I just came across an interesting article written by Lloyd Dewitt on the Huffington Post (07.25.2011) about the art of Rembrandt van Rijn. It is titled “Rembrandt and the Jewish Jesus”. The gist of the article is that Rembrandt showed great innovation in painting a Jesus that he thought was more like the Jewish Jesus of history than the “the Christ with the high forehead, shallow feminine features, long nose and narrow mouth familiar from early Christian and Byzantine icons”. It is worth reading if you are interested in art and/or historical Jesus studies?
Why historical Jesus studies?
Well, Dr. Craig A. Evans wrote his first guest post for this blog earlier today (see here) and one of the more prominent points that he made was that the great contribution of the Third Quest was “a recovery of the Jewishness of Jesus and his world.”
What is it about the Jewishness of Jesus that we find so important? Obviously, we regret that the Quest for the Historical Jesus and the New Quest both yanked Jesus away from first century Palestine into a variety of other contexts. I think this is problematic for Christians whose views of Jesus have been shaped as much if not more by places like Alexandria, Rome, Nicaea, Constantinople, Paris, or Moscow than Nazareth, Bethany, or Jerusalem. We are beginning to notice that while the continual evolution of our understanding of Jesus may not be bad, it is incomplete unless we recognize, as the Apostle Paul wrote, that “when the fullness of time had came, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the Law”. (Gal 4.4) Even as we develop a Christology we must remember like the great Apostle that it is based on Jesus of Nazareth who came to us in real humanity, through a real birth, into a real world, at a real point in history. Even if we meditate deeply on Jesus being the Logos of God who has always been with God, and one with God, he is still made known to us first through a kenosis so real that to ignore the historical Jesus seems to be the first misstep in forming any Christology.
As I think about the various gospels that are read today one thing that greatly differentiates Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John from “gospels” like Peter, James, Judas, and even Thomas is the Jewishness of the narrative, the interaction with the Jewish Scriptures, and the Jewish earth on which it all takes place.
So whether one is describing Jesus through paint like Rembrandt, or historical research like Evans, one should never make a Jesus who is not a child of Abraham, a child of David, born in Bethlehem, raised in Nazareth, preaching in Galilee and Jerusalem, and crucified in the land before his people. This is the Jesus of history and faith. It is the Jesus who was the “word made flesh” who “tabernacles in our midst” who “existed in the form of God” yet who did not “regard equality with God a thing to be grasped”.
See also: Mark Goodacre, NT POD 49: What is the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus?
Jesus was born in Bethlehem was he?
…or Nazareth if that’s your conclusion. Is that really the point that stood out for you when you read this post?
The claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem really did stand out, in much the same way that a claim that President Obama was born in Kenya would also stand out.
Out of curiosity, does anybody know why Christians never used the title ‘James of Nazareth’?
Steve: I appreciate your rhetoric, but as you are well aware the claim that Jesus was born in Bethlehem would have been a completely opposite claim to the one that Obama was born in Kenya. The evangelists knew of the tradition that Messiah would come from Bethlehem and the narratives recorded in the First and Third Gospels sought to reconcile thy claim. It would be more like saying Obama was born in the same area as Lincoln (though he was not).
I am not saying that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem (obviously I affirm that, though I can see why someone would struggle to affirm this claim), but that your analogy is rather odd. As Jn 7.41-44 displays, there were other responses to the claim that Messiah had to be born in Bethlehem, but that is hardly here nor there since this post was about the Jewishness of Jesus, not the doctrine of the virgin birth.
I can understand why the stories about Jesus being born in Bethlehem are in a different category to the contradictory, agenda-driven stories about President Obama being born in Kenya.
Comments are closed.