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Hunt for the historical Jesus

Rev Rex Hunt
Launching The Centre for Progressive Religious Thought in Brisbane in August, Rev Rex Hunt, director of CPRT in Canberra said a “new quest” to discover the historical Jesus had been going on for the past twenty years.

The Centre was founded in Canberra in 2002, an initiative of the St James Uniting Church, as a safe place for those who wanted to push theological boundaries.

“My underlying premise is that Jesus was a travelling sage who conversed with those around him orally and that Christian conviction had overwhelmed Jesus,” said Mr Hunt.

“More times than not he (Jesus) had been made to confess what Christians had come to believe, but Jesus was not the first Christian even when he is made to talk like one.”

As initiator behind CPRT, Uniting Church minister Rev Rex Hunt is an apologist for the work of the “Jesus Seminar”, a group of 300 internationally distinguished scholars searching to discover the original ‘voice’ in the Galilean crowd: the forgotten Jesus.

“While conservative scholars claim that what is ascribed to Jesus in the New Testament is what Jesus said, progressive biblical scholars abandoned this ‘theologically naïve’ view long ago,” said Mr Hunt.

“Jesus was a Galilean peasant who wrote nothing. He spoke Aramaic and very possibly some Greek, but we don’t know if he could speak Hebrew. His preferred medium was story, called parable.”

“His words have been preserved in the Greek. He taught his followers orally.”

Mr Hunt also founded The Network of Biblical Storytellers Australia in 1990. He said our theological understandings must take into account the fundamental contrast between the oral culture of Jesus’ time and the print culture of our time.

Mr Hunt sees himself standing in contrast to the ‘secular/humanist spirituality’ position of David Tacey (See July Journey).

“However, both David Tacey and I are together at a different end to the fundamentalist faith, which I would suggest is a misrepresentation of religious experience.”

While in Brisbane, Mr Hunt also addressed West End Uniting and Forest Lake Anglican churches on his Australian liturgical experience which reflects a 40 year journey in liturgy, media and communication, including a stint as a country music radio DJ.

“I tend to work outside the church committees and liturgical commissions because they are often dismissive of what is really happening on the edges,” he said.

“While I live in hope that Uniting in Worship 2 will be better than Uniting in Worship 1, liturgy made from church committees are seldom as creative or progressive as they might be, and often fed by compromise and the ‘institution’.”

Mr Hunt also attended the Gathering of Scholars of the Jesus Seminar in the United States of America in September.

Photo : Rev Rex Hunt