The Historical Jesus on Your iPod


Yes, we’re on a lit­tle bit of an iTunes roll here this week. But no one
seems to be com­plain­ing. Next up from Stan­ford, it’s The His­torical Jesus. Like the Mod­ern The­o­ret­i­cal Physics course that we pre­viewed ear­li­er, this class was orig­i­nal­ly taught in Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies Pro­gram, and it’s also aimed at the gen­er­al pub­lic. Right now, you can down­load the first of ten install­ments. New install­ments will come out once a week.

Here is a com­plete descrip­tion of what ground the course cov­ers:

“Who was the his­tor­i­cal Jesus of Nazareth? What did he actu­al­ly say and do, as con­trast­ed with what ear­ly Chris­tians (e.g., Paul and the Gospel writ­ers)

believed that he said and did? What did the man Jesus actu­al­ly think of him­self and of his mis­sion, as con­trast­ed with the mes­sian­ic and even divine claims that the New Tes­ta­ment makes about him? In short, what are the dif­fer­ences — and con­ti­nu­ities — between the Jesus who lived and died in his­to­ry and the Christ who lives on in believ­ers’ faith?

Over the last four decades his­tor­i­cal schol­ar­ship on Jesus and his times — whether con­duct­ed by Jews, Chris­tians, or non-believ­ers — has arrived at a strong con­sen­sus about what this unde­ni­ably his­tor­i­cal fig­ure (born ca. 4 BCE, died ca. 30 CE) said and did, and how he pre­sent­ed him­self and his mes­sage to his Jew­ish audi­ence. Often that his­tor­i­cal evi­dence about Jesus does not eas­i­ly dove­tail with the tra­di­tion­al doc­trines of Chris­tian­i­ty. How then might one adju­di­cate those con­flict­ing claims?

This is a course about his­to­ry, not about faith or the­ol­o­gy. It will exam­ine the best avail­able lit­er­ary and his­tor­i­cal evi­dence about Jesus and his times and will dis­cuss method­olo­gies for inter­pret­ing that evi­dence, in order to help par­tic­i­pants make their own judg­ments and draw their own con­clu­sions.”

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  • shawn says:

    “This is a course about his­to­ry, not about faith or the­ol­o­gy.”

    …not exact­ly sure how these are dis­crim­i­nate. :) Thanks, how­ev­er, for the link.

  • illovich says:

    “…not exact­ly sure how these are dis­crim­i­nate.”

    It’s an unclear state­ment, but the most like­ly inter­pre­ta­tion is that by “his­to­ry” the author of the course descrip­tion meant that if his­tor­i­cal record or evi­dence con­tra­dicts the text of scrip­ture (which hap­pens quite fre­quent­ly), the con­clu­sion that has the most sup­port­ing evi­dence will be afford­ed more cred­i­bil­i­ty.

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