19th Century Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism

MoxnesStudents, faculty and the wider community were intrigued with the lecture given by Halvor Moxnes, professor of New Testament at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo. The 19th Century Jesus and the Rise of Nationalism on October 20, 2010 at Emmanuel College. See the Abstract below or check on our website for a copy and recording of the lecture.

credit Richard C Choe

moxnescredit Richard C Choe

Moxnescredit Richard C Choe



The controversy over the historical Jesus in the 19th century has largely been seen as a threat to dogmatic Christology and a conflict with the authority of the churches. But the importance of the studies of the historical Jesus that emerged in the 19th century only becomes visible when they are seen within the larger context of political and ideological changes in this period:


The study of the historical Jesus started from the beginning of the 19th century, at the same time as nationalism emerged as the central paradigm of ideology and political praxis, partly transforming old state-nations (France and England) and partly establishing nation-states (Germany). These nationalisms were also reflected in ideologies of colonialism and empire. Questions related to territory, boundaries between “we” and “others”, ethnic identity and family and gender roles (masculinity) were all important aspects of nationalism.


The lecture explores how these questions shaped the way the historical Jesus was described in his geographical context of Galilee and Palestine and in the ethnic and religious context of the Jewish people, and how the presentations of Jesus became part of the ideologies of nationalism in various European countries.

The examples are taken from soem of the most important studies of the historical Jesus in the 19th century, by Friedrich Schleiermacher and David F. Strauss (Germany), Ernest Renan (France) and from teh presentation of Jesus in G.A. Smith's famous Historical Georgraphy of the Holy Land (Great Britian).

The images of Jesus tha tthes ebooks provide, with theri paradigms of nationalism, have influenced 20th and 21st century studies of Jesus and Christian beginnings. But mdoern scholars who present the historical Jesus in the context of land, ethnicity, people, seem to be unaware that the concepts they use are part of a contemporary political vocabulary of nationalism.

Professor Halvor Moxnes

Halvor Moxnes i sa professor of New Testament at the Faculty of Theology, University of Oslo and an ordained pastor in the Church of Norway (Lutheran). His main works hav ebeen within the theology of St. paul, the Gospel of Luke, and lately, in studies of the historical Jesus and especially their political relevance. The lecture is based on his present research project on presentations of the historical Jesus in the 19th century in the context of emerging nationalism in Europe. He has been engaged in international collaboration among professors and students, especially the INATE Network (International Network of Advanced Theological Education), in which also Emmanuel College took part in. He has enjoyed the hospitality of Emmanuel College severaal times and feels Toronto is one of his second homes.

Books by Moxnes in English:

Putting Jesus in his place: The Historical Jesus in the Context of Household and Kingdom. 2003.

The Economy of hte Kingdom. Social Conflict and Economic Relations in Luke's Gospel. 1988

Theology in Conflict: Studies in Paul's understanding of God in Romans. 1980.

Edited or co-edited:

Jesus beyond Nationalism. 2009.

Constructing early Christian families: Family as social reality and metaphor. 1997.

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