- Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World by Jens Schröter
Jesus of Nazareth: Jew from Galilee, Savior of the World is divided into two parts: Part 1 (“Introduction”) consists of three chapters discussing historical, theoretical and methodological matters. Aspects of researching the historical Jesus, some key scholars, and methodology are analysed. Part 2 (“A Portrayal of Jesus”) is a presentation of Schröter’s historical Jesus in ten chapters, with a final chapter (ch. 14) discussing elements of the Wirkungsgeschichte of Jesus.
The conclusion Schröter wants to draw is straightforward. “The uniqueness of Jesus consists in the fact that in his person God and human being come directly into relation with each other” (5).
In the second part of his book, Schröter moves from methodology to application, implementing what was laid out in part one. He underscores that sufficient information is available that make possible the tracing of the activity and fate of Jesus within a concrete historical context. This context is the Galilean Judaism of the first century. The portrayal of Jesus is presented in a somewhat chronological way, starting with Nazareth and [End Page 236] ending with the beginning of the Christian church. Schröter begins by looking at the birthplace of Jesus, Nazareth, emphasising that “From the Gospels we discover nothing that is historically usable about his childhood and youth” (47). In two further chapters (5 and 6) he discusses the geography, political landscape, religious upbringing, and other matters that influenced the life and ministry of Jesus, “a Jew from Galilee.” Two well-written excursuses, covering important historical issues, are included, Synagogues and domestic houses (52–55), and Essenes in Qumran (73–78). About the latter: “… it is advisable to view the Qumran writings not as documents of a group of Essenes but as an expression of various convictions of the Judaism of the Hellenistic-Roman period” (77).
The characteristic features of the activity of Jesus are then discussed: Jesus’s connection to John the Baptist, the community founded by Jesus, the proclamation of the dawning rule of God, and the ethos bound up with it (chs. 7–10). It is made clear that the activity of Jesus was directed to the renewal of Israel, but that he understood this renewal in such a way that outsiders—sinners, lepers, sometimes even gentiles—could have a share in it. Although Israel stood at the centre of his activity and Jesus did not advance an active “Gentile mission,” the boundaries of the people of God were permeable for him.
In chapters 11 and 12 Schröter turns to the self-understanding of Jesus that comes to expression in the designation “Son of Man,” namely that he is the representative sent by God to his people, both decisively shaped the manner of his activity and led to conflicts that emerged around his person, making his death comprehensible as the consequence of his activity. Not only the circumstances that led to Jesus’s execution are considered, but Schröter also asks the question of how Jesus himself could have understood his death.
Jesus’s death was very quickly conceived by his followers as the end of only his earthly existence and not as the end of the action of God toward him and through him—hence their statements about Jesus’s resurrection and exaltation, which allow his earthly activity to appear in a new light.
Finally, Schröter considers our own engagement with Jesus today through discussing (some) Christian festivals, art, literature, film and music. Jesus challenges Christian dogma in some ways, and Schröter warns theology must remain conscious of the broader horizon (but refrains from detailed analysis). [End Page 237]
Several themes are deftly interwoven in Schröter’s study: how to “combine” critical historiography with a concern for theological exegesis; pursuing the connections between the ministry of Jesus and subsequent religious developments that led to “Christianity”; delineating the process and factors that...