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Scholarly Books on Jesus: Crossan, Borg, and Tabor

John Dominic Crossan, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (1991). ISBN 0-06-061629-6

Crossan co-founded the Jesus Seminar, and like many of its members, associates Jesus with the Cynic movement. This thick, dense book tries to place the earliest strata of Jesus lore (primarily Q) within Jesus's setting as revealed by archeology and history, with appeals as well to cross-cultural anthropology and sociology. For example, much attention is given to the economic position of Nazareth, and the social structures that would likely result from this. Ch. 13 makes a key analogy that "magic is to religion as banditry is to government." That is magic and banditry are inherently subversive forms of religion and government, which represent the interests of individuals rather than social groups. Jesus, he says, was a kind of magician who hit upon a brilliant means of subverting the surrounding society--namely by encouraging those whom he healed, to open their homes and tables to him...and one another.

Marcus Borg, Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (1994). ISBN 0-06-060917-6

Borg, a liberal Lutheran (but converted to Episcopalianism because his wife is a priest in that church) is also in the Jesus Seminar, and broadly agrees with Crossan/Funk/Mack's image of a nonapocalyptic, nonmessianic, wisdom-teaching, social-movement-founding political reformer (though talk of Cynicism is absent). Most stress is given to Jesus's role as "spirit person" or holy man, i.e. the sort of person who would live a life of prayer. This is a rather light book, especially compared with Crossan's, but insightful.
  • Borg thinks that "most scholars" reject the Nativity stories. However, he assumes Jesus to have been born sometime during the reign of Herod the Great (who died 4 BC). (p. 24-15)

James Tabor, The Jesus Dynasty: A New Historical Investigation of Jesus, His Royal Family, and the Birth of Christianity (2006) ISBN 0743287231 ISBN 0007220588

I almost passed this by, assuming it to be a Da Vinci Code knock-off. In fact Tabor is a respected scholar, and this book is about the family of Jesus--parents, brothers, and so on--who are occasionally mentioned in historical records. Tabor was in the newspapers around 2002 in connection with a stone ossuary bought on Jerusalem's black market which bore the inscription "James the son of Joseph the brother of Jesus"--later said to be a fake, but Tabor argues against this. The picture of Jesus which he reconstructs--he assumes the basic reliability of the New Testament accounts, even the rival genealogies--is one in which Mary became pregnant with Jesus by a Roman soldier named Panthera (whose tomb he identifies in Germany--DNA testing anyone?), then marrying Joseph, and after Joseph's death, marrying his brother (referred to as Cleophas or Alpheus), who was the father of James the Righteous and the other siblings. Somehow I doubt that many others will jump to agree with Tabor, but we should bear it in mind as we sketch the several possible Nativity scenarios which have been proposed.

On another subject, it seems that I missed some evidence about Jesus's age and years of activity. The Gospel of Luke (3:23) says that Jesus "was about thirty years of age" when baptized by John. This, we are told, occurred during the 15th year of Tiberius (3:1), who acceded in AD 14 (but after holding power a full year), giving us somewhere around AD 29.

The length of his minisry is traditionally said to be three years, since John describes three Passovers, but this is likely to be unreliable. The last possible year for the Passion would be 36 (when Pilate was recalled to Rome). Bei Dawei

Dawei, why not put that in the article under the suitable headings? Citing the best reference that you have for each statement, unless it is already contained in the statement (a particular section of the gospel).Nancy Sculerati MD 08:43, 31 January 2007 (CST)

I thought you didn't want me to write in the article, because I am a bad-faith writer...?
Look, a big problem is that statements about Jesus's biography amount to judgement calls in that they must identify or synthesize a "mainstream" view (or range of them). Whatever I write in the article itself--especially in the introduction!--can be counted on to be fairly butchered by several people who appear unfamiliar with scholarly Jesus literature. (Wasn't this one of the problems CZ was intended to avoid?) I am not against being edited, but I had hoped that this article would attract the participation of genuine specialists (who seem not to have appeared). Right now I feel that we are rehashing nineteenth century methodological questions--Q is not yet discovered, for example, and we are still debating the "gentle" Jesus versus the "supernatural" Jesus. Bei Dawei

Awaiting Scholar

Certainly, you have redeemed yourself in the matter of the APPEARANCE of good faith, and certainly, despite our lack of a scholar (outside of yourself, of course) we have managed to produce a reasonable first half of a first draft. Perhaps we can continue? Nancy Sculerati MD 14:57, 31 January 2007 (CST)

I do appreciate the olive branch--thank you for that. And as I said before, I am having fun here. (The definition of an "amateur"!)
Our problem is not a lack of scholars, it is a lack of scholars who know about these specific fields. (I only read some of the secondary literature, and keep finding embarrassing mistakes in what I write.) This means that effectively, a bunch of amateurs is attempting to imitate the work of professionals, so far without much help from the latter.
I wonder if this problem will go away when / if they eventually do come, or whether CZ's very format will tend to discourage them. Or perhaps it is not the format but the prospect of collaborating with people who would need to have everything explained, and/or might disagree on fundamental points. (Most collaborations take place between people who share some common perspective.)
Think about it with specific examples. What are we going to do about Ori's questioning whether Jesus is important enough within Islam to deserve mention at the beginning? Vote on it? Negotiate with each other on whatever our various pet issues are? Or the several people who (against Ori and me) think the Christ of faith should have priority over the historical Jesus? And then what happens when five more people come on board tomorrow and start objecting to what we did?
I have no answers to this, and wonder whether such problems can ever be solved--i.e. whether the CZ experiment can work any better than WP, for a topic like Jesus. Bei Dawei

Fun with Bibliomancy

I have just flipped through three general works introducing Jesus and the New Testament. My selection criteria were, these were the only ones that my university's rather meager library had that seemed both general enough and scholarly in nature. I now report on what elements I noticed that have a bearing on things we've been arguing about. The books are:

  • Bockmuehl, Marcus (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to Jesus. Cambridge UP, 2001.
  • Ehrman, Bart D. The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings. Oxford UP, 1997.
  • Burkett, Delbert. An Introduction to the New Testament and the Origins of Christianity. Cambridge UP, 2002.

Bockmuehl's introduction to the Cambridge Companion begins by reminding us of how influential / pervasive / important the image of Jesus is. "Two billion people identify as Christians; well over a billion Muslims revere Jesus as a prophet of God... Unnumbered others know and respect his memory as a wise and holy man." Furthermore we are told that his "'brand recognition' still far outstrips that of McDonald's, Microsoft, or MTV...Both for good and ill, Jesus remains a household name around the world." All this is just page one--after that Bockmuehl points out how Jesus didn't seem so important or influential in his lifetime, and how little we really know about the man despite all the hoopla.

