I have held off posting on IIDB’s thread on the search for an historical core to Christian/Jesus origins until just now when I asked how one might define “historical core” and how one might know when one has found it. The whole question seems to me to be making assumptions about the methods of historical investigation that cannot be justified. But I need time to collect my thoughts on it more thoroughly before posting on it, if I ever do. The term seems to suggest that the way historians interpret and evaluate evidence can establish something that really is beyond that evidence and the constructs of the historians.
I fail to understand how starting at a later point and working back is any more likely to arrive at such a historical core — If the root reasons for not establishing some common understanding of Christian origins has more to do with unscientific approaches to historical method in so much of what passes for biblical scholarship and the paucity of evidence, then aren’t we just going to end up reaching the same impasse only from the opposite direction?
(But I don’t want to go the way of being absurdly post-modernistic on this or sounding that way. Some constructs can be more than just theoretical. A person shot another person may be a construct but it’s also a reality beyond the construct. )
I have been feeling a bit uncomfortable with my last post on the we-passages in Acts. I originally wrote all that up over a year ago at least now, and I am having doubts I have really incorporated in my essay a way of testing my interpretation and evaluating it rigorously enough against alternative hypotheses. I am not surprised that in approaching my essay afresh after such a long break that I would want to revise bits here and there and even add some extras, but I will take the next few days to think it through a lot more rigorously before I post more of it.
Is there any such beast as a scholarly discussion of the ‘New Testament’ gospels and epistles as possible direct continuations of the ‘Old Testament’s’ intellectual world?
I’m thinking of Thomas L. Thompson’s ‘Mythic Past‘: “Both theologically and referentially, most of the texts that were to become the Christian Bible’s Old Testament belong to an intellectual world that holds the New Testament in common….. Most of the works that belong to these ‘testaments’ reflect a single biblical tradition that has its roots in what is widely understood as early Jewish intellectual history. They relate to each other as older and younger contemporaries within a common discourse. The discussions about tradition that we find in the New Testament are not reinterpretations of a closed past. They are part of an ongoing transmission common to the whole of biblical tradition.” (p.289)
If the literature of ‘the old testament’ is essentially a metaphor (mythic creation?) of ‘a new and true remnant ‘Israel’ replacing an old and failed and vanished ‘Israel’ as part of an identification ‘program’ for an uprooted people settled beside ‘strangers’ who are sometimes godfearing and often antagonistic, then is it unreasonable to explore the possibility that the gospels are essentially an extension of this identification ‘program’ for a post 70 ce generation? And if valid, does such a perspective change or add to any ‘mythic’ portrayal of Jesus as hitherto understood?