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Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism A New Quest for the Nineteenth Century Historical Jesus by Halvor Moxnes

Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism A New Quest for the Nineteenth Century Historical Jesus


Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism A New Quest for the Nineteenth Century Historical Jesus by Halvor Moxnes

The great German theologian Albert Schweitzer famously drew a line under 19th century historical Jesus research by showing that at the bottom of the well lay not the face of Joseph's son, but rather the features of all the New Testament scholars who had tried to reveal his elusive essence. In his thoughtful and provocative new book, Halvor Moxnes takes Schweitzer's observation much further: the doomed 'quest for the historical Jesus' was determined not only by the different personalities of the seekers who undertook it, but also by the social, cultural and political agendas of the countries from which their presentations emerged. Thus, Friedrich Schleiermacher's Jesus was a teacher, corresponding with the role German teachers played in Germany's movement for democratic socialism. Ernst Renan's Jesus was by contrast an attempt to represent the 'positive Orient' as a precursor to the civilized self of his own French society. Scottish theologian G A Smith demonstrated in his manly portrayal of Jesus a distinctively British liberalism and Victorian moralism. Moxnes argues that one cannot understand any 'life of Jesus' apart from nationalism and national identity: and that what is needed in modern biblical studies is an awareness of all the presuppositions that underlie presentations of Jesus, whether in terms of power, gender, sex and class. Only then, he says, can we start to look at Jesus in a way that does him justice.


'In 'Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism'
Halvor Moxnes has written a very welcome contribution, which reminds us that unless we take the hermeneutical context of the interpreters seriously as a first priority we miss seeing the way in which interpretative preferences have continued to influence the pictures of Jesus that emerge

.' - Christopher Rowland, Dean Ireland's Professor of the Exegesis of Holy Scripture, University of Oxford;

'Interpreting the biblical accounts of Jesus of Nazareth always demands from the reader a number of complex analogical strategies. Our present imagination is needed in order to decode the ancient story. Hence, any vision of who Jesus was and what he proclaimed bears too the marks of our attitudes to our own world, of our ways of making sense of ourselves, of our communities, and of our universe. Halvor Moxnes critically unravels the intimate relationship between an emerging national imagination and the development of new biographical accounts of Jesus during the 19th century. This fascinating examination of the fusion of horizons of classical German, French and British theological appropriations of Jesus and their respective social-political hermeneutics not only offers new insights into the development of biblical studies; it also challenges contemporary interpreters of Jesus to face up to their own particular contextual premises and subjective imagination and to explore their own hidden collective agendas and projections.' - Werner G. Jeanrond, Professor of Divinity, University of Glasgow; 'In a work of stunning originality and insight, Halvor Moxnes has combined the widest learning and the deepest research to illuminate how the growth of lives of Jesus in the nineteenth century influenced and was influenced by the assertion and development of European national identities. His book is remarkably revealing on how understandings of the Holy Land featured in this process. For anyone interested in the social, economic and religious factors affecting the rise of European nationalisms, or the way in which biblical interpreters are creatures of their times and contexts, Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism makes compulsory and compelling reading.' - Philip F. Esler, Principal and Professor of Biblical Interpretation, St Mary's University College, Twickenham

About the Author

Halvor Moxnes is Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Oslo and a member of the Norwegian Academy of Sciences and Letters. His previous books include Constructing Early Christian Families (1997) and Putting Jesus in his Place: A Radical Vision of Household and Kingdom (2004).

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Book Info

Publication date

30th October 2011


Halvor Moxnes

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I.B.Tauris an imprint of I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.


272 pages


Christian theology

Ancient history: to c 500 CE



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