Jesus of Nazareth

Pierluigi Piovanelli

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online September 2010 | | DOI:
Jesus of Nazareth


In modern and contemporary research, the study of the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth has become a specialized branch of New Testament and early Christian studies, distinct from research into the different forms of worship of the divinized Christ found in various early Christian communities. The first approach presupposes a critical reading of the primary sources (mainly canonical and extracanonical Christian texts) in order to retrieve the historical evidence buried beneath layers of Christological interpretations. Conversely, the scope of the second is more exegetical and focuses precisely on the Christological ideas and theological messages that the first Christian thinkers and authors tried to convey in their writings. The first is the outcome of the European Enlightenment and its appeal to reason and rationality in order to explain the diverse phenomena of human history, including the miraculous events that, according to Christian traditions, characterized Jesus’ earthly life. The second corresponds to the scholarly side of time-honored Christian faith and confession, rooted in the proclamation of Paul and echoed by the authors of the first biographies of Jesus. However, in spite of the apparently irreconcilable opposition between history and theology, in the case of the historical Jesus, specialists of either discipline cannot simply ignore what is accomplished in the other field. On the one hand, an exegetical and theological background is required in order to navigate through the textual complexities of Christian primary sources—a methodological sophistication that is now perfectly encapsulated in the holistic approach of sociorhetorical criticism. On the other hand, the Jewish and Christian religions are based on a special relationship that God has established with his creatures in and through the course of history; the human career of the Christ is not an exception and should not be less relevant than the proclamations of his followers—in fact, the opposite is true. Actually, this is exactly the feeling of the majority of Christian specialists who, in the last 250 years, have devoted themselves to the controversial study of the historical Jesus: many of them did and still do wish to use the results of their research to build alternative models for a radical reformation of Christianity. From a postmodern point of view, we could say that the large majority of those often self-proclaimed historians had and still have a robustly theological agenda. (Because of the vast amount of scholarship on Jesus, including many anthologies and collections of significant essays, articles published in journals or chapters in collective volumes will not be mentioned in this bibliography. Almost all of the books treated here have been published since 1985.)

Article.  14792 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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