What World Religions Teach

By E. G. Parrinder | Go to book overview

Chapter 20
CHRISTIANITY: (1) JESUS CHRIST

This study of religion comes to its climax in Christianity, yet this must be done in a fair and factual manner. This is quite difficult, since most readers will have at least some knowledge of the Bible, and it is not proposed to repeat the outlines of the Gospels or the Acts. Some may be convinced Christians, others may not. Then, if it is agreed that one may hold to a particular faith yet study other faiths impartially, how far can one be impartial or detached towards one's own religion? Fortunately our Western tradition of scholarly independence is a great help here. In no other religion, except possibly Judaism, have scholars found it possible to examine the documents and history of their own faith critically, yet remain believers in that faith.


THE HISTORICITY OF JESUS

In approaching Christianity now, in the light of what we have learnt of other religions, one striking element is the claim to historical foundation and the importance of historical events to the faith. Hinduism and Shinto have no historical founders; Lao Tse may never have existed, and Taoism would be none the worse for it. Assuming that Mahavira and Gautama were historical, it is not possible to fix their dates within several centuries. Christianity follows on the 'salvation-history' of Judaism, with its stress on the Exodus. But it believes its own history to be even more significant and precise, and embodies mention of historical events in the shortest creeds.

No serious secular historian today doubts that Jesus existed, but there is little material about him outside the New Testament. This is not surprising. The Jews had a long religious history, but

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