Father Cantalamessa on Jesus

Author: Father Raniero Cantalamessa, O.F.M. Cap.


Father Cantalamessa on Jesus

"Between History and … History"

ROME, 14 JULY 2007 (ZENIT)

Here is a translation of a talk given in Rome by the Pontifical Household preacher, Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, on historical research concerning Jesus.

* * *

Talk given at a public debate held in Rome
12 May 2007

1. Jesus, between history and … history

It seems to me that, more basic than the alternative expressed in the title, "Jesus, between history and theology," is the alternative, "Jesus, between history and history." The notion of a rectilinear, univocal form of historical research concerning Jesus, leading progressively to a clear and complete picture of him is a myth which no serious historian of our day would claim to validate.

Leaving aside the diachronic variations — that is to say, the historical reconstructions of Jesus that have come, one after the other, during the last two centuries — let me look for a moment at the synchronic views, that is, those that have arisen simultaneously in one epoch, our own.

In the new introduction to her work: "From Jesus to Christ. The origins of the images of Jesus in the New Testament," Paula Fredriksen, Professor at Boston University, writes: "Paperbacks proliferate as the range of portraits of Jesus broadens. In recent scholarship, Jesus has been imagined and presented as a type of first-century shaman figure; as a Cynic-sort of wandering wise man; as a visionary radical and social reformer preaching egalitarian ethics to the destitute; as a Galilean regionalist alienated from the elitism of Judean religious conventions (like Temple and Torah); as a champion of national liberation and, on the contrary, as its opponent and critic — on and on. All these figures are presented with rigorous academic argument and methodology; all are defended with appeals to the ancient data. Debate continues at a roiling pitch, and consensus — even on issues so basic as what constitutes evidence and how to construe it — seems a distant hope."[1]

Appeal is often made to recent discoveries that are supposed at last to have given historical research an advantage over the past, to wit the scrolls of Qumran, the library of Nag Hammadi, archaeological excavations, sociological research. Yet how variable the conclusions can be that are drawn from these new historical sources is clear from the fact that they have given rise to two images of Christ, one irreconcilably opposed to the other. On the one hand we have a Jesus "wholly and in all things Hebrew," and on the other, Jesus son of the hellenised Galilee of his time, imbued with a cynical philosophy.
Researches in sociology too tend to lead to diametrically opposed results, as E. P. Sanders, the great specialist on Jesus and Judaism has noted: For some, "Jesus' world faced a severe social and economic crisis, one that grew worse day by day. Palestine's small landholders were in a tightening noose of institutionalized injustices such as double taxation, heavy indebtedness, and loss of land. Peasant families fell ever more heavily into debt under the steady economic pressures of double taxation. The wealthy lent them money that they could not repay, charged very high rates of interest, and then foreclosed on the property… There was rising indebtedness and a declining peasantry, the social-economic infrastructure was in decline and poverty worsening." For others, on the contrary, "Galilee was urbanized, cosmopolitan and prosperous… in fact an epitome of Hellenistic culture… Jesus and his hearers spoke Greek."[2]
It is not surprising, then, that in the post-modern thinking a radical scepticism has developed. Here the alternative is no longer between history and theology, nor between one history and another, but between history and interpretation or literary criticism. The text is read without any regard for foregoing objective data; all turns upon the reader's direct confrontation with the text and the outcome is all subjective and relative.

The most recent, monumental (and in my view genuinely innovative) monograph on the historical Jesus, written by James Dunn of Durham University, England, ends off a review of the opinions with this assessment: "The loss of confidence in historical method in post-modern circles is thus complete. And so far as the quest of the historical Jesus is concerned, its results, particularly when the various Jesuses of the neo-Liberal quest are included, simply confirm the failure of traditional historical methodology. The simple and rather devastating fact has been that Gospels researchers and questers of the historical Jesus have failed to produce agreed results"[3].

