What was Jesus’ message?

“The overwhelming preoccupation in the parables, despite their various accretions after Jesus’ time, is a message about a coming kingdom which will overwhelm all the normal expectations of Israel and take its establishment figures by surprise.  People must be watchful for this final event”.  (Diarmaid MacCulloch – Professor Oxford)

Jesus left no writings and his teachings have been endlessly analysed, but the four
Gospels reveal that the essence of his ministry was his warning of the imminent
Apocalypse – Judgment Day and the Kingdom of Heaven.  This was a terrifying and radical vision in which Jesus himself would play a central part as the mystical semi-messianic Son of Man, a phrase taken form Isaiah and Daniel.  (Simon Sebag Montefiore – Professor University of Buckingham)

Much of Jesus’ teaching can be paralleled in other Jewish teaching of the time, but Jesus combined it in a unique way with his own enacted ministry.  He claimed God’s authority to define the nature of God’s kingdom and the response God expected from the Covenant People at the beginning of a new chapter in their history.  Jesus applied the core meaning of ”the kingdom of god”  – the coming of God in power to redeem Israel and transform the world – to the events taking shape through him and around him.  In one sense, the kingdom, of God had already arrived – “the kingdom of God has already arrived – “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17:21) – but Jesus encouraged his followers to pray for its coming (Matt 6:10).  Overall, Jesus’ teaching gives the impression that he expected the kingdom of God to appear in a series of events, beginning with his own ministry and stretching into the future (Mark 9:1; 14:25).  (John Bowker – Professor Gresham, Cambridge)

“the focus of Jesus’ proclamation of the Good News in Mark is… the kingdom, or rather kingship, of God”.  (Henry Wansbrough – Oxford)

What seems so central in Jesus’ teaching as it lies there in the Gospels
is that he is speaking of a future coming of the kingdom of God, a consummation
of Israel’s history in the apparently near future, that would bring about a
radical change in human life. This change would not be brought about so much by
human effort but by a definitive action of God at the end of time, at least
time as we know it. “Thy kingdom come” is a very central petition of the Lord’s
Prayer itself.  (J. P. Meier – Professor University of Notre Dame)

Jesus’ roots are Jewish; he comes out of the
Jewish prophetic and wisdom traditions. He presents himself-and just about
everybody agrees on this-as a Jewish prophet with a message of the kingdom of
God, which is coming in its fullness, but in some sense is already present in
his ministry, preaching, and healings. He is an eschatological prophet, that
is, he is speaking of the end-not the end of the world but the end of Israel’s
history as it’s been known up to that time. A definitive change is coming in
Israel’s history. The kingdom of God is not just an abstraction; God is coming
in power to rule his people of Israel, directly and definitively. Jesus sees
himself very much in the guise of an Elijah-like figure, not only a prophet but
also a miracle worker and healer. But he is more than that; he is also a
teacher of the Mosaic law and a wisdom teacher who speaks in aphorisms and
proverbs. (J. P. Meier – Professor University of Notre Dame)

How unique is Jesus’ fundamental message?  New Testament scholars… have claimed that the concept of God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) was not found within Judaism; hence, the thought was unique to Jesus.  These scholars were not adequately informed of early Jewish thought.  God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) appears in numerous Jewish documents that antedate Jesus.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

[Jesus] does not seem to have thought of himself as God, and may even have thought that the world was coming to an end. … St John’s Gospel is unequivocal in its assertion of Christ’s divinity.  Thus it opens in its first verse with an emphatic declaration that the Word who became flesh (1:14) was God, and throughout has on Jesus’ lips the claim to be one with God…. But the situation is very different in the Synoptics.  Jesus’ teaching is almost wholly about the Kingdom of God rather than about himself, while even the titles used of him do not imply as much as was cone thought.  So, for instance, we now know that “Son of God” implies a special rather than a unique relationship with God and that it was in fact ancient Israel’s way of conceiving the special bond that existed between God and the King (cf, for example, Ps 2:7; 2 Sam 7:14).  Nor was it unique in the Middle East in using such language, since parallels exist in Assyrian descriptions of their monarch.  Nor will it do to suggest that the phrase had narrowed its significance by the time of Jesus to carry something of the implication of divinity, as in Greek thought.  For, while such a claim might have once been possible, evidence form the Dead Sea Scrolls has conclusively shown that it was commonly taken simply to refer to the coming Davidic Messiah.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

The kingdom of God was a term of reference Jesus inherited from his milieu, instanced in the Songs and the Targumim, as well as in Daniel.  (Bruce Chilton – Professor Yale)

Up to a certain point in time, perhaps in the middle of the first century – the generation after Jesus – there was no dividing line between Judaism and Christianity.  Jesus, indeed, never thought of himself as preaching a religion other than Judaism or Torah: “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfil” (Matt 5:17).  If you had asked Jesus or any of his disciples what religion they were, they would have replied “Jewish”.  (Norman Solomon – Oxford)

Part of what makes the New Testament so focused a work of moral imagination is that it was written under the belief that the end of the world was drawing close.  It was written with a huge sense of impending danger that created a form of concentration that burnt away the trivial.  Facing the end puts all things into perspective.  (Giles Fraser – Church of England priest, Oxford

Jesus offered a political manifesto that emphasised non-violence, social justice and the redistribution of wealth – yet all this is drowned out by those who use the text to justify a narrow, authoritarian and morally judgemental form of social respectability.  (Giles Fraser – Church of England priest, Oxford)

The history of Christian beginnings demonstrates that it was most effective to establish and to nurture the community of the new age without any recourse to the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth. All that was needed was a ritual (the eucharist) and a story, namely the story of Jesus’ suffering and death and, of course, hymns of mythic poetry… … However important the eschatological concept of the Kingdom of God may be in traditional sayings of Jesus, Paul’s use of this term is at best marginal, certainly not a central concept of his message.  (Helmut Koester – Professor Harvard)

