So we are now finishing up our first week of class and it seems like it is going to be an interesting semester. In my ‘Jesus’ class, most of the students are very religious. That’s fine. But I am concerned about why they have chosen to take a class on the historical Jesus when they clearly only seem to care about the Jesus of their particular faith tradition. Worse, although students are required to have a background in New Testament (you have to have completed the Intro to New Testament course in order to take the course on Jesus), some don’t appear to have any clue.
The professor asked us all to write out a ‘Gospel’; that is, to give a brief explanation of who Jesus was, why he is or isn’t influential, and why do we think we should or shouldn’t study him. It was a fantastic exercise that I enjoyed. But some of the other gospels out there were just..well… terrible. There is no other way to put it.
One student listed the birthplace of Jesus as Nazareth(!) while another seemed to think that kings sought advice from him. Yet another believed that Jesus was discussed in the Septuagint! I shake my head. One student who seemed to have a greater grasp of the concepts knew of the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, but her ideas about the text imply that she hasn’t actually read the gospel. She must have watched a program about it on History or some other similar channel because she thought that Jesus was fashioning pots out of clay (actually it was sparrows in a stream) and has some silly notion that Jesus just goes around hurting people in it (far from it actually).
So I guess I have concerns. What exactly did these students learn in Intro to New Testament? I had a great professor and the class seemed to take away a lot. So what happened with these students? Granted, the class is about Jesus so chances are that by the end of the semester these students will have a better understanding of the historical Jesuses (I hope); but why even bother taking the class if you don’t at least have some basic knowledge of the Gospel accounts?
And why do religious individuals just presume that taking a course on the historical Jesus will be like attending a second church? Nearly 2/3 of the student gospels written were faith statements. Do they not realize they will have their faith shaken? And how can one call themselves a religious Christian when they don’t even know where Jesus was born? I mean that is pretty basic stuff.