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Historical Jesus Theories: Gerd Theissen

The purpose of this web page is to explain and explore some of the theories offered up by contemporary scholars on the historical Jesus and the origins of the Christian religion. Issues include the nature of the historical Jesus, the nature of the early Christian documents, and the origins of the Christian faith in a risen Jesus Christ.

Gerd Theissen

The Historical Jesus:  Buy at! Jesus joined up with John the Baptist to confess his sins. "Like everyone else he, too, expected the imminent judgment of God." (The Historical Jesus, p. 569) In his own ministry, the historical Jesus taught that the time before the end had been extended by the grace of God but that evil had already been overcome, as shown in his exorcisms. Jesus chose twelve disciples to rule the soon-to-be-restored Israel. The belief in a God who would bring deliverance to the poor, weak, and sick stood at the center of his message. Theissen writes, "his vision of the future rule of God was that of a great shared meal in which Jews and Gentiles were no longer divided by commandments about food and cleanness" (op. cit., p. 571). Jesus was an itinerant with a "radical ethic of freedom from family, possessions, home and security" (op. cit., p. 571) Jesus foretold that God would substitute a new temple in place of the old, and he deliberately attacked the legitimacy of the temple in the symbolic action of cleansing the temple. The Jewish aristocracy arrested him for his criticism of the temple but accused him before Pilate of the political crime of seeking to be a royal pretender. He was condemned to be executed, and his disciples fled.

"After his death Jesus appeared first either to Peter or to Mary Magdalene, then to several disciples together. They became convinced that he was alive. Their expectation that God would finally intervene to bring about salvation had been fulfilled differently from the way for which they had hoped. They had to reinterpret Jesus' whole fate and his person. They recognized that he was the Messiah, but he was a suffering Messiah, and that they had not reckoned with. They remembered that Jesus had spoken of himself as 'the man' - specifically when he was confronted with excessively high hopes in himself. He had given the general term 'man' a messianic dignity and hoped that he would grow into the role of this 'man' and would fulfil it in the near future. Now they saw that he was 'the man' to whom according to a prophecy in Dan. 7 God would give all power in heaven and on earth. For them Jesus took a place alongside God. Christian faith had been born as a variant of Judaism: a messianic Judaism which only gradually separated from its mother religion in the course of the first century." (op. cit., p. 572)

See also my review of The Historical Jesus linked above.

Please enjoy exploring the varied Historical Jesus Theories offered by these authors through the links below.

Jesus the Myth: Heavenly Christ

Jesus the Myth: Man of the Indefinite Past

Jesus the Hellenistic Hero

Jesus the Revolutionary

Jesus the Wisdom Sage

Jesus the Man of the Spirit

Jesus the Prophet of Social Change

Jesus the Apocalyptic Prophet

Jesus the Savior

For more information on the debate over the historical Jesus, visit the Christian Origins web site.

Go to the Chronological List of all Early Christian Writings

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Early Christian Writings is copyright © Peter Kirby <E-Mail>.

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Kirby, Peter. "Historical Jesus Theories." Early Christian Writings. <>.