The first chapter, by Craig Evans, says that

"It is conventional to date the birth of Jesus to 4 BC or earlier. This date is based on the Matthean evangelist, whose narrative suggests that Jesus was born shortly before the death of Herod the Great (cf. Matt 2:1, 19). However, the evangelist's association with Jesus's birth with the final days of the reign of Herod may reflect a Moses-Jesus typology.... It has also been suggested that Jesus may have been born near the end of the reign of Herod Archelaus (Luke 1.5) at the time of the controversial census... Given the accuracy of the Lucan evangelist in other matters pertaining to chronology and figures in office, this alternative suggestion should not be dismissed too hastily. It is therefore possible that Jesus may have been born in AD 6 and began his ministry in his mid-twenties (instead of mid-thirties). (pp. 13-14)

Evans refers to a historical census which Quirinius ordered for AD 6 (covering Judea province, not Galilee). The difficulty is that Jesus cannot have been born during this census and still have Herod the Great be alive. (More skeptical critics such as Ehrman would avoid relying on the Nativity accounts for information about Jesus's age or birth.) Evans goes on to say that "Jesus was raised in Nazareth, though he may very well have been born in Bethlehem." Thus he is more trusting of biblical information than many scholars. Oddly for an introductory book, he does not set forth a range of other views that have been proposed.

I searched in vain (in this book( for a discussion of proposed dates for Jesus's death.

Ehrman's New Testament is more toned-down / mainstream / "polite" than his Apocalyptic Prophet, and is designed as a textbook. I'll just mention a few things:

  • On p. 186, he says that "Pliny's letter tells us some interesting things about the followers of Jesus, for example, that they covered a range of ages and socionomic classes..." (This is for Ori, who thinks such "class" talk ahistorical.)
  • On page 203, a section introduces "Political Crises in Palestine and their Ramifications." (Also for Ori, who thinks "Palestine" anachronistic even as a geographical term.)

Burkett is a similar intro-textbook, which strikes me as more subdued and cautious than Ehrman. One interesting section of a chapter on the historical Jesus (ch.16) distinguishes between the following proposed Jesii:

"Jesus the revolutionary" (beginning with Hermann Samuel Reimarus, who thought Jesus sought earthly kingship but failed in his attempt to provoke a revolution during Passover)
"Jesus the eschatological prophet (e.g. Schweitzer, Bultmann, Sanders)
"Jesus the Jewish rabbi" (e.g. Bultmann)
"Jesus the social reformer" (e.g. Borg, Crossan)
"Jesus the feminist" (e.g. Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, who sees Jesus as a "child of Sophia"--i.e. "wisdom" personified as a feminine spirit)
"Jesus the [Cynic] sage" (e.g. Burton Mack)
  • A geographical section introduces "Palestine at the time of Jesus" (p. 24-25)
  • A section on "socio-economic classes" (p. 28) says that 1/3 of the population consisted of slaves, while "the bulk" of the people were from a class that included peasant farmers (the majority), artisans, prostitutes, day-laborers, and the like. The governing class, at 1 or 2 percent of the population, controlled 50 % of the wealth. There were also retainers (including scribes, bureaucrats, and generals who served the governing class), merchants, priests, and large landowners.

By the way, I wonder if we can use the beginning of the Didache?

There are two paths, one of life and one of death, and there is a great difference between the two paths.
The path of life is this: First you shall love the God who made you; second, your neighbor as yourself. And do not do to another anything that you do not want to happen to you...

[User:Bei Dawei | Bei Dawei]]

Basics of Jesus, revisited

This is a follow-up to Ori's original challenge, to come up with a 150-word brief description of Jesus setting forth the years that he lived, place, etc.

In many cases (and maybe the article should say this) we face a situation in which the gospels provide information which contradicts other information from the gospels and/or external sources (not to speak of common sense). Historians then have to either

(a) Select which information they regard as most probable,
(b) Come up with some farfetched theory to harmonize them,
(c) Doubt everything.

Which option you lean towards, indicates which group of historians you will probably like better. Bearing that in mind, here is Jesus's basic biographical info:

Name: (this information is already in the text, near the part where the sheep used to be)

Birthplace: Tradition says Bethlehem. Scholars lean towards Nazareth, but some accept Bethlehem despite problems with the theory, and others say we just don't know.

Birth year: Tradition says during the reign of King Herod (d. 4 BC). Luke mentions a census of Quirinius which either didn't happen, or didn't happen until AD 6. Luke gives Jesus's age at around thirty at the beginning of his ministry, which began at an unspecified time after the beginning of John's AD 29. But the Gospel of John has Pharisees say to Jesus "you are not yet fifty..." Astronomy would only help if we could agree as to what the astronomers should look for. (Triple conjunction of Jupiter/Saturn in 7 BC? Halley's comet in 11 BC?) Short answer: we just don't know.

Mother: Mary. The gospels agree, and it was the most common girl's name back then. Mark gives her name in a passage which omits mention of a father, so it is even more believable (as no one would make up the name, but leave off a father).

Socially-recognized father: Three gospels name Joseph. (Mark doesn't give a name.) Joseph is the second-most-popular boy's name for the time, based on epigraphal evidence. On the other hand there was Jewish tradition of a "Messiah son of Joseph," which might give Christians a reason to make up the name. By the time Jesus reaches adulthood, Joseph is no longer mentioned--prompting the entirely-plausible speculation that he died sometime during Jesus's youth.

Biological father: Tradition says the Holy Spirit. Otherwise, many writers assume Joseph; others speculate about the involvement of some other man (either through rape, or willing fornication / adultery). A Roman soldier named "Panthera" is mentioned by Celsus and the Talmud, in a gossipy traditon that goes back to the second century AD.

Siblings: Mark (6:3) and Matthew (3:55) give the names of four "brothers" (James or Jacob, Jude, Simon, Joses) and indicate (unnamed, but plural) "sisters" as well. Josephus says James led the Jerusalem church until his execution in the AD 60's; his successor was another Jesus relative named Simeon. The only real obstacle to the suggestion that these are Jesus's real, full siblings is the Catholic / Orthodox insistence on Mary's perpetual virginity.

Wives, etc.: No information from anywhere, unless we are prepared to read intently between the lines.

Places of activity: Galilee, Judea, Samaria, Tyre and Sidon, the Decapolis, probably trans-Jordan. Matthew says Egypt, but many regard this as legendary.

Religious affiliation: Jewish by all standards then prevailing (e.g., he was circumcised). All gospels associate him with John's baptist movement (and not only for the baptism), but have Jesus strike off on his own at some point (John's imprisonment?) This is highly reliable (since embarrassing) and also hints at Jesus's beliefs (apocalyptic). Other affiliations (Pharisee, Essene, etc.) are possible but speculative.

Death place: Just outside of Jerusalem.

Death time: The evangelists and pagan authors agree that Jesus was executed during the governorship of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36). The synoptics say this happened on a Friday which was also the day of Passover (15 Nisan). John says it happened on the Day of Preparation (14 Nisan), unless he really means the Friday after that (21 Nisan). If the synoptics are right, the year could have been (and here I want to check some more sources) 27, 30, or 33. (Can't be 36 because Pilate left the country before that year's Passover.)

