There are two kinds of truth about Jesus Christ. The first is the Gospel truth. Its veracity is vouchsafed by faith. In the believer’s eyes no contradictions do, or even can, exist in the divinely inspired Gospels. Appearances to the contrary should be ignored or reconciled.
For instance, the Gospel of John gives a historically acceptable account of the condemnation of Jesus: he was arrested a day before Passover and, without the mention of a Passover meal and a formal Jewish court process, he was brought before Pilate, accused of being a revolutionary and sentenced to crucifixion.
In the other Gospels, in a historically unlikely fashion, the arrest of Jesus, followed by a trial by the Jewish Sanhedrin on the charge of blasphemy, took place after the Passover meal (the Last Supper), and Jesus was pronounced guilty on the night of the feast itself. Yet no believing Christian asks how the supreme tribunal of Judaea could try a capital case during one of the major festivals – or, more simply, how the two stories hang together.
The second kind of truth is less certain than faith and is approximated by means of “scientific” historical inquiry. This quest strives to discover the TRUTH, but succeeds in retrieving only morsels of it. The historian’s task is to assemble a monumental jigsaw puzzle of which many parts are still missing. My catchy title for this article promises more than anyone can deliver. A more modest “Towards the truth about the historical Jesus” would be closer to what will follow.
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