Jesus: The Final Cut

I teach course each year, RELS 3113,  simply called “Jesus.” In it we explore what we can know of the historical figure of Jesus. Our focus is on the singular question: how do we know what we think we know?  It is the single course of mine that is most in demand. Here are my notes for the last week each semester:


A Brief Biography: Grew up in Nazareth in the lower Galilee. Joined his kinsman John in his apocalyptic baptizing movement preaching national repentance and the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God. John executed by Herod Antipas. Jesus began preaching throughout Galilee, healing and casting out demons. He came in conflict with the religious authorities both local and in Jerusalem, becoming convinced that he, like John, must suffer and die. He challenged his followers to leave all behind and do the same. He was arrested in a final confrontation Passover week 30 CE by the Jewish Temple authorities and was condemned to death by crucifixion by the Roman governor of Judea, Pontius Pilate. He was believed by his followers to have been raised from the dead and glorified as the Messiah at the right hand of God with an expectation that he would return “in the clouds of heaven” before his generation passed. His brother James took over leadership of the movement which based itself for the next 40 years in Jerusalem. 

The Core Teachings of Jesus

  • The kingdom or rule of God, imminently breaking into human history, dismantles all human structures of power and privilege
  • What is up is down and what is down is up
  • The internal is what counts not the external
  • All humankind can have an intimate loving relationship with their Creator as father or “Abba”
  • Forgiveness and unconditional love, along with individual and societal justice and righteousness, are the core ethical standards
  • A call for suffering opposition and service in the face of the forces of darkness and evil


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