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The Historical Jesus and the Gospels

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Chapter Summary

The modern quest for the 'historical Jesus' began in the 1700s and was divided by confessional presuppositions and by questions about the sources of the Gospels and about the transmission of their traditions. At the confessional level it proceeded in part from the assumptions of Christian theism and in part from the worldview of the Enlightenment in which all effects in history and nature must have their cause in history and nature. A fourth-fifth century AD Coptic manuscript of Jesus' sayings, 'The Gospel according to Thomas', is thought by some to provide a historical analogy for the 'Q: hypothesis. The Gospel traditions were formulated in episodic summaries, in part by Jesus himself for use by his pupils on their missions and in part by his pupils, the apostles, in the earliest years of the Jerusalem church.

Keywords: Gospels; historical Jesus; Thomas



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