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.
Stein considers the virgin birth, Herod's slaughter of the children, and the visit of the three wise men to be historical incidents. Stein contends that Jesus was sinless although his family did not notice this fact. Stein believes that Jesus, assured of his status as Christ at the baptism administered by John, worked out what it meant to be the Messiah when tempted by the devil in the wilderness: "He would not use his messianic powers for his own ends. Jesus rejected all political concepts of messiahship and especially the path of the Zealots. Instead he would accept the path of the suffering servant that God had ordained for him." (op. cit., p. 110) Jesus chose the twelve disciples to be the foundation of the church. Stein recognizes that "the ethic of the kingdom" is realized in living as God's children and loving outcasts, sinners, and enemies.
Stein writes: "The events of Caesarea Philippi were clearly the watershed and turning point of Jesus' ministry. It is at this point that the disciples came to acknowledge, despite their own misconceptions, that Jesus was indeed the Christ. Upon receiving this confession Jesus began to prepare the disciples for his forthcoming passion. This new teaching would cause even more confusion during Jesus' ministry, but after the resurrection the disciples would be able to see clearly that the cross was not a tragedy or mistake but part of the divine mystery. The resurrection would not create a new understanding of the person and work of Jesus, the Christ. Rather, it would confirm what he had taught all along: Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the Christ, the Son of God, the Savior of the world." (op. cit., p. 165)
Stein writes that Jesus "claimed authority to purify the temple and to pronounce judgment on it" in the action of the cleansing of the temple (op. cit., p. 196). Jesus instituted the Eucharist as a memorial of his redeeming sacrifice. Stein emphasizes that God was fully in control in the betrayal of Judas, the desertment of the disciples, the denials of Peter, and the execution of Jesus, all of which were predicted by Jesus. Stein rejects any attempt to deny the involvement of the Jewish leaders in the death of Jesus. Stein reviews the arguments against the idea that Jesus was not crucified and for the idea that his tomb was found empty by the women on the third day. Stein concludes by saying that the life of Jesus did not end with the crucifixion, as Jesus rose from the dead and will return on the last day.
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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