(Continued) 6. Josephus is aware of the Christians and writes
about them and about Jesus. However, because his often polemical statements contradict church dogma and current theological ideas, they are not recognised by the church or theologians as relevant to Jesus and the church.
As far as I could establish according to my newly-developed sources, Jesus was not a religious teacher but a statesman who was admired for religious qualities.
Jesus’ disciples were not his students who followed him during his lifetime; they were religious leaders who based their teaching on him after his death, when they founded the first Christian communities.
Finally, I was able to pinpoint the date of origin of the Old Testament writings more precisely: they were written in the times of Herod Antipas and Agrippa I and were supplemented and completed after the Jewish rebellion in 66 – 70 AD.
With these points, my new paradigm was complete. It was presented in these theses.
First, I have tried to free Jesus of all the elements ascribed to him
that classical religious history also held ready for other founders of religions and honoured religious rulers. Not much is left over apart from the crucifixion by Pilate, but that is enough to confirm that Jesus was a historical figure.
David’s great kingdom is described in detail in the Bible, but the descriptions adhere to Hellenic literary conventions. Since there are no archaeological remains that can be allocated to it, David’s kingdom must be viewed as a literary product of a later time, the Hellenic era at the earliest.
Many details of the Old Testament stories show so many parallels with the time of Herod that it is implausible to suggest that the Old Testament originated before the time of Herod.
The literary model for Mark’s Gospel is Homer’s Iliad; it is literature and shapes the story of Jesus according to literary aspects while the historical facts are subordinate.
5. The model for the story of Moses the emigrant in Exodus, Leviticus and Numbers was Virgil’s Aeneid. As with Mark’s Gospel, the historical facts are subordinated to the literary plot.
the Jesus who lived in a different historical era. This results in many differences to our current understanding of God and the world. It is exciting and important for historians to identify these differences in order to understand the otherness of the historical person.
To do this, historians need dogmatically correct statements of faith, but also heretical statements and remarks made by Jesus’ opponents, because the breadth of information is necessary for a full understanding.
In my opinion the Gospels depend on classical literary models. The aesthetic effect (the beauty) of the narrative is more important in the Gospels than historical accuracy.
5. My image of Jesus does not require the scientifically problematic God hypothesis.
It is important to me to rediscover the person Jesus
who lived 2,000 years ago. To do this I need as many varied sources as possible. That’s why I evaluated Josephus and searched the Old Testament for reports that have equivalents in the gospels, for example, stories of the Prophet Elijah’s miracles.
In my opinion, Jesus’s genius does not consist of the fact that he invented everything himself. So I search for parallels to Jesus’ message in the heathen world around him and for evidence of how that environment influenced his thinking.
(Continued) 3. Theologians always seek the ideal Jesus. They take great pains to ensure
that the image of Jesus in every age can serve as an ideal. Therefore it must be correct from the point of view of both politics and church dogma. When anti-Semitism was widespread in the 19th century, critical statements about Judaism were often attributed to Jesus. That would be unthinkable today; today political correctness and Jesus’s function as an ideal demand that the church present Jesus as a pious Jew.
Theologians dispute that the gospels owe any literary influence to heathen classical literature in order to ensure the historicity of the tales (this is how the new theological concept of the “remembered Jesus” arose).
5. The theologians’ image of Jesus is not plausible without relating it to God.
Why is my image of Jesus different from that of theologians?
I inquire about the person Jesus who lived 2,000 years ago. Theologians ask how the church can preach Jesus’ message today, and claim that what they preach today is identical with the message of the historical Jesus. I would like to present the difference in four points:
How did the theological image of Jesus develop?
Theologians interpret the Biblical legends about Jesus as historical reports that they need to adapt carefully to modern understanding. They aim to overcome the “broad and ugly ditch” (Lessing) that separates our time from the time of Jesus.
2. In the 19th century, Jesus was no longer perceived as God but as a religious genius, and this entailed the fact that he did not take the core statements of his message from others; instead he invented them himself. Therefore even today, theologians refuse to admit that the heathen classical world had any spiritual influence on Jesus. The “copyright” for the Christian message must be held by Jesus himself.
(Continued) In general, however, theological works are ideologically suspect;
in other words, they cannot be objective in the sense of historical studies, because they present – and want to present – Jesus’ life as the church sees and preaches it (hermeneutic circle!).
So I had to start my investigations from scratch. That relates to the sources in particular, but also to the history of events, impact, literary history and the immediate environment that relates to the history of events.
I have already published a range of findings in earlier works. Of course I have benefited from the current state of theological Jesus and Bible research and have used it gratefully, but critically. In addition, I have also drawn in particular on recent work on classical philology and the history of the early imperial era.
My problem: I had to start from scratch, because theological Jesus research
is ideologically suspect due to its close links with the church. Beyond the theological genius cult around the religion’s founder, Jesus, and beyond the outdated thesis that people make history, the questions to be answered are the usual historical issues: sources, environment, story of events, impact, literary history of source texts.
The next point is usually the question of the actual status of research. The topics of Jesus and early Christianity are usually only examined academically from the theological point of view, however; non-theological work invariably depends on the theologians’ preparation of the sources.
I have the advantage of being independent of the church. Theologians
interpret the Bible in the light of Christian dogma and the needs of the contemporary church. No one can deny their right to do so. Historical Bible research, however, must have different priorities and different standards.
Historically, the very diversity that has been overpainted by dogma in favour of Christian unity is interesting. Historically, the heretical statements in and outside the Bible are interesting. Investigating and appreciating them is not likely to advance a theologian’s career, unfortunately. Who could blame them for not touching these subjects?
This is my advantage: I am financially and emotionally independent of the church, so I can examine and describe many things impartially.
(Continued) 3. We owe to Peter L. Berger and Thomas Luckmann the insight that reality is always
“socially constructed”, in other words, embedded in society. This also applies to the Bible’s authors, of course. The religious reality they describe follows contemporary social conventions that we are no longer familiar with, so we need to research them.
The difference between oral and written tradition must also be taken into account. As long as traditions are passed on orally, the wording can change. As soon as they are written down, a change of meaning can only take place through an interpretation of the tradition.
Because the written versions of the Gospels and Acts were preceded by a long period of oral tradition, we must assume that they were adapted to the changing early Christian consciousness before being written down.