The story of Jesus was certainly not a unique one in first-century Judaea.  There were other prophetic religious figures from Galilee who attracted considerable followings before falling foul of the Roman authorities or their client kings, the most famous being John the Baptist.  What made the Christian sect stand out was that Jesus’ messianic claims did not die with him.  On top of this, Christianity’s growing focus on converting gentiles meant that it stopped being just another Jewish sect.  Paul of Tarsus was a key figure in this process of broadening the sect’s appeal.  His upbringing as a member of the Jewish elite and his status as a Roman citizen made him an unusual convert to Christianity, and he started to take the fledgling religious group in a completely new and ambitious direction.  Paul began missionary work across Syrian, Asian Minor and Greece, and it had a galvanizing effect; by the time of his death in the 60s the sect was still small, although well established in many of the larger cities in these areas.  The majority of the members of  these new Christian communities were gentiles, mostly artisans.  Perhaps because of the hostility they faced, originally from the Jewish elite and later form the Roman authorities, the Christians organised themselves well.  They had a clearly hierarchy and strong leadership from bishops and priests.  Their community had an ethos of charity that made it very attractive to the poorer sections of Roman urban society, who always looked favourably on any one who fed them and buried their dead.  (Richard Miles – Sydney and Cambridge)

There is a persistent tendency among interpreters to collapse the meaning of the kingdom in Jesus’ ministry within a supposedly more fundamental emphasis upon christology. (Bruce Chilton – Professor Yale)

It is not Jesus who brings the kingdom in his own understanding, but the kingdom which brings him with itself.  If the kingdom, rather than christology, is the suitable point of departure for exegesis, then the principal meaning of the kingdom should not be mediated though the sieve of whatever Christology one infers from Jesus’ sayings.  (Bruce Chilton – Professor Yale)

“His message “the kingdom of God has drawn near” (Mark..) is drawn from Isaiah”  (Craig A. Evans – Professor Acadia, Princeton)

“Jesus regarded himself as having the right to say who would be in the kingdom.  The assertion of the significance of his own mission and authority was probably the more serious offence….Although he did not oppose the law, he did indicate that what was most important was accepting him and following him” (EP Sanders – Professor Oxford)

“Jesus seemed to have been quite reluctant to adopt a title for himself.  I think that even “king” is not precisely correct, since Jesus regarded God as king.  My own favourite term for his conception of himself is “viceroy”.  God was king, but Jesus represented him and would represent him in the coming kingdom”.  (E.P. Sanders – Professor Oxford)

The Lord’s Prayer is not an example of a unique address:  the prayer begins “Our Father,” not “My Father” … It is not “to Jesus”; it says nothing uniquely Christian; and it fits neatly within Jewish piety. (Amy-Jill Levine – Professor Vanderbilt and Cambridge)

“Jesus’ proclamation that “the kingdom of God has arrived” is to be understood… in reference to the Aramaic paraphrase.  “Kingdom” (basileia / mallkuth) refers to God’s rule or power.  That is, the rule of oppressive humans (such as the Romans, the Herodians, or even the priestly aristocrats of Jerusalem) has come to an end; the rule of God is now at hand”.  (Craig A. Evans – Professor Acadia, Princeton)

1 Cor 7:29-31And do this, understanding the present time: the hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. 12 The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light. 13 Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy. 14 Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the flesh.  (Romans 13:11-14)

29 What I mean, brothers and sisters, is that the time is short. From now on those who have wives should live as if they do not; 30 those who mourn, as if they did not; those who are happy, as if they were not; those who buy something, as if it were not theirs to keep; 31 those who use the things of the world, as if not engrossed in them. For this world in its present form is passing away. (1 Cor 7:29-31)

The main body of [Jesus’] teaching is closely related to this single central theme.  Jesus’ mission is to proclaim the Kingdom, and his own activities are signs of its secret presence.  He calls for repentance, a change of life, and total faith in God… The message is completely God-centred to such a degree that the idea that Jesus’ main objective was to create faith in himself is plainly a serious distortion.  … … After AD 70 the Jewish-Christian church in Judaea declined and could no longer link the new faith with the old   The Church was establishing itself in the Gentile world as a distinct society, going its own way.  It was a religion of salvation of faith in Jesus Christ, a pre-existent divine being who had been sent by God to save men from their sins by his sacrificial death.  He was now risen, ascended, glorified, the Lord of all, and though the church’s sacraments, mean could gain heaven by union with him.  To put it crudely, Jesus had not taught, had not been aware of, these ideas.  (Don Cupitt and Peter Armstrong – Cambridge and BBC)


“…the threat of impending judgement has a conspicuous place in the Synoptic Gospels and probably stems from Jesus himself”.   (Heikki Raisanen – Professor Helsinki, Harvard, Cambridge)

[twelve disciples]  For anyone with eyes to see, this says clearly that he is reconstituting God’s people, Israel, around himself. (NT Wright – Professor St Andrews and Oxford)

The Temple… was the place where heaven and earth met…. Judaism already had a massive “incarnational” symbol, the Temple.  Jesus was behaving as if he were the Temple, in person. (NT Wright – Professor St Andrews and Oxford)

He [Jesus] speaks again and again of a coming cataclysm – a great disaster, a judgment, terrible events that would turn the world upside down.  (NT Wright – Professor St Andrews and Oxford)

“Jesus and Mohammed [both] announced that the end of the world was near. A judgment would come upon it.  Buddhism too sees the world negatively and critically”.  (Gerd Theissen – Professor Heidelberg, visiting lectures Oxford and Cambridge)

“Jesus seems to have maintained that the trumpet would sound for the end of time very soon, and in a major break with the culture around him, he told his followers to leave the dead to bury their own dead…. They survived a major crisis of confidence at the end of the first century when the Last Days did not arrive…Christianity emerged from it a very different institution from the movement created by its founder or even its first great apostle, Paul”. (Diarmaid MacCulloch – Professor Oxford)

“spirit prevailing in the whole of the preaching of Jesus, and the earliest stages of the New Testament where again, the Kingdom of God was at hand, it was expected to arrive any minute now, and that the whole concept of religion was centred on the immediacy of the great event, and nobody was speculating about the future and how to organise things, and how to create churches and how to foresee what would happen in hundreds of years time”.  (Geza Vermes – Professor Oxford)

When the Son of Man  comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne  of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate  people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and  he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left.  (Matthew 25)

