Jesus and his community: A study of the relationship between Jesus and church origins

Shelton, John E (1966) Jesus and his community: A study of the relationship between Jesus and church origins. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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There were three considerations which led to the investigation of Jesus, ministry to see if and where he fostered or attempted to establish a new community. The first reason is a "practical" one resulting from a pastoral ministry in an institutional Church. There are often pressures in such a ministry to support the "institutional forms" of the denomination, almost to the exclusion of all other duties. It has become the conviction of the writer that "Church" should not be basically defined by its institutional forms, that is, its polity, its programs, or its dogmatic formulations. It would seem more appropriate to define Church in terms of faith in the Lordship of Christ and service to him and to the world. If the Church was being established in the ministry of Jesus, it should be apparent whether or not institutional forms are the basic element in the founding of the Church. The second reason is a "historical" one, and it was brought to mind by Bultmann's conclusion that the Church had to overcome the scandal of the Cross and did so with the Easter faith. It is not possible to say that the Church was created by the crucifixion. When does the resurrection explain the rise of the Christian community? To the writer, it never seemed to be a satisfactory method of explaining the existence of the Church. For, beyond question, the resurrection of Jesus was purely a subjective event; it was not, is not, and cannot be an objective historical fact. It was received only by believers who already had a group consciousness. Therefore, in some sense of the word, the Church must precede the resurrection. The third reason is a "logical" one, it never seemed likely to the writer that the Jesus of the synoptic Gospels was for the most part the creation of a creative community. It seemed more likely that Jesus' words and activity were appropriated by a group of adherents which modified these words and events according to later developments. That is to say it appears more logical that Jesus created the substance of the synoptic record and the community which preserved it, than to say that a community create the record and hence "created" Jesus as one with messianic significance. These were the reasons or motivating points of view which stood behind the research into the question of Jesus and Church origins. Their validity hinges upon whether or not Jesus presented his own message and person in such a way as to make possible a new community, the people of God, the Church. The conclusion in the paper is that he did. The conclusion is based on certain constructive evidence which is confirmed by other results. After outlining the method of approach and setting the problem, both by a consideration of ideas related to the topic and an investigation of Matthew 16: 17-19, the first "constructive" chapter was centered on the meaning of Son of Man. While the approach of Kattenbusch, Manson, Otto, and Schmidt was not followed exactly, the conclusion was reached that the Son of Nan sayings reveal a solidarity of suffering and salvation in Jesus' ministry. The conclusion was based upon the authoritative activity of Jesus which was opposed by some and accepted by others. The result of the allegiance was a solidarity with Jesus in rejection and in salvation. The second "constructive" chapter dealt with the very broad range of discipleship sayings and with events relating particularly to the disciples. It was concluded that Jesus displayed the authoritative and soteriolagical claims sufficient for the establishment of a new people. This was confirmed by the fact that Jesus' activity indicated a separation from the Judaism of his day. The appointment of the Twelve was taken as a proof of the possibility that Jesus was establishing a new people. These results were supported by an investigation of the parables and the reaction to Jesus' ministry. The third "Constructive" chapter revealed that the presence of the Kingdom of God in the ministry of Jesus made the establishment of the eschatological people of God a necessary part of Jesus' ministry. It confirmed his saving activity and authority. The deciding factor in the paper was the present operation of the Kingdom of God. The idea that the Kingdom of God excluded the Church was completely reversed. The thought that Jesus was establishing the new people of God was again confirmed by showing that the conclusion reached in the paper was the explanation for the historical fact of the existence of the community which trusted in Jesus as its deliverer and which was trans-formed by Easter and Pentecost. Therefore, it is to be concluded that Jesus, acting with the saving authority of the Kingdom, was making possible the now people of God for those who followed and confessed him, accepting the significance of his ministry.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Theology, Religion
Date of Award: 1966
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1966-72183
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 17 May 2019 12:38
Last Modified: 17 May 2019 12:38

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