Thursday, July 16, 2020
Making the Jesus of History Part of Lives and Discussions Today!
In my last email, “Let’s not call him ‘The Jewish Jesus’”, I discussed how much I appreciated Dr. David Flusser’s work on Second Temple Judaism and Early Christianity. I pointed out that Flusser called Jesus “the Jesus of history” and “the historical Jesus” – but he did not call him “the Jewish Jesus.” Today I want to share two more things that set Flusser apart from other Jewish and Christian scholars.
While Flusser understood Jesus belonged fully to
the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century,
he felt no need to deny Jesus his high self-awareness.*
Flusser’s point about “diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century” is critical for understand the people Jesus interacted with in the Gospels:
All of the groups above had their own interpretations of Jewish Scriptures and other writings. The historical Jesus added his interpretations to the mix. He made sure the people that knew him best clearly understood what he believed God had called him to do. He announced it at his hometown synagogue on a Shabbat (Luke 4:16-21):
“The Spirit of Yahweh is upon me,
because He has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted,
to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed . . .
Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Jesus told the people that he was the person God called to fulfill those words – he was “the anointed one.” When the Hebrew word translated “the anointed one” was translated into Greek it became “christos” – and when that was transliterated into English it became “Christ.”
By the way, in the Jewish Scriptures and Jewish culture
there have been many christs (anointed ones).
That is something that most people don’t know -- there were other people claiming to be “the anointed one” in the first century, too. For Flusser, Jesus seeing himself that way -- and others viewing him that way – wasn’t a problem. That is probably why Flusser said, “even Jesus’ most radical conclusions would have been unthinkable without the innovations of those in the generations of Jewish teachers before him and the nurturing environment of Jewish thought at the time he lived.”
However, because most people are not familiar with the Late Second Temple Period and the environment in which Jewish people lived, they cannot see the Jesus of history the ways his contemporaries saw him – or the way he saw himself.
Because of how the human brain biologically works,
the only thing any human can do is “use the beliefs he or she has acquired
about Jesus and his world to give meanings to the words of the New Testament.”
Flusser did something else that I encourage others to do – apply the teachings of Jesus to current circumstances to see their relevancy. A graduate student of his provided this example:
On the eve of the Gulf War, January 15,1991, the streets of Jerusalem were virtually empty in anticipation of the outbreak of war and the consequent launching of scud missiles on the civilian Israeli population. The student went over to Flusser’s house to discuss a research project. Flusser opened the door and said, “Interesting days we are living in. What would Jesus say? Let’s go and find out.”
In closing let me challenge you to do the following:
1. Learn more about the diverse and competing streams of Jewish thinking of the first century.
2. Apply the teachings of the Jesus of history to current circumstances.
I hope you found this informative and thank you for reading it.
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● Jesus by David Flusser © 1997 The Maness Press , the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, Israel; pp. 10-12.