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On Redescribing Jesus as a First-Century Jewish Mystic
In: Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus
Author: Simon J. Joseph
Online Publication Date: 03 Sep 2020
In: Volume 18: Issue 3
Article Type: Research Article
Page Count: 220–243
The categorical identification of the historical Jesus continues to be a central challenge in Jesus Research yet the identification of the historical Jesus as a first-century Jewish mystic has long been a popular topic among Western esotericists, Christian mystics, contemporary New Age authors, and some biblical scholars. Taking a critical look at the category and study of mysticism in Jesus Research in light of the ancient etymological origins of modern mysticism, the concept of ‘religious experience,’ and the epistemological problems associated with perennialism as a religionist discourse, this article argues that the comparative study of mysticism still proves to be an explanatorily powerful analytical, theoretical, and interpretative lens in Jesus Research.
Interesting article. I agree that the idea of Jesus as mystic belongs in the conversation about the historical Jesus.
I was suprised that the author shows little awareness of the discussion of Jewish mysticism from an anthropological approach, notably in my work and that of Rebecca Lesses. Also that he does not note or interact with the work of Pieter Craffert on Jesus and shamanism. Our approaches try to come at the problem from an angle that avoids word-thinking debates over what "mysticism" and "experience" mean. They seem very relevant to the topic of this article.
James R. Davila, Descenders to the Chariot: The People Behind the Hekhalot Literature (JSJSup 70; Brill, 2001).
For a summary of my argument see my article "The Hekhalot Literature and Shamanism."
Rebecca Macy Lesses, Ritual Practices to Gain Power: Angels, Incantations, and Revelation in Early Jewish Mysticism (Trinity Press International, 1998).
Related thoughts here. Rebecca's Academia.edu page is here.
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