In the book of John, Jesus talks about himself and proclaims who he is, saying “I am the bread of life.” Whereas in Mark, Jesus teaches principally about the coming kingdom and hardly ever mentions himself directly. These differences offer clues into the perspectives of the authors, and the eras in which they wrote their respective Gospels, according to Ehrman. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is not interested in teaching about himself. But when you read John’s Gospel, that’s virtually the only thing Jesus talks about is who he is, what his identity is, where he came from,” Ehrman says. “This is completely unlike anything that you find in Mark or in Matthew and Luke. And historically it creates all sorts of problems, because if the historical Jesus actually went around saying that he was God, it’s very hard to believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke left out that part — you know, as if that part wasn’t important to mention. But in fact, they don’t mention it. And so this view of the divinity of Jesus on his own lips is found only in our latest Gospel, the Gospel of John.”  (Bart D. Ehrman Professor University of North Carolina)

When you read Mark’s Gospel, which was probably our first Gospel, Jesus says very little about himself. He talks about how he must go to Jerusalem and be rejected and be crucified and then raised from the dead. But he never identifies himself as divine, for example. He never says, I am the son of God. The only time in Mark’s Gospel that he admits that he’s the Messiah is at the very end, when he’s put on trial, and the high priest asks him, are you the Messiah? And he says yes, I am. So in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus is not interested in teaching about himself. But when you read John’s Gospel, that’s virtually the only thing Jesus talks about -is who he is, what his identity is, where he came from – he came from above with the Father – where he’s going – he’s returning to the Father. And he, himself, is in some sense, divine.   As he says in John Chapter 10: I and the Father are one. Or as he says in Chapter 8: Before Abraham was, I am. Abraham was the father of the Jews, who lived 1,800 years before Jesus. And Jesus actually appears to be claiming to be a representation of God on Earth. This is completely unlike anything that you find in Mark or in Matthew and Luke. And it – historically, it creates all sorts of problems because if the historical Jesus actually went around saying that he was God, it’s very hard to believe that Matthew, Mark and Luke left out that part – you know, as if that part wasn’t important to mention. (Bart D. Ehrman Professor University of North Carolina)

Since there is no known Jewish expectation of a resurrected messiah, much less a crucified, one, it is evident that they earliest believers in Jesus would not have regarded him as the messiah simply because they believed he was resurrected.  There is simply no inherent connection between resurrection and messiah.  … Whether Jesus regarded himself as messiah remains unclear because the evidence is ambiguous… only in Mark does Jesus reply “Yes!” to the high priest’s question “Are you the Messiah, the son of the Blessed? (Mk 14:62); in Matthew and Luke Jesus avoids a clear answer “You said this”.  Both [responses] in Mark reflect the Evangelist’s view of how the Jesus story should be told.  There is simply no other saying in which Jesus either announces to the public or shares privately with the disciples his conviction that he is the messiah.  Moreover, unless one could know also what messiah meant for Jesus, it is not clear what would be gained by knowing that this is who he thought he was or was destined to be.  It is all too often forgotten that in his day being “messiah” could imply various roles, that numerous forms of eschatological hope did not mention a messiah at all, and that there was no inherent connection between the kingdom of God and a messiah.   … no gospel contains a saying in which Jesus either asserted or explained the connection between embodying the impingement of God’ reign and a messiah or between his impending suffering as the Son of Man and his subsequent role as either witness or judge at the Great Assize.  (Leander E. Keck – Professor Yale)

While the Jesus of the first three gospels turns attention away from himself to the kingship of God, in John the kingship of God is mentioned only in 3:3-5; the Johannine Jesus teaches about his kingship only in 18:6, and otherwise concentrates rather on his gift of eternal life.  (Henry Wansbrough – Oxford)

“…the greatest difference of all:  in the Synoptic gospels the subject of revelation is the kingship or reign of God, of which Jesus is the messenger.  In John the primary object of revelation is Jesus himself and his glory, or rather the revelation of God’s glory in him, climaxing in the hour of the exaltation and glorification of Jesus, the cross and resurrection.  The crucifixion is no longer a shameful humiliation which has to be explained as the will of god expressed in Scripture’,  it is a royal progress which enables the divinity of Jesus to shine  through, and leaves Jesus reigning from the cross until he himself triumphantly signifies that all is fulfilled”.  (Henry Wansbrough – Oxford)

“Jesus seemed to have been quite reluctant to adopt a title for himself. I think that even “king” is not precisely correct, since Jesus regarded God as king. My own favourite term for his conception of himself is “viceroy”. God was king, but Jesus represented him and would represent him in the coming kingdom”. (E.P. Sanders – Professor Oxford)

John’s emphases – repentance for sin, purification – were hardly exotic concerns within Second Temple Judaism.  The particular emphasis that John evidently placed on his own role as agent of this purification…. John’s call to moral renewal in the face of the coming Kingdom mean, precisely, keeping Torah – hardly unique themes in Jewish moral exhortation.  What characterises his particular preaching is his connecting observance specifically with bodily purification and apocalyptic warnings.  …. This concern to attend to the inner (what we would designate the “moral”) dimension of repentance before addressing the external protocols of atonement (purity, offerings, and the like) is a stock theme of Jewish penitential tradition in all periods. … … … What distinguished Jesus’ prophetic message from those of the others was primarily its timetable, not its content.  Like John the Baptiser, he emphasised his own authority to preach the coming Kingdom; like Theudas, the Egyptian, the signs prophets, and again like the Baptizer, he expected its arrival soon.  But the vibrant conviction of his followers even decades after the Crucifixion, together with the unprecedented phenomenon of the mission to Israel and the inclusion of the Gentiles, suggests that Jesus had stepped up the Kingdom’s timetable from soon to now.  (Paula Fredriksen – Professor Boston, Princeton, Stanford)

There are scholars who want to see all of this talk about this coming judgment of the Earth, and the catastrophes that are going to happen, as pure metaphor. And I think the reason they want to see it that way is because if you think that Jesus literally thought that there was going to be a coming end of the age well, it didn’t happen. And so Jesus would’ve been wrong. And some scholars are uncomfortable with the idea that Jesus could be wrong. I think the only way, though, to decide whether this is metaphor or meant to be taken literally is by looking at what other Jews in the first century were saying. And as it turns out, there were a lot of Jews who were talking about the literal end of the world as they knew it – including, for example, John the Baptist, who thought that the end was coming right away and that people needed to prepare or they would be judged; including the people who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, which are filled with this apocalyptic kind of thinking; and including Jesus’s own followers. The apostle Paul definitely feels that Jesus is coming back right away – that Jesus is going to be this cosmic judge – and that the Earth is going to be transformed. And Paul describes it not in metaphorical terms but in literally, what’s going to happen at the end. And so I think the desire for Jesus not to be literally meaning this is rooted in an understandable theological move, that you don’t want to have Jesus say things that didn’t come true. But if you actually situate to Jesus in his own historical context, this is the sort of thing that a lot of people expected was going to happen.  (Bart D. Ehrman Professor University of North Carolina)

“Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here,
which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of
man coming in his kingdom.”  (Matthew 16:28)

“Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass,
till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24: 34)

“The notions of a swiftly coming day of judgement, pictured as God’s anger against human sin, and of salvation brought from heaven to earth are stock images in early Judaism”.  (Wayne A. Meeks – Professor Yale)

When Jesus said “Your sins are forgiven” he would no doubt be understood to be using a “divine passive”, meaning, “God forgives your sins”.  But this is not a prayer for God to forgive.  It is a unequivocal declaration of God’s forgiveness, as though Jesus claims the right to speak for God.  Indeed he explains that “the Son of Man [Jesus] has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:5-10). … … In the case of Jesus’ exorcisms, it is remarkable that Jesus uses no techniques or incantations, utters no prayer to God, and invokes no name of a powerful being beyond himself.  … … In the whole of early Jewish literature, there seems to be only one other case in which God’s forgiveness is declared by a human being.  It is in a story about the Babylonian king Nabonidus, who narrates
how he was seriously ill, prayed to God, and a Jewish exorcist “forgave my sin”.  We do not know exactly what this meant (even the translation is not certain), but it remains the case that Jesus’ practice of declaring God’s forgiveness was perceived in his time as infringing a divine prerogative… … He [Jesus] also exorcised demons.  In that society, demons could be held responsible for disabilities and diseases, but the gospels rarely allude to such a belief…. Though Jesus was by no means the only Jewish exorcist, so far as we know he was the only one to link his exorcism with the new thing that God was doing:  the coming of the kingdom.  (Richard Bauckham – Professor St Andrews, Cambridge)

One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:  28-34)

“Was Jesus a Jew?  Of course Jesus was a Jew.  He was born of a Jewish mother, in Galilee, a Jewish part of the world.  All of his friends, associates, colleagues, disciples, all of them were Jews. He regularly worshipped in Jewish communal worship what we call “synagogue”.  He preached from Jewish texts form the bible.  He celebrated Jewish festivals.  He was born, lived, died, talked as a Jew.  (Shaye J.D. Cohen)

“The evidence also strongly suggests that Jesus frequented the synagogue and that he was Torah-observant, even if his understanding of the oral law was significantly different from the understanding of others, such as the Pharisees”.  (Craig A. Evans – Professor Acadia, Princeton)

On the basis of his convictions about the presence, power and will of God, Jesus called for a reordering of Israel’s priorities.  In that sense he sought the renewal of Judaism.  Renewal movements generally involve a rediscovery of basic principles and a call for loyalty to an inherited tradition.  The “Jesus movement” was no exception.  …  Jesus certainly did not intend to found a new religion.  He did not repudiate Scripture – far from it.  And he did not call into question the law of Moses, though on occasion he emphasised some Scriptural principles at the expense of others.  But he did challenge established conventions and priorities.  Jesus believed that he had been sent by God as a prophet to declare authoritatively the will of God for his people:  acceptance or rejection of him and of his message was equivalent to acceptance or rejection of God.  (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge) [italics added]

In this chapter we have seen just how difficult it is to separate the claims Jesus made about himself form their later development in the early church.  Jesus spoke about this own role reluctantly.  He rarely, if ever, referred explicitly to himself as Messiah.  On the other hand, so many aspects of his actions and teachings were “messianic” in a broad sense that we can understand how his followers claimed soon after Easter that Jesus was the promised Messiah.  Jesus did refer to God as Father and occasionally to himself as a Son (of God); this “self-understanding” was also developed considerably in the early church.  The phrase “Son of Man” had a similar history:  Jesus used the phrase in various contexts to refer indirectly to himself; his followers developed his usage until the phrase eventually became a messianic title… … In Matt 11:27 and Luke 10:22 … the reference to Jesus as “the Son” suggests at least some reshaping in the early church, but that is no reason to assign the whole verse to the early church….. Some such wording may go back to Jesus.  The saying would then be one of only a handful of indirect references Jesus made to himself as standing in a special relationship of sonship to God.  It is, of course, impossible to say whether or not Jesus saw his relationship to God as unique.   (Graham Stanton – Professor Cambridge)

Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries would have had no difficulty in understanding broadly what Jesus meant by the “kingdom of God”.  Though the Hebrew Bible does not use this phrase, it does speak frequently of God as king, of God’ throne, and of God reigning over Israel and the world. … but in his own talk of God’ kingdom [Jesus] was not simply affirming that god is king.  He was speaking of something new that was arriving.  He was picking up the sense in which, for the Jewish scriptures and later Jewish literature, the fullness of God’s rule was something still to be expected in the future.  … At present, God’s active rule is contested by the forces of evil, supernatural and human, that are responsible for such wrongs as violence, sickness, injustice, oppression and even death.  The people of Israel therefore looked for a time when God’s rules would be universally acknowledged and would prevail over all evil.  Jesus taught his disciples to pray for this:  “May your name be sanctified / may your kingdom come / may your will be done / on earth as it is in heaven” (Richard Bauckham – Professor St Andrews, Cambridge)

Especially in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is primarily the Lord who is worshipped, rather than an example of the successful personality that could be imitated.  Luke moves one step closer towards the latter alternative:  the apostles are indeed imitators of Jesus, both in their presentation of the saving message and in their miracles.  But this ideal is not extended to the life of the new converts.  In the Gospel of John, Jesus’ human personality is almost completely enveloped into the figure of the divine revealer.  (Helmut Koester – Professor Harvard)

How unique is Jesus’ fundamental message?  New Testament scholars… have claimed that the concept of God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) was not found within Judaism; hence, the thought was unique to Jesus.  These scholars were not adequately informed of early Jewish thought.  God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) appears in numerous Jewish documents that antedate Jesus.  … …  Terms such as God’s Rule (the Kingdom of God) the Son of Man, and the Messiah are found in pre-70 Jewish writings that have been recovered over the past three centuries.  Since Jesus’ closest followers were fishermen or workers, it seems unlike they had access to such documents or were conversant with such concepts and terms.  However, because he was inquisitive, and occupied himself by discussing Torah with Pharisees and others, and was obsessed with knowing God and the traditions of Israel, Jesus probably knew such learned traditions…. Jesus, however,  was also creative and developed some revolutionary concepts.  His concept of suffering was extremely challenging to those Jews who expected a triumphant Messiah.   His inclusion of the outcasts and the marginalised was unprecedented and especially offensive to many priests in Jerusalem.  Jesus was a genius.  While he spoke the language of his generation and was deeply influenced by early Jewish theology he did not merely repeat or redefine earlier teachings or traditions.   (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