What conclusion are we to draw from all this? That we might as well abandon research into the historical Jesus? Certainly not that. The author just quoted gives an example, devoting his monumental work to this very research. I believe that we can apply to historical research what the proverb says about God, that "he writes straight on crooked lines." It does in fact advance our knowledge of history, opening new horizons and formulating new hypotheses, some of which prove to be productive and enlightening. The very failure to find a commonly accepted alternative to the Gospel narrative is in itself an important historical acquisition.

The requisite in approaching research into the historical Jesus is above all a greater humility and an awareness of our own intrinsic limitations. Historical criticism has caused orthodox theology to be more humble and aware of the problematics, but historical criticism itself needs perhaps to accept its own limits, whether arising from the sources, or from the object of its investigations which — hypothetically at least — extends beyond the limits of history. The approach to the problematics, the pro and the con and the awareness of limits, is what in fact distinguishes the great scientific monographs on the Jesus of history from the works of writers in search of sensationalism whose works are triumphal processions marching to conclusions already obvious from the outset. Among the serious monographs, the most recent has been that of Gerd Theissen and Annette Metz, although it is questionable on many points.[4]

A mistaken methodology, against which the serious researchers are always on guard, is that of taking something "historically not demonstrable" simply "as historically false." Concerning many of the events related in the Gospels, history can only conclude that they cannot be supported on the basis of historical argument, yet this does not justify the conclusion that the narrative is therefore false.

It is particularly necessary to abandon the illusion that believers start with a preconceived idea when writing about Jesus, but unbelievers, unprejudiced, do not. John Meier, author of a major study on the historical Jesus, writes: "Whether we call it a bias, a tendenz, a worldview, or a faith stance, everyone who writes on the historical Jesus writes from some ideological vantage point; no critic is exempt. The solution to this dilemma is neither to pretend to an absolute objectivity that is not to be had nor to wallow in total relativism. The solution is to admit honestly one's own standpoint, to try to exclude its influence in making scholarly judgments by adhering to certain commonly held criteria, and to invite the correction of other scholars when one's vigilance inevitably slips."[5]

2. Jesus, Hebrew believer or cynic philosopher?

Speaking of the limits of historical research, I would like to highlight one that seems to me to be decisive. It concerns the possibility of an historical research on Jesus that not only prescinds from, but from the outset excludes any faith in God; in other words, the plausibility of what has at times been called "the Jesus of the atheists." I'm not now speaking of faith in Christ, in his divinity, but of faith in God, faith in the most commonly accepted sense of the term.

Far be from me the idea that non-believers have no right to concern themselves with Jesus. I am convinced that Jesus is "the patrimony of humankind" and that no one, and of course neither the Church, holds a monopoly on him. What I want to make clear are the consequences of keeping to that point of departure, and that the "preconceptions" of a researcher who does not believe have no less influence on research than those of one who does.

I am convinced that, if one prescinds from faith in God, one eliminates not only the divinity, that is the so-called Christ of faith, but also the historical Jesus "tout court"; nothing is left, not even Jesus the man. It is simply not possible to contest on historical grounds that the Jesus of the Gospels lived and worked relating to and aware of the heavenly Father, that he prayed and taught others to pray, that he based everything on faith in God. If this dimension is eliminated from the Jesus of the Gospels, his whole personality disintegrates and becomes incomprehensible.

But if we assume that God does not exist, Jesus is simply another one of the deluded many who prayed, adored, spoke with his own shadow or the projection of his own essence, to use Feuerbach's terms. And how would it be possible to explain the fact that this man's life, as they readily admit, "changed the world"? It would be tantamount to saying that truth or reason had nothing to do with the change in the world, but only illusion and irrationality. How then explain that this man continues, at a remove of two thousand years, to appeal to humankind as no other?

