Monday, September 2, 2013

Quote of the Day: Morton Smith on Jesus

Morton Smith wrote a controversial book on Jesus:  Jesus the Magician.  I don't want to go into the details of his argument, which, ultimately, teaches one a lot of interesting and important things about the terminology of magic, and how magic was perceived and understood in the ancient world, though perhaps rarely discussed anymore for "historical Jesus" studies.  Perhaps it is more important for understanding the nachleben of stories of Jesus, how Jesus was perceived by friends and enemies in the second century onwards in Jewish, Christian, and other sources (such as the Greek and Demotic Magical Papyri, etc.), though Smith wouldn't see it the same way.  

Anyway, to get to an insightful quote about Jesus in ancient Galilee, and the quests for the historical Jesus that divide the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith, and place all of the "mythological material"--not just myths about Christ, but mythological presuppositions that Jesus may make in the Gospels--in the Christ of faith category, Smith writes:

"Where in ancient Palestine would one find a man whose understanding of the world and of himself was not mythological?" (Smith, Jesus the Magician, 4)

Where indeed?!

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