Many Christians are not aware that parables first because evident historically in Judaism in large quantities with Jesus, though here he was taking up a form that was widespread in his time.  … in recent years research has shown that Jesus and the rabbis drew on the same story of familiar fields of imagery and motif and create basic narrative structures;  while their parables differ in some respects, they are expression of the same genre.  (Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz – Professors Heidelberg and Utrecht)

[comparing Mark 9:1 with the later and similar but different verses in Matthew 16:28 and Luke 9:27]

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power. (Mark 9:1)

Most readers will immediately perceive that first Matthew and the Luke were working from a copy of Mark similar to our own.  They may not observe, however, that Jesus’ prediction in Mark is embarrassing since “the Kingdom of God” did not arrive “with power” while those who knew Jesus were still alive… The Evangelists knew that what mark reported was embarrassing, and that they had to change what Mark had attributed to Jesus.  They do so in different and independent ways.  Matthew more severely edits the text, adding to Jesus’ prediction the title “the Son of Man”, which for Matthew clearly denotes Jesus -  who has come – and is associated with “his kingdom (cf esp 20:21).  Luke omits that the Kingdom of God will come dynamically in the lifetime of those standing by Jesus, and includes (or attributes to Jesus) later a saying that makes it clear that the Kingdom became present among, or within, Jesus’ followers (cf 17:21).  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

For more than one hundred years experts have studied how the New Testament text has been “edited” by later copying scribes.  These scribes provided variants that removed unattractive theological concepts, clarified the meaning, improved the grammar, or harmonised the text so that it was similar to parallel texts…. Dozens of examples prove that often a core tradition is habitually edited at the beginning and the end.  This insight helps us grasp the editing of Mark by Matthew and Luke, and perhaps, at times, Mark’s editing of the traditions he received.  Also, Paul, in reporting Jesus’ last supper, edits the tradition he received and passed on by supplying a qualifying sentence at the end of the tradition:  “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Cor 11:26 NRSV).  Thus, Paul adds a saying of Jesus that drives not from tradition but from his editing.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

All faithful Jews knew they had sinned.  They knew only God could forgive, and they asked God for forgiveness.  They felt subsequently that God had cleansed them of their iniquities.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

Many Christians have been told and others assume that Judaism during Jesus’ time was corrupted by legalism.  They believe that laws and legislation had replaced God and goodness.  Obviously, one may discover legalism in Second Temple Judaism if one looks for it.  .. [however] It is misleading to think or claim that such legalism defined Judaism during Jesus’ time.  As many scholars have emphasised for decades, the Torah was not a legalistic document.  Jews perceived it to embody God’s will.  Torah evoked joy and celebration… In the Torah, Jews found God’s graciously revealed divine will for humans and creation.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

How unique is Jesus’ fundamental message?  New Testament scholars… have claimed that the concept of God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) was not found within Judaism; hence, the thought was unique to Jesus.  These scholars were not adequately informed of early Jewish thought.  God’s Rule (or the Kingdom of God) appears in numerous Jewish documents that antedate Jesus.  (Rev. James Charlesworth – Professor Princeton Theological Seminary)

Some of this elusiveness may be traced back to Jesus himself.  When he talked he often spoke in riddles and parables, and when asked who he was, he replied:  “who do you say I am?”.  He laid down few clear rules, left no systematic body of teaching, and founded no school to pass on his wisdom.  The mystery is also a function of the sources on which we have to rely.  We cannot consult the books Jesus wrote because he wrote no books, and we cannot turn to contemporary accounts of his life and works for there are no such accounts.  We have only interpretations, and interpretations of interpretations.  Our most important sources of information are already embroiled in the debate about his significance, and already take sides.  (Linda Woodhead – Professor Lancaster, Cambridge)

Jesus taught that far from abandoning his people, God’s reign (basileia, usually translated “kingdom”) was imminent.  Speaking almost exclusively to fellow Jews, he told them to be watchful of the signs of the times and to ready themselves for the new Godly society that was being prepared.  Readiness consists in living as if God’s will and law were already in force – by observing the spirit rather than the letter of the law, its essence rather than its very detail.  And the essence of God’s law, according to Jesus, is love without limits.  (Linda Woodhead – Professor Lancaster, Cambridge)

The gospels record a few sayings in which Jesus makes explicit reference to his own unique significance (thought there is extensive debates amongst scholars about their authenticity).  Some of these sayings suggest that Jesus is ordained by God to inaugurate the divine rule on earth.  Others have Jesus openly declare that he is the “Son of God”.  John’s gospel goes furthest by including long discourses in which Jesus reflects on his divine status (the “I am …” discourses)…. More important than words in establishing Jesus’ extraordinary status are miracles… Since the Jewish people believed that God alone had ultimate control over the world, the clear implication was that god was at work in Jesus.  Even those who are not convinced by Jesus’ miracles admit that some supernatural power must be at work – if not God, then Beelzebub the devil.  (Linda Woodhead – Professor Lancaster, Cambridge)

[Jesus’ baptism]  Here, again, there are significant differences between the New Testament authors.  Although dependent upon Mark, Matthew and Luke depart noticeably from his account.  In Matthew, John initially declares himself unworthy to baptize Jesus (3.14).  In Luke, the baptism takes place after John has been incarcerated (Luke 3.20), the descent of the Sprit and the heavenly declaration of Jesus’ identity occur only subsequently, as Jesus prays (Luke 3.21).  In the Fourth Gospel the baptismal events are recounted by Jon after they have taken place.  These variations may have come about because the Gospel writers (apart from Mark) were uncomfortable with the implications for their Christology of the fact that Jesus underwent a “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (matt 3.6; Mark 1.4; Luke 3.3; Acts 13.24; 19.4):  something that we can also see disturbed second-century Christina authors (Ignatius, Ephesians, 18.2; Justin, Dialogue with Trypho, 88).  They may also have been concerned that the act of baptism by Jon could have been interpreted as indicating that the one baptized was in fact interior to the one doing the baptism.  (Justin Meggitt – Cambridge)