A complication occurs if we doubt gospel accounts of the sequence of unusually speedy trials all in one night. (A more logical response on Pilate's part would be to arrest perceived troublemakers before the holiday, and execute them afterwards--i.e. a week later, after the Days of Unleavened Bread). In that case we don't know when Jesus was executed, and therefore can't know the year beyond a range of (say) AD 26 to 35. If Luke is right about John's years, then AD 29 to 35.

Unfortunately, that's way more than 150 words--and we haven't even gotten to the question of Jesus's message or religious role. Bei Dawei

A word about the gospels: It is usually accepted that the order of the writing of the gospels is the "conversations" and "acts of Jesus" (Q) -> Original Mark -> Luke -> Mathew -> Edited Mark -> John. For the most part, I think we can reject John as a credible source and reject his description when conflicting with the other gospels.

Name: Jesus (also known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth)

Birthplace: Bethlehem/Nazareth

Birth year: ~4 BC - 29-35 AD (John is not acceptable for setting dates; the Halley's comet and all other astronomical or other events is problematic too, because we may be able to determine that some astronomical event occurred in year X, but this does not mean that the gospels written some 60-120 years later did not mix, merge, or confuse two unrelated events)

Mother: Mary. (No problem here, although neglecting to mention the father does not mean anything).

Socially-recognised father: Joseph. (We should stress that this is the belief. The assumption about "Messiah son of Joseph" is without much merit, as the "Messiah son of Joseph" is supposed to take care of the material well being of the people of Israel, not the spiritual and ideological. If we assume that Mark was versed enough in Jewish tradition to know about this tradition, we can also safely assume that he was versed enough in that tradition not to make up the wrong father's name).

Biological father: We should mention this as a belief. (If it's the Holy Spirit, than it's not a biological father. The whole thing is reminiscent of Judges 13, the birth of Samson)

Siblings: Jacob, Joseph or Yosei, Jude, Simeon and also (Mark 15, 16) Shlomit, one of the daughters mentioned there by name.

Wives, etc.: There's no specific reference, so no reference.

Places of activity: I would regard anything except the Galilee as legendary, and we should say "mainly in the Galilee" and avoid this problem.

Religious affiliation: Jewish (being circumcised does not make one Jewish. The association with John the Baptist, Essene thought, etc. doesn't mean anything in this respect, as they were all Jews also. In fact, the only think that would make Jesus definitely non-Jew would be if he was born to a non-Jewish mother)

Death place: Just outside of Jerusalem.

Death time: We cannot be more specific than 29-35 AD (because the selection of Nisan 15 may be symbolic. The three gospels also claim that the last supper occurred "on the first day of unleavened bread" and later claim that Jesus broke the bread during that supper. Both are quite impossible, of course.

Ori Redler 19:40, 5 February 2007 (CST)

Proposal to split the article

(moved from above with additional discussion)

If I may comment, I think that this topic is vast, and embraces so many different and legitimate areas of knowledge scholarship and opinion that any attempt to represent all within a single short article is doomed to arbitrary editorialisation. Instead of seeking to encompass in this one article a level of scholarly authority about each of these aspects, an authority I certainly can't begin to claim, I suggest that we recast this article as a gateway into other articles, that may now be stubs or imperfect, but each of which can be developed within the discipline of a focussed workgroup. If we think in this way, then the task before us is to develop a provisional plan of how the theme of Jesus can be developed in an authoritative way within Citizendium; and this article should express that plan. I propose therefore that this article, the gateway article, be written for lay people, who may have only a very superficial knowledge of Jesus and who may never have read the Gospels. It should be written to summarise a) the Story of Jesus and his teachings as represented by the Church b) the place of Jesus in Christianity c) the impact of his teachings on society culture and ethics d) the historical basis for the Story of Jesus e) Jesus in Islam f) The Jewish view of Jesus Other things that may be just touched on? Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the communist, Jesus the Cynic, Jesus the feminist, Jesus in the Mormon Church....

In this, the present editors do have a role, precisely because we have no specialised knowledge. In other words we can ask for this article the questions and raise the issues that we, as interested and enlightened people from different backgrounds, would hope to find deeper answers to in the scholarly articles that this gateway leads to. Thus I suggest exporting everything from this article that is written for the expert or afficionado to new specialist articles, leaving behind a simple and clearly written summary and a link for each new seeded article. Lets get this down to 30kB with illustrations and seed those new articles. The issue of the priority of history over social impact, and hence the relative importance of the received Story of Jesus' life is undecidable and need not be decided by us. It can be decided by the reader if we only make this article the portal by which the reader can choose his own path.Gareth Leng 03:42, 1 February 2007 (CST)

This is like my third option for Saint Nicholas--a disambiguation page which treats the Christmas guy as a separate character from the Christian bishop. In this case, presumably the "Christ of faith" pages would say something like (in my best Hulk / Bizarro-speak) "Bah, foolish Christians and Muslims suppose Christ of faith to resemble the historical Jesus! Little do they know that recent developments in biblical scholarship suggest their beliefs to be founded on lies, lies! Mwahahahha!" (possibly toned down a bit to avoid NPOV complaints).
What's the practical difference between having one big Jesus article with subsections covering all the different possible Jesii, and a disambiguation page with links to all the different possible Jesii? Bei Dawei

Practical differences

  • 1 Each article can be designed to address a distinct readership, with varying assumptions about prior knowledge.
  • 2 Each can be moderated by a subgroup with expertise in the relevant subarea
  • 3 Each article will be maneagable in size, for adding content, copy editing, and reading and printing, and can be internally consistent in style and level
  • 4 The Talk pages can concentrate on content not meta issues

I object to any implication that this is a subterfuge to appease particular views. This article is suffering and this discussion is going nowhere because of the incommensureability of different elements. It's a mistake to confuse the historical importance of Jesus with the historical facts about his life. It's a mistake to mix knowledge that comes from science with knowledge that comes from faith, we should know the difference but respect both and keep the differences clear and separate. It's a mistake to confuse the Story of Jesus with the History of Jesus, it's a simple recipe for confusion. It's a mistake to attribute the impact of the teachings of Jesus solely to the believed Divinity of Jesus.

This is not a choice between appeasing readers or offending them. We must ensure that this this article has nothing gratuitously offensive in it. If by appeasement you mean that this article should report facts and notable opinions in a way that portrays its subject fairly and honestly yet sympathetically, I don't regard that as appeasement but as simply our job here.Gareth Leng 05:07, 2 February 2007 (CST)

I meant no such implication. In fact I'm not against the move, just wondering what practical difference it would make. You've given some examples--I hope you're right, and that this works. Bei Dawei

I agree with Gareth. I have long studied the many issues of Jesus, from both the faith perspective and the historicial one. In seminary we went deep into the issues so that each of us could decide what we wanted to believe. Countless books spend hundreds of pages digging into the many issues about Jesus. Let the intro article describe the traditional view of Jesus of the faith and the church, then allow this to lead people into the countless issues which people want to write about.  : Jordan Gary CFP 09:44, 2 February 2007 (CST)

  • I fully support the views expressed by Gareth and Jordan but would add one caveat to Jordan's view and one concession to Bei Dawei. In the "countless issues which people want to write about" spoken about by Jordan, we should be careful that no one issue or issues completely overwhelm the article. This is per Larry's philosophy of NPOV in an an encyclopedia article. As to Bei Dawei's concern, perhaps it would be a fully legitimate thing to include a separate, more in-depth article on historians' views of Jesus, branched off from the briefer treatment in this article. Stephen Ewen 01:26, 3 February 2007 (CST)

Fully agree with this.Gareth Leng 16:50, 3 February 2007 (CST)

I think it is an excellent idea to have articles that explain the such-and-such view about so-and-so (e.g., the Mormon view of Jesus). But the existence of a comprehensive set of such articles would not remove an obligation on us to create a good article about Jesus. So it doesn't really solve the problem.

