The Historical Jesus on Your iPod

I men­tioned this course over two years ago, back when the Open Cul­ture had about five read­ers. And giv­en that the top­ic is hard­ly out of date, I fig­ured that it would­n’t hurt to bring it back to the sur­face. The course comes out of Stan­ford’s Con­tin­u­ing Stud­ies Pro­gram (where I help give a hand). The top­ic is the real Jesus. The pro­fes­sor is Thomas Shee­han. You can access it on iTune­sU and oth­er­wise find it in our col­lec­tion of free online cours­es. Final­ly, the course descrip­tion is here:

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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Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.