Ep 113: Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism by Halvor Moxnes

Ep 113: Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism by Halvor Moxnes

In this episode I review the book Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism by Halvor Moxnes, which explores the relationship between the rise of modern nationalism and the rise of historical Jesus research in the 19th century. He explains how this new conception of nationalism, along with biography writing and a reconceptualization of ‘homeland’, shaped the intellectual context of extremely influential New Testament scholars. He looks at the work of Fredrich Schleiermacher and D.F. Strauss in the German states, Ernst Renan in France, and George Adam Smith in the United Kingdom and shows how their portrayal of the historical Jesus was influenced by nationalist ideals. Instead of presenting us with a picture of Jesus that situates him in his own time, these scholars turn Jesus into a figure that makes sense within the political landscape of the 19th century. I then explore how Moxnes’ critique can be turned against his own suggestion at the end of the book that we should, correctly, abandon nationalistic portrayals of the historical Jesus by replacing them, incorrectly in my view, with 21st century ideas about globalism and critical theory. I then explain how all of our attempts to modernize Jesus will fail and why we need to do our best to situate Jesus in his first century context.

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