The vastness of the topic and the vastness of perspectives on the topic are hardly unique to this article, nor should they pose problems in principle. The solution is that one presents first and foremost the leading views held by the majority of the article's main "constituency," i.e., the people who care a lot about the topic, or who are affected by it. Who would that be? In the case of this article, I would say, it is Christians and religious scholars. It would be absurd, IMO, to give equal space to the Muslim view of Jesus as to the Christian view. In giving less than equal space to the Muslim view, few people will understand us to be saying that the Muslim view of Jesus is incorrect, or less probable than mainstream Christian views--particularly if we can have a whole article about the Muslim view. Of course, then, the primary "constituency" for the article on the Muslim view on Jesus would be Muslims and Islamic scholars. Moreover, even if we give a large bulk of space to one view, that many others do not share, we do not make the article state that view as if it were fact: the view in question is sympathetically described, but not endorsed.

The point is that when we must apportion limited space among different competing views, we do so roughly based on the best "objective" expert estimate of the proportion of views held by people who most deeply care about, or are affected by, the subject of the article. I would defend the general drift of this policy for articles about many other controversial topics: evolution, holocaust denial, communism, Microsoft, etc.

--Larry Sanger 19:29, 3 February 2007 (CST)

Well said, Larry. I agree thoroughly.—Nat Krause 20:51, 3 February 2007 (CST)
Nobody's saying that Christianity and Islam should have equal space in the Jesus article. Ori and I disagree on whether Jesus-as-a-Muslim prophet is important enough to deserve mentioning "up front," right after his status as presumed Christian founder.
The notion of "the bigger, the more important" absolutely does not work when looking at historical movements. How many Arians are there today? How many Ebionites? And yet these have arguably had more of an effect on Christianity than groups like the Mormons. I would establish multiple criteria for notability, including size, age, and intellectual influence.
I find your "stakeholders" standard bewildering. Who cares deeply about, or is affected by, Chinese nationalism? (Chinese nationalists? Chinese dissidents? Tibetans? Japanese nationalists?) This risks turning scholarship into a kind of census--or rather, measure of extreme interest--so that (for instance) Turks out-shout Armenians on Turkish history, but Armenians out-shout Turks on the Armenian holocaust. Or perhaps you intend this standard to determine how long the article will be / how much priority it will have / which side gets mentioned first, but not the actual content...? Bei Dawei


Indeed, so do I. I proposed above that this article, the gateway article, be written for lay people, who may have only a very superficial knowledge of Jesus and who may never have read the Gospels. It should be written to summarise

  • a) the Story of Jesus and his teachings as represented by the Church
  • b) the place of Jesus in Christianity
  • c) the impact of his teachings on society culture and ethics
  • d) the historical basis for the Story of Jesus
  • e) Jesus in Islam
  • f) The Jewish view of Jesus
  • Other things that may be just touched on? Jesus the revolutionary, Jesus the communist, Jesus the Cynic, Jesus the feminist, Jesus in the Mormon Church....

Sorry to repeat this, but I think we need to agree on what this article should cover and in what depth.Gareth Leng 03:46, 4 February 2007 (CST)

What would the format be? Like the present article, but shorter? Just a bunch of links? Something in between--say, one paragraph plus a link for each topic? Bei Dawei

Sounds good, Gareth. BTW, so far I am pretty happy with just the fact that I have helped get some more eyes on this page. But "Jesus the revolutionary" and "Jesus the feminist" (both very connected) - I may well roll up my author sleeves and get significantly hands-in on those. :-) Stephen Ewen 02:47, 5 February 2007 (CST)

No, notjust a bunch of links, but a concise and clear summary of the main themes, written to be nderstood by the lay reader who comes to this article with little previous knowledge - maybe someone who's never read the Bible, maybe never worshipped in a church, whose knowledge of Jesus is the fairly unstructured knowledge acquired incidentally in a secular life. Not quite the kids in a local school who thought that Easter is to celebrate the Easter Bunny but intelligent people who are maybe embarrassed at how hazy their knowledge and understanding really is. Links to more in depth and scholarly articles. Say a total size about 30kB (half the present article) with a few illustrationsGareth Leng 03:56, 5 February 2007 (CST)

Fine by me. Anybody object? Bei Dawei
Perfectly said, Gareth, although I'd say let's hold off on length for now. Easier to consolidate and cut afterward. Stephen Ewen 00:50, 6 February 2007 (CST)

Scholarly books on Jesus: Meier and Witherington

John Meier's A Marginal Jew (volume I is 1991, vol. 4 is yet to come) is an extremely detailed, thick historical examination of Jesus by a Catholic who tries to imagine what a "consensus" Jesus (among competent historians of several religious or irreligious perspectives) might look like. Vol. I focuses on the basic problem of establishing historicity, sources, and the hint of a chronology. Vol. II discusses JBap and then some aspects of Jesus's message; Vol III, Jesus in relation to other then-contemporary movements. Vol IV will apparently focus on the disturbing, expectation-defying, paradoxical, "riddling" side of Jesus, but will also go into his ambiguous attitude toward Jewish law (a subject that has come up here in our discussion). Some stray points:

  • Meier thinks Jesus was crucified sometime between AD 29 to 34 inclusive, with his best guess being AD 30. (vol I, p. 401)
  • There's a map of "Palestine at the Time of Jesus" (vol. I, p. 648).
  • JBap's dates are speculated to be somewhere between AD 26 and 29, due to ambiguities in Luke's reference to the "fifteenth year of Tiberias" (vol. II pp. 26-29).

Ben Witherington III, The Jesus Quest (1997) is a survey of "Third Quest" Jesus writers and their critics. Witherington is broadly skeptical of the skeptics, and expresses fondness for more traditionalist writers such as Raymond Brown (though interestingly, not Luke Timothy Johnson). Some stray points:

  • Like our Ori, Witherington denies that talk of "social class" is appropriate to first-century Palestine, on the grounds that poverty is relative, and at this time nearly everyone was poor (p. 29, and a discussion of "peasants" on p. 82 ff). Thus people of the same supposed "class" would not experience any solidarity based on that.
  • Witherington approves of the suggestion that Jesus possessed "charisma" (p. 98).

