In understanding early Christianity (i.e. Jesus and the first Christians), the N.T. materials can be analyzed in their various dimensions (e.g., historical, theological, experiential, etc.). What N.T. Wright has provided for us by way of his treatment of the second-temple Jewish, historical background of Jesus and the first Christians, Dunn has done for us via his treatment of the experiential dimension. This is not to "reduce" their faith to subjective experiences, but to show how their relation to God was reflected in their various experiences of God's Spirit. This helps us to discover in what ways Jesus' own experiences were distinctive (or unique), and, at the same time, like those of the first believers. One of the major points Dunn brings out is, that both Jesus' and the first Christian's experience of the Spirit was "eschatological" in nature: they experienced an outpouring of the Spirit and understood themselves to be living, now, in the new age to come. This awareness, on Jesus' part, led him to understand himself as the one who was bringing in the kingdom of God, as his Son, and manifested itself in the first believers as a full and diversified experience of the Spirit, which was determinative for every aspect of their lives, not least in their worship. Dunn discusses the various charismata and admonitions by Paul, in responding to the disruptions in the Corinthian church, to safeguard against their misuse. One of the major claims in his book is, that in the resurrection appearances to the apostles, the experience included a commission to proclaim the gospel--this, he maintains, was one of the "distinctive" features of the resurrection appearances.Read more ›
James D. G. Dunn (born 1939) is a British New Testament scholar who was Professor of Theology at the University of Durham prior to his retirement; he is also a minister of the Church of Scotland. He has written many other books, such as Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making, Volume 1, The Evidence for Jesus, New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed, etc. He wrote in the Preface to this 1975 book, "[this book] is written out of the conviction that religious experience is a vitally important dimension of man's experience of reality... that only when he recognizes this dimension and orients his living in appropriate relation to it can he begin to achieve personal wholeness and fulfillment is his relationships." (Pg. ix)
He states, "If Jeremias is right [The Prayers of Jesus] then we have to conclude that Jesus' abba-prayer expressed an unusual and unprecedented sense of intimacy with God. This conclusion, however, does have to be qualified at two points. First, it is not in fact true that we have no examples of a Jew saying 'my Father' to God. I am thinking here particularly of Ecclus... We cannot therefore maintain that Jesus' use of abba was UNPRECEDENTED... All we can say then is that ... Jesus' regular approach to God as 'Abba' appears to be UNUSUAL for his day. Second, H.Read more ›
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