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# The Polemics About the Historicity of Jesus Christ in the Religious Studies of the Soviet Period
A. ANDREEV
*Abstract*
The article discusses the history of the controversy regarding the historicity of Jesus Christ in the academic literature of the Soviet period. It summarizes the position of the classics of Marxism-Leninism on the issue, which for many decades served for scientists as «starting point» in their studies. The article outlines the main work of Soviet religious scholars, historians and philologists, engaged in the research of the New Testament. It presents the basic arguments for and against a real earthly existence of Jesus Christ. It identifies the major milestones in the development of this issue throughout the Soviet period: the period from 20’s, which is characterized by the dominance of the ideas of the so-called «Mythological school» and tough anti-religious propaganda; the period from the late 50’s to early 80’s, when the mythological nature of Jesus was questioned; and the third period, which began in the late 80s, and which is marked the transition of Soviet (and later Russian) New Testament studies in the context of a new paradigm that recognizes the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ as self-evident. The article also raises the question of why the Soviet studies of the New Testament literature were not integrated in the international debate, in particular, in the «Quest for the historical Jesus.»
Aside from the obvious factors such as total indoctrination of science and the difficulty of international contacts, it is hypothesized that the crucial difficulty in the development of Soviet Biblical Studies was in excessive use of sociological research methods of the New Testament, to the detriment of philological criticism of the Biblical text.
*Key words*: Jesus, religious studies, history, religion, Marxism, early Christianity
Introduction
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The issue of describing such a significant research area as the “Search for the Historical Jesus” is a huge amount of research. Since the publication in 1906 of the classical work of Albert Schweitzer[^1] on the course and results of the biennial Search history, such review works are published with enviable regularity. And although the studies of New Testament in modern Russia are not yet as popular as in the West, there are both original and translated works that tell about the main milestones of the Search for the historical Jesus.
However, outside the focus of attention of modern Russian researchers, Soviet biblical studies remain[^2]. As far as we managed to find out, the problem of the discussion about the historicity of Jesus Christ in Soviet historiography was not at all covered by modern authors.
"Starting point" for research by Soviet scientists
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G. Livshits opens his detailed historiographic review of Soviet biblical studies with the following statement:
> The starting point for the research of Soviet scientists in this field (the studies of the New Testament. --- * A. A. *) were the statements of the founders of Marxism-Leninism the origins of Christianity and New Testament writings[^3].
And this is not just a tribute to the Soviet nomenclature; If we look at the works of researchers of that era, we can see that some basic methodological settings, formulated, in particular, by F. Engels, were indeed widely discussed by scientists and played a significant role in the logic of the development of new research.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels write about the problems of the scientific study of the New Testament, both special works and relate to this problem in more general writings. In 1842, Marx publishes an article “A Few More Words about the Booklet of O. F. The Group“ Bruno Bauer and Freedom of Academic Teaching ”, in which he considers the position of Bauer as a biblical scholar. The first joint book of Marx and Engels --- “The Holy Family,” or Critique of Criticism. Against Bruno Bauer and Company (1844) --- is devoted to the controversy against some of the Young Hegelians, including Bauer. Subsequently, Engels published three special works on biblical studies, and Marx no longer touched on this topic in his writings. Three works by Engels --- this is "Bruno Bauer and the original Christianity" (1882), The Book of Revelation (1883) and To the History of Primitive Christianity (1894). In this article, it is not possible to examine in detail the content of all three works, therefore we confine ourselves to a few remarks that are important for the problem under consideration. First, Engels sharply distances himself from the “theory of deception” that was popular in the Enlightenment and points out that for an effective atheistic struggle against religious prejudices, it is necessary to turn, as Bauer did, to a specific historical analysis of the context in which Christianity. As soon as the historical conditionality of the New Testament is revealed, it will be easy to criticize all its provisions, which are considered divine and unshakable. therefore, we confine ourselves to a few remarks that are important for the problem under consideration. First, Engels sharply distances himself from the “theory of deception” that was popular in the Enlightenment and points out that for an effective atheistic struggle against religious prejudices, it is necessary to turn, as Bauer did, to a specific historical analysis of the context in which Christianity. As soon as the historical conditionality of the New Testament is revealed, it will be easy to criticize all its provisions, which are considered divine and unshakable. therefore, we confine ourselves to a few remarks that are important for the problem under consideration. First, Engels sharply distances himself from the “theory of deception” that was popular in the Enlightenment and points out that for an effective atheistic struggle against religious prejudices, it is necessary to turn, as Bauer did, to a specific historical analysis of the context in which Christianity. As soon as the historical conditionality of the New Testament is revealed, it will be easy to criticize all its provisions, which are considered divine and unshakable. that in order to effectively atheist struggle against religious prejudices, it is necessary to turn, as Bauer did, to a concrete historical analysis of the context in which Christianity was created. As soon as the historical conditionality of the New Testament is revealed, it will be easy to criticize all its provisions, which are considered divine and unshakable. that in order to effectively atheist struggle against religious prejudices, it is necessary to turn, as Bauer did, to a concrete historical analysis of the context in which Christianity was created. As soon as the historical conditionality of the New Testament is revealed, it will be easy to criticize all its provisions, which are considered divine and unshakable.
