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July 19, 2010

This spring, the New Yorker published an interesting article, by Adam Gopnik, about all the scholarship and speculation currently out there regarding who Jesus was from an academic critical/historical perspective. It’s worth a look, I think (click on the highlighted text to link to the article).

I particularly like the excerpt I’ve cut and pasted below. It reminds me of something that dawned on me over the first few years after I began attending church in my 20’s–that growing in faith, growing in the knowledge and love of God involves learning to live more and more fully with confusion and uncertainty. Here’s Gopnik:

The intractable complexities of fact produce the inevitable ambiguities of faith. The more one knows, the less one knows. Was Jesus a carpenter, or even a carpenter’s son? The Greek word tekton, long taken to mean “carpenter,” could mean something closer to a stoneworker or a day laborer. (One thinks of the similar shadings of a word like “printer,” which could refer to Ben Franklin or to his dogsbody.) If a carpenter, then presumably he was an artisan. If a stoneworker, then presumably he spent his early years as a laborer, schlepping from Nazareth to the grand Greco-Roman city of Sepphoris, nearby, to help build its walls and perhaps visit its theatre and agora. And what of the term “Son of Man,” which he uses again and again in Mark, mysteriously: “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” As Diarmaid MacCulloch points out… the phrase, which occurs in the Gospels “virtually exclusively in the reported words of Jesus,” certainly isn’t at all the same as the later “Son of God,” and may merely be Aramaic for “folks like us.”

One Comment leave one →
  1. Matt permalink
    July 27, 2010 7:37 pm

    I think the Christian mystics (Theresa of Avila , John of the Cross, Karl Rahner, etc) would agree that, “The more one knows [Jesus], the less one knows [Jesus].” Thomas Aquinas exemplifies this as he combined theology and prayer as a way of knowing God. Academic reflection on Jesus answers questions, yet leaves the theologian with more questions.

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