“Can We Write a History of Jesus?” by Rev. Jerome Murphy O-Connor[i]

historical Jesus

A gem of a presentation by Rev. Jerome Murphy O-Connor that in 11 brief pages or about 25 minutes of lecture tackles the slippery slope of historical criticism of scripture, its history, and impact on the current day church.  Rev. O’Connor describes the descent of the validity of scripture in light of literary and historical criticism and the re-emergence of scripture, or the ascent, using the same constructs to validate the historical experience of Jesus Christ.[ii]

The gap between the historical life of Jesus Christ and the nailing down of the four accepted gospels relied on oral tradition, on followers and witnesses to the life of Jesus.  As the early church spread Paul said “Do not despise prophets,” but he says, “test everything.” In other words, prophets spoke in the early church in the context of suspicion.”  Rev.  O’Connor provided a neat little presentation that integrates the historical life of Jesus Christ, oral tradition, synthesis of scripture, and answers to several avenues of criticism to the biblical text that is refreshingly accessible to the average reader.

Of course, simplification may leave other questions unanswered.  However, an excellent presentation that avoids delving into the tedious distinctions and overlap of disciplines and perspectives of theologians, epistemologist, archeologist, literary scholars and other disciplines of rigorous analysis.

The battle between science and religion are often ideologically driven by unnecessary separation due to the distinction between the “knowable and the “unknowable.”  However, each can guide each other and support each other whether analyzing the life and times of Jesus Christ and the origins of scripture or the application of science and medicine to human life today.

Just Friday (4/29/2016) Pope Francis urged integration and connectedness between morality and science:

Today more than ever we see the urgent need for an education that not only develops students’ intellectual abilities, but also ensures integral human formation and a professionalism of the highest degree. From this pedagogical perspective, it is necessary in medical and life sciences to offer interdisciplinary courses which provide ample room for a human formation supported by ethical criteria. Research, whether in academia or industry, requires unwavering attention to moral issues if it is to be an instrument which safeguards human life and the dignity of the person. Formation and research, therefore, aspire to serve higher values, such as solidarity, generosity, magnanimity, sharing of knowledge, respect for human life, and fraternal and selfless love…….. when the mechanism of profit prevails over the value of human life. This is why the globalization of indifference must be countered by the globalization of empathy.[iii]

[i] https://sakailogin.nd.edu/portal/site/0d265c51-c332-43b8-99d5-3ef2c99526be/page/dab9db50-c399-405b-b4aa-dcc0b9e1d9b2

[ii] https://sakailogin.nd.edu/access/content/group/205d9588-4b8c-4022-aadc-36c71cbbdb35/CanWeWrite/pdf/lecture.pdf

[iii] http://www.scienceworldreport.com/articles/38987/20160430/pope-francis-on-regenerative-medicine-counter-global-indifference-by-global-empathy.htm


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