There is only one way out of this dilemma, and we need to recognise the consistency shown by those who in recent years have made it their own. The way out is the one mapped out in the ambit of the "Jesus Seminar" based in Berkeley, California. Jesus was not a Hebrew believer; he was basically a philosopher in the mode of the cynics[6]; he did not preach a kingdom of God, nor an approaching end of the world; all he did was pronounce words of profound wisdom in the style of a Zen master. His purpose was to reawaken in people a self-awareness, to convince them that they had no need of him or of any other god, because they themselves carried within themselves a spark of the divine[7]. Strange enough — rather not surprising at all — these are the things that New Age has been preaching for some decades!

How can this new image of Jesus be justified historically? Simply by taking as absolute the "Q" source (the collection of the sayings of Jesus based on the use Mark and Matthew made of them in their Gospels) and regarding it as the only document having any tenable link with a Jesus who really existed. But this is not good enough, because among the sayings of Jesus listed in that collection, there are some that are incompatible with that image of him. Thus the distinction is made between three successive layers in that document (itself hypothetical!), of which the oldest, called "Q3," alone authentic, could be taken as a nucleus of esoteric sayings approximating in kind those we find in the Coptic Gospel of Thomas. I studied classical philology and textual criticism during my university years, and know that on such premises there is no possibility whatsoever of hitting the mark. That approach leaves the data open to endless manipulation.

Before any of them, Nietzsche saw the dilemma clearly and resolved it in a way much more coherent than today's — making of Jesus not a philosopher in the cast of Greek rationality, but its irreducible opposite.

3. Continuity or complete break? The "Jesus of Nazareth" of Benedict XVI

Let us move now to the alternative mentioned in the title of this paper, "Jesus of Nazareth between history and 'theology.'" After all of the immense effort that has been expended, from Reimarus to today, to free the historical Jesus from the Christ of ecclesiastical dogma, it will perhaps serve some purpose again to take into consideration the viewpoint of tradition and church dogma now that they have become more humble and more aware of their own limits, thanks precisely to historical criticism.

This, I believe, is what Pope Benedict XVI set out to do in his book "Jesus of Nazareth." Someone has accused him of bypassing in that way all the problems and doubts to which modern historical criticism has given rise. But I ask myself: what was the pope supposed to have done — write yet another historical reconstruction in which to confront and discuss all objections? We heard, above, how long the list is of writers, believers and non-believers, who have done just that, and I cannot see how yet another such work, even if written by a pope, would have made any difference.

What the pope chose to do was to present in a positive light the figure and the teaching of Jesus as understood by the Church, starting from the conviction that the Christ of faith is also, rigorously, the Jesus of history. Since the pope has left everyone the liberty to criticise his book, I too permit myself a small reservation. I think that the continuity between the Christ of the kerygma and of dogma, for all that it is real, is not quite as rectilinear as is made to appear in the summary introduction to the book.

On this point, I think we can share the opinion of Theissen and Merz: "Christians, after Easter, spoke of Jesus more affirmatively (that is to say, they said greater and more important things) than the historical Jesus would have said about himself. This 'value plus' of post-Paschal Christology in respect of Jesus' pre-Paschal self-awareness, whether on the historical or on the objective level, is based on the actual event of Easter"[8].

Theissen and Merz saw that the two phases — before Easter, and after — relate to each other in the same way as implicit and explicit Christology do. Among the elements of implicit Christology that they find in the Gospels, not a few correspond with those on which Benedict XVI bases his argument in his book: the expression "Amen" in the particular way Jesus uses it; the self-confidence with which Jesus counterposes the authority of the Torah and of Moses with his "But I say to you …"; his particular way of relating to the Father and above all the distinction between "My Father" and "your father"; his forgiving sins; the superiority Jesus claims over the Baptist whom he defines as "the greatest of the prophets."[9]

It would be most ungenerous to fail to recognise the theological and spiritual richness of Benedict XVI's book on Jesus, and gauge it only against the measure of the historical Jesus. It is of course a book written by a believer for believers and for those who take an interest in knowing the Christ of tradition and of the Church. He himself declares that he does not want to enter into the debates that are proper to historico-critical research, but assuming them, to go beyond, seeking in wonderment a genuinely theological interpretation."[10]

