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Jesus in Discourses of Dichotomies: Alternative Paradigms for the Historical Jesus

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image of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus

This article is an attempt at a meta-perspective on studies of the historical Jesus, by raising the question: what types of discourses are used in discussions of the historical Jesus? Drawing on an understanding of discourses as structured by dichotomies (N. Luhmann), I apply three different types of discourses and apply them to different Jesus studies: the dichotomy between equality and inequality/difference, the dichotomy of normality and deviancy, and the dichotomy between ‘we’ and ‘others’. The various approaches therefore reflect different modern concerns, and, explicit or implicit, also different politics of interpretation. The discourse based on the dichotomy between ‘we’ and ‘others’ is the discourse of identity, increasingly understood as ethnicity. In historical Jesus studies the category ethnicity is used to define the Jewishness of Jesus, and the consequences of this category are problematized.

Affiliations: 1: University of Oslo,


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