Question

Readings: Arthur Rowe, Essence of Jesus, Chapter 7, "Jesus of History and Christ of Faith", Pages 151-176; Richard Elliot Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible?, pages 217-245

What was the purpose or goal of the post-Enlightenment search for the "historical Jesus?"

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The post-Enlightenment period was characterized by the rise of secularism, scepticism, deism and agnosticism. All churches of Christendom were losing their influence, and the Bible was increasingly treated not as a collection of sacred books, but as a part of the historical and literary heritage of humankind. This new approach to the Bible inevitably led to the re-evaluation of the role of Jesus. In other words, the denial of Jesus as a divine figure refocused the attention to him as a human being and a historical character.

According to Rowe, the attempts to “explain” Jesus from the point of view of history were in line with the general current of the Enlightenment philosophy, where “everything could be explained in terms of the mechanical laws” (Rowe 152). In other words, if we can “purify” the Bible from its supernatural contents and study it critically as a historical and literary source, then we can just as well reconstruct the life and teachings of Jesus and study them from the same viewpoint....

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