The pope bases himself explicitly on canonical exegesis, that is, on that type of exegesis that presupposes the belief that God has not just one way of revealing himself to the world, the way of history; he has many other ways, among which the most important is biblical inspiration. This conviction allows not only the reading of "the fragment in the whole" (that is, a text within its context) as the moderns use to do, but also "the whole within the fragment" (that is, the entire Bible reflected within each of its parts) as the Fathers have done and on which the Church's spiritual reading of Scripture down through the ages is based. In a magisterial work, Henri de Lubac has demonstrated how coherent and fruitful this way of reading the Scripture has been[11].

It is very significant that the decision of the pope to keep to the Jesus of the Gospels is, on certain counts, confirmed in the monograph of James Dunn to which we referred above. In that work, after a lengthy and sharp analysis of the results of the research on the historical Jesus over the last three centuries, the writer comes to the conclusion that there has been no break between Jesus the preacher and the Jesus preached, and hence between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of faith. The Jesus of faith was not born after Easter, but was there in the first encounters with the disciples, who became disciples precisely because they believed in the Rabbi of Nazareth.

The difficulty in making the link between the Jesus of the synoptic Gospels and the real Jesus arises for the most part from the failure to take into account the laws that govern the transmission of the founding traditions of a community still without a written culture, as happened when accounts of Jesus were first formulated and circulated among groups of people. The study of these laws (even now verifiable among peoples of pre-literate cultures) shows that an event or a teaching held to be important for the history and for the life of the community can be transmitted with acute accuracy as to its essential elements, though in the particulars showing variations in each narration, to meet the requirements of the moment.

Historical criticism ("Formgeschichte," or history of form) has tacitly projected on the epoch of the New Testament the process which leads today to the final edition of a book: successive revisions, layers as it were, based one upon the other, adding to or subtracting from it some part. This has given rise to the illusion that one can work back from a layer to the one before, eventually to arrive at a hypothetical, original nucleus — which almost always turns out to be a close reflection of the point at which the scholar concerned aimed at the outset.

What do we actually discover by taking this approach? Not — at least directly — the "hidden interiority" of Christ, what he thought of himself, but the "Jesus as remembered"; "remembered" however — and this is where the difference lies — not at a distance in time, after Easter, by disciples and communities that re-interpreted the events and the teachings as extraneous interests moved them to do, but by those who straight away began to tell, in story form, of what they themselves experienced and heard.

Read in this way, the scholar says, "the synoptic Gospels are examples of a model and technique of oral transmission that have guaranteed a stability and continuity in the tradition of Jesus greater than any of those ever imagined in the past."

4. Easter — a watershed

For many historians, Easter does not represent a qualitative leap in Christology, but an absolute beginning. But the more historical research stresses this new beginning, the greater the difficulties with it become. Once we abandon the thesis of Reimarus, that the resurrection of Christ was a conscious fraud of the disciples, how can we explain such an absolute beginning? All the subsequent development of faith in Christ it is said to be based on the Resurrection, but then, when closely examined, it appears to have no basis at all, because the Resurrection itself is a matter of faith, therefore something subjective, not real. Christianity appears to be a massive upside-down pyramid, its point resting on the void.

This is not the place to call for yet another in the unending series of debates on the resurrection. I'll confine myself to citing an affirmation made by the English scholar, Charles H. Dodd, with which I wholly agree: "The assumption that the whole great course of Christian history is a massive pyramid balanced upon the apex of some trivial occurrence, is surely a less probable one than that the whole event, the occurrence plus the meaning inherent in it, did actually occupy a place in history at least comparable with that which the New Testament assigns to it."[12]

The resurrection, some say, is a metaphor; that is true, but the meaning of the metaphor, as Paul Ricoeur has pointed out, is not to give expression to something other than reality, but to say, of reality itself, something that cannot be said in any other way. The resurrection in itself is something positioned at the limits, or more properly, outside the limits of time and space and hence too of history, yet there is something that took place within time and space and that the historian must therefore set out to explain.

