Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Brief Review of Luke Timothy Johnson's "The Real Jesus"

Luke Timothy Johnson's work The Real Jesus focuses on certain twentieth century attempts to locate Jesus of Nazareth in human history via critical methodologies. While Johnson primarily takes the Jesus Seminar to task for its "ersatz" scholarship, he also refuses to tread lightly on the sophisticated discussions produced by Catholics John Meier and Raymond E. Brown. Overall, Johnson's book is an authentic thought provoking page-turner. His comments on the current state of biblical scholarship in the academy are insightful and revealing. For instance, those who strike out in a quest for the "historical Jesus," who is distinguished from the "Christ of faith" seem to assume that there is a metaphysical dichotomy between objective facts and subjective values. History supposedly fits into the former category: it is putatively value-free and objective. Johnson, however, argues that "History is . . . the product of human intelligence and imagination" (page 81). The upshot of Johnson's analysis is that one can no more find the "real Jesus" by employing the tools of historical criticism than one can discover the "real Socrates" by examining so-called historical accounts of his life. History is not simply the objective recounting of events.

Not only is Johnson apprehensive when it comes to Kantian bifurcations, but he also notes that the Jesus Seminar and other modern scholars who have accepted the basic premises of historical criticism fail to adequately critique the limit and extent of human cognition. They subsequently disregard anything that cannot be grasped by human conceptual tools, things that can be dubbed "intellectual." Johnson warns that this approach is fraught with epistemic perils since the methodology sets aside miracles from the outset. By ruling out miracles ab initio, the means of detecting truth in the Biblical materials is inherently limited and proves to be unfit for hermeneutical tasks.


Mary Kirkland said...

Interesting blog post. I enoy reading other people's thoughts on things like this.

Dark Thoughts Blog

Edgar Foster said...

Thanks, Mary. Your feedback is considered valuable. The Dark Thoughts Blog looks interesting too. All the best!


Anonymous said...

Why didn't Jesus return QUICKLY (Revelation 22:7)?

Edgar Foster said...


I want to keep the comments on topic, but I'll just say that much depends on how we understand the language ἔρχομαι ταχύ. Recall that Rev 1:1 opens with the wording, ἃ δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει.

Some understand the language to mean that the prophecy would be fulfilled in the "Lord's day" or sometime in the future. What is quick in our eyes might not be the same for God, for whom 1000 years is like a watch in the night or 1 day.