I would like to also recommend a reference work--Jesus, the Complete Guide edited by Leslie Houlden--which covers many of the same range of topics that we have. It is in the style of a short encyclopedia or long dictionary. There is a general article on "Historical Jesus" but a dozen more on key scholars, and still others on aspects such as "Jesus, Death of" or "Nonexistence Hypothesis" (i.e. the theory that Jesus never existed--this entry singles out G.A. Wells as its major representative).

One random note on the date for the crucifixion: According to an article by Leo Depuydt ("The Date of the Death of Jesus of Nazareth") for the Journal of the American Oriental Society (issue 122, 2002, pp. 466-480), scholars attempting to astronomically calculate first-century Passover dates have wrongly excluded the year 29 as a possibility. In fact he believes this to be the most probable year, based on other evidence. If he is right then Jesus would have been executed on Friday, 18 March (14 Nisan) if John is right, or else on Friday, 15 April (15 Nisan) if the synoptics are right. Incidentally, it seems that in ancient times the Passover festival lasted seven, not eight days. Bei Dawei

Moved Stuff Around

I've done some rearranging, per recent suggestions. Whatcha think? Bei Dawei

I totally object the idea of splitting. This is the Wikipedia adage in action: "When you can't write a good article, split it."

I object to the split because the article was badly written and badly structured to begin with, and splitting it will only worsen both problems, as it will 'consecrate' the bad structure.

I thought we were discussing the issue to agree on the basics: a good, well rounded opening paragraph and a good solid structure to the article. Perhaps splitting will be required, but it does not displaces the need to agree on the principles, especially since there is no recognised 'expert' on this issue (i.e., we're all just good willing dilettantes).

In the current situation, where some of us feel free to change things around at will, one can either 'fight back' by editing without consulting others or just consult nominally, or quit.

The article have gone by grades from the terrible WP article to a middling patchwork, and now it is a splintered hodgepodge. To remain civil, I will not write what I think about the "[Jesus said to his disciples,] "But who..." at the top. Ori Redler 11:53, 5 February 2007 (CST)

What structure would you suggest? Hmmm, let me add a few things...
Since the whole point of this is to have a wiki, you should also feel (somewhat) free to change stuff. The same goes for the subsidiary articles.
I will remove the quotes myself, since you apparently feel strongly about them and I don't.
Would you say that the introduction getting better or worse? Why? Bei Dawei

Ori, I do not know if there is some reference I am missing, and I do urge you to remain civil- but why is that quote a problem? Could you explain? Nancy Sculerati MD 12:03, 5 February 2007 (CST)

Nancy, quotes are a very nice thing. It's one of the nicest floral arrangements, so to say, when writing articles in newspapers, magazines, books, etc. The come to illustrate a motto, expand our knowledge about something, move us to think about something, wow us, etc. They are entirely unfitting here because a) They are "added value" b) they appear as the most important thing or the first thing to note. a xor b. Ori Redler 18:25, 5 February 2007 (CST)

Tiny point

"Christians (with some exceptions) worship him as the Son of God"

This is actually subtly biased, because, of course, most Christians would deny that someone is really properly called a Christian unless that person believes that Jesus was the Son of God. BTW I can't take any view of splitting the article without reading more of the discussion. Can someone please archive this discussion, by the way??? 150K long page! --Larry Sanger 13:59, 5 February 2007 (CST)

It is difficult to think of very much that would be agreed upon by all people who say they are Christians. While we can identify a "mainstream", there will always be people outside whatever definiton we pick for it. If we say that so-and-so (or such-and-such a group) falsely claims to be Christian, this is POV. (Who are we to decide what "true Christianity" consists of?)
That said, I moved "Son of God" to the "Christian" section (below), on the grounds that references to "God incarnate" and the Trinity are enough to begin with. Bei Dawei
The phrase as it stands ("Chiristians (with some exceptions) worship"..) effectively decides who is Christian, by including those who do not worship him as the God (while the issue of naming is quite controversial and needs a finer treatment). I have impression, and it seems to be a tiny point indeed, that the lead has many similar (very) subtle biases since it is overconcentrated on "undisputable" "objective" facts instead of presenting different (and very common, by the way) attributed perspectives with due weights. For example, I do not think that the present opening "By virtue of impact..." is superior to the former one "Who was Jesus" [1] (or a standard "Jesus is the central figure..."). Opening "by virtue of.." may be viewed as scientific point of view in a sense close to one that Larry used in the forum on neutrality [2]. I think that the former version offered an original (as compared with wikipedia and many others), yet informative, provoking reader's interest and, yes, quite neutral intro. I'd suggest returning to that. Aleksander Halicz 04:45, 6 February 2007 (CST)
A concrete example would be Jehovah's Witnesses. Are they Christians? They seem to think so, but it you ask an Orthodox priest, he'd say no. (On the other hand, that Orthodox priest might say the same about the Catholics.) So what criterion do we use--the biggest group decides? Whoever says they're one, is one? Include whoever we think belongs? I go by self-identification, but then go on to identify a (basically numeric) "mainstream" anyway.
By the way, a Jehovah's Witness would identify a totally different "mainstream" including early Christianity plus themselves, and excluding Orthodox/Catholics/Protestants as "Christendom" rather than Christianity. And they actually do have some points in their favor.
"By virtue of the impact" was not my language, I just left it in. I'm glad you liked the other version. I'd also think "What if God was one of us?" (a line from some pop song) would make a neat quote. [User: Bei Dawei | Bei Dawei]]

Dawei, the point I was making is obviously consistent with your point that people (like Jehovah's Witnesses) disagree with who the Christians are. In fact, the point I was making presupposed this sort of disagreement. The question is what we are to do when confronted with such disagreement. You seem to be bemused by an unsolvable quandry: "Gee, how can we ever agree on a positive statement that everyone can agree upon?" The gist of the neutrality policy, which I'm still not convinced you understand, would have you unask that question. The neutrality policy would have us attribute and qualify our positive statements in such a way that makes it clear to the attentive reader that others disagree. Bearing that in mind, the reason I said the point we began this section with was "tiny" is that it is easy to fix. The sentence says (said), "Christians (with some exceptions) worship him as the Son of God"; it can easily be rewritten something like this: "The vast majority of groups calling themselves Christians, including Catholics and all mainstream Protestant groups, worship Jesus as the Son of God; other self-identified Christians deny that Jesus is the son of God or in any other way divine, but this leads the more mainstream groups to deny that they are Christians."

This is not rocket science. --Larry Sanger 12:51, 6 February 2007 (CST)

Re-visit of 3rd paragraph of Intro

Among historians, almost every aspect of Jesus's life is either unknown or disputed. Most scholars would accept the description of him as a first-century Palestinian Jew--more specifically, as an itinerate preacher / healer / exorcist active in Galilee and Judea. We may be reasonably confident that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's AD. With less certainty, scholars have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Especially controversial would be the suggestions that he intended to found the religion of Christianity, or that he believed (or declared) himself to be the Messiah.

This still seems to have neutrality issues. It seems to starkly contrast "historians" and "scholars" with those "people" in the first and second paragraphs who believe the general Christian view of Jesus. Yet among those "people" are a great many historians and scholars who are convinced of considerable historicity of the Gospel accounts of Jesus - based upon, for example, arguments that support them as coming from: 1) eyewitness influence; 2) accurate passing down and written results of Jewish oral traditon (the "Upsalla school of thought"); internal marks of historicity (e.g., the form of Jesus' sayings); their inclusion of embarrassing material about then-living persons, etc. As such, the paragraph seems to take sides with historians who reject any historicity of the gospel accounts. Central among many of those who accept considerable gospel historicity is that Jesus did declare himself to be the Messiah, and that he did seek to inaugurate a New Covenant that included Gentiles. Early Christians clearly viewed this as an offshoot of Judaism, while it later developed as "Christianity". If one accepts any historicity of Luke-Acts (and many scholars do), Luke records that "it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called 'Christians'" (Acts 11:26).

There is also a problem with the term "an apocalyptic who expected the world to end". In my reading, many modern critics have viewed Jesus's prophetic statements in the gospels (e.g., Matthew 24) through the lens of modern Christian dispensationalists, who view the passages as referring to the end of the world. Bertrand Russel is pretty famous for sloppily accepting this view in his 1957 Why I am Not a Christian. This view is based on, I think, sloppy scholarship, repeated often to the present day. The "end of the world" view of Jesus's statements is recent in Christian history, begun chiefly by J.N. Darby in the 1800s and popularized initially by C.I. Scofield in the early 1900s, and now turned into a money-making fad among the "Left Behind" crowd. Prior, the passages were viewed as describing with complex Old Testament symbolism the A.D. 70 destruction of Jerusalem under Nero (see e.g., Meredith G. Kline, Images of the Spirit, 1980; David Chilton, Paradise Restored, 1987). This view is called Preterism among the many modern Christians who hold to it. This all said, I am not sure what to do about this issue, if anything. My concern is that the assertion, "an apocalyptic who expected the world to end", is concluded from sloppy scholarship based upon little more than a relatively modern Christian fad.

Following is my modest attempt to word an edited paragraph in light of the above:

Among historians, almost every aspect of Jesus's life is disputed. Scholars range from those who maintain that the Gospel accounts of his life are historically reliable, to those who assert that very little about Jesus can be known with certainty. Most agree that Jesus was a first-century Palestinian Jew who was an itinerate preacher, healer and exorcist in Galilee and Judea. Fewer agree that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's, and crucified by command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's A.D. With less certainty, scholars who do not accept the Gospels have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Especially controversial to them are suggestions that he intended to found Christianity, or that he believed or declared himself the Messiah.

It's really late here so I will need to work on this more tomorrow, after first hearing others initial comments about its general gist.

Stephen Ewen 03:19, 6 February 2007 (CST)

It is true that scholars fall into the same religious categories as hoi polloi. I would avoid the presumption that "accepting the reliability of the gospels" is a suitable benchmark for categorizing biblical scholars. This turns the issue into a liberal / conservative spectrum, when really it's much more complex. ("Reliability" can mean many things, and what they are thought to reliably say, gives us many more.)
"Scholars who do not accept the Gospels" (are we going to capitalize that now?) is inaccurate, as their various theories (wisdom teacher, rabbi, etc.) are invariably based on their readings of the gospels.
The idea that Jesus expected the literal, immanent end of the world is really very mainstream and accepted by many scholars: Albert Schweizer, Bart Ehrman and Paula Frederiksen, for example. Bei Dawei
I think perhaps you need to read some more authors who disagree with you, Bei, since you are labeling as hoi polloi (and seem greatly unaware) of a great body of very serious scholars who feel they have epistemic justification for much of the gospels' historicity. (I will simply overlook that you have by implication called me "hoi polloi".) This is further evidenced by your view that Schweizer, Ehrman, and Frederiksen are "mainstream" among all scholars of Jesus - very clearly evidenced. From where I sit, such a contention seems indicative of serious lopsidedness in your studies of Jesus - ones primarily adhering to your biases in the matter. Regards, Stephen Ewen 06:05, 6 February 2007 (CST)
No, no--that's not what I said at all. "Hoi polloi" means "the people" or "masses," no? I only meant that specialists have the same range of religious affiliations as ordinary people.
Those authors are indeed mainstream, in the sense that it would be entirely normal to cite them in research. However, other authors with widely diverent views are equally mainstream. An example would be the Jesus Seminar people, who deny that Jesus was an apocalyptic. This of course has little to do with their various religious affiliations.
On the subject of biases, I notice that you view the question of people's attitudes toward Jesus primarily in terms of whether they accept Christian perspectives. Yet Christianity is only one of the religions involved, and the gospels are only one set of sources (though admittedly the most important). If I were to arrange scholars according to the degree to which their views matched the Qur'an, you would spot the bias immediately. Can you not see that you are doing something similar? Bei Dawei
Bei, I have attempted to make the paragraph more neutral and truthful, by expressing that there is a wide range of views among historians and scholars, and have expressed that spectrum from one end of the spectrum to the other. Before, the paragraph truncated the spectrum at an arbitrary point, i.e., historians and scholars who accept historicity in the Gospels (by the way, yes, the dictionary says to capitalize "Gospels"), and made it seem like they did not even exists. Certainly you are aware of the many, many thousands of seminaries all over the world that are filled with active, publishing scholars who are convinced of the historicity of the Gospels. If you wish to argue that there are also some seminaries filled with faculty who are not convinced of the historicity of the Gospels, and others with a range of views on the matter - well, you will have clearly made my point. Stephen Ewen 12:26, 6 February 2007 (CST)
Of course there is a wide range of views among historians. I tried to distinguish between views that are accepted by almost everybody, and views that have a substantial but not overwhelming backing. Jesus as apocalyptic is one of these. So is Jesus as Messiah. Christian beliefs are inherently controversial.
What "spectrum" are you talking about? All I see are a variety of beliefs which aren't just different degrees of one thing. Anyway, devout believers may hold widely varying beliefs.
By "scholars" I mean primarily, the sort of people who may be found in the footnotes to the books I've been listing. While many others may be studying or researching the Bible to some degree, I think priority should go to those who are actually influential in the field.
When you say many of them accept the "historicity" of the gospels, this obscures the questions of degree (how many of them accept Bethlehem? How many accept both the synoptics AND John on chronology?) and interpretation (what do they think the are being asked to believe?). That said, the field includes Catholics (Brown, Meier, Crossan), liberal Protestants (Borg, Fredriksen, Spong, Schweitzer though he's dead), moderate Protestants (Witherington, Akenson), conservative Protestants (Luke Timothy Johnson, NT Wright), secular Jews (Giza Vermes), lapsed evangelicals (Ehrman), and miscellaneous others. Bei Dawei
P.S. If we capitalize "gospels", then what are we to do about "epistles"? I would use it uncapitalized for the genre, but cap for the Gospel (i.e. the general message).

