Guest / Limited Access /

On the opening day of my class on Jesus of Nazareth, I give a standardized psychological test divided into two parts. The results are nothing short of astounding.

The first part is about Jesus. It asks students to imagine Jesus' personality, with questions such as, "Does he prefer to go his own way rather than act by the rules?" and "Is he a worrier?" The second part asks the same questions of the students, but instead of "Is he a worrier?" it asks, "Are you a worrier?" The test is not about right or wrong answers, nor is it designed to help students understand Jesus. Instead, if given to enough people, the test will reveal that we all think Jesus is like us. Introverts think Jesus is introverted, for example, and, on the basis of the same questions, extroverts think Jesus is extroverted.

Spiritual formation experts would love to hear that students in my Jesus class are becoming like Jesus, but the test actually reveals the reverse: Students are fashioning Jesus to be more like themselves. If the test were given to a random sample of adults, the results would be measurably similar. To one degree or another, we all conform Jesus to our own image.

Since we are pushing this point, let's not forget historical Jesus scholars, whose academic goal is to study the records, set the evidence in historical context, render judgment about the value of the evidence, and compose a portrait of "what Jesus was really like." They, too, have ended up making Jesus in their own image.

Heyday for the Historical Jesus

In the 1980s, the central academic organization for biblical studies, the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL), was energized in remarkable ways by a renewed interest in the historical Jesus, a project that had been abandoned for some ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Passages
Recent deaths, hires, and other transitions in the Christian world.
Current IssueReading the Reformation in 2017
Reading the Reformation in 2017
Historians are still finding new things to say about Martin Luther and his movement.
RecommendedJesus’ Family Tree Shows Us He Is Worth the Wait
Jesus’ Family Tree Shows Us He Is Worth the Wait
It's okay that most of us want to skip through the genealogy of Jesus—but we should still read it.
Trending‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
‘Worst Year Yet’: The Top 50 Countries Where It’s Hardest to Be a Christian
Islamic extremism now has a rival, according to 2017 World Watch List.
Editor's PickWomen’s March Sets Out to Exclude 40 Percent of American Women
Women’s March Sets Out to Exclude 40 Percent of American Women
What pro-life feminists actually have in common with their pro-choice counterparts.
Christianity Today
The Jesus We'll Never Know
hide thisApril April

In the Magazine

April 2010

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.