In his book “The Book of Revelation,” Engels puts forward a thesis that also has a definite influence on the subsequent Soviet science. Following a rather minority figure in German biblical studies --- Professor Franz Ferdinand Benari, in whose workshop Engels participated in 1841, he defended a very early dating of the Apocalypse --- 68 or 69 --- and proves that exactly the book of Revelation is the first New Testament text. Perhaps Engels did not anticipate all the conclusions that can be drawn from the early dating of the Apocalypse. However, for the Soviet science in the question of the historicity of Jesus Christ, this thesis of Engels will play a decisive role.
An important role in the direction of Soviet New Testament research was played by the article of V.I. Lenin "On the Meaning of Militant Materialism" (1922). In it, Lenin considers the possibility of using the works of the German biblical scholar Arthur Drews, one of the leading representatives of the so-called “mythological school”[^4] at the time, to strengthen atheistic propaganda. As is known, Drews was not a professional biblical scholar, his hermeneutics of the New Testament was based on certain philosophical premises, and Drews saw his task as a philosopher in cleansing Christianity from all “material” things, down to the denial of the historical existence of Jesus Christ. Drews' works were widely discussed in Germany at the beginning of the 20th century, but professional biblical scholars specializing in the study of the New Testament, such as Johann Weiss, Adolph Juleher, Hermann von Soden, et al., Unequivocally expressed their opinion on Drews’s position as absurd and irrelevant to serious science. However, the idea of ​​using the thesis that Christ himself never existed seemed very attractive to Lenin, given the shortage of high-quality anti-religious literature in the early 1920s. That is why in the indicated article he writes that
> "Soyuz" with Drews in one form or another to some extent *is obligatory for us* (highlighted by me --- * A. A. A. *) in the fight against the dominant religious obscurantists[^5].
After the publication of this text of Lenin in the period from 1924 to 1930, six Drews' works were translated and published in large circulation, half of which were directly aimed at rejecting the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ.
Soviet historiography of the 20--30s: from controversy to stagnation
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Even before the revolutionary events, a well-known public figure (later a member of the USSR Academy of Sciences) N. A. Morozov published his first work on biblical studies --- “Revelation in Thunderstorm and Storm” (1907). Subsequently, in 1914, he published the monograph “Prophets”, and in the period from 1924 to 1932, he published a seven-volume book under the general title “Christ”. The methodology that Morozov applies to research of the Old Testament and New Testament texts is based on the ideas of the astral-mythological (or astral-solar) school, which believed that the religious beliefs of ancient peoples are rooted in the observation of man of celestial phenomena. All the characters in world mythology are, according to representatives of this school, a poetical and hypostatized image of a particular planet, star, or natural phenomenon. Based on such ideas, Morozov comes to very odious conclusions in his works. He sets the exact date of the writing of the Apocalypse --- September 30, 395, it was on this day that an unprecedented storm passed over the island of Patmos, under the impression that John Chrysostom (sic!) Immediately wrote the book of Revelation. He recognizes the historical existence of Jesus Christ, but the “reconstruction” of his earthly life, like the dating of biblical books, has no scientific value. The main role played by Academician Morozov in the question of interest to us is that his pretentious conclusions served as a catalyst for a more meaningful, scientific debate. under the impression that John Chrysostom (sic!) immediately wrote the book of Revelation. He recognizes the historical existence of Jesus Christ, but the “reconstruction” of his earthly life, like the dating of biblical books, has no scientific value. The main role played by Academician Morozov in the question of interest to us is that his pretentious conclusions served as a catalyst for a more meaningful, scientific debate. under the impression that John Chrysostom (sic!) immediately wrote the book of Revelation. He recognizes the historical existence of Jesus Christ, but the “reconstruction” of his earthly life, like the dating of biblical books, has no scientific value. The main role played by Academician Morozov in the question of interest to us is that his pretentious conclusions served as a catalyst for a more meaningful, scientific debate.
The main critic of Morozov was an expert in the history of the Ancient East, an assyristologist N. M. Nikol'skii. In 1908, he published a polemical answer to Morozov's “Revelation ...” --- the brochure entitled “The Dispute of Historical Criticism with Astronomy”. Despite the fact that the name has the term “historical criticism”, Nikolsky uses exclusively philological methods to prove his point of view on the dating of the Apocalypse. Already after the October Revolution, Nikolsky published a monograph “Jesus and the First Christian Communities” (1918), in which he defended the traditional biblical dating of the New Testament books (originally, the early authentic Epistles of St. Paul, in 70, the Gospel of Mark, in the 80–90s, two other synoptic Gospels, a little later, the Gospel of John, and at the end of the first century (Apocalypse). He asserts the historicity of the existence of Jesus Christ and argues that a certain part of the gospel material (based on oral tradition) goes back directly to Jesus. However, in 1925, Nikolsky had to feel the influence of the ideological dictatorship of the party. Lenin's article on the “binding for us” alliance with the Drews (ie, the mythological school) was published three years before that, therefore, openly defending the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ was becoming quite problematic. As far back as 1908, Nikolsky translated into Russian the work of one of the leading German biblical scholars who worked within the framework of the “Search for Historical Jesus” --- the monograph by William Wrede “The Origin of the Books of the New Testament”. In 1925, in preparing the second edition of the translation, Nikolsky had to make a rather significant editorial correction to the text. She touched on the question of the historicity of Jesus. In a multi-page addendum to the text, Wrede Nikolsky wrote (probably not at will) that the question of whether the founder of Christianity actually lived could only be decided on the basis that material found in the Gospels indisputably ascending to Jesus himself . However, at this stage of development of the New Testament studies it is not possible to definitively answer this question. Considering that in his other works, including the article of the same 1925, Nikolsky accepts the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ as self-evident, it can be very likely that the introduction of editorial changes in the text of Wrede was due to ideological influence ,
Also in the first third of the 20th century, the classical philologist and specialist in ancient history S. Zhebelev worked on the problems of studying the New Testament corps. In 1919, the text of his course of publicly available lectures delivered by a scientist a year earlier in Petrograd University, entitled “Gospel of canonical and apocryphal”, was published. The author points to four possible methods of exploring the New Testament: historical-critical, literary-historical, formal-philological, and theological-philosophical. In general, Zhebelev uses a method that in our time could be characterized as philological; he considers the issues of literary interdependence of the Gospels, and the whole New Testament corps studies as part of the written tradition of the Hellenistic era. Like his colleague N. M. Nikolsky, Zhebelev recognizes the traditional dating of the canonical books of the New Testament and believes that in the Gospels we can find traces of the oral tradition that goes back to Jesus himself. The idea that Jesus as the real living founder of Christianity could not be, is simply not considered by the author; the fact of the historicity of Jesus is recognized by him as self-evident and not requiring problematization.
