An inquiry into the historical figure of Jesus. What can we know historically about this person, his place of origin in first-century Galilee, his life and death, his teachings (e.g., on law, love, marriage and divorce, family, eschatology), his self-understanding, healings, exorcisms, hopes, or failures? How can we situate Jesus culturally and religiously vis-à-vis early first-century Mediterranean and Palestinian societies, Second Temple Judaisms, imperial Rome, or Greco-Roman philosophies? We will examine a variety of scholarly approaches, methods, and answers to these questions, which in turn require serious hermeneutical reflection and decision about the nature and limits of historical knowledge and the hairbreadth lines between written and oral sources, the remembrance of things past, and history (to the degree it is accessible) wie es eigentlich gewesen. We will work carefully with the canonical gospels, “Q,” the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and other valuable non-canonical sources. We will also critically examine the works of major scholars in this area, including Rudolf Bultmann, Albert Schweitzer, Norman Perrin, E.P. Sanders, Gerd Theissen, John Dominic Crossan, John P. Meier, Sean Freyne, James D. G. Dunn, and Daniel Boyarin.
Note: Introduction to the New Testament or equivalent will be helpful but is not required; Greek reading skills are not necessary, but opportunity will be provided for their rigorous use for credit.