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Historical Jesus Theories: Stephen J. Patterson

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.

Stephen Patterson

The Fifth Gospel:  Buy at! Stephen Patterson writes: "Of particular importance is Kloppenborg's influential study of the redaction of Q. Just as we have already seen that Thomas and Q1 agree in opting for a non-apocalyptic interpretation of Jesus preaching, so also now it is to be noticed that neither Thomas nor Q1 seem to be much interested in Jesus' death. It is, at any rate, not a primary point of departure in their respective theological orientations. The convergence of Thomas and Q1 on these points is very important, for it helps us clearly to locate reflection upon the death of Jesus and the use of apocalyptic scenarios in the sayings tradition to the synoptic trajectory alone, and to its later stages at that. It is becoming ever more difficult to imagine a Jesus who reflected upon his own death, and preached an imminent apocaylptic judgment to be visited upon the world." (The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, p. 231)

Patterson suggests "that Jesus was a wisdom teacher, and that the early Jesus movement thought of itself as a kind of wisdom school" (op. cit., p. 232). Patterson continues, "By moving the wisdom mode of discourse in a more speculative direction, one could account, on the one hand, for the wisdom-oriented opponents of Paul reprimanded in 1 Corinthians, and on the other, for the emergence of the descending/ascending revealer Christology that comes to predominate later in the Gospel of Thomas and in John." (op. cit., p. 233) Patterson also sees social radicalism as an essential part of the earliest Jesus movement and, by extension, of the historical Jesus: "Utterly destitute, the wise sage is called upon to dispose of his or her money (Thom 95, par. Matt 5:42//Luke 6:34-35a, Q), and to take no care for such necessities as clothing (Thom 36 [Coptic], par. Matt 6:25-33//Luke 12:22-30, Q) or food (Thom 69:2, par. Matt 5:6//Luke 6:21a, Q). Their poverty is to be a sign of blessing (Thom 54, par. Matt 5:3//Luke 6:20b, Q)." (op. cit., p. 234) Patterson thus paints the historical Jesus as an itinerant wisdom sage with a message of social radicalism.

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. <>.