After the publication of Lenin's article and the appearance of the first translations of the works of Drewstov and other authors of the mythological school, Soviet studies of varying degrees of academic character began to be published, stating the thesis that Jesus Christ did not exist as a historical figure. In 1922, N. A. Kuhn's work “The Forerunners of Christianity” was published, where it was argued that the cult of the dying and resurrection god was borrowed by Christians from more ancient religious systems (Phrygian cults of Cybele and Attis, Hellenistic cults of Isis and Serapis, Mithraism and etc.). The same theses were defended by other authors of the period under review, such as V.S. Rozhitsyn[^6], E. M. Yaroslavskyi[^7], N. V. Rumyantsev[^8], I. M. Lobachev[^9], V. G. Bogoraz-Tan[^10], I. A. Borichevsky[^11], A. D. Dmitriev[^12], V. I. Nedelsky[^13].
Scientists denied the historicity not only of Jesus Christ, but also of such personalities as John the Baptist, the Virgin Mary, the Apostle Paul, and other people mentioned in the Bible. As arguments, it was argued that, in accordance with the Marxist understanding of history, religious movements arise for concrete historical social reasons, and not as a result of the actions of prominent individuals. Bogoraz-Tan writes:
> In the scholarly literature devoted to Christianity, there is an endless, quite boundless controversy about whether Christ was or was not. I consider this question uninteresting and unimportant ... Individuals never determined the historical course of events. ... The image of a religious teacher, imprinted in the “scripture,” represents a mythical image created by the collective striving of the mass of believers[^14].
Also, almost all authors believed that Christian doctrine was a direct borrowing of ancient religious systems that are of an exclusively mythical nature:
> The Gospels are a collection of various myths, legends and traditions. They were modeled on the ancient oriental writings about the savior gods. Thus, the messages of the evangelists about Jesus Christ do not deserve any confidence. Everything suggests that Jesus is a mythical, not a historical person[^15].
To deny the historicity of Jesus, Engels thesis that the Apocalypse is the earliest book of the New Testament was especially actively used. Unlike Nikolsky and Zhebelev, who adhered to the dating of the books of the New Testament Corpus, which is traditional for academic biblical studies, from the beginning of the 1930s. Soviet researchers have developed a completely different system. Ignoring the previous scientific tradition and using very ambiguous dating methods, Soviet authors until the 80s. adhered to the following scheme: the Apocalypse was originally written (c. 69, as engels designated it), later --- Messages an. Paul (the turn of the 1st and 2nd centuries), then the Gospel of John (beginning of the 2nd century) and at the end the Synoptic Gospels (middle of the 2nd century). Such dating served as confirmation of the conclusions of the mythological school.
> In Revelation of John, the image of Jesus Christ bears the features of a mythological being, not a real person. In Paul's epistles, Jesus is the deity[^16], the son of God, but he is already endowed with human features. ... According to N.V. Rumyantsev, in the first half of the 2nd c. Christians carried out the final historicization of Jesus Christ[^17].
Another argument by Soviet authors was the so-called “saeculi silentium” --- “the silence of the century”, that is, the absence of authentic references to Jesus Christ from early non-Christian authors. The traditional testimonies of ancient writers (Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, Pliny, the polemical extracts from the Talmud) were considered by Soviet scholars to be either later Christian interpolations or interpreted in such a way that their probative power with regard to the problem of the historicity of Jesus Christ lost all convincingness.
In general, at the same time, such leaders of the Communist Party as “N. K. Krupskaya, I. I. Skvortsov-Stepanov, A. V. Lunacharsky, P. A. Krasikov, V. D. Bonch-Bruevich publish works, conduct public debates, give lectures that promote the Marxist view of religion. .. acquaint wide circles of society with the Marxist problems of the history of the emergence of Christianity ”[^18]. Subsequently, even in Soviet science, this period was considered the time of the decline of academic research and too rough ideological pressure on science: “From the mid-20s, the point of view of the mythological school was completely accepted in our science, and over time the recognition of the myth of the Gospel the hero was considered almost equal to the Marxist view of the origin of Christianity. ”[^19]
Formation of a scientific school: the works of A. B. Ranovich and the subsequent tradition
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In contrast to the authors considered above, whose works, of course, contained some scientific component, it is possible to speak about the formation of a certain Soviet academic school in the study of the New Testament only from the research of A. B. Ranovich (1885--1948). As Livshits notes: “The works of A. B. Ranovitch on the history of early Christianity laid the foundation for a new stage in the development of Marxist literature ... A. B. Ranovich carefully studied the data of archaeological, papyrological and epigraphic sources on the history of early Christianity”[^20]. Programmatic studies of Ranovic came out as early as the beginning of the 30s[^21], but it is possible to speak about the formation of a scientific school, the foundation of which was based on the developments of Ranovic, only from the end of the 50s. (after the death of Abram Borisovich himself). The period from the beginning of the 40s to the second half of the 50s. was a time of extinction of interest in New Testament studies.
