I must first confess myself that I have felt a great deal of emotional stress and fear in trying to complete the business plan for Expressions over the past few weeks. I have heard the still, small whispers behind my ear questioning if I know what I am doing and am I adequate for the calling? Does this dream and do I really make a difference in the calling of Christ? I suppose in some ways I am still struggling with these emotions.
Anyways, I have had little time for my pursuits and passions for creative writing which is why I have not posted anything of significance (to me anyways) for some time. Despite this, I read an interesting confession from Craig Evans in my book 'The Case for the Real Jesus' this past evening. Actually it was more like 3 am or something like that. Time has been a bit of a blur lately!
I thought I would share it as it has been relating to some similar material to which I have been reading elsewhere:
I intended to wrap up our interview by asking Evans to expand upon his own personal convictions. I anticipated that he would further elaborate on the divinity of Jesus - and yet our discussion ended with an unexpected turn.
"How have your decades of research into the Old and New Testaments affected your own view of Jesus?" I asked.
"Well, it's much more nuanced, but at the end of the day it's a more realistic Jesus. Personally, I think a lot of Christians - even conservative, Bible believing Christians - are semi-docetic.
That took me off guard. "What do you mean?"
"In other words," he said, "they half way believe - without ever giving it any serious thought - what the Docetic Gnostics believed, which was that Jesus actually wasn't real. 'Oh, yes of course, he's real,' they'll say. But they're not entirely sure how far to go with the incarnation. How human was Jesus? For a lot of them, the human side of Jesus is superficial.
"It's almost as though a lot of Christians think of Jesus as God wearing a human mask. He's sort of faking it, pretending to be human. He pretends to perspire; his stomach only appears to gurgle because, of course, he's not really hungry. In fact, he doesn't really need to eat. So Jesus is the bionic Son of God who isn't really human. This is thought to be an exalted Christology, but it's not. Orthodox Christology also embraces fully the humanity of Jesus.
"What I'm saying is that the divine nature of Jesus should never militate against is full humanity. When that part gets lost, you end up with a pretty superficial understanding of Christology. For example, could Jesus read? 'Of course he could read! He's the Son of God!' That's not a good answer. At the age of three days, was Jesus fluent in Hebrew? Could he do quantum physics? Well, then, why does the book of Hebrews talk about him learning and so forth?"
I was listening intently. "So we miss his humanity," I said, half to myself and half to Evans.
"Yeah, we do," he said. "We find ourselves fussing and fuming over the divinity, but we miss the humanity. And from the historic point of view of the early church, that's just as serious an error as, say, the Ebionite direction, which was to deny the divinity."
Wanting him to explain further, I asked, "What is it we miss about his humanity?"
"Well, a big part of the atonement. He dies in our place as a human being who dies in our place. God didn't send an angel," he replied. "And, of course, there's the identification factor. We can identify with him: he was tempted as we are. How was he tempted if he was just God wearing a mask - faking it and pretending to be human? Again, that's Docetic Gnosticism - Jesus only appeared to be incarnate, only appeared to be human - and a lot of evangelical Christians come pretty close to that."
"Is there something about his human nature you'd want to emphasize?"
Evans reflected for a moment, then replied. "Yes, Jesus' own faith," he said. "He tells his disciples to have faith. Jesus has a huge amount of credibility if we see him as fully human and he actually, as a human, has faith in God. Otherwise, well, that's easy for him to say! Good grief - he's been in heaven, and now he's walking around telling me to have faith? But I take the teaching of Jesus' humanness, which is taught clearly in scripture, very seriously."
"Taking everything into consideration," I said, wrapping up our discussion, "when you think about the identity of the real Jesus, where do you come down as an individual?"
"I come down on the side of the church," he said. "Doggone it, bless their bones, I think they figured it out. They avoided errors and pitfalls to the left and to the right. I think the church got it right. Even if you only consider the Synoptics, you find that Jesus saw himself in a relationship with God that is unique. The Son of God is the way that's understood. And then he goes further and demonstrates that he was speaking accurately. If you have any doubts, the Easter event should remove them.
"That's where you always wind up: the Easter event. Otherwise, you have a Moses-like or Elijah-like figure who's able to do astonishing miracles - but so what? Yet the resurrection confirmed who he was. And the resurrection is, of course, very powerfully attested, because you have all classes, men and women, believers, skeptics, and opponents, who encounter the risen Christ and believe in him."
He looked me straight in the eyes. "As do I."