But I suppose the human element is important and my readers might want to know (some of them asked already) who is behind the words. So here is my humble story:
I was born in France. I am the only child. We were poor. My father was a carpenter (sounds familiar) and more than twenty years older than my mother. I spent most of my first twenty years away from my parents. First, a health problem (one shot a day