The works of Ranovich for four decades determined the vector of development of Soviet biblical studies. And although the question of the historicity of Jesus was not in the focus of attention of a scientist, it is necessary to briefly characterize his methodology, since it is on its basis that almost all researchers of the New Testament will work until the end of the Soviet period. The main merit of Ranovich was the study of a huge array of texts of the I-IV centuries, directly or indirectly connected with the emergence and development of Christianity. Ranovich focused exclusively on the study of the historical context of the emergence of Christianity. In those places where the problems of the appearance of the New Testament texts are considered, the scientist is trying to reconstruct the social and economic prerequisites of their appearance. At the same time, philological analysis is almost completely absent.
In the matter of the historicity of Jesus, Ranovich fully adhered to the views of the mythological school:
> It can be considered scientifically quite established, Jesus Christ is a mythical creature. He is not the founder of religion, who, with his ignorant and gullible admirers, was elevated to the rank of god and endowed with superhuman traits, as liberal theologians want to portray. On the contrary, Jesus is a deity, subsequently endowed with human traits, an earthly “biography.”[^22]
Despite the rather high academic standards, which most of Ranovich’s works meet, in his research (albeit to a lesser extent than his predecessors) the ideological charge is felt. Already at the end of the Soviet era, Sventsitskaya noted this:
> The position of A. B. Ranovich in relation to a number of problems in the history of early Christianity reflected not only the modern level of development of science, but also certain political trends in the mid-30s. ... In his works one can find echoes of primitive anti-religious propaganda of the 20--30s. The struggle itself around the problem of the historicity of Jesus, John the Baptist, Paul, Peter wore at that time ... not so much a scientific as a political one[^23].
Since the late 50s. In the Soviet Union, the second wave of New Testament research begins. In contrast to the 1920s-1930s, the works of this period are distinguished by a rather high academic level, more restrained judgments and conclusions, and an acquaintance with topical Western literature. Scientists such as R. Yu. Vipper[^24], S.I. Kovalev[^25], Ya. A. Lentsman[^26], Yu. P. Frantsev[^27], work on the problems of biblical studies, G. M. Livshits[^28], I. A. Kryvelev[^29], A. P. Kazhdan[^30], M. M. Kublanov[^31].
In 1956--1959 S. I. Kovalev led a controversy with the English Communist and the professional New Testament researcher Archibald Robertson. This controversy was caused by the translation in 1956 of Robertson's The Origin of Christianity, in which the Marxist scholar proceeded from the recognition of the fact of Jesus' historical existence. In the preface to the Russian translation, Kovalev “points out Robertson’s recognition of Jesus of Nazareth’s recognition as a serious shortcoming”[^32] and also gives his counterarguments against the position of the English researcher. In 1959, the second edition of The Origin of Christianity was published. And here Robertson criticizes the views of Kovalev[^33]. Thus, by the end of the 50s. The question of the “historical Jesus” of what was finally decided was again problematic.
The new period in Soviet religious studies, which began in the 1960s, is marked by quite important methodological changes concerning the issue we are considering. The most significant of these changes is the refusal of most scientists from the methodology of the mythological school. Naturally, some researchers, such as R. Yu. Wipper and Yu. P. Frantsev, defended the mythology of Jesus Christ to the end of their lives. But the majority of scientists in this period changed their views (the question of whether this was due to ideological changes or purely scientific reasons should be left open). As an example, we can consider the evolution of the views of A.P. Kazhdan in the works Religion and Atheism in the Ancient World (1957), The Origin of Christianity and Its Essence (1962) and From Christ to Constantine (1965) . In 1965, Kazhdan stated:
> New Testament Jesus Christ --- is a fusion of various mythological images. ... New Testament Jesus Christ is not a character in history[^34].
The turning point for the scientist was 1966. This year, for the first time in many years, the main provisions of the mythological school were called into question on the pages of the journal Science and Religion (No. 2, 3, and 5). He began this controversy himself with Kozhdan's article “Historical Grain of the Tradition of Jesus Christ.” Kazhdan pointed out that early anti-Christian polemicists, such as Celsus and the authors of the Talmud, speak of the historical existence of such a (from their point of view) man as Jesus. It is this external, anti-Christian testimony that can serve as evidence that Jesus as a character in history really existed. Also, the scientist examines in detail the Messages an. Paul and points out that the undeniably authentic Epistles contain quite a lot of information about the “historical” Jesus (which was rather indiscriminately denied by mythologists and previous Soviet authors). The gospel narratives themselves, namely their numerous contradictions, testify to the reality of Jesus,
> There is no doubt about the inconsistency and unreliability of the gospels. From this, however, it does not follow that the Gospel account of the life of Jesus is entirely fictional and has no historical basis. If the Gospels were a purely fictional construction or a conscious fake, then they would hardly be full of such numerous contradictions. These contradictions are explained by the fact that the authors of the gospels used oral traditions, various and differing versions[^35].
Thus, in the 60s. Soviet religious studies were spared the need to adhere to the conclusions of the mythological school. This could give a new impetus to the New Testament studies, but this did not happen. Probably, scientists still could not so sharply break with all previous tradition and start working within the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” for reasons of an ideological nature. As a result, leading researchers simply ignored the problem of the historical Jesus. This is how Ya. A. Lenzman wrote about this:
> Against the background of the translation of works, only adherents of the mythological school lag behind the original studies of the origin of Christianity led to a clearly undesirable bias in our atheistic propaganda. For many years it revolved around an important, but still private, question of the historicity of Jesus. But the main thing in the Marxist approach to the origin of Christianity is ... opening the socio-political roots of early Christianity, determining the social composition of the adherents of the new religion, its ideology and social significance in that era[^36].
This position is summarized by G. M. Livshits:
> For Marxism, the cause of the emergence of Christianity is neither a specific historical figure nor a mystical character. There is also no doubt that the origins of Christianity were historical personalities, the activities and views of which were a reflection of certain social and ideological processes. From this it follows that the presence or absence of a historical basis in the gospel myths about Christ is not of fundamental importance for the Marxist methodology. ... Any answer to this particular question cannot change the attitudes of Marxist scholars[^37].
You can try to critically evaluate this methodological premise of Soviet researchers. In general, finding out the “socio-political roots of early Christianity, determining the social composition of the adherents of a new religion, its ideology and social significance in that era” (Lentsman) is a very promising task for the religious study of the New Testament. And the Soviet authors, beginning with Ranovich, have advanced very far in studying this issue. For early Christianity from the beginning of II up to IV c. Russian authors in some detail (naturally, given the general level of development of science of that period) were able to reconstruct historical, social, and political contexts. However, when it was decided to abandon the consideration of the “historical Jesus” problem, they thereby closed for themselves the study of the earliest period of the life of the Christian community --- the whole of I century. The point here is that the “search for historical Jesus” is directly related to the study of the very first Christian groups: the time of their emergence, the place of their residence, their social composition, the characteristics of their dogma (or ideology, as was customary in the Soviet era) , dynamics of development, etc. These questions, which, apparently, directly interested Soviet authors, could be correctly answered only on the basis of several points: at a certain time Jesus of Nazareth preached in Palestine; He had followers who memorized his teaching and the facts of his life; Communities arose from people who personally never saw Jesus and knew about him only from the apostles' sermons; subsequently, in different communities, in accordance with their concrete historical context, the first Gospels were created, in which the life and teachings of Jesus were described based on their faith in him as Savior; Over time, the living conditions of the early communities changed, and these changes were reflected in a specific editorial revision of the Gospels and the compilation of new religious texts. Effectively exploring the historical context of the formation of the earliest Christian groups can only be based on the recognition that Jesus Christ, as the real founder of Christianity, preached his doctrine, which was later perceived by his first followers. There is no need to prove the fact that the proclamation of Jesus Christ itself is not exactly the same as its perception in the lives of early Christians, since any perception is already an interpretation. And in order to separate historical facts from their religious interpretation, it is necessary to scrupulously study the new Testament texts themselves. The scientific reconstruction of the preaching of Jesus himself, the reconstruction of the oral tradition that existed among the early Christians before the appearance of written texts, as well as the reconstruction of the conditions in which the text of the Gospels was created is necessary. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. And in order to separate historical facts from their religious interpretation, it is necessary to scrupulously study the new Testament texts themselves. The scientific reconstruction of the preaching of Jesus himself, the reconstruction of the oral tradition that existed among the early Christians before the appearance of written texts, as well as the reconstruction of the conditions in which the text of the Gospels was created is necessary. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. And in order to separate historical facts from their religious interpretation, it is necessary to scrupulously study the new Testament texts themselves. The scientific reconstruction of the preaching of Jesus himself, the reconstruction of the oral tradition that existed among the early Christians before the appearance of written texts, as well as the reconstruction of the conditions in which the text of the Gospels was created is necessary. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. The scientific reconstruction of the preaching of Jesus himself, the reconstruction of the oral tradition that existed among the early Christians before the appearance of written texts, as well as the reconstruction of the conditions in which the text of the Gospels was created is necessary. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. The scientific reconstruction of the preaching of Jesus himself, the reconstruction of the oral tradition that existed among the early Christians before the appearance of written texts, as well as the reconstruction of the conditions in which the text of the Gospels was created is necessary. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels. That is what the scientists working in the framework of the “Search for the Historical Jesus” have been and are doing. This requires a completely different methodological approach to the study of the New Testament Corps, but in the overwhelming majority of cases, Soviet authors turned to the study of the text of the New Testament only to demonstrate the “contradictions” and “inconsistencies” in the Gospels.
In the Soviet period, dozens of studies were written, in the title of which, in one form or another, the question was posed: “How did Christianity originate?” from Nazareth ("historical Jesus") and the lives of his followers in the 1st half. I century --- con I century Probably, Soviet authors could even make a definite contribution to world biblical studies if they did not initially dismiss the question of the historical Jesus as unimportant to science.
From Soviet Religious to Contemporary: Has there been a paradigm shift?
