Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places

  For more than a century, scholars have been on a quest to find an elusive figure they call the "historical Jesus." Yet, as we approach the start of the third millennium, they are no closer to finding him than when they started. That's because they are looking in the wrong places. One example of this quest is in the new issue of Time magazine. In "Jesus of Nazareth: Then and Now," novelist Reynolds Price takes his turn at answering the question: Who was Jesus? Price arrives at his answer by combining the words of scripture with extra-biblical material and his novelist's imagination. The result is often jarring. Price transforms Joseph from the kindly carpenter who said "yes" to God's plans for Mary and him into an abusive step-father. Price's Joseph spreads rumors about Jesus' paternity throughout Nazareth, and he calls Jesus a "fool" when Jesus goes to find John the Baptist. Joseph's relationship with Jesus is so bad that when Jesus is tempted in the desert, Satan appears as Joseph. Gone is Satan tempting Jesus with power in exchange for serving Him. Instead, Joseph accuses Jesus of having delusions of grandeur fueled by his "addled" mother. Another example of poetic license is a disciple named "Hammer," whom Jesus sends home after catching him molesting children. The Oedipal conflict and molestation in Price's apocryphal gospel owes more to Freud than it does to the Bible or the Christian tradition. Instead of transporting us back to Jesus' world, Price transports Jesus forward into our world—with its assorted anxieties about sex and relationships. There's nothing new about this approach. The past one-hundred years have given us the revolutionary Jesus, Jesus the itinerant Cynic philosopher, and even Jesus as a talking head. What these "Jesuses" have in common is that they resulted from quests that assumed that the biblical accounts were untrustworthy. They assumed that what the Church taught and believed about Jesus bore little, if any resemblance, to what actually happened in first-century Palestine. But, instead of finding the elusive "historical Jesus," these quests ended up giving us a Jesus after the searcher's own image. As Albert Schweizter, a biblical scholar who became famous as a medical missionary to Africa, wrote, scholars looked down the well of history and mistook their own reflection for the historical Jesus. The Jesuses the scholars have imagined could never have inspired an entire civilization. That's because they are not the real thing. The Jesus that did all of these things is best known through the pages of Scripture and the preaching of His Church. Placing Jesus in his historical context is important, but it can't substitute for the means that He ordained for knowing Him. What's more, recent archaeological finds have confirmed what the scriptures and the Church proclaim about Jesus. Tomorrow, I'll tell you how you can share this with your neighbors. The Christmas season, along with the upcoming millennium, has renewed interest in knowing who Jesus was. When your neighbors ask, offer to take them to the place He said he would be waiting for them: your church.


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary