The Jesus of History and the Christ of Faith


One distinction that is often made in the historical Jesus field is the “Jesus of History” vs. the “Christ of Faith.”  The idea is that Jesus, as a historical figure, is not who the church worships.  Rather, it is who Jesus has become that is relevant to the modern church.  The “Christ of Faith” is this totality of who Jesus has become, or perhaps the “spirit that comes forth from Jesus” in modern times.

Schweitzer, in his conclusion of The Quest of the Historical Jesus, writes:

“…the truth is, it is not Jesus as historically known, but Jesus as spiritually arisen within men, who is significant for our time and can help it. Not the historical Jesus, but the spirit which goes forth from Him and in the spirits of men strives for new influence and rule, is that which overcomes the world...
 
 ...Jesus means something to our world because a mighty spiritual force streams forth from Him and flows through our time also. This fact can neither be shaken nor confirmed by any historical discovery. It is the solid foundation of Christianity."

 

and ends his survey of historical Jesus studies with the famous lines:

“He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lake-side, as He came to those men who knew Him not. He speaks to us the same word: "Follow thou me!" and sets us to the tasks which He has to fulfill for our time. He commands. And to those who obey Him, whether they be wise or simple, He will reveal Himself in the toils, the conflicts, the sufferings which they shall pass through in His fellowship, and, as an ineffable mystery, they shall learn in their own experience Who He is.”

For Schweitzer, it is the Christ of Faith who still comes to us today.

It is, of course, notoriously difficult to parse apart the supposed Jesus of History from the Christ of Faith, if one even accepts those categories.  This is the whole business of the Quest. 

I don’t have a whole lot to say on this except to note that this distinction is often made.  Two relevant questions here are: (1) does one accept the distinction between the Historical Jesus and the Christ of Faith?, and (2) does, or should, this distinction matter to the theology of the modern church?