Suggested guidelines for naming conventions

When referring to the accepted Christian cannon of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John:

  • In first instance:
    • "The Canonical Gospels"
  • In second and further instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "The Gospels"

When referring to apocryphal accounts outside the Christian cannon:

  • In first instance:
    • "The Apocryphal Gospels"
    • "The Gnostic Gospels"
  • In second and further instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "The Apocryphal Gospels"
    • "The Gnostic Gospels"

When referring to individual gospel accounts:

  • "The Gospel of Matthew"
  • "The Gospel of John"
  • "The Gospel of Thomas"

When referring to the message or "good news" of Jesus:

  • "the gospel"
  • "gospel"

When referring to the full body of canonical epistles:

  • In first instance:
    • "The New Testament Epistles"
  • In second and further instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "The Epistles"

When referring to groups of canonical or apocryphal epistles:

  • In all instances:
    • "The Pauline Epistles"
    • "The Johannine Epistles"
    • "The Prison Epistles"
    • "The General Epistles"
    • "The Apocryphal Epistles"

When referring to specific canonical epistles:

  • In first instance:
    • "The Epistle of Paul to the Romans"
    • "The Epistle of 1 Peter",
    • "The Epistle to the Hebrews"
  • In second and further instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "Romans"
    • "1 Peter"
    • "Hebrews"

When referring to specific apocryphal epistles:

  • In first instance:
    • "The Epistle of Paul to the Laodiceans"
  • In second instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "the apocryphal epistle to the Laodiceans";
  • In third instances in context and in reference to the first and second:
    • "Laodiceans"

When referring to no specific epistle or epistles:

  • "epistle"; "epistles"; "epistles"

When referring to the New Testament apocalyptic writing:

  • In first instance:
    • "The Revelation of Jesus to John"
  • In second instances in context and in reference to the first:
    • "The Revelation"

Stephen Ewen 23:56, 6 February 2007 (CST)

That seems unfair to the epistles... Maybe we could do like the "Ship of Fools" (British website) and call them 'Pistles to the 'Postles! Bei Dawei
Dawei, I respect you for your beliefs and am wide open to listen to you. I believe you are valuable here. But please do not ridicule people who differ from you. Let's respectfully work together as professionals. We do not have to agree with one another to do that. The end product of this article will be vastly better when we who differ work together in collegiality. Others have repeatedly requested this same courtesy of you. Please, lets ensure that we create that sort of culture in this Project from the start. Also, just seconds after you posted your above reply, I posted an edit to my post, greatly expanding it into a suggested naming guideline applicable to probably many Christian-related articles. I believe I addressed your concern about The Epistles. Stephen Ewen 03:26, 7 February 2007 (CST)
I can see that my attempts at humor are falling flat. "Ship of Fools" is a Christian group, by the way. Serious, even though they joke. Bei Dawei


I would ask you, Dawei, to give us some assurances that you actually do agree with the neutrality policy. For now, assume that our neutrality policy is what is stated here. Note, I am not asking you to evaluate the neutrality policy. I am not asking whether you think it is coherent or workable. I am asking whether you can understand and agree with it.

If not, if you find yourself unable either to understand or agree with it, I'm sorry to say I think you should exit the project until you can do both. This policy is a fundamental policy of the project, with which you have, in advance, expressed your agreement. Your edits seem constantly to introduce all sorts of (to the rest of us) pretty obvious biases in an article that really must be as unbiased as possible. --Larry Sanger 12:59, 6 February 2007 (CST)

Yes, I do believe in neutrality, fairness, even-handedness, by whatever names. I am disappointed that you wouldn't be able to see that from my writing. (I don't think I've been saying anything terribly different from the usual reference works in these fields.)
What "biases" are you talking about? No doubt I have many, but you seem to be focusing on my general attitude rather than giving any specific examples of systematic error.
Are you holding the door for me in your capacity as site owner / grand editor, or just as a disgruntled fellow contributor? Bei Dawei
Dawei, I am not asking whether you believe in, as you say, "neutrality, fairness, even-handedness, by whatever names." All that is far too vague. I am asking whether you support the specific neutrality policy used on this website: see here. Whether this is consistent with current academic practices (which are sometimes quite obviously biased, sometimes not), I could not care less. I am not interested in debating fine points regarding your text. I am asking you whether you actually support something, or not.
And I am indeed asking you in my capacity as Editor-in-Chief (not as "site owner / grand editor" as you so graciously say). We can, perhaps, come to an efficient resolution to what many here regard as an ongoing problem. If we can get you to give your clear and unequivocal endorsement of the Citizendium's neutrality policy, then we have a clearer ground on which to resolve certain issues. I would appreciate an answer. --Larry Sanger 21:32, 7 February 2007 (CST)
Bei- Reading this discussion (as an admitted non-expert), it seems to me that in disagreements you tend to assume the burden of proof to be on the other person. Once again, I can't speak to the content of your claims, but it doesn't seem this is a method of discourse condusive to writing a wiki. Perhaps for the sake of everyone's common goal here you could try harder to find common ground? --Mike Johnson 02:57, 7 February 2007 (CST)
What discourse do you find objectionable? I am happy to search for common ground, and assume whatever burden of proof people want. I'm not an expert either, and wish that some would appear and weigh in here. Bei Dawei.
Bei- you're obviously very well-read, smart, and a good writer (the Baha'i article looks great). I think we're all well-meaning here.
I would like to convey that online communication is a fault-prone process and that collaboration on wikis is a pretty fragile thing, and when (well-intentioned) people butt heads on things like this Jesus article (which is, one must admit, a divisive subject), what's good about the wiki process gets overweighed by the "too many cooks spoil the soup" factor. If I may make a suggestion in the interests of trying to improve Citizendium's fare, perhaps you could leave this article in the hands of your fellow cooks (for now) and whip up another delicious entree like Baha'i religion? --Mike Johnson 09:41, 7 February 2007 (CST)
All right. (Hmmm, maybe yoga or Subud...?) Holler if you need anything. Bei Dawei
It seems to me an article on yoga, as it's both a religion and a pop culture phenomenon, would be quite useful and in-demand. If you feel inspired to write something up... --Mike Johnson 21:21, 7 February 2007 (CST)

On Gandhi

Here is a link to a source on Gandhi, if anyone's interested:

Bei Dawei

A paragraph on Ghandi's views of Jesus - I like this idea. Stephen Ewen 02:07, 7 February 2007 (CST)

Revised Intro

By virtue of the impact of Christianity, Jesus (also known as Jesus Christ or Jesus of Nazareth) is one of the most influential persons who ever lived. The history of European literature, art and music would be unimaginable without its Christian heritage. Translations of the Christian Bible number among the foundational literature of many languages. Most of the world now follows the Gregorian calendar, based on the number of years since Jesus's birth.

The question "Who was Jesus?" seems a simple one, yet the answers which have been proposed defy easy summary. Most people regard him as the founder of Christianity. The vast majority of groups calling themselves Christians, including all Catholics and Protestants, worship Jesus as the one and only divine Son of God who died for the sins of the world; others who self-identify as Christians maintain that Jesus is unique in various ways but deny his divinity.

Historians and scholars of Jesus run a broad range, from those who maintain that the Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life, to those who assert that Jesus was not a real person, [adding: and a plethora of positions in between]. Accordingly, characterizations of Jesus vary widely: the Messiah and deliberate inaugurator of Christianity; a prophet; a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; an apocalyptic who expected the world to end; a fictional persona syncretized from various deities and heroes. Especially controversial to some is that he intended to found Christianity, or that he believed or declared himself the Messiah. Most would concur that Jesus was a first-century Palestinian Jew who was an itinerate preacher, healer, and exorcist in Galilee and Judea; that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's; and, was crucified for sedition by command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's A.D.

Please offer your thoughts / suggestions / revisions.

Stephen Ewen 01:45, 7 February 2007 (CST)

Again, this talk of a "range"--based on degree of allegiance to the gospels (which have not yet been introduced). By "the [presumably canonical] Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life" I can't tell whether you mean to evaluate scholars according to whether they "bend the knee" (so to speak) to the accuracy of all of them, all the way through, or whether this might include scholars who think some parts of the gospels are accurate and others not (a more typical situation).
And what about all those other historical sources listed down below? You seem to have fixated just on the gospels. Crossan for example uses several noncanonical works (Gospels of Thomas and Peter) as well; Akensen and Doherty rely on Paul (in entirely different ways). The Jesus Seminar published a book called The Five Gospels--number five being Thomas, not Isaiah (which once enjoyed this epithet).
Look, the "old school" of biblical studies was to approach everything for the purpose of confirming (or denying) the biblical accounts. These days, a more typical approach would be to treat biblical writings as artifacts which are no more or less inherently deserving of focus than other artifacts, whether literary or archeological. I'm sorry if you don't agree, but this seems to be how history is done.
But perhaps I am mistaken. Could you make up a modest list of scholars, showing where you think they would fall along this "range"? If your pool is at all diverse, I think you'll end up with multiple lines radiating in all directions, not just the one that leads to conservative Protestant biblical inerrancy. Bei Dawei
P.S. Here's a concrete example. James Tabor believes the gospel accounts of Jesus's genealogy are reliable. Raymond Brown (a Catholic religious) does not. Arguing from such details, Tabor thinks the gospels show that Jesus was the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier. Brown is open to various possibilties (including supernatural conception, or illegitimacy), but thinks the historical evidence is inconclusive. Would you say Tabor ranks "higher" than Brown in his commitment to the gospels?
I think I am trying very hard to neutrally depict that "multiple lines radiate in all directions" through the language I am using - "from those who maintain that the Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life, to those who assert that Jesus was not a real person." We can clarify this by adding adding "from those who maintain that the Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life, to those who assert that Jesus was not a real person, and a plethora of positions in between." This an Intro we are working on, keep in mind, and it should not introduce too many layered, complex matters. Stephen Ewen 04:19, 7 February 2007 (CST)
That's my point! "In between" assumes that there are two end-points (belief and nonbelief in something). Bei Dawei

Generally I like your intro. As for this interesting (and valid) point of Bei's, "Historians and scholars of Jesus disagree extensively about the reliability of the various sources of knowledge about Jesus; some have concluded that the Gospel accounts offer an accurate picture of his life, others have concluded the very opposite, that Jesus was probably not a "real" person at all." Gareth Leng 11:46, 7 February 2007 (CST)

Thanks for the kind words. Let me suggest an alternate wording, for what I take to be your basic goal:
"In addition to his religious and cultural roles, Jesus is also the object of secular historical investigation. Scholars researching the historical Jesus have reached diverse conclusions, which not infrequently diverge from the images presented by Christianity and Islam (though conservative positions are represented in this literature as well). Given the wide disagreement within this field, what can we safely say about Jesus?
"That Jesus was a first-century Palestinian Jewish religious figure (more specifically, an itinerate preacher / healer / exorcist active in Galilee and Judea) is all but universally acknowledged. Most scholars would agree that he was baptized by John the Baptist in the AD 20's, and crucified at the command of Roman governor Pontius Pilate during the late 20's or early 30's AD. With less confidence, scholars have characterized Jesus as a wisdom teacher; a social reformer; a rabbi; a folk magician; or an apocalyptic who expected the world to end. Scholars are especially divided as to whether Jesus intended to found something like Christianity, or whether he believed (or declared) himself to be the Messiah.
The "nonexistence" hypothesis is mentioned further down, in the "historical Jesus" section. (Remember, we're only talking about a handful of scholars.) Bei Dawei
P.S. Per Mike's suggestion above, I will leave Jesus in your collective, capable hands while I go find some other religion. Good luck, and sorry for being such a curmudgeon!

Neutrality (continued from above)

And I am indeed asking you in my capacity as Editor-in-Chief (not as "site owner / grand editor" as you so graciously say). We can, perhaps, come to an efficient resolution to what many here regard as an ongoing problem. If we can get you to give your clear and unequivocal endorsement of the Citizendium's neutrality policy, then we have a clearer ground on which to resolve certain issues. I would appreciate an answer. --Larry Sanger 21:32, 7 February 2007 (CST)
My apologies for the delay in responding. By popular request, I'd given up on Jesus for awhile.
You already have my opinion of your concept of neutrality. In answer to your (rather rude) demand that I reduce these views to a simple "yea or nay" for your satisfaction, I must regretfully withhold my endorsement.

A comment here was deleted by The Constabulary on grounds of making complaints about fellow Citizens. If you have a complaint about the behavior of another Citizen, e-mail It is contrary to Citizendium policy to air your complaints on the wiki. See also CZ:Professionalism.

Since this is of general interest, I will post something about it on the main board. Bei Dawei
P.S. As long as I'm here, let me point out that "6-7 BC" for Jesus's birth is just guesswork, while "33 1/2" as the number of years in his life is even worse. Luke says he was "about thirty" at his baptism--against John's "not yet fifty"--but doesn't say how long his mission was, or how long he hung around JBap. The three-year figure came from the three Passovers in John, though it is doubtful that this reflects (or is meant to be taken as reflecting) real chronology.

Bei, I will respond. I would like to ask that you edit your message above for politeness; on this wiki, personal attacks, even on the editor-in-chief, are not permitted. If you don't do this, constables are required to do so. And for that, there is a duly established process, which I may not engage in. See CZ:Constabulary Blocking Procedures. --Larry Sanger 12:03, 22 February 2007 (CST)
Since the "offending" passage has been deleted, I had to go back and check the archives to find out what all the fuss was about. I do not consider anything that I wrote there to be abusive or impolite. These are serious questions of process (which I am glad to learn is established). As for posting openly--well, you did this first. You specifically requested a reply, and I did. For other commends, see the thread on "editorial". Bei Dawei