Two facts are offered for the historian's consideration, and it is these that permit him to speak of the resurrection: the first is the unanticipated and inexplicable faith of the disciples, a faith so tenacious as to stand firm even against the test of martyrdom; and the second is the explanation of such faith that the disciples left of it. The observation made by Martin Dibelius will always remain pertinent: "When the decisive moment arrived, and Jesus was taken, scourged and sentenced, the disciples cherished no expectation of a resurrection. They fled, and considered the cause of Jesus over and done with. What was needed, therefore, was something that in a very short time would not only bring about a radical change in their state of mind, but would move them to an entirely new kind of activity and to founding the Church. This 'something' is the historical kernel of faith in the resurrection."[13] There has been an endless number of attempts to find alternative explanations for this "something," but so far none has lasted much longer than its author.

5. The veneration of Jesus Christ

Where then, and when, did what we call 'Christianity' begin? If by 'Christianity' we correctly intend the veneration of Jesus of Nazareth as Lord, and as Divine, it began at Easter and Pentecost. Larry W. Hurtado, professor of New Testament Language, Literature and Theology at the university of Edinburgh, has taken up again the study of the origins of the cult of Jesus undertaken by W. Bousset at the beginning of the previous century, now on a new basis, in the light of what has come to be recognised as the Judaic, non-Hellenistic matrix of primitive Christianity. And the conclusion at which he arrives is that the veneration of Jesus as a divine figure burst out suddenly and unexpectedly, not little by little and later on, among circles of followers in the first century. More precisely, its origins are found among the circles of Jewish Christians of the very earliest years. It is only an idealistic way of thinking that continues to attribute the veneration of Jesus as a divine figure to the decisive influence of pagan religions and to the influx of gentile converts, holding it to have come about at a later stage and more gradually. The veneration of Jesus as 'Lord', that found adequate expression in cultic worship and in total obedience, was however widespread, not at all confined or attributable to particular circles, as for example the 'hellenists', or gentile Christians of a hypothetical 'Syriac Christ-cult'. Through all the diversity of primitive Christianity, faith in the divine condition of Jesus was incredibly widespread, common to all. Very nearly all of the 'heresies' of primitive Christianity postulated the idea of the divinity of Jesus. This was not in discussion. The problematical issue, rather, was whether there was room to consider him authentically human[14].

Clearly, if we compare the Jesus of the Gospels with the Christ of Nicea and Constantinople, the difference at first glance seems abyssal. So too, if we compare the scanned image of a human embryo in the womb with the child born and grown into adulthood, there seems to be an unbridgeable gap between the two, even though all that the grown man is, was seminally within the embryo. Didn't Jesus compare the kingdom he preached with the smallest of seeds, destined to grow and to become a great tree ? (Matthew 13:32).

According to the faith of the Church, this development, all the undeniable facts of history aside, is driven by one, inner and hidden force: the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the one factor notably absent from all the historical research concerning Jesus. On hearing even mention of the name, the historian does an about-turn, growling that that belongs in another genre; it would be doing theology. But is it possible for the researchers into the history of Jesus to ignore something to which Jesus himself, in texts of inarguable authenticity, attributes his own ability to drive out demons and perform miracles? It has become the custom, today, to speak of Jesus and the first disciples as "itinerant charismatics," but what remains of a charismatic if the experience of the Holy Spirit is left out of consideration?

Paul and the Acts of the Apostles show that after Easter the community again and again had the experience of being guided by the Holy Spirit. John gives explicit expression to this awareness, linking it back to a promise made by Jesus: "I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of things to come" (John 16:12-13). A 'prophecy' after the event, one might say; true, but even in this case the event still remains to be explained!

