So, last semester I took a class called Jesus of Nazareth, A Study of the Historical Jesus. And it was fantastic. After a while, as a person who has a fiath in the the Christ, you really begin to lose sight of Jesus as a man. And according to MY faith, anyway, you have to be able to embrace both the Christ and the Man in Jesus i order to really understand him. However, it also brought to light a great number of things that would cause even the most devout of people to give pause. And I try to consider myself a lot more moderate than devout. I am willing to make concessions about what I believe, because I know that what I believe will never be definitive. I understand that I will NEVER understand all there is to know about Jesus. So, I think some gray area is a necessary thing for me to continue to grow. However, this study of Jesus left me with a lot of gray area and a lot less black and white than I had when I started. And honestly, this was a little blurrier than I was comfortable with.
Authors like Robert Funk and The Jesus Seminar, Marcus Borg, Robert Crossan.... These stupid men!! They sure did leave a big gaping hole where a lot of certainty used to be. They also, made me take a far closer look at the Gospels. I began to notice the real differences between John and the Synoptics. I borrowed books from my pastor and another "scholar" from my church and began reading ALL the Gospels. The Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, Sayings Gospel Q, etc. These books that may have been the literary basis for our cannonized Gospels, even if they didn't make the cut themselves. I really started looking into the Council of Nicea, the divinity of Christ, the stories about him that did and did not make the cut. It was not a very pleasent time for me. While it was all very interesting, it was also making me very uncomfortable with the things I had always assumed to be true. There were the miracles, the resurrections, the actual WORDS of Christ...all that red letter business. The Book of John in particular. And then this wonderful thing happened beyond that.
We began an in-depth study of the book of Mark at church. There were only like eight of us. My pastor, Luke and I, another couple, and two or three other women. My mentor at church is the wife of the other couple in this group. She was raised Southern Baptist. My pastor went to Southwester Baptist Theological Seminary the same years as my Dad. Then he went to the UU church and then came back to the UCC. I thought that sounded a little like my own journey. These people knew what I was going through!! And they sid it was okay to have these burning questions clouding my perception of Jesus. As it turns out, my pastor is a Borg scholar. My mentor's husband has studied the Jesus Seminar in depth and even subscribes to their quarterly! All these questions, and I finally had people who could start shedding some light on their answers. I have a box of books next to the computer all about the study of Jesus. I was not run out of the church for my mischevious thoughts on Christ, I was embraced for them!
And then, it happened. The most definitive moment of my spiritual life thus far. Someone said something so profound, yet so simple, that I reeled from it for weeks. In the midst of a conversation about Jesus, the man, the Christ, the spirit...someone said, "It doesn't have to be true to be truth." It was wonderful. We get so very cought up on proving the authenticity of everything the bible says Jesus said or did, that we forget all the truth BEHIND those things. So what if some of the stories came out of metaphor, exageration or speculation. That in no way disproves who Jesus is, the message He was sending or the work we are to do because we believe. Fantastic.
For instance, in our own study, Luke and I were looking at the Feeding of the Five Thousand. This story is told a couple of different ways, and there is even an account of the Feeding of the Four Thousand, which may be a retelling, or a seperate event. Now, here is how I look at it. Did Jesus multiply the bread and fish to make enough for everyone plus some? Maybe. Sure. I believe he COULD have. OR...OR... Could it have been that when one small boy came forward with his meager lunch, other people in the crowd happened to have food they were hoarding back. And MAYBE they were looking for a free lunch, but when that little boy stood up, their hearts opened up. Maybe the miracle was NOT that Jesus multiplied the bread, but maybe the miracle is what He did to those people's hearts. Maybe Jesus, being the Christ, created in that "congregation" the same sense of generosity that sometimes still sweeps us today. Maybe there were baskets left over because people just brought that much food, and through the Spirit, they were compelled to give it. The miracle doesn't HAVE to be a supernatural PHYSICAL event. In all liklihood, it could have been a completely natural earthly occurance coming from a supernatural change in people's hearts. Not the "true" story as you read it in the Gospels, but very full of truth, no?
So, this is where I have come in looking at Historical Jesus versus the Christ... Who cares? The message is the same. MY work is the same. My beliefs are intrinsically the same, just my perception that is different. Maybe if we all stopped harping on the little points, and just looked toward the broader message, all this "Is the bible infallible?" poo could go by the wayside. Who cares if it is true? What we are searching for is truth, and there is plenty of that to go around.