This one comes to us from our esteemed friend Jono Linebaugh:
The early stages of my theological education felt a bit like being on a Bubba-Gump Shrimp boat with Lieutenant Dan. Reimarus, Weiss, Schweitzer, Käsemann, Borg, Crossan, Wright, Allison – the works of these scholars raised a question: “Have you found Jesus yet, Jono?” My initial reaction was simply Forrest’s reply to Lieutenant Dan: “I didn’t know I was supposed to be looking for him.”
There was a time when chivalrous men left their round table in search of the Holy Grail. The quest of the modern knights of the rectangular desk, however, raised the stakes: they’re no longer searching for the Holy Grail; they’re looking for the guy who drank from it!
In an effort to join this noble order I spent years learning the names (and languages) of those engaged in so called “Quest(s) for the Historical Jesus.” I discovered a trail blazed by Ernest Renan and signed posted by the names listed above. I read the travel journals of “questers” like David Friedrich Strauss, William Wrede, Martin Kähler, and Günther Bornkamm.
One of the stories you’ll hear repeated if you go looking for the historical Jesus in this way is that the first attempt to find him left the first century Galilean a man of mystery. In Albert Schweitzer’s famous image, those who went questing after the carpenter’s son from Nazareth just ended up peering into a well, seeing their own reflection, and calling it the historical Jesus. Schweitzer’s conclusion (together with his thesis that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet), is supposed to mark the end of the First Quest. The standard story is that no one went looking for Jesus again until Ernst Käsemann dared to reopen the question in 1953 with a lecture entitled “The Problem of the Historical Jesus.”
I say all this as a prelude – a kind of curated presentation of a surprise. Knowing the generally accepted significance of the year 1953, I was shocked to discover that someone not only went looking for Jesus in 1952, but actually seems to have found him! I’m referring (of course!) to Lord Buckley and his monologue “The Nazz.” Told in his characteristic voice – hipster slang set to a proto-beatnik tune –, this monologue more than confirms Lord Buckley’s autobiographical comment: “I’m the only comic who takes the word of Christ into the nightclubs.” Lord Buckley didn’t exactly write a “Life of Jesus,” but he succeeds where the quests often fail: he captured the core. The Nazz was a man of mercy.
I owe my awareness of Lord Buckley to PZ’s Podcast (Episode 56), and perhaps the best way to introduce “The Nazz” is to pass along Paul’s attempt to summarize Lord Buckley in Lord Buckley’s own style: “He didn’t come to call the squares (i.e. the righteous) but the kitties and the cats (i.e. the victims and the victimizers).”
Enjoy. Or, those who have ears let them hear. Or…
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