Scholarly Assumptions about the Historical Jesus

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Many scholarly approaches to the life and teaching of Jesus of Nazareth exist. The TIME cover story “Who Was Jesus?” (August 15, 1988) illustrated this well. Each approach stems from a different set of basic assumptions or presuppositions. For instance, many scholars today feel that it is impossible to know what the historical Jesus really said.

Who Was Jesus?

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TIME magazine’s August 15, 1988 issue presented a sad picture of the current state of scholarly knowledge. After 200 years of “scientific” investigation into New Testament records of the life of Jesus, scholars are more divided than ever as to who Jesus was and who he thought he was. Even sadder, the Herculean efforts of generations of scholars have brought Jesus no nearer to the ordinary believer.

Gospel Translation

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Hebrew words usually have many shades of meaning, and the Greek translator of the conjectured Hebrew “Life of Jesus” could convey only one sense of each Hebrew word’s meaning. When the standard Greek translation of a Hebrew word became fixed, Greek translators often employed this standard translation even when the Hebrew word it translated appeared with an obviously different meaning.