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Finding the Core of the Historical Jesus



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Welcome to the New

In the past, FHCJ stood for the First Church of Historical Jesus. I started the web site (and its companion discussion list, FHCJ at Yahoo Groups) with the idea of building an online community of people who, while disenchanted with mainstream Christianity, wanted to get to the heart of the message of the real, historical Jesus of Nazareth, and then follow his teachings in an effort to lead a better life. I used the research and publications of the Jesus Seminar (the Westar Institute and Polebridge Press) to guide me in determining the historicity of the words of Jesus. In particular, the seminar's The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus became, for lack of a better term, my bible.

Over the years, members of the list have come and gone, and we've had some good discussions about the nature of historicity in the New Testament, and even the nature of God and belief. I built the FCHJ site on this model, taking for our symbol the wine glass, representing the wine shared at a communal meal, which is where, scholars believe, the historical Jesus did much of his teaching. I used a picture of a Thanksgiving dinner (painted by Norman Rockwell) on the site's home page.

A couple years ago, however, I began to have personal doubts about the true historicity of Jesus. I read posts on the Jesus Mysteries discussion group, and read up on various scholars (Earl Doherty is one) who argue that the entire story of Jesus can be seen as woven from the cloth of earlier savior cults and myths. They make some persuasive arguments. Put that together with the utter lack of first century C.E. evidence for Christianity (never mind Jesus) and my doubts were firmly in place.

It got to the point where my friend, Pete, said that FCHJ should now stand for Fickle Chuck Hates Jesus.

I'm happy to say that I've worked back from that ultimate belief that a Jesus of history never existed, but I do have to say that I now believe there exists a core of sayings and parables that one can ascribe to a historical person, whether or not you call him Jesus. (It's a little like debating whether Shakespeare was a real person. We still have all those plays and poems, and we might as well ascribe the name "Shakespeare" to whoever wrote them. It's also like calling the author of the Gospel of Mark "Mark". It may be correct, it may not be. But in the end, it doesn't really matter.) I also believe that, in most probability, the Christ cult (either of Paul or earlier with Romanized Jews in Rome) came into being separate from these sayings and parables, and grew out of a combination of earlier savior cults of the pagan world and Jewish messianism.

This site will now host my arguments supporting my theory. I won't call them biblical research or scientific papers, as I do not aspire to that level of meticulousness, nor do I have the educational background.

So, back to finding a new name for the site. I think the acronym will stand on its own from now on (as IBM no longer means International Business Machines and KFC no longer means Kentucky Fried Chicken). However, there are several possible meaning that can apply, depending on where in the site you are:

  • Fueling the Controversy of the Historical Jesus- as I link around the web to the various Jesus-as-Myth sites
  • Father, Christ or Historical Jesus? - the question I ask as I separate the Gospel of Mark into three separate stories about three very different Jesuses

But in the end, I think the best two meanings of FCHJ will be as follows:

  • Finding the Core of the Historical Jesus - This is my search for the Jesus deep down beneath the millenia of Christianization
  • Facing the Challenges of the Historical Jesus - This gets back to the original goal of the First Church of Historical Jesus: Identify what Jesus really said, and what he really meant, and then endeavor to live one's life accordingly.

Wish me luck.

-Rev. Chuck