end times and the historical jesus

So. One of my most admired NT scholars is Dale Allison, Jr. I just finished one of his more recent books, wherein he is more candid than usual about the implications of historical Jesus scholarship for theology.

For instance, he has this to say about how historical Jesus scholarship engenders theological dilemmas on all sides of the spectrum:

Those who subscribe to Nicaea should be anxious, for the historical Jesus did not think of himself what they think of him. To be sure, his identity, like that of the rest of us, cannot be restricted to his self-conscious evaluation, whatever we judge that to have been. Jesus must have been more than the sum of us own thoughts. Still, traditional, orthodox christologies have assumed that Jesus was fully aware of his own godhead and spoke accordingly, whereas modern criticism has, in the judgment of many of us, exterminated this possibility. The orthodox tradition thus needs to acknowledge that revisionist christologies of the last two centuries have been partly occasioned by advances in knowledge. There has been good cause to rethink some changes.

As for those who reject of radically reinterpret Nicaea and Chalcedon, a historical Jesus who placed himself at the center of a mythological end-time scenario is not likely to be regarded with affection. For such an individual conceived himself to be extraordinary and indeed unique, in a category all his own. As with the orthodox, so too, then, with their opponents: their evaluation of Jesus does not line up with his evaluation of himself.

The upshot of the foregoing pages is that the historical Jesus remains, in Schweitzer’s familiar words, a stranger and an enigma. As a Christian, however, I do not find this so dreadful. What good is Jesus if he does not trouble our theological dreams? Certainly the character in the Gospels combats complacency and self-satisfaction, and what but complacency and self-satisfaction can come from a historical Jesus who confirms us in our theological ways, whether those ways be liberal or conservative? A domesticated Jesus who sounds like us, makes us comfortable, and commends our opinions is no Jesus at all. (pp. 89-90)

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