The Holy Spirit is outside of the field of history, but his effects are historical and so deserve to be taken into consideration. This could be one of the areas where history and theology ought to work together, each one in its own way. This is what James Dunn, author of "Christianity in the Making," has done in his work, "Jesus and the Spirit. A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament."[15]

6. One Christianity or many?

I still need to come to the issue raised by those who say that in the beginning there was not one Christianity, but many, that is to say, many different interpretations of Christ's message, gradually eliminated one by one by the growing weight of the orthodoxy imposed by the church of Rome. It is possible — why not? — to speak of different Christianities, but then of course we need to say the same of nearly every institution and of the great novelties of history. In that sense there was not one Jewish religion but many Jewish religions, nor one Renaissance but many Renaissances, nor one French Revolution but many French Revolutions, and so on, because each of these realities were the result of the processes of the interaction and refining of various factors and tendencies. Sociologists teach us that that is what usually comes about in a movement's development from its nascent status to the establishment that is its final result.

The idea put forward in some quarters, to begin again from the beginning, putting all of those possibilities into one bag — that is, bringing all the old no-longer-held modalities into play again —— in order to bring to life a new, unedited form of Christianity, makes me think of the project to develop a new Esperanto, and of its demise.

We should rather accord to the orthodoxy of the origins the merit of having fought its battle with books and decrees, without having sent anyone, neither Marcion nor Valentinus nor Montanus, to the bonfire. Some will say orthodoxy didn't have the power to do that: true enough, but the fact remains that it was not done, and that at least in the early centuries of its history, orthodoxy did not impose its way by force and conquest but by argument and example of life. Its beginnings are clean; they are still worth examining, and they can still inspire us.

The notion of an orthodoxy that emerged victorious by eliminating its competitors under the powerful guidance of Rome is a pure legend. Orthodoxy was not established in its origins by way of a movement from the centre to the periphery, but on the contrary, by movement from the periphery towards the centre. The struggles against ebionite beliefs, docetism, and encratism did not move outwards from Rome, but all arrived in Rome from Antioch in Syria, from Asia Minor, from Alexandria in Egypt, from Carthage and from Lyon in France. Rome in the first two centuries and a half of Christian history was more the arbiter between the parties than a leading force in the struggles against heresy. Even in the Council of Nicea, the influence of Rome and of the West in general was minimal. Attributing to Rome the triumph of orthodoxy is, to a large extent, the consequence of a backward projection of later situations, if not of the present state of affairs!

It would be interesting to review the various forms of so-called alternative Christianities, in order to see which of them, if still in existence, would be accepted by those who lament their passing. Encratism surely not, because of its rejection of marriage and material possessions; certainly not Marcionism because of its radical anti-Jewish stance; nor I believe would the various forms of gnosticism or docetism find acceptance, rejecting as they do the material world and the real humanity of Jesus. As to the famous prophets and itinerant charismatics, so dear to modern researchers into the Jesus of history, we note a curious point: in our day a movement similar in many of its aspects has reappeared in spectacular fashion in Christian churches, yet there are students of the historical Jesus who look on this with irony and hold it to be nothing more than the fruit of fundamentalism, irrationality and religious enthusiasm. (I know something of this because, at times, I too am placed in this category!).

There is, it is true, a stream that finds favour today among many scholars, ebionism, that is, the form of Christianity that remains in practice within the matrix of Judaism, holding Jesus to be a man and keeping to the observances of the Torah. This is something of which we know very little, apart from the fact that they were isolated communities living in the east of the Jordan. There was no war against them, no bonfire of books. Paradoxically, orthodoxy has not suppressed their memory, as some say, but in fact preserved it. If it were not for the fact that certain of their writings are quoted by authors of orthodox Christianity, we would know nothing whatever about them. Concerned as they were with countering the much more belligerent Gnosticism, the orthodox writers gave them only passing attention.

Orthodoxy, however, did not content itself with fighting these alternative forms of Christianity, but made them its own after freeing them of any "sectarian" and heretical element. The instance of encratism survives in the Church in the life-states of virginity and monasticism; the instances of gnosis are taken up by the Alexandrines, Clement and Origen; the way of the itinerant prophets, after the initial crisis arising from Montanist excesses, was to emerge again in the Church in the mendicant movements of the Middle Ages.