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As was shown above, almost the entire Soviet period, scientists did not deal with the problem of "historical Jesus": from the 20s to the 50s. in science, the point of view of the mythological school undoubtedly dominated, from the beginning of the 60s, when the provisions of this school were called into question, the researchers simply ignored the thesis of historical Jesus as unimportant for Marxist science. In the 80s. there are first studies, written from a different point of view. First of all, these are works by I. S. Sventsitskaya[^38]. In her first monograph, Sventsitskaya used very reserved language: “At present, the question of the historicity of Jesus cannot be finally resolved, but some arguments of mythological scholars need revision”[^39]. In the article "Prophets, Saviors, Messiahs," published in the journal Science and Religion in 1969, For the first time since N. M. Nikolsky and S. A. Zhebeleva, Sventsitskaya proposed an alternative scheme for the evolution of the image of historical Jesus in early Christianity: from the earliest Gospel from Mark to later New Testament literature[^40]. Subsequently, in her monographs, Sventsitskaya proceeded from the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ as a self-evident position. She was one of the first Soviet researchers of the New Testament who began to use the specific philological methods of research of the New Testament developed in the 20th century. Western biblical scholarships (for example, the “critique of forms” method). Subsequently, in her monographs, Sventsitskaya proceeded from the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ as a self-evident position. She was one of the first Soviet researchers of the New Testament who began to use the specific philological methods of research of the New Testament developed in the 20th century. Western biblical scholarships (for example, the “critique of forms” method). Subsequently, in her monographs, Sventsitskaya proceeded from the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ as a self-evident position. She was one of the first Soviet researchers of the New Testament who began to use the specific philological methods of research of the New Testament developed in the 20th century. Western biblical scholarships (for example, the “critique of forms” method).
In 1981, at the Philological Faculty of the Moscow State University, S. V. Lyozov defended his PhD thesis on the topic “History and Hermeneutics in the Study of the New Testament”. Unlike previous secular historiographers, Lioz did not even mention the “mythological” and “historical” schools, since such a division absolutely did not correspond to the real logic of the development of biblical studies in the West. He introduces dozens of current works of foreign researchers of the New Testament into the scientific circulation, but he has practically no references to the previous Soviet authors. Working as part of a completely new research paradigm, Lioz writes:
> Any detailed works on modern studies of the New Testament (New Testament. --- * A. A. *) are completely absent in Russian, there are practically no translations of these scientific works themselves.[^41]
So, at the turn of the epoch both Liozov and Sventsitskaya began working in a new paradigm of research in which the fact of the historical existence of Jesus Christ is accepted by default. They are not trying either to refute the mythological concept, nor to argue in support of their approach, probably because they understood the lack of scientific value in such actions. The only author who studied the New Testament and tried to refute the arguments of mythologists was Archpriest Alexander Men (1935–1990). Although he did not directly relate to the academic community, his arguments are much more scientifically sound than those of many recognized Soviet scientists. In his work “The Son of Man”, which has been republished many times over, almost a hundred pages are devoted to the analysis and criticism of the mythological school. He identifies five main arguments of mythologists:
> 1. The image of Christ was created gradually, by the humanization of the deity Yeshua (Jesus).
>
> 2. The myth of Christ is a variant of ancient and eastern myths, as well as an echo of pre-Christian legends.
>
> 3. About Jesus do not mention contemporary non-Christian writers.
>
> 4. The Gospels contain contradictions and mistakes, and therefore they cannot be considered authentic. 5. The Gospels appeared almost a century and a half later than the events described, and therefore they cannot be historical sources.[^42]
>
Further, Father Alexander Men, using the latest achievements of Western biblical studies, convincingly refutes these arguments.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, the study of the New Testament and early Christianity took place both at state universities in the departments of religious studies, history and philology, and in confessional accredited universities and religious schools. Every year, the number of translated works by Western researchers in the 20th century grew. However, Russian scholars (both secular religious scholars, and confessional and non-confessional biblical scholars) still lack interest in such a powerful and significant area of ​​research as the “search for historical Jesus”. As a result, still on the pages of modern monographs one can see all the same promises as in the Soviet works of fifty years ago (with respect to which not only their outdated nature, but also their erroneousness) were proved. Here, for example, a quote from the textbook on religious studies V.I.
> The question of whether Jesus existed, if we reject the discussion connected with many incidental circumstances, is in itself quite simple. Christian sources depict Jesus as the initiator of the historical movement, at the origins of which was the Palestinian primitive community of his students. These sources report very little about the life and personality of Jesus; they set forth his word and teaching. Tradition calls Jesus the bearer of this word, this teaching, and it is most likely that this was indeed the case. One can agree with those theologians who believe that if it was different, it still doesn’t change anything from what was said in the tradition (it’s not clear who the author has in mind. --- * A. A. *.). We speak of Jesus as the forerunner of Christian teaching, whose image in which it is of this quality that Christian sources draw.[^43]
As can be seen from this quote, it is still too early to talk about a real paradigm shift in Russian New Testament studies.
Conclusion
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Having considered in this article the historiography of the Soviet period on the historicity of Jesus Christ, one can make the following concluding remarks.
Not to mention the ideological influence exerted on Soviet authors and their work. Here, for example, is a quotation from the specialized monographer of Krylelev, published by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR:
> In itself, the ideological acuteness of the struggle as a whole only contributes to the clarification of the truth, because representatives of the fighting parties are more active than armchair academic scientists, penetrate into the essence of the matter and find weak points in the argument of the enemy, they subject the phenomenon under consideration to a more thorough one and say, more interested in analyzing.[^44]
Naturally, the position of Kryvelev now seems to be very ironic, since the ideological atmosphere of the USSR by and large did not assume the existence of “fighting parties”; more often, the "winners" and "losers" were known in advance. However, it would be a naive assumption that with the end of the Soviet period, ideological bias disappeared from the world of academic biblical studies. The ideological component has now changed, perhaps its influence is not so much noticeable as in the Soviet period, but the fact of its presence in modern studies is beyond doubt and requires special analysis.
