The good doctors of Ivy League Divinity Schools have concluded that Jesus wasn’t an uneducated, backwoods/backwater, itinerate preacher/healer, but was a pretty well-educated artisan who worked in the bustling trade center of Sepphoris, a city of significant Roman influence just four miles from Nazareth. According to the scholars, Jesus must have known three languages to get along successfully in his occupation in that cosmopolitan environment.
He probably stopped for happy hour at one of the fine bistros lining the streets before high-stepping it back to Nazareth with hopes of one day moving to Sepphoris, buying a little condo in an upscale/gentrified neighborhood and exploring what pleasures the big city might afford an up-and-coming entrepreneur.
Well, not that last part, (That would be closer to what my story would be.) but what are we to make of all this — that historical inquiry into the life of Jesus up until recently got most of it wrong and that what was thought to be a significant influence on Jesus forming his core value system of defending the poor and calling the powerful to account couldn’t have been because he actually was what one today would call middle-class and not a poor kid from the sticks and that his relatively well off sociological/material/economic circumstances were somehow overcome in his fight for the plight of the poor and oppressed against the rich and powerful which eventually would lead to his crucifixion?
Maybe. And that would be interesting.
Or, might it be that the quest for the historical Jesus, while a worthwhile endeavor because knowledge is always good, will ever and always be the quest for a ray of light in the darkness of antiquity and will stymie scholars and will go on and on and will never be done (thus securing job security for professors in divinity schools and seminaries)?
Regarding the usefulness of historic accuracy, for instance, I recall a visual example of the quest for the historical Jesus in a drawing of what Jesus probably really looked like as a first century Jew in an article from several years back in a popular scientific magazine. According to the researchers, he would have been fairly short, a roundish face, olive to brown skin, dark brown eyes and thick, curly black hair — not exactly Sallman’s Head of Christ or Christ at Heart’s Door, nor the image of Jeffrey Hunter, the blue-eyed, all American, white, Hollywood hunk who played Jesus in the movie King of Kings. Such a historic physical portrait has been helpful as I continue to conjure an image of Jesus, although because of my childhood scripting, Sallman’s ubiquitous take keeps sneaking in.
And might it also be that the historical Jesus and the Christ of faith ever and always will be metaphors touching the very soul of what it means to be hopeful, loving, caring, merciful, compassionate, peaceable, just humans proclaiming the Realm of God in a broken world and that, ultimately, love wins as revealed in the image of the Triumphant Lamb?
Maybe that, too.
And the journey continues and the dude abides.