7. Conclusion

I cannot end my analysis without drawing attention to a contradiction. All of the spasmodic research into the historical Jesus, when those who undertake it distance themselves from the Christ of the Church, becomes by definition a radical refutation of history itself. The history to which Jesus gave rise, that he created by his life, is not only not taken into consideration, but some make every effort to obliterate it in favour of a starting-point detached from it and in contrast to it.

In this there is no application of the hermeneutic principle of "the history of effects" ("Wirkungsgeschichte"), which takes into account not only the influences undergone but also the effects produced and the influences exercised. The interpreter, says H.-G. Gadamer, can not impose his own view on the tradition of the past that he is studying, but can begin to understand it adequately only thanks to that very tradition and to the extent that he shares in it. I don't believe this means that only those with an inward adherence to Christianity can understand anything about it, but it surely should put us on our guard against believing that only those who stand outside of it can say anything objective about it.

It is through the Church and by the Church that Jesus changed the world. Without "that error called Christianity," as someone has defined it[16], we would not be here to speak about him. Jesus would be, today, an obscure Galilean rabbi whose name we would find only if we were to read a note on the writings of Tacitus or Flavius Josephus. There would have been no Augustine, no Francis of Assisi, no Thomas Aquinas, Luther, Pascal; there would have been no Gothic cathedrals or Romanesque churches, no Dante, no paintings of the Renaissance schools, no Michelangelo or Sistine Chapel, Bach or his Passions, Mozart and his Masses. There would, above all, have been none of the innumerable crowds of men and women who, in the name of the Christ they knew through the Church, dedicated themselves utterly to the care of suffering humanity.

Can we be sure that our world would be a better place without all that? The history of Christianity has not been merely a matter of crusades, inquisitions and religious wars, even though, sadly, it has been that too.

[1] P. Fredriksen, "From Jesus to Christ. The Origins of the New Testament images of Jesus," 2nd edition, Yale University Press, 2000.
[2] Cf. E. P. Sanders, "Jesus in Historical Context" [http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/oct1993/v50-3-article8.htm]
[3] J. Dunn, "Christianity in the Making," I, Grand Rapids, Mich. 2003, p. 97.

[4] G. Theissen and A. Merz, "Der historische Jesus: ein Lehrbuch," Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1999.
[5] J. Meier, "A Marginal Jew. Rethinking the Historical Jesus," Doubleday, New York 1991, p. 5-6.
[6] On the theory of Jesus as cynic, cf. B. Griffin, "Was Jesus a philosophical Cynic?" [http://www-oxford.op.org/allen/html/acts.htm].

[7] Cf. Harold Bloom, “Whoever discovers the interpretation of these sayings…”, published in an appendix to the Marvin Meyer edition of the Coptic "The Gospel of Thomas. The Hidden Sayings of Jesus," Harper Collins Publishers, San Francisco 1992.
[8] Op. cit. p. 624.
[9] Ib. pp. 636-646.

[10] Joseph Ratzinger - Benedict XVI, "Gesù di Nazaret," Rizzoli, Milano 2007, p. 409.
[11] Cf. H. de Lubac, "Exégèse médiévale. Les quatre sens de l’Ecriture," 4 voll., Aubier, Paris 1959-1964.
[12] C. H. Dodd, "History and Gospel," London 1952, p. 109.

[13] M. Dibelius, Iesus, Berlin 1966, p. 117.
[14] Cfr. L. Hurtado, "Lord Jesus Christ. Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity," Grand Rapids, Mich. 2003.
[15] J. Dunn, "Jesus and the Spirit. A Study of the Religious and Charismatic Experience of Jesus and the First Christians as Reflected in the New Testament," SCM Press, London 1975.
[16] P. Hollenbach, "The Historical Jesus Question," in BTB 19 (1989), p. 20.

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