The Intellectual fads of Jesus
My problem with their "historical Jesus" is two fold.
One: They build their case on the assumption that Jesus was just a man, and then rewrite him into their own version of Jesus preaching mystical secrets that have little or nothing to do with ordinary folks.
To do this, they rely on the more esoteric gnostic gospels, and insist that every writing that claims to be about Jesus should be considered an equally important part of his story, even though these gospels were probably were written two hundred years later, wand were never accepted by the church as a whole.
Phillip Jenkins, in his book: Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way, shows that not all modern scholars accept these theories, yet that doesn't stop the mainstream media from promoting it as the gospel truth (duh).
If Jesus was an esoteric teacher, teaching a secret way to self esteem and mystical insights, then why did he stay teaching the poor farmers and shopkeepers in Galilee, instead of going to Rome or at least Alexandria (the nearest sophisticated city) where gnostic ideas would have been welcome by the elite who were always looking for something new?
There are probably lots of scholars who can do a better critique on the matter from a historical standpoint. However, why overlook that the Biblical gospels may date back within a generation of Christ's death: for example, the early church fathers who lived within a century of Jesus quoted the Biblical gospels extensively in their writings.
My real objection isn't so much scholarly as based on my experience, working as a doctor with poor people. The Jesus of the Gospel sounds real to me.
In the Biblical gospels, Jesus acts like a profound teacher but one who is down to earth, and able to distill the truths of God's relationship with man into stories that even a child can understand.
As for those around him? Well, they act like ordinary folks.
The Jesus of the Bible taught in simple parables that the most ordinary person can understand. He told people about the reality of a God who cares for even the poorest man, a God, who forgives their mistakes not with harsh punishments but as a father welcomes his disobedient son who was lost and now is found?
His parables are stuff of daily life for the ordinary folks who till the soil or work hard: The rejoicing when the lost sheep who was found after a shepherd searched for him, the weeds that grow along side the good plants in the fields, the seeds that sprouted but died because the soil was thin.
Even his miracles speak of ordinary life: A twelve year old child brought back to life and her somewhat dazed mother is told to get her something to eat,: wine made miraculously so that a party celebrating a marriage could continue; a soldier "used to authority with soldiers under him" who bluntly told Jesus he didn't need to break Jewish customs by entering the house of a Gentile: to cure his servant, just say it and he will be cured. Even the Eucharist, the meal where the bread and wine become Christ, is easy for ordinary folks to understand. For just as we receive bodily nourishment in food, so too we receive spiritual nourishment by eating the sacred bread and wine.
The Bible's stories "ring true" to life, and one can see these tales told over and over again in the evening, spreading the story of Jesus and his reminder that God loved everyone, even the poor who couldn't always follow all those complicated rules and rituals.
These newfangled "historical Jesus" gospels are popular for the self sufficient who seek happiness here on earth, but where is the place for the sick, the dying, the poor, the retarded, the awkward, the failures?
And the historical Jesus of self esteem would never have been killed as a threat: he'd be a welcome guest speaker at all the best dinners in Palestine.
But the Jesus who dared to point out the corruption of the local leaders who made life so difficult for the poor would indeed be considered a threat.
Finally, the crucifixion, with his mother looking on, is meaningless to those preaching the Jesus of self esteem.
But to those who suffer, the crucifixion reminds us that God himself knows suffering and death, and will stay with us and wipe our tears away.
And three days later, Christ's resurrection reminds us that death is not the end: For we too will rise again.