Jesus and Prophetic Actions -- By: Scot McKnight

Journal: Bulletin for Biblical Research
Volume: BBR 10:2 (NA 2000)
Article: Jesus and Prophetic Actions
Author: Scot McKnight


Jesus and Prophetic Actions

Scot McKnight

North Park University

Historical Jesus studies today have focused on Jesus’ role as prophet, but few have sought to define “what kind of prophet” Jesus might be. Since that same scholarship has usefully shaped its attention around the “actions” of Jesus, pursuing the “kind of prophet” Jesus is in light of actions narrows the evidence sufficiently. Accordingly, when one examines the so-called “prophetic actions” of Jesus, a coherent picture of Jesus as the eschatological prophet like Moses emerges. This study examines the prophetic actions of Jesus in light of the prophetic actions of the preclassical and classical prophets, as well as similar types of actions on the part of the Jewish popular movement prophets and Moses. While Jesus’ actions show some similarities with the actions of the preclassical and classical prophets, his actions are more like the popular prophetic movements of the first century, especially as they evoke themes of Moses and Joshua, and his actions also show striking parallels with Moses’ actions.

Key Words: prophet, prophetic actions, Moses, eschatology, Jesus, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Isaiah, Hosea, Josephus, christology

Albert Schweitzer, who famously dismantled Protestant Liberalism in his Forschungsbericht on the evolution of German historical understanding of Jesus,1 set out four contrasting methodological orientations to examining the historical Jesus: first, from David Friedrich Strauss he learned that one can approach a life of Jesus from the angle

of the historical or the supernatural; second, from the Tübingenschule one can approach Jesus through the lens of John or the Synoptics; third, from Johannes Weiss one can approach Jesus as either eschatological or noneschatological; and fourth, from Bruno Bauer one can approach the traditions with skepticism or affirmation of the essential connections in the Gospel of Mark. Rudolf Bultmann accepted the fundamental insight of Schweitzer that Jesus must be understood in terms of apocalyptic (now synonymous with “eschatological”) but, according to the Zeitgeist, proceeded to reinterpret Jesus’ apocalyptic vision in terms of German, Heideggerian existentialism, which he called “demythologization.”2 To be sure, Bultmann could fall back on the dichotomous hermeneutic of Martin Kähler, who theologically sanctioned separating the “historical Jesus” and the “kerygmatic, biblical Christ.”

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