Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Crossan in the middle?
by David Krueger

John Dominic Crossan has a brilliant mind. He is an Irish-American religious scholar best-known for co-founding the controversial ‘Jesus Seminar’. He is professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago and has authored more than 20 books about the historical Jesus. He has become one of the ‘go-to’ scholars for any television production about Jesus or the Bible, and is especially influential in the field of Historical Jesus studies.

Crossan is, shall we say, less than orthodox in his views concerning Jesus. His books maintain that Jesus was nothing more than an itinerant Jewish wise man who did not die as a substitute for sinners or rise from the dead, but instead became a follower of John the Baptist, and preached a social gospel of inclusiveness, tolerance, and liberation through his parables. Ultimately he was crucified by the Romans as a nuisance. There was nothing divine or supernatural about him, whatsoever.

Crossan maintains that the Gospels were never intended to be taken literally by their authors. They are not historically reliable documents that relate the ministry and message of Jesus, but early Christian propaganda written to compete with the rival Mystery Religions of he day. None of the miracles can be taken literally, and most of what the Gospels record Jesus saying really was not said by Jesus at all. He believes that miracles like the virgin birth, and resurrection of Jesus are "insurmountable obstacles" to modern people as they encounter the New Testament.

What I find so interesting about Crossan is that he now considers himself squarely "in the theological middle" regarding his views of Jesus and the Gospels. Crossan recently wrote: " ... we ended the last century with two visions of Jesus. One vision was of the literal Jesus – the figure obtained from a harmony of the four New Testament Gospels. The other vision was the historical Jesus – the figure reconstructed through those and other (non-canonical) gospels, behind those and other gospels, before those and other gospels." Because – according to liberal scholarship – the four Gospels of the New Testament are not to be relied upon as historically accurate accounts of the life of Christ, Crossan believes that the historical Jesus – the real Jesus – must be "reconstructed" using these and other gospels which the church long ago rejected such as The Gospel of Thomas, The Secret Gospel of Mark, The Apocryphon of James, and many others. The result, Crossan believes, is that the "literal Jesus" of the New Testament masquerades as the "historical Jesus" of twentieth-century scholarship.

According to Crossan, there is now a third vision of Jesus beginning to emerge that is to the theological left of his own liberal views. This vision, he writes, is of a "fictional Jesus" – the figure married in a novel (The Da Vinci Code), crucified in a film (Mel Gibsons’ The Passion), and buried in a documentary (The Lost Tomb of Jesus, aired on the Discovery Channel). Crossan writes: "There is even a growing far-left wing proposing that Jesus never existed and that it was all an early Christian conspiratorial fabrication. So now there are three divergent base-versions of Jesus – the literal, the historical and the fictional. Crossan describes himself as "bemused" and "satisfied" that he would now find himself in the middle of theological scholarship concerning the life and nature of Jesus and New Testament studies.

But is Crossan truly in the "middle" of scholastic opinion concerning Jesus? Regardless of his self-proclaimed middle-ground in biblical scholarship, Crossan remains squarely on the far-left theologically. For Crossan to look at those who are patently absurd in there views of Jesus, and then proclaim, "See, I’m not at wack-o as they are," is not a good measure of orthodoxy. Heresy is heresy after all whether one is just academically left or outlandishly wack-o far-left. Crossan does not deny that Jesus actually lived. He does deny everything divine or supernatural associated with our Savior’s life. Crossan’s "historical Jesus" bears little, if any, resemblance to the "literal Jesus" of the Scriptures. Traditional, orthodox faith, however – backed up by solid historical, and textual evidence – reveal that the literal Jesus of the Gospels is, in fact, the actual historical Jesus. There is no difference between the two.

It is because of men like John Domini Crossan that the Apostle Jude wrote: "Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. For certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord." (Jude 3-4, NIV). Crossan is representative of many legitimate bible scholars who openly deny most of the foundational truths of the Bible and 2000 years of church orthodoxy. They represent men who have crept in unnoticed who deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.

Crossan in the middle? I think not!

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