How can one achieve this theological flexibility within the constraints of a historical investigation? The answer is that you can not, or at least could not, until the recent discovery of a rather bizarre wrinkle in theological reality. All of us have had the experience of finding that things are not always what they seem to be. Though it is usually chalked up to misperception or too much of a party the night before, one theory postulates that at certain times and in very restricted situations things seem to be something else because they truly are, not what they are. Though it had always been assumed that an object could not be itself and yet not itself at the same time and in the same way, 20th century advances in the science of relativism have found that this is not so in matters theological. It has in fact been proven via the recombinant technology of relativistic political correctness, that in fact two logical opposites can be true at the same time and in the same way within the narrow field of theology. The first, and most famous, law discovered with this scientific method was the devilishly simple principle,
"What you believe is true for you and what I believe is true for me."
Of course other attempts were made to use the same principle in other areas. One researcher, after a particularly moving concert, having imbibed a number of psychotrophic agents in order to better appreciate the music, discovered that it was true for her that she could fly, and stepped off of a rather tall building. Physical reality, having absolutely no appreciation for political correctness, didn't care what was true for her and the sidewalk definitely felt that the hard truth for it was that it would not give at all, and the girl was smashed into little bits. It is for this reason that it is now recognized that this wrinkle in the fabric of reality exists only in the realms of religious science.
Further application of these findings by the fore mentioned Jesus historians led to a rather creative use of the concept of control beliefs. A control belief is a premise upon which you base your investigation. It is used to form your argument and to decide which ideas are worth pursuing and which have to be thrown out. The trick is in arriving at your control belief before your investigation has shown you what reality is.
It can be an almost mystical experience at times appearing almost prophetic because the basis on which you proceed seems to always end up being backed up by the conclusions that you come to. If you decide that Jesus was a political leader then you may rule out all of his religious statements as later additions. Such additions, put in at a later date, can not be considered to be a part of the historical Jesus. How do you know that Jesus was a political leader? Because we have just proven that claims that he spoke of other maters were later forgeries. How do we know that they are forgeries? Because since he was really only a political leader he would not have been interested in religious maters so he would not have spoken on them. If that type of argument does not convince someone, just keep repeating the last two lines of it until the shear bloody mindedness of it wears them down. This is not circular logic. It is rather the logical and unavoidable outcome of your presupposition. It is not an unsupported presupposition because your end findings show it to be true. It's like the guy who made a sculpture of an elephant by getting a big rock and cutting out everything that didn't look like an elephant. An example of a control belief used by Jesus historians is the belief that things supernatural, miraculous, or that in other ways would show the hand of God intervening in human affairs, do not exist. This denies the main purpose of the Bible and thereby opens up a plethora of imaginative and original discoveries in historical fact that can then be mined from whatever little bits and pieces that are left that you determine to be authentic history.
Control beliefs are not the only tool available to the Jesus historian. Once it had been determined that reality works in a different way in theology than in mathematics or physical science, other anomalies were sought. Most of these were found in a related discipline, form criticism. Form criticism found that you can eliminate anything that does not come from more than one source. This gets rid of most of the gospel of John which contains much that was left out of the other three gospels. Of course Matthew Mark and Luke contain many similar passages, but any that don't fit what you're planning on Jesus having been can also be dealt with. You can eliminate anything that has slightly different wording in two places. The Lord's Prayer can thus be eliminated as a corrupted text. The same concept can be used in another way to eliminate any passage that occurs in two places without using different words if one of the passages is only partial. You can assume, (brilliantly of course,) part was added, or you can assume, (even more brilliantly,) that the part left out was different and somehow more authentic than the parts you have. Your summation of the deleted part then becomes the authentic material upon which your control belief can be based. Of course there are still a few passages that occur word for word in more than one place, that might give your particular historical perspective problems. They, however, can be ruled out because they were both obviously copied from another unknown source. Though such sources are unknown, we know about them enough to give them names. Single letter names are the most impressive, like, "Q" or "P" or "E". It is best if the amount of unknown sources that you know is kept relatively small so that you can keep track of them and thus not lose track of what it is that you don't know.
