Messiah as Mishnah

Deconstructing JesusContinuing through Robert Price’s Deconstructing Jesus, we find more of Price’s assertions about the earliest beliefs of the Christians.

Price attempts to argue that because of anachronisms, “the gospel traditions in question must be removed from consideration as evidence for the historical Jesus.” (p. 97)

What are these anachronisms? They are the ways the Gospels speak of Judaism, which according to Price, reflect a later time. For example, Price suggests that the Gospels describe Judaism as a monolithic movement, more like it was after 70 A.D. than before. But this is not the case. The Gospels make it clear that there were different groups and Jesus responds to the Pharisees different from the way he responds to the Sadducees.

Price also attempts to show that the Gospels are not accurate in describing Judaism from what we know of first century Judaism. What is Price’s evidence for first century Judaism? The Mishnah. The Mishnah was compiled in 200 A.D. and yet Price uses it to point out problems with the first century Gospels.

Price states that in the Mishnah, the personalities are minimized and the community is maximized. This is the opposite of what we find in the Gospels. There are many reasons for this. The Gospels and the Mishnah were written for very different reasons. It is possible the lack of individual focus was a reaction to Christianity. Christianity was a messianic movement, unlike early Judaism, and we should expect Christians to focus on Jesus.

The basic error that Price makes is that the Mishnah, as a later document compiled in a different context, cannot be the measure of the Gospels’ accuracy.



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