Jesus and His Narrative World
Jesus, as a Jew, along with his Jewish contemporaries, was living and perceived the world as part of an unfolding story, a story which, unlike post-modern counterparts, claimed to be the true story of the world.1 This continuing narrative looks back on the relationship between YHWH, the creator God, and his covenant people, whilst simultaneously looking with hope to a future age, a messianic age of deliverance from ones enemies and the establishment of peace and shalom. There is a risk to be recognised for the historian of such a meta-narrative approach, namely, that there is no firm ground from which this story can be absolutised. This risk is amplified by the bi-polar problems of data, that the data we have, from which we can emplot meta-narratives, is simply to vast and complex, which is to be affirmed alongside the problem of absense of data. This refusal of the data to be pinned down and easily systematised or placed into a narratival scheme means that the seeming objectivity of the scholarly consensus is a myth. These critiques are valid, but a non-totalsiing narrative is an essential tool for the historian, whether or not, he or she uses the term, for it is impossible to do history without generalising in some sense, but a fair recognition that the narrative which you are telling (i.e. Identifying increased militarisation of Europe as a main cause of first world war) or the narrative wolrd which you are creating of a past culture or individual, (i.e. The worldview of Roman Empire, The outlook of life from a Tibetan Buddhist perspective, the hopes and aspirations of the enlightenment) is non-totalizing It does not claim to be objective, and totalizing—this is how everyone saw the world—but but it does seek plausibility whilst simultaneously being epistemologically humble. It does claim ho have it all sewn up, but it is a ‘useful’ rule of thumb for engaging in historical research.
In fact it should be relatively straight forward to state that 1st century Jews-despite immense variation– shared, to a greater or lesser extent, the story of monotheism, covenant and eschatology. The one true God [monotheism] had called a people [covenant] and given them the law. At some point God would act in history to bring in an age of blessing and shalom[eschatology]. The exact details, such as [who are his people? Whose interprettaion of the law?, what would happen to the gentiles at the eschtaon?] receive a variety of interpretations from within second temple Judaism, yet we must not allow this complexity and valid postmodern criticisms of history and narrative give way to a total cynicism.