Is it possible to assert that the Soviet period did not bear any fruit for Russian-speaking biblical studies? Naturally not. It seems that the Soviet approach, for all its flaws, had very obvious advantages. First, the study of the New Testament was not separated from the study of the early Church. As is well known, in theological schools the disciplines “The Holy Scriptures of the New Testament” and “The History of the Ancient Church” are divided, and religious scholars most often specialize in the first or second field of study, trying not to overstep the bounds of their discipline. Naturally, at the present stage of the scientific study of the New Testament, this division hinders rather than helps science (including confessional). Soviet researchers quite correctly pointed out the fact that the New Testament literature did not exist by itself, and was part of the life of early Christian communities. Therefore, the study of early Christianity is inseparable from the New Testament studies. The weak point of the Soviet approach in this matter can be considered an undue emphasis on sociological and historical methods to the detriment of philological analysis. Indeed, by postulating the unity of the study of early Christianity and the New Testament, Soviet authors practically paid all the attention to the reconstruction of the life of early Christian communities and the role of the New Testament texts in these groups; but at the same time, the question of how the texts of the New Testament were created, how the oral tradition arose about Jesus and, finally, what Christ himself said and did --- all these questions did not receive proper coverage in Soviet religious studies, since the productive research this problem is only possible within the paradigm framework
Bibliography
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1. *Bogoraz V. G*. Christianity in the light of ethnography. M., 2011.
2. *Garadzha V. I*. Religious studies. M., 1995.
3. *Every P.P.* The historic grain of the tradition of Jesus Christ // Science and Religion. 1965. № 2. S. 8--13.
4. *Every P.P.* From Christ to Constantine. M., 1965.
5. *Kryelev I. A*. How to criticize the Bible in the old days. M., 1966.
6. *Kublanov M. M*. Is Jesus Christ a god, a man, a myth? M., 1964.
7. *Kublanov M. М.* The emergence of Christianity: Epoch. Ideas. Searches. M., 1974.
8. *Lyozov S. V.* Attempt to understand. Selected works. M .; SPb., 1999.
9. *Lenin V.I.* Complete Works. M., 1977. T. 45.
10. *Lentsman Ya. A.* Comparing the Gospels. M., 1967.
11. *Lentsman Ya. A.* A study by Soviet scientists of early Christianity // Questions of scientific atheism. 1976. No. 4. S. 267-286.
12. *Livshits G. M.* Essays on the historiography of the Bible and early Christianity. Minsk, 1970.
13. *I. Lobachev M.* The Truth about Christ and Christianity. Samara, 1924.
14. *Men A., prot.* Son of man. Brussels, 1981.
15. *Ranovich A. B*. About early Christianity. M., 1959.
16. *Ranovich A. B*. Primary sources in the history of early Christianity. Antique critics of Christianity. M., 1990.
17. *Sventsitskaya I. S.* The Forbidden Gospels. M., 1965.
18. *Sventsitskaya I. S.* Prophets, saviors, messiahs // Science and Religion. 1969. No. 2. pp. 56--64.
19. *Z. P. Trofimova*. Mythological and Historical Schools in Religious Studies, Religious Studies: Encyclopedic Dictionary. M., 2006. S. 645.
[^1]: The first German edition was called “Von Reimarus zu Wrede” (1906), the second edition (1913) was published under the name “Geschichte der Leben-Jesu-Forschuung”, which became generally accepted.
[^2]: Naturally, the term “Soviet Bible Studies” is an anachronism. In the Soviet Union there was no such academic discipline; The study of biblical texts was conducted initially at the departments of the history of the Ancient East and philology, and later almost completely at the departments of religious studies and scientific atheism. However, in order to point out a specific area of ​​religious studies, the expression “Soviet biblistics” without special reservations will be used here and later in this work, given its problematic nature.
[^3]: Livshits G. M., Essays on the historiography of the Bible and early Christianity. Minsk, 1970.
[^4]: The terms “mythological” and “historical” schools in the study of the texts of the New Testament and the personality of Jesus Christ with the beginning of the Soviet period were firmly incorporated into Russian-language religious studies. A separate article devoted to these two schools is also included in the modern dictionary “Religious Studies”: Z. Trofimova. • Mythological and Historical Schools in Religious Studies // Religious Studies. Encyclopedic Dictionary. M., 2006. P. 645. It should be noted that nowhere outside Russia such a classification is used. In this article, these terms will be used as self-evident, but it must be borne in mind that they do not quite correctly reflect the historical development of biblical studies and its main trends.
[^5]: Lenin V.I., On the meaning of militant materialism // It is the same. Full composition of writings. M., 1977. T. 45. p. 28.
[^6]: “The Origin of Christianity” (1922), “The Origin of the Holy Books” (in collaboration with M. P. Zhakov, 1925), “The Dying God” (1925), “The Origin of the Christian Father God” (1926 ), "Early Christianity in the coverage of his contemporaries" (1926).
[^7]: “How gods and goddesses are born, live and die” (1923), “Bible for believers and unbelievers” (1937).
[^8]: “Death and Resurrection of the Savior” (1925), “Apostles Peter and Paul” (1926), “Pagan Christians” (1929), “Did the Virgin Mary Live?” (1929), “The Myth of John the Baptist” (1930), “Did Jesus Christ Live?” (1938), “Apocryphal Gospels of Early Christians” (1939), “The Myth of Christ and Christ's Holidays” (1940), “The Origin of Christianity and its Brief History” (1940).
[^9]: "The Truth About Christ and Christianity" (1924).
[^10]: "Christianity in the light of ethnography" (1928).
[^11]: "Christianity and Mithraism" (1929).
[^12]: "The question of the historicity of Christ in the light of archeology" (1930).
[^13]: “The Legend of Early Christianity” (1930), “On the nature of the emergence of Christianity” (1931), “The revolution of slaves and the origin of Christianity” (1936).
[^14]: Bogoraz V. G, Christianity in the light of ethnography. M., 2011. p. 45.
[^15]: I. Lobachev M., The truth about Christ and Christianity. Samara, 1924. p. 10
[^16]: Hereafter, when quoting Soviet literature, original orthography is preserved.
[^17]: Livshits, Decree. cit. Pp. 259.
[^18]: M. Kublanov, The emergence of Christianity. The Epoch Ideas. Searches. M., 1974. p. 206.
[^19]: Lentsman Ya. A., Comparing the gospels. M., 1967. S. 181-182.
[^20]: Livshits, Decree. cit. Pp. 269.
[^21]: “Primary sources on the history of early Christianity. Materials and documents "(1933)," Antique critics of Christianity (Fragments from Lucian, Celsus, Porphyria, etc.) "(1935).
[^22]: Ranovich A. B., Essay on the history of the early Christian church / / he. About early Christianity. M., 1959. p. 237.
[^23]: Sventsitskaya I. S., Sources on the history of early Christianity in the works of A. B. Ranovich // Ranovich A. B. Original sources on the history of early Christianity. Antique critics of Christianity. M., 1990. p. 12.
[^24]: "The Origin of Christianity" (1918), "The Emergence of Christian Literature" (1946), "Rome and Early Christianity" (1954).
[^25]: "The Origin and Class Essence of Christianity" (1952), "The Myth of Jesus Christ" (1954), "Basic Questions on the Origin of Christianity" (1964, posthumously).
[^26]: "The Origin of Christianity" (1958), "Comparing the Gospels" (1967).
[^27]: “At the source of religion and free-thinking” (1959), “Conversations about religion and knowledge” (1967).
[^28]: “Qumran Manuscripts and Their Historical Significance” (1959), “What are“ Holy Books ”?” (1962), “The Origin of Christianity in the Light of Dead Sea Manuscripts” (1967), “Essays on the Historiography of the Bible and Early Christianity (1970).
[^29]: “The Truth about the Gospels” (1938), “The Book of the Bible” (1958), “About the so-called“ sacred books ”” (1958), “Gospel tales and their meaning” (1959), “ Excavations in "biblical" countries "(1965)," How the Bible was criticized in the old days "(1966)," What does the story know about Jesus Christ? "(1968)," New interpretations of the Bible "(1974)," The Bible: historical-critical Analysis ”(1985),“ Christ: Myth or Reality? ”(1987).
[^30]: “Religion and atheism in the ancient world” (1957), “The origin of Christianity and its essence” (1962), “From Christ to Constantine” (1952).
[^31]: “Discoveries in the Dead Sea Region” (1959), “Christ before Christ” (1960), “Jesus Christ is God, Man, Myth?” (1964), “Findings in the Judean Desert” (1964), "The New Testament (Search and Finds)" (1968).
[^32]: Kublanov M. M, Is Jesus Christ a god, a man, a myth? M., 1964. S. 145.
[^33]: A detailed analysis of the controversies of Robertson and Kovalev can be found in: Kublanov, Decree. cit. Pp. 145--158.
[^34]: Each is A.P.,From Christ to Constantine. M., 1965. S. 193.
[^35]: Kazhdan A.P., The historical grain of the tradition of Jesus Christ // Science and Religion. 1965. № 2. S. 15.
[^36]: Lentsman Ya. A., A study by Soviet scientists of early Christianity // Questions of scientific atheism. 1976. No. 4. S. 272.
[^37]: Livshits., Decree. cit. Pp. 322.
[^38]: “The Forbidden Gospels” (1965), “The Secret Scriptures of the First Christians” (1980), “From Community to the Church: On the Formation of the Christian Church” (1985), “Early Christianity: Historical Pages” ( 1987), “Apocrypha of Ancient Christians: Research, Texts, Commentary” (1989), “Apocryphal Gospels: Studies, Texts, Commentary” (1996), “The First Christians and the Roman Empire” (2003), “The Fates of the Apostles: Myths and Reality "(2005)," Outflow of the Eternal City. The first Christians in ancient Rome ”(2006).
[^39]: Sventsitskaya I. S., Forbidden Gospels. M., 1965. S. 43.
[^40]: Sventsitskaya I. S., Prophets, rescuers, messiahs, Science and Religion. 1969. No. 2. pp. 56--64.
[^41]: Lyozov S. V., History and hermeneutics in the study of the New Testament // He. Attempt to understand. Selected works. M .; SPb., 1999. p. 354.
[^42]: Men A., prot., Son of man. Brussels, 1981. p. 327.
[^43]: Garadzha V. I., Religious studies. M., 1995. S. 113.
[^44]: Garadzha V. I., Religious studies. M., 1995. S. 113.
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