Baker Academic

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

An Interesting Historical Jesus Question - Le Donne

I had a nice visit with an old friend this week. He is a very thoughtful fellow, somewhat interested in historical-Jesus study, but his professional investments are elsewhere. This guy asked me a very carefully-considered question:
If I met Jesus in the flesh, he would affect me in a certain way. Which of the four Gospels would you expect would affect me in the most similar way?
This, of course, is an evolved version of the "which Gospel is most historically accurate" question that professors sometimes get from their students.  When we get this question, we tend to guide our students toward a better set of assumptions.  As you can see, my friend's new-and-improved incarnation of the question is a bit more nuanced.

Before I go further, I wonder how the readers of this blog would answer...



12 comments:

  1. since we no longer have any criteria of authenticity.......

    scott caulley

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    1. I figured you'd appreciate the nod

      scott caulley

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  2. I would say either 1) Mark, cause it is the shortest and thus in some ways made most dramatic by its brevity, or 2) Luke, because it contains many of the best-known teachings and parables-- as well as more than a few unsettling ones (Dishonest Manager, Rich Man and Lazarus).

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  3. Seems to me that each of the four canonical gospel composers would say "Mine!"

    But to answer the question: I honestly have no idea. Is it possible that each gospel is at times both true to and divergent from the Jesus tradition?

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  4. Steven Muir writes on FB:

    "The answer would depend on the reader, not the text. The texts are all interesting and give information. The one that resonates most with the reader is the one that gives the reader what is in the reader's mind the most satisfying portrait."

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  5. Of course, I trust that, in context, this is what your friend meant, but to split a hair, I'm not entirely sure this is exactly an evolved version of the accuracy question. Historical accuracy is one thing, and the impact of a historical event is another. They can share a tremendous amount of overlap, of course, but do not necessarily. I like your friend's question because it highlights the subjective aspects of "remembering" the past for which historians must account. In other words, I think this is a more expansive question: not just which Gospel tells you most accurately what Jesus did and said but rather which Gospel would leave you thinking about Jesus the way people around him thought about him. Am I right here? If so, I think it's hard to answer that. It would depend upon who "you" are in this hypothetical. Pilate would have had a very different impression than Peter, e.g.

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  6. Is this really an aesthetic question?

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    1. Is this really a rhetorical question?

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  7. I think it depends on which part of Jesus' ministry you were privy to. If I were present for the miracles, I suspect some relevant sections of Mark would be the closest. If I were present for some parables, then the relevant sections of Luke.

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  8. I think all four gospels present the same personality of Jesus: a man who speaks and acts as if he is the prince of God's kingdom, yet is humble and accessible to his subjects, not lording it over anyone, but instead being the servant of everyone. How one is impressed by such a person would depend upon who they are.

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  9. Mark. M-A-R-K. Gospel number 2 in your NT. No reason to hedge. Of course the question is subjective. That's what makes it interesting.

    Mark best describes how Jesus would look to an outsider. Miracles. Lots of attendant commotion. Matthew and Luke are more like insiders' stories. John is ... something else.

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