Both [John and Jesus] are depicted as preaching similar eschatological messages of judgement and repentance… and as demanding similarly high standards of righteousness… ; in the last days of his life, Jesus is shown as justifying his dramatic action in the temple by reference of John’s authority to initiate his baptism (Mark 11.27-33 and parallels).  (Justin Meggitt – Cambridge)

[Mary]  Let me just recall the significant incidents.  The first is … so embarrassing that Matthew and Luke, who usually repeat Mark’s narrative, have left out this particular incident.  Jesus, we are told, had gone home and a crowd had gathered around, presumably in expectation of healing miracles or to hear the teaching.  Emotions were running high, there may have been some disorder “they could not even eat”.  At this point, we are told, “when his family heard of it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying “he is beside himself” (Mk 3:19-21).  Mary is not actually named here, although it is probable that she would be included in “his family”.  What the incidents seems to show is a pretty complete misunderstanding between Jesus and the members of his family.  To put it crudely, they thought he was mad.  (John Macquarrie – Professor Oxford)

The essential message of Christianity… is, I would say, the transvaluation of all values, the reversal of the commonly accepted value system.  Hitherto wealth, power, privileged position have been the values for which human beings have striven and which they have respected; but henceforth these values drop to the bottom of the scale, and what has hitherto been despised is now exalted – love, meekness, humility, respect for the other.  Or to put it into religious language, God has hitherto been the supreme Power, the Ruler of the world, the celestial counterpart of an earthly emperor; but henceforth God is the crucified man, bearing the sins and suffering of the world, a God who comes in weakness and lowliness.  (John Macquarrie – Professor Oxford)

It seems highly probable that, if there is a God, there will be some such communication of God’s nature and purpose. There will be revelation, or a finite communication of divine truth through a medium of great beauty, wisdom, moral insight and spiritual power. It may be a text or a person, or a text communicated through a person who has an especially close relationship to God.  Again, we have to judge as well as we can whether a person has such a close relationship to God. We will examine their lives for moral heroism, inspired wisdom, spiritual peace and joy, a sense of union with the supreme Spirit, and liberation from self. But it is reasonable to think that some humans will have an especially close and intense knowledge and love of God, or that God will take some human lives and unite them closely to the divine in knowledge and love. They will become the channels of divine revelation of what God is and of what God desires and for the world. (Keith Ward – Professor Oxford)

A strong sense of God’s moral justice was inescapable in contemporary Jewish faith and piety, though it was joined to a sense of his ready forgiveness.  (Leslie Houlden – Professor Kings, Oxford)

The Jewish tradition of “wisdom” teaching, as found in Proverbs, Ecclesiasticus, and (closer to Jesus’ time) both at Qumran and in the Wisdom of Solomon, comes forward as  a model that seems to have formed much of the agenda for Jesus.  Subjects such as the proper use of possessions, the favouring of the poor above the rich, the reversal of conventional ideas of precedence and power, the need for modest and prudent speech, a stress on generosity of heart and deed, a radicalising of one’s attitude to conventional moral commands – all these figure in the wisdom tradition and in the teaching of Jesus. (Leslie Houlden – Professor Kings, Oxford)

Whatever we may wish to think, we cannot be certain where the Master’s voice exactly sounds.  But there is enough agreement for us to be foolish to doubt that Jesus’ teaching had a radical and startling character that caused a stir at the time and has continued to disturb all attempts of later generations to tone it down or domesticate it to human convenience.  The End-time’s nonappearance naturally caused the most drastic rethink.  (Leslie Houlden – Professor Kings, Oxford)

All four gospels fail to make any reference to either Sepphoris or Tiberias [both cities], the former refurbished under Herod Antipas to be the “ornament of all Galilee”, and the latter founded by him in 19 CE when Jesus was already an adult.  The impression which these omissions give is that of a rural ministry to the villages of Galilee, but avoided the chief urban centres… (Sean Freyne – Professor Trinity College Dublin, visiting Professor Harvard)

The excavators of the city of Sepphoris – located just four miles from Nazareth in Galilee – describe life there during the first century CE as largely Jewish, rather than Hellenistic or Roman, as has previously been thought.  Sepphoris served as the capital of the Galilee first in 20 CE and then again from 61 CE.  In the intervening four decades, the new city of Tiberias on the Sea of Galilee served as the capital.  Sepphoris was no backwater… [and was] architecturally sophisticated.  (Eric H. Cline – Professor George Washington, previously Stanford, Yale)

Jesus says “My son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5), to which the scribes respond, “It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?”  Modern scholars, who seem to assume that something like this exchange actually occurred, read the first remark in light of the second and conclude that Jesus deeply shocked and offended his Jewish audience by daring to speak for God or by putting himself in God’s place by forgiving sins, and so on.  But the connection between illness and sin, and hence healing and the forgiveness of sin, is attested in Judaism both contemporary with an after the lifetime of Jesus.  In the context of a cure, such a comment would barely seem remarkable, must less blasphemous.  So also with speaking on God’s behalf:  within Judaism, priests, prophets, or any inspired person could claim to speak for God. (Paula Fredriksen – Professor Boston, Princeton, Stanford)

[Jesus' own disciples continuing to worship and offer sacrifices in the Temple after his death]  Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts (Acts 2:46) One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the time of prayer—at three in the afternoon. (Acts 3:1) so do what we tell you. There are four men with us who have made a vow. 24 Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved. Then everyone will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law. 25 As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.” (Acts 21:23-26) Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother or sister has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to them; then come and offer your gift. (Mt 5:23-24)

However much of the acid of criticism you drip on to the gospel texts, it remains clear that Jesus claims to be rewriting the rule book and redefining what is means to belong to God’s people.  He is acting like the god who chose Israel in the first place.  In the Old Testament, God had chosen his cluster of slaves to be a people; and Jesus, in choosing his fishermen, tax collectors and prostitutes, repeats and re-embodies this moment of choice: he claims a creative liberty for himself that belongs strictly to God.  (Rowan Williams – Professor Oxford and Cambridge)

Throughout the late Middle Ages and the Reformation period, many people claimed that the end of the world and the Second coming were imminent.  (Euan Cameron)

