Re: historicity of Christ

From: george murphy (
Date: Tue Jun 12 2001 - 07:11:51 EDT

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    Jonathan Clarke wrote:

    > Hi George
    > george murphy wrote:
    > > [snip]
    > > Whether Jesus rose from the dead, performed miracles, was the
    > > Messiah, &/or Son of God, &c - i.e., all the theological claims which
    > > Christians have made about Jesus - is another matter. These are the
    > > beliefs that many people in various ways have attributed to hellenistic
    > > mystery cults and so forth.
    > You are doubtless more knowledgeable about this than I, but I suspect that
    > this type of criticism is best answered by looking at the cultural
    > likelihood of such beliefs arising in 1st century Judaism, especially after
    > the execution of the leader of the movement. There were many messiah
    > figures in the 1st century AD and BC in Judea and Galilee, none had such
    > stories associated with the birth, life and death.

            I hope that the brevity of my comment didn't suggest that I agreed with
    the idea that these Christian beliefs can be "attributed to hellenistic mystery
    cults and so forth." One helpful & brief study is Martin Hengel, _The Son of
    God_ (Fortress, 1976). The idea that Jesus is "Son of God" arose very early,
    before the church had moved beyond the Palestinian setting. The fundamental
    reason for this was belief in Jesus' resurrection, & the categories for
    interpreting this belief were drawn from the Old Testament & Jewish thought of
    the 1st century B.C., not Greek philosophy or the mystery cults.
            (A couple of qualifications:
            1. Judaism had already been influenced by hellenistic culture before
    the time of Jesus: Hengel's _Judaism and Hellenism_ is a major study of this.
            2. While the first Christians believed that Jesus was Son of God,
    pre-existent (Phil.2 &c) &c,
    this doesn't mean that they held the full doctrine which the church finally
    reached at Nicea ~3 centuries later - a doctrine which is formulated to some
    extent in the categories of Greek philosophy, as indeed it had to be to make
    sense in that culture.)



    George L. Murphy
    "The Science-Theology Dialogue"

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