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What did Jesus do?

Professor discusses evidence of the historical Jesus


Seems like you cant vacation anywhere these days - without some guy on a cross ruining your photos.
  • Seems like you cant vacation anywhere these days without some guy on a cross ruining your photos.

Archaeology has always played a role in confirming or disproving historical assertions. Dig in the right spot, and one might alter textbooks forever. On pace with technology's advances, scholars have routinely focused on history's most intriguing civilizations and people.

It goes without saying that human curiosity has always led toward the path of the man who supposedly walked on water. More so than "What Would Jesus Do?" the truly relevant question today is "What Did Jesus Do?"

Jonathan Reed, professor of New Testament at the University of La Verne in California, bears the rsum to field that query. When National Geographic looked to produce a 10-part series examining archeological evidence of the historical Jesus, they approached Reed. He ended up not only educating the scriptwriters, but also helped design realistic sets, wardrobes and reconstructions during film production in Turkey.

"I wanted to get them away from "Does archeology prove or disprove the life of Jesus and the Gospels?'" says Reed. "I tried instead to have the focus be more on understanding the world at the time. I wanted to leave enough room to keep conservative viewers tuned in."

At the upcoming regional meeting of the American Academy of Religion and Society of Biblical Literature, Reed will talk about his work with National Geographic. Reed says he stressed two themes: First, one has to understand Jesus in a Jewish context, adhering to many customs that the Gospels failed to mention. And second, one must acknowledge the class issue of Jesus living as a peasant in an agrarian society.

For example, Reed highlights the Jewish practice of ritual bathing; though left out of the Christmas story, the era's customs suggest this probably occurred. He then asks, "What was Jesus thinking when he's being baptized by John in the Jordan River? Is there a larger socioeconomic statement being made about being purified in a river instead of a temple?"

Reed hopes viewers will better understand the Gospel's events in their original context. "I'm essentially saying, "Here's the icon what you imagine based on 1,000 years of Renaissance and medieval art but let's look back to when the Gospels were written.'"

A person on the film set jokingly said to Reed that their project was basically a better version of the popular TV show, "Mythbusters." Reed has grown familiar with fielding questions on Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code, as well.

"The key to understanding Brown's popularity is the fact that he taps into the belief that the church isn't really telling the whole story," says Reed. "I agree that we should all be cynical and suspicious of what church hierarchies have told us.

"We're looking at the grassroots movement of a lower-class subversive ... he must be understood as a political revolutionary ... then you'd start to understand such arguments as why excavations don't show [that Jesus visited] affluent cities."


"The Gospel According to National Geographic" with Jonathan Reed

Gaylord Hall at ColoradoCollege, 902 N. Cascade Ave.

Saturday, March 25, 12:30 p.m.

Free; call 389-6607 for more information.

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