Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsLong Beach

'What Did Jesus Say or Not Say?'

November 20, 1985

I accept the scholarship reported in your article (Nov. 11), "What Did Jesus Say or Not Say?" It is indeed almost inescapable that not all the sayings attributed to Jesus in the gospels were pronounced by him "historically," and it is possible to assign varying degrees of historical probability to this or that saying.

However, I take issue with an assumption that seems to underlie your report, if not the work of the scholars whose work it reports, namely that sayings judged unhistorical can be dismissed as religiously irrelevant. To do so would be to replace one fundamentalism with another, one that accepts uncritically not the words contained clearly and unmistakably in our biblical text, but words that have won scholarly approval--and approval by committee no less!

Modern scriptural scholarship confronts us with the fact that the early Christian community accepted as authoritative expressions of the mind of Jesus not just those words that he pronounced "historically." By accepting the fact of Jesus' resurrection the early Christian community accepted in principle the belief that his relationship with that community did not end with his death and that communication with him and further instructions from him were in principle possible as they faced situations and challenges that he had, during his "historical" lifetime, never considered.

It is at this level that one must find an answer to fundamentalism. Early Christianity did not see itself as a static creed, with a closed book of answers to every issue. Present day Christianity need not see itself as such either.

LARRY DUNLOP

Long Beach

Dunlop is an associate professor of religious studies at Marymount Palos Verdes College.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|