Setting Jesus Free From Postmodern Reconstructions: Was Jesus A Galilean Jew Or A Jewish Hellenist? -- By: Steven M. Ortiz

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 02:2 (Fall 2004)
Article: Setting Jesus Free From Postmodern Reconstructions: Was Jesus A Galilean Jew Or A Jewish Hellenist?
Author: Steven M. Ortiz


Setting Jesus Free From Postmodern Reconstructions:
Was Jesus A Galilean Jew Or A Jewish Hellenist?

Steven M. Ortiz

Assistant Professor of Archaeology and Biblical Studies
New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
3939 Gentilly Blvd.
New Orleans, LA 70126

Introduction

Popular culture is searching for the real Jesus. The success of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion and the book The DaVinci Code illustrate that Jesus is still important to Western Culture. The question is whether popular culture is meeting the real Jesus or a reconstructed Jesus who looks like a 21st century philosopher. The same question can be asked of today’s church. Which Jesus are we introducing to people who come to our Church? Which Jesus are we preaching from our pulpits? Which Jesus are people seeing living through our lives? Today there is a tension between the authentic Jesus and the desire to deconstruct Jesus into our image.

This tension in the pulpit and pews correlates to trends among biblical scholars within acadamia. Perhaps one of the most influential movements in Historical Jesus Studies is the Jesus Seminar. The Jesus Seminar was founded in 1985 by Robert Funk. This is an assembled group of New Testament scholars whose goal is to examine every tradition associated with Jesus and determine what he actually said. This group of scholars assembled in order to ascertain via vote which of the statements attributed to Jesus in the Gospels (including the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas) were actually said by Jesus. These individuals concluded that only 26 of the over 1000 statements were actually said by Jesus. The rest can be attributed to later traditions of the early

church.1 The group expanded their scope and next addressed questions concerning the life and work of Jesus. The result of this study was that only 16% of the events reported in the Gospels were deemed authentic.2 Currently the Jesus Seminar is attempting to produce a description of who Jesus was and consequently—who Jesus is.

In his book Honest to Jesus, Funk states that the “aim of the quest is to set Jesus free,” to “liberate Jesus from the scriptural and creedal and experiential prisons in which we have incarcerated him.”3 He proposes a Jesus who was a subversive sage—a secular sage. He then attempts to rediscover this Galilean sage as an historical figure. The initial aim to set Jesus free from centuries of theological a...

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