lunes, 12 de marzo de 2012

Another one Bites the Dust: The Jesus Seminar

Professor Rudolph Bultmann died thirty-five years ago on the 30th of July of 1976. He died believing he had rendered a good service to the faith. After all, his approach to New Testament Christianity was far more personal and less humanistic than Harnack’s universal brotherhood of man and paternity of God. Bultmann was closer to Karl Barth, the great twentieth century reformer of old German liberalism. He proposed demythologizing as an approach to settle all questions about the place of Jesus in modern understanding of faith. 

His proposal was made at a time when his mentors did not leave him any other alternative. John’s Gospel had been rejected by D. Strauss as a source to know Jesus; the Gospels of Matthew and Luke had been rejected by Weisse and Wilke; the Gospel of Mark, also, had been rejected by Wrede and Schmidt. ¿So what was left? In a world full of uncertainty, there is no other way but to renounce the Historical Jesus and embrace the Christ of faith, “produced by the early church” as the only thing left that matters.

But the preference for the church’s kerygma over Jesus’ history has been more lethal than is commonly understood. For one thing, it has bluntly amputated the Jesus kerygma by adopting a “later version” of it, held as a natural development of New Testament studies and, therefore, as something that should be discussed but cannot be modify. As a result, Bultmannian formgeschigte or form criticism enjoys the status of a final scientific method, as a prevalent hypothesis, to glean whatever historicity, if any, may be found in the Gospels. Thus, it has granted authority to doubt and its right to be expressed not as a result of the history of modern thought but as if it were, first and foremost, an outcome of the study of the New Testament sources. Let it be said clearly, it is not a philological endeavor but a philosophical one, and this should be clear from the outset. 

What is needed is the courage to put in brackets this part of the history of New Testament research and deal with it not as its historical and rational development suggests, but as its cross section analysis demands. Unfortunately, the Jesus Seminar instead of revising the presuppositions of Bultmannism has fallen prey of its methodology.

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