Review: The Historical Christ, and the Jesus of Faith Part1



I need to start by saying that the preface and chapter one of this book are refreshing. Evans doesn't write the book to convince the skeptic, but to show that believers are not irrational in believing the "Incarnational Narrative". The incarnational narrative is essentially what the church has always bore witness to in its preaching, worship, and sacraments. The death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus couched in the narrative of salvation history is the Incarnational Narrative. Evans seeks to show that the Christ of faith and the Jesus of History overlap in significant enough ways to make Christianity reasonable. In the preface Evans tells us that his aim in writing the book is to show that the Christian believer is not irrational in believing, and that the skeptic who appeals to critical scholarship is wrong when he asserts that the Christian cannot be rational because he (or she) has faith in Christ. For Evans faith and reason are not necessary enemies.

In the first chapter Evans argues that history is significant for Christian belief. In fact Christianity is unique among world religions in that the truth of Christian faith is based on the historicity of a person. Christian belief is based on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Evans doesn't lay out a rationalist program, but rather fully acknowledges that he is defending what the Church has taught down through the centuries. He doesn't get bogged down in defending the orthodox understanding of Christ, he simply lays it out, and tells the reader to deal with it:

"And in fact the history of New Testament interpretation strongly suggests that the New Testament under determines its own interpretation; it seems foolish even for the Christian believer to claim that an honest, reasonable interpreter of the New Testament would necessarily arrive at readings consistent with Christian orthodoxy, if the interpretive process proceeded independently of the guidance of the Church and the Holy Spirit."
 The interpretation that the Church has given to the historical events surrounding Christ are clearly described by Evans in the following:
  
The Church's story, the one I am calling the incarnational narrative, is an account of how the divine Word took on human flesh, was born as a baby, lived a life characterized by miraculous healing and authoritative teaching, died a cruel and voluntary death for the sake of redeeming sinful humans, was raised by God to life, and now abides with God, awaiting the time of his glorious return and ultimate triumph. So much at least seems common ground among orthodox Christians, be they Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant." (Pg. 5)
 So far so good, I completely agree. However, I am a little disappointed with how he positions the orthodox understanding. Orthodoxy isn't equal to other interpretive options, in fact I think there is a very good reason why orthodox theology won out and has been so prevalent in the history of the church.  It just is the case that if the interpreter assumes an ecclesiastical perspective on the Canon that its understanding of theology will be significantly similar to other ecclesiastical interpreters. There is a reason that interpretive history was unified on the main outlines of Christian doctrine before the era of modernity. The various branches of Christendom shared a 27 book New Testament and all branches agree on the 39 books that make up the Old Testament. Even in the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches the 39 have more authority than apocryphal works. So, sure there was some interpretive plurality, but not anything could be claimed. This is different than modern NT studies where there is a plethora of theories about the OT and the NT because the authority of the documents isn't recognized. In other words, when what scripture says about itself is taken seriously, the theology flows from it. This doesn't show that there won't be disagreements, but the disagreements will be far fewer and large as we see with modernist interpreters.

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