In the New Testament we find four Gospels, a narrative of the Apostles, twenty one letters, and an apocalyptic revelation. In these 27 books we find very little information about the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth. There are the Gospels of course, but we should know that both Matthew and Luke are basically copies of Mark, except with birth narratives. So that really leaves us with just two narratives [Mark & John]. Both Mark and John leave out the birth narrative, and I find the reasoning to be that Mark’s Gospel was written prior to the addition of this story, and John’s which was written after Matthew and Luke clearly didn’t find it relevant enough to include in his narrative.
In all twenty one letters in the New Testament we find that no author was all that concerned with the historical life of Jesus of Nazareth. The dominant force in the New Testament is of course Saul [Paul] who is given credit for fourteen books or Pauline epistles. In all fourteen letters Paul at no point discusses the historical life of Jesus. He does mention the birth of Christ by simply stating, “he was born of a women, under the law.” This simply means he was born, and after seven days was circumcised as is Jewish custom. It’s also important to note that the early Pauline letters are the earliest New Testament writings.
Now, on the other side of the coin, every single author in the New Testament goes into some detail about the death and resurrection of Christ. It’s also important to note that in the Gospels, the death narrative grows longer by each author as time goes by. We find in the first Gospel written [Mark] that this narrative is very short, and there is no sighting of Jesus. By the time we get to the final Gospel [John] we find that half of his narrative is of a resurrected Christ. So what does all this mean?
Well, what we find today is that modern theology has become enthralled with the historical life of this Jewish peasant. Organizations like the AAR, the Jesus Seminar, and liberal theologians in general have turned Christ into a wisdom teacher/philosopher. In my opinion, by turning our attention to whether or not Jesus was born via some virgin birth or whether he raised Lazarus from the dead we are missing what is truly the “good news.” I find liberal theology trying to create it’s very own Thomas Jefferson Bible, and I say to that—”you have been found wanting.”
For me, there is a central theme in the New Testament—The Kingdom of God. We find this [Kingdom] at the cross. The death of Christ signifies the death of God. What this means, and why this is the Real “good news” is that the Spirit is now here. The Kingdom of God is what the world would be if God was immanent. The empire [Rome] would no longer “Be” as the immanence of God would rupture the structure from within. We see this at the moment of Christ’s death, when the Temple is ruptured and it’s curtains are ripped open and we find nothingness. The good news is ultimately that God is dead.
I find that both fundamentalist and liberal Christians are missing the mark in different ways. Fundamentalist need transcendence, so the cross is victory over death which leads to a bodily resurrection back to “deus ex machina.” The problem here is that by willing transcendence we will never find the Kingdom. Liberals are trying to make the apocalyptic message of Christ palatable. So the horror of the cross is completely glossed over and we are left with fluff. By turning away from the horror of the cross and the death of God we also can never have the Kingdom of God here on earth. We must face the cross for what it is. It will never be palatable, and it shouldn’t be. The cross is ugly and horrific in the most beautiful way imaginable.