Sunday, November 2, 2008

Google Jesus - Week 1 Assignment

Welcome to revJohn and this inaugural online course called Google Jesus. The purpose off this course is to discover more about Jesus, allowing you to work at your own pace and in the comfort of your own home.

If you put the name “Jesus” in a search engine, you’ll get back over 211 million results. With so many options, it’s difficult to find really helpful sites, especially scholarly sites. Consequently, with this course, we’ll visit some important web sites and explore key resources available on the internet.

Each week on Sunday evening for four weeks, beginning tonight, I’ll post several bite-sized assignments for you to complete. Most will take only a few minutes to complete. For those doing the optional reading assignment (see below), I’ll also post a few question for you to consider. Each week you can also respond to a question we’ll consider as an online learning community.

Internet Assignment
It is sometimes difficult for faithful Christians to think of Jesus as a man, a human being who lived and died at a particular point in history in a particular geography. This week’s assignment helps us locate Jesus to the land of Israel and to explore how that specific geography shaped his life and ministry.

Begin by reading Matthew 11:-20-24. Note the specific villages/cities mentioned.

Go to Maps of War and play History of Religion. Take note of what changes and what stays the same on the map. (Click here)

Check out several aerial maps, especially, Galilee and the North (Map 3). Find Sepphoris, Tiberias, Narzareth, Capernaum, Chorizin, and Bethsaida and the Hill Country of Samaria (Map 5). (Click here) and (Click here)

Read Jonathan Reed’s article Excavating Jesus. (Click here)

Check out Galilee at the time of Christ. (Click here)

Listen to archaeologist James Strange talk about Sepphoris. (Click here)

Read Rami Arav’s discussion of Bethsaida and vicinity. (Click here)

Enter the Land of Jesus and visit the seven scenes depicted there. Make sure to roll your cursor over the highlighted areas on each scene to see more information. (Click here)

Online Question of the Week
What do you make of the fact that the gospels do not report Jesus visiting or preaching in Tiberias and Sepphoris?

Reading Assignment – Jesus and the Land
Read Chapter 1, pp 17-38

How does the author describe the inhabitants of Nazareth? For him, what was important about the word “netzer”?

Order Charles Page’s Jesus and the Land from Amazon. (Click here)


Judy H. said...

I'm really enjoying all the interactive map sites, especially the Discovery Channel's "Jesus and the Land" presentation. Thanks for including such interesting links in the lesson.

Judy H. said...

Okay, now that I know what "netzer"
means, help me understand something else. What is the connection between the Nazarenes and the Ebionites? Some readings seem to indicate that the names are almost interchangeable for the early Jesus movement. Others stress the Ebionites' identity as a strictly Jewish- Christian sect that was at odds with Paul's mission to the Gentiles. I saw an interview with Robert Eisenman the other day in which he proposes a connection between James and the Ebionites to the Essene community at Qumran. What's the story on these three groups?

One other question: When Mr. Page refers to the residents of Nazareth as "Hasidim," is he referring to a particular sect of ancient Jews or is he simply using the term to mean very strict and pious?

revJohn said...

First, the easier question. I think our author is using "Hasidim" in the sense of 1 Macccabees 2, especially verse 42, as the "pious ones" who are zealous for the law. I don't think he views them as a sect like the Essenes or Pharisees.

As for the Ebionites, the evidence for their existence comes from the second to the fourth century. Bart Ehrmann in his Lost Christianities list several characteristics of the Ebionites, who were Jews who 1) insisted that being Jewish was fundamental to a right standing before God; 2) held to the laws of the Old Testament; 3) believed that Jesus was completely human and not divine. In other words, this was a form of Christianity that was completely Jewish in character but saw Jesus as the Messiah. In what sense first generation Christians such as James were more closely related to Ebionism than Pauline theology is a historical question worth pondering.

Judy H. said...

Thanks for the claraficiation and also for directing me to the Bart Ehrmann book; I have "Lost Christianities" on my bookshelf and will do some additional reading on the Ebionites.

Judy H. said...

In response to our internet discussion question as to why there is no mention of Jesus visiting or preaching in Tiberius and Sepphoris:

From our readings we learned that Herod's imposition of Roman social order on his kingdom was continued by his son Antipas in Galilee. The close proximity of Nazareth to the city of Sepphoris and the enormity of Antipas' rebuilding activity there would make it highly unlikely that Jesus could have remained isolated from the strict social stratification and opulent lifestyle of the wealthy class. Life in neighboring satellite villages such as Nazareth would likely have been disrupted as the city expanded and peasants were forced off their land.

Jesus' egalitarian teaching and lifestyle would certainly have been at odds with both the Roman rulers and the Jewish priestly class. Like John, Jesus criticized the luxurious lifestyle of the Herodians and their style of rule. It would have been both foolish and dangerous for him to have openly espoused his revolutionary ideas in cities like Sepphoris and Tiberius, which were both Roman administrative and military centers.
Josephus writes of a number of "messianic" figures in Palestine during that time, who were quickly dispatched by the Romans when their teachings began to attract a following.
Romans were not big on honoring the "right to assembly"! Jesus' ministry could easily have been over before it began.

Herod's execution of John would have left no doubt as to the dangers Jesus faced. Professor Arav tells us that, fearing he might be next, Jesus traveled east to the Sea of Galilee "to be closer to the borders and to cross into the territory of Philip Herod if threatened." It was in this quiet, safer region of small fishing villages on the northern Sea of Galilee that Jesus began to perform his "mighty works" and gather his following.

This is probably a somewhat simplistic explanation; I'm anxious to hear what other members think may have factored into it . . .

jakemaxwel said...

I had never read about the word "netzer" and with Nazareth having a consciousness of being the "root of Jesse" and thus the branch from which the Messiah would come. And if they shared the isolationism of the Essenes, perhaps they were hesitant to venture into Sepphoris. On-the-other-hand, if the growing city of
Sepphoris is expanding territorially as well as in population, I would think Jesus would have some contact with the city. Further, he could certainly have worked their prior to taking up his ministry. Having spent time there and being aware of its Helenistic influences, Jesus would have likely looked elsewhere to gain his followers. He was a Jew and not likely to begin his ministry among a greater number of gentiles.

This is all fascinating! I looked ahead in the book and saw there is an early tradition that believed Mary may have grown up in Sephorris.

Judy H. said...

Good to have you onboard, Jake. I enjoyed your comments.

C'mon, John, give us your input on this question.