Whether part of Jesus’ original teaching or not, the early Church had certainly been dominated by an apocalyptic sense of the imminence of the coming of God’s kingdom.  Paul for instance had declared that “the time is short” (cd 1 Cor 7:29).  However, as the years passed, the Church was required to adapt to the new circumstances, in which the imminent end of the world seemed delayed our postponed.  (David Brown – Professor St Andrews previously Durham and Oxford)

Conservative Christians often affirm that the bible is historically accurate, internally consistent, and morally edifying.  Anyone who has had a good introductory course on the Bible at college level knows that it is not necessarily any of the above… Thom Stark’s book, The Human Faces of God… presents many of the obviously problematic aspects of the Bible – polytheism, human sacrifice, genocide, mistaken eschatological expectations… as Stark realises, it is only by confronting these problems honestly that we can find a firm basis for a constructive biblical theology… As he states at the beginning of the book, the Bible does not have a single viewpoint, and one of its great strengths is its inbuilt tradition of self-criticism.  No modern critic comes as close to being as critical of the biblical tradition as were Amos and Ezekiel, or, for that matter, Jesus.  (John J. Collins – Professor Yale)

[circumcision]  But in the records of these debates within the New Testament, no one ever invokes a saying of Jesus on this dispute subject – presumably because he never made one.  The issue had not come up because Jesus’ followers were Jews, his mission was to Israel, and he simply took circumcision for granted.  (Joel Marcus – Professor Duke University)

Into such a religious context with its ferment of debate and diversity fit the movements of John the Baptist (urging a renewal of Israel in the wilderness and a new passage through the “sea” of the Jordan), and of Jesus of Nazareth round about AD 30 (Christian sources being at pains, somewhat apologetically, to subordinate the former to the latter).  Jesus’ central activities of teaching in the synagogues, attending the Temple services, keeping the festivals – and disputing with other teachers (especially represented , at least in later tradition, as sharpening his views against those of the Pharisees) – these place him in the mainstream of contemporary religious occupations.  And his central concerns fit comfortably into the continuing debate within the Judaism of the day, often characterized as they are with reformist tendencies: concerns for Temple purity and cleansing [references omitted], concerns for intentional purity in worship as well as in morals (e.g. Matt 5:21ff), concerns for the purity of the person (casting out of demons / curing the sick), concerns for love of neighbour (extended even to loving one’s enemies), concerns for restricting the sexual code of behaviour (with a restrictive view on divorce), concerns for giving primacy to moral (as opposed to ceremonial) law.  (Professor G.W. Clarke – University of Western Australia)

What do Jews say in reply…. If I commit a sin I’ll repent.  The system is built in and allows for human frailty.  And it’s not as if God creates us in such a sinful state that we then depend on God to send me a remedy for that fundamental sinful state.  No.  god knows that we humans are frail creatures we are fallible.  We commit a sin.  We atone for our sins.  We repent.  We engage in Torah study, charity, good deeds.  And that makes up on some level for the sin that we committed.  And that’s fine.  That would be what a Jew would say in reply.  To which a Christian would say “that’s not enough” to which a Jew would say “ it is”.  (Shaye Cohen – Professor Harvard)

The canonical Gospels do not comment on Jesus’s marital status. The norm for
1st-century rabbis was to marry well before 30. New Testament sources are
familiar with husband-wife teams, like Priscilla and Aquila in the letters of
Paul, among the earliest missionaries. The New Testament also states that
bishops should be married. According to 1 Timothy, an indication that a man is
ready to take on a leadership role is his ability to discipline his children
with wisdom and without anger. So from a historical perspective, it is really
the idea that Jesus might not have been married that might surprise us. (Kate
Cooper – Professor Manchester)

From the viewpoint of the Jewish and pagan literature in the century following Jesus, Jesus was at most a blip on the radar screen. The term marginal Jew is a way to shock Christians into the realization that Jesus was not a Christian but a Jew, and, far from appearing so important in his own time and place, to many educated people of the time he would have seemed very marginal. (J. P. Meier – Professor University of Notre Dame)

would love it if every clergyperson would stand up and say to their
congregations: “Sometimes the Bible is wrong.” There is a
taken-for-grantedness in conservative American Christian culture—and it’s true,
I think, in much of mainline Christianity today as well—that understanding the
Bible is simple. And, if the Bible says something is wrong, then that pretty
much settles it. There are very few Christians who are willing to stand up and
say, “Sometimes the Bible is wrong.” Yet, I think that’s really important
for Christians to say occasionally…Obvious examples are passages in the Bible
that say slavery is OK. And, there are some passages in the Bible that
absolutely prohibit divorce. In Mark 10:9, it’s complete. Matthew has an exception clause: except for reasons of adultery. Then, there are clearly passages in the New
Testament that expect Jesus to come again very soon from their point in time.
Now, 2,000 years have passed. There are so many more examples where in plain
terms we need to say, “Sometimes the Bible is wrong.”  (Marcus J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

The pre-modern domination system was ruled over by the top one to two
percent of the population. We’ll call these people the ‘elites of power and
wealth’—and they would include the monarchy, the aristocracy, and their
extended families. Ordinary people had no voice in how the society was put
together…. …the political passion of the Bible and the God of the Bible and the political passion of Jesus himself. The Bible is one massive protest against the ancient domination system, which makes it a very political document. And we need to remember that Jesus didn’t simply die, he was executed by the domination system that ruled his world. He was executed because he had become a radical critic of the way that world was put together and he was beginning to attract a following. To be very blunt, it’s difficult for me to imagine how anybody who has seen what the Bible and
Jesus are about could vote for policies that actually maintain or increase the
wealth of those at the top in our day.  (Marcus J. Borg – Professor Oregon State)

Originally a message directed only to other Jews, the teaching of Jesus
was that the old world was about to come to an end and a new kingdom
established. There would be unlimited abundance In the fruits of the earth.
Those who dwell in the new kingdom — including the righteous dead, who
will be raised back to life — would be rid of physical and mental ills. Living
In a new world that is without corruption, they will be immortal. Jesus was
sent to announce this new kingdom and rule over it. There Is much that is
original and striking in Jesus’ ethical teaching. He not only defended the
weak and powerless as other Jewish prophets had done, but he also opened
his arms to the outcasts of the world. Yet the belief that a new kingdom was at
hand was the heart of his message and was accepted as such by his
disciples. The new kingdom did not arrive, and Jesus was arrested and
executed by the Romans. The history of Christianity is a series of attempts to
cope with this founding experience of eschatological disappointment. (John
Gray – Professor London School of Economics)

[“cleansing of the Temple”]  Jesus attached the
entire temple establishment… The Gospels cite the Pharisees as Jesus’
enemies, but this probably reflected the situation fifty years later when their
authors were writing.  The Pharisees were
the more flexible and populist sect, and some of their teachings may have been
similar to those of Jesus.  His real enemies were the Temple aristocracy. The Herodians now challenged him about paying taxes to Rome…. Yet [Jesus] did not call himself the Messiah, emphasising the Shema, the basic Jewish prayer to the one God, and the love of his fellow men: he was very much a Jew.  (Simon Sebag
Montefiore – Professor University of Buckingham)

James and his Nazarenes remained practising Jews, loyal to Jesus , but also teaching
and praying in the Temple for the next thirty years.   James was widely admired there as a Jewish holy man.  Jesus’ Judaism was clearly no
more idiosyncratic than that of the many other preachers who came before and
after him.  (Simon Sebag Montefiore – Professor University of Buckingham)

Not surprisingly, the apocalyptic elements in the New Testament are awkward or distasteful to many Christian theologians and apologists. If they cannot rid the early church of apocalypticism, they can at least claim that Jesus himself and his authentic words were free of this sort of nonsense. The fact is, however, that Jesus lived and died in a world of apocalyptic fervor. If he is fully freed from this world, he ceases to be a historical figure. (Frank Moore Cross – Professor Harvard)

In the
canonical gospels Jesus does refer to the sacrificial act
however, his sayings can be used selectively according to whether the scholar
interpreting them is against or in favour of the act of sacrifice. I list here
some indicative examples: after Jesus
has healed the leper, he tells him to go and offer the sacrifice that Moses had
prescribed for the case, apparently referring to Lev. 14: 2–32, where these
sacrifices are specified (Matt. 8: 4, Mark 1: 44, Luke 5: 14). In Matt. 5: 23–4
Jesus advises worshippers not to offer a sacrifice if they do not settle their
disputes with their neighbours first. Elsewhere (Matt. 9: 13) Jesus reminds
people of Hos. 6: 6 (‘I want pity and not sacrifice’), and he approves of the
scribe who realized that love is more than holocausts and sacrifices (Mark 12:
33). Some of these cases not definitely constituting criticism of Jewish
sacrifice on Jesus’ part, canonical tradition lacks any explicit criticism of
Jewish sacrificial cult made by Jesus.
only narrations which could be considered as Jesus’ criticism of sacrifice
describe the so
‘cleansing of the Temple’,
70 but even this episode is not without problems.
For one thing, it is only in John’s version that Jesus ejects the sacrificial
victims from the Temple. (p.226) Moreover, if Jesus
accompanied his action by words, it is not certain that these were the Old
Testament aphorisms attributed to him by the authors of the gospels (Isa. 56:
7, Jer. 7: 11). At a deeper level, too, it is not certain whether these
aphorisms contained hints at criticism of the sacrificial cult per se, or of
the way in which the sacrificial cult was conducted. Except for the puzzling
episode of the ‘cleansing’, the rest of Jesus’ career is presented in
accordance with the assumption that he respected Jewish sacrificial cult… …
John’s depiction of
repeatedly visiting Jerusalem at festivals has been thought by some to
constitute the main element in favour of John’s historicity.
71 It is very natural to deduce that Jesus was one
of the worshippers during these festivals and, consequently, that he must have
participated in the Temple cult and offered animal sacrifices… … First‐century
narrations about Jesus provide strong evidence for the fact that Jesus
respected Jewish sacrifice, but weak evidence for his rejection of the Temple
cult. The ‘cleansing of the Temple’ does not constitute incontestable evidence
for Jesus’ criticism of Jewish sacrificial cult
. (Marie-Zoe Petropoulou)

Historically Jesus was, of course, a Palestinian Jew. He taught the imminence of the kingdom of God, interpreted the Torah in a highly original way, taught wisdom and morality in parables, often performed miracles and criticized the piety of his contemporaries, as a charismatic radical. But this very Jewish figure, it may be claimed, under the influence of Greek culture mediated through Hellenistic Judaism, came to be interpreted in the Greek Gospels in categories familiar and congenial to the Graeco-Roman world. Jesus, a wandering charismatic healer and teacher, can, on thebasis of Mark in particular, be interpreted as a ‘divine man’, similar to other ‘divine men’. The tradition about him adapted him to the Graeco- Roman cultural milieu and thus came to present the divine figure found in the Gospels. (W.D. Davies – Professor Princeton and E.P. Sanders Professor Oxford)

is nothing like the parables in the writings of Jewish spiritual teachers
before Jesus used them: interestingly, parables only emerge as a literary form
in later Judaism after Jesus’ death. Was this form of his teaching so
successful that it impressed even Jews who did not become his followers?… …
There is a wonderfully quirky, counter-intuitive character to the things that
happen in Jesus’ parables. Certainly, they are full of a sense that things are
going to change very soon. Jesus did have an arresting vision of a kingdom,
which he generally called the Kingdom of God – maybe a worldly kingdom, maybe
not…. …  When Jesus created a new prayer
for his followers, the ‘Lord’s Prayer’, its first petition addressed to the
Father-God was ‘Thy kingdom come.’ There is no question but that Jesus assumed
this to be an event in the near future, both cosmic and historically concrete:
that idea has been a constant problem for the many generations of Christians
thereafter, who have had to live with the fact that it proved not to be.
(Professor Diarmuid Macculloch review of “Zealot” by Reza Aslan)

Pythagoras speaks of the special nearness of children to the gods: Because of their purity they are particularly cher­ished by tJ1e gods, and whatever they ask for is granted.  (Christoph Riedwig – Professor Zurich)

Like Heraclitus and other Greek and Jewish thinkers, Jesus predicted that

there would be a divine judgement on the world, amid cosmic catastrophe.

Unlike the Stoics, who placed the cosmic denouement in the indefinite and

distant future, Jesus saw it as an imminent event, in which he would

himself play a crucial role as the Messiah. (Anthony Kenny – Professor Oxford)




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