Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Jesus and the Gospel - What Really Happened?

Three historians debate. By Larry Hurtado, John S. Kloppenborg, and Alan F. Segal.

Larry Hurtado writes:

"For something to be "historical" in the usual sense of the word, it must be explainable on the basis of what we know and can show as operative in the world in some observable way. And the key "problem" with the claim that Jesus was miraculously conceived is that it emphatically asserts a unique event that is not to be understood as the result of some ordinary or observable force operative in similar events. So, it seems to me that all that we can do as "historians" is to study the history of the claim, the traditions, and the sources in which they are preserved. All that is "historical" in the sense that I have used the term here, definitely. But was Jesus' conception "historical" in that sense? No. That doesn't mean that it can't have happened or didn't happen. I'm not saying that. I'm only saying that Jesus' miraculous conception can't be presented as something to which consent can be compelled by force of historical argument, in the way that we can defend a claim about more mundane events.

Although moderns are terribly exercised by the question I've been discussing (all too briefly), I think the more promising question is what the stories about Jesus' conception and birth meant for those who transmitted them, and what the idea might mean for other Christians (and those interested in what Christians believe). At the very least, we have an emphatic claim that Jesus—and all that he means for Christian faith—is to be understood most clearly as deriving from God's initiative. That is, the Jesus of Christian faith is not simply the predictable product of a given set of social and historical circumstances. He is at the most important level a divine gift and is to be understood in terms of the character and purposes of God."

From Slate.

5 Comments:

Blogger Maryellen said...

long before I came to know Jesus on a personal and intimate basis I had a discussion with an atheist about how, although one could argue against the divinity of Christ, one could not argue against his exisitance or his pivital place in history. For him, to admit that Jesus had indeed existed was to admit that the Bible was true. I honestly didn't see his logic. Later, after I was "saved" i had a similar discussion with a seminary student who claimed that it was not nessecary to believe in the virgin birth, it was illogical to believe that the Isaiah prophecy was about Jesus, and virgin meant young girl anyway, and lots of young girls had sons, and since it couldn't be proved, it shouldn't be taught or forced upon people who just couldn't accept it. Didn't see the Logic in that arguement either.
Faith. I believe. Believe and you will be saved...right?

Thursday, December 22, 2005 9:49:00 AM  
Blogger Ruth said...

Just saying HI!
No deep thoughtful comment tonight... kids went to bed three hours late after last minute shopping... arrrg.
We'll miss you this Christmas... maybe we could video chat or skype (free computer "phone")
Anyway, Merry, Merry Christmas... know that you are loved and missed here.
(Sam includes you guys in his prayers... "Peston & Terwin")
Audrey is well and turned 1 today!
Blessings

Friday, December 23, 2005 8:39:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Maryellen - the virgin birth is far from optional teaching. It's credal.

What Larry is saying, in part, is that is not a claim that can be proven or disproven, because it is not a repeating or observable. By its uniqueness it is impenetrable.

A more interesting and faithful approach is simply to ask what it means. Early Christians believed it. The framers of the Nicene creed believed it. What might it mean if Mary was a virgin?

With that question we enter a much more compelling world, do we not? One where God acts within human history, sending an unbegotten son into the womb of history, yet eternally begotten of the father outside time itself? A person that two humans could never make, but whose making required a special and divine intervention?

Sure I beleive in the virgin birth. Who wouldn't?

Saturday, December 24, 2005 12:16:00 AM  
Blogger Wanderer said...

I feel compelled to give a simple yet pointed response to your question. Who wouldn't believe it? I for one. Many I know. Your framing of the question seems to imply you truly think none would hold that position. Not trying to start an argument, just pointing this little fact out.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Saturday, December 24, 2005 9:40:00 PM  
Blogger Preston said...

Sorry for the delay in my response, Wanderer. And my flourish.

I do know that many folks do not believe in the virgin birth, including many preachers in pulpits and priests at the altar.

I would say, though, that for many of us who do believe such teachings of the church, we believe them because they are compelling articles. And it does lead me to say, because I do believe such things, that they make enough sense that I sometimes do have a hard time understanding why a person would not believe. This leads me to rhetorical flourishes like "who wouldn't?"

So I guess to answer your question, I'm not so naive.

Friday, December 30, 2005 8:08:00 PM  

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