and certainly not my god figure) to have a central role in my life.
The great thing about all of this is that it is never likely to be settled. The reason is that Jesus never wrote anything. The most we have is hearsay. The people who wrote his stories had their own issues and biases. The scholars can interpret the evidence in a number of different ways and have plausible views that contradict each other based on the same evidence.
I see no definitive reason to believe that the apocalyptic Jesus is more or less historical than the non-apocalyptic Jesus. Because of the parables, I find the non-apocalyptic Jesus more persuasive. Plus he makes for a better ishta devata for me.
I am open to having my mind changed.
Thus, Thursdays With Bart.
Join us from 10:30 until noon!