Of course, this can leave you with practically nothing upon which you can base your particular historical Jesus. Much however, can yet be mined from what you do not know. Why were these stories made up? It could not have been to make the early chroniclers of Biblical myth popular. Most of them seem to have died for saying it. There must have been some underlying reason for these stories. This reason can be discovered by using the historical psychological approach. An analysis of the dysfunction of the various characters in your history and the psychology of the authors of the sources can be used to discover hidden agendas based on suppressed traumas which can then be part of the historical facts from which your history is constructed. The possibilities of this approach are virtually psychedelic.
All of this could get a bit confusing, and we here at Heresy of the Month would certainly not want that, so let us just walk you through one of the many possible historical realities generated by these methods. We will use the passage about the woman at the well found in John 4 as a stating point. Since this story exists only in the book of John it must have been made up because higher criticism has shown us that truth usually comes in triplicate and must at least have a carbon copy to be valid. (To say that a text is more reliable if more than one copy exists and yet to disqualify other texts because multiple copies infer an earlier source that is unknown is not a contradiction. Rather it is due to the anomalies of reality mentioned above that exist only in the realms of theology.) But why was this story included? The obvious answer is that the opposite must then be true. The editorial committee for the book of John must have wanted to cover up Jesus' racist attitude towards Samaritans. A Freudian slip of the redactors quill has however betrayed what really transpired. Jesus asks the woman for a drink and yet he tells her that he can give her water. The story just doesn't make sense. The water, however, is a genuine element of history. Later on in both verse 40 and 43 the phrase "two days" appears. With a little intuition and if you decided that your control belief was that Jesus was the first of a long line of Jewish comics, it can be seen that what actually transpired was a precursor to a well worn comedic standard. It probably went something like this.
"How many Samaritans does it take to draw a drink of water?"
"Only one but it would take him two days to do it."
Yes, it was a bit lame, yet it's importance lies not in Jesus' primitive attempt at humor but rather in the myriad of light bulb jokes that it has spawned since.
In fact, this bit of critical biblical isogesis, could become the start of a totally new ancient Jesus. Jesus could now have been no longer a political reformer, He could cease to have been a peasant philosopher, and henceforth he was not a Zionist zealot. What he becomes was no longer even a religious teacher. What he taught will not be all doom and judgment. He comes to have had a far lighter side than any people living within a generation of his time would have guessed. Not just lighter, but funny. Yes, what Jesus was has now become funny, so funny that we can now call him, "The Hysterical Jesus".
Once this fact has been discovered it is easy to find a plethora of evidence for it. An example can be seen in the story of the demon possessed man in Mark 5. Our control belief eliminates the demon and the exorcism, but since versions of this story appear in two of the other gospels as well, there must be some real historical basis for it hiding within the text. Since we have already determined that Jesus was a stand up comic, the true history behind it is easy to imagine. This is a typical case of a comic being heckled! This individual heckler was more than one usually ran into. The mention of his ability to break chains and the mention that "none could tame him" in verse 4 are of course embellishments of the fact that bouncers at clubs he frequented were unable to contain his heckling. A fragment of the original heckling can be seen in verse 7 where he shouts in reference to the quality of Jesus routine, "torment me not". Jesus was not one to be easily frazzled however. His response mentioning compassion for the heckler and the phase "go home and tell thy friends" in verse 19 was obviously an early version of the line, "Here's a quarter.... Call someone who cares."
This, of course is just one example of what you can make Jesus to have been. History, at least when it applies to Jesus, can be virtually anything you want it to be. The accuracy of your version of history is verified, or even proven, as long as what you believe is true for you. Just be careful that the ideas your historical Jesus taught are more important than Jesus Himself. This will help avoid any accidental contact with the real person of Jesus which would of course not be in line with any of the heresies that you get here at Heresy of the Month.
We are not real lunatics, but we try to be when we write these heresies. You should be aware that other heresies that are strikingly similar are conceived by serious people and any lunacy involved is entirely genuine and should be respected as such. As always, Sackcloth & Ashes (or MessianicArt.com! And it's staff)does not endorse this heresy, and if you choose to believe it, or one of several fine facsimiles that can be found at many fine institutions of higher learning, we will not be responsible for any heat incurred.