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Jesus Christ in World History

His Presence and Representation in Cyclical and Linear Settings- With the Assistance of Robert T. Coote

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Jan A.B. Jongeneel

Jesus of Nazareth influenced – and continues to influence – the human community more than anybody else. This study describes and analyzes the perceptions and receptions of Jesus as the Messiah/Christ in six continents from the beginning of the Common Era until today. He appears to be present both within and beyond the traditional borders of Christianity. Individuals and peoples represent him and/or misrepresent him in their cyclical and/or linear settings.

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7 From the Discovery of New Worlds to the French Revolution 142

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142 Chapter 7 From the Discovery of New Worlds to the French Revolution hat there was such a person as Jesus Christ, and that he, in the main, did, and taught as is recorded of him, appear to be probable; and this probability is grounded upon the improbability of the contrary supposition: that is, it ap- pears improbable that Christianity should take place, and prevail in the way, and to the degree that it did, or at least, that it is represented to have done, supposing the history of Christ’s life and ministry to be a fiction.” Thus wrote the English deist Thomas Chubb in a work published after his death in 1747.1 In the eighteenth century, the Enlightenment introduced new ways of think- ing, one of them being “probability” thinking, which Chubb and other freethink- ers were quick to apply to the traditions surrounding Jesus and other founders of religions. Sometimes, as with the French philosopher Voltaire, probability reason- ing led people to reduce Jesus as a figure in history to a minimum. But Jean- Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire’s countryman, protested the notion that the accounts of Jesus’ life in the canonical Gospels could not be trusted: Shall we say that the story of the Gospel was wantonly contrived? My friend, it is not thus that one contrives; the facts about Socrates, which no one doubts, are less well attested than those about Jesus Christ. At bottom, this is to push back the difficulty without doing away with it. It...

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