Professor’s new book examines images of Jesus
St. Olaf College Professor of Religion Charles Wilson lays out new guidelines for theologians and Jesus researchers alike in his latest book, Inventing Christic Jesuses: Rules and Warrants for Theology.
The book, published by Cascade Books, examines the existing pool of Jesus research to reveal how contemporary Jesus historians have transformed Jesus’ image. Wilson looks at images of Jesus in the Third Quest for the historical Jesus and uncovers our natural tendency to invest personal values, interest, and age in the constructed figure of Jesus.
“I’ve taken up that tendency as a kind of motto and tried to make theological sense of the retrojection of value onto the historical Jesus,” he says. “The figure of Jesus is the way in which some people produce a self and maybe a culture. They are in dialogue with themselves by way of a Jesus. I propose rules so that the retrojection may be done well, done better and non-manipulatively.”
Wilson goes on to discuss the role of popular values in supposedly objective historical work. Specifically, he highlights the danger self-portraiture poses to historical Jesus research.
“Suddenly we have our values confirmed to us. We have them valorized to us. We are staring into the water and seeing ourselves, and we name it Jesus,” and if we let this kind of imagination go, anything goes, he warns.
A guided display of rules and warrants, the book, the first volume, “Method,” of two, gives scholars a coherent methodology to use in their research: one that helps to create historically responsible Jesuses and that opens christology to historical work on Jesus.
Wilson is also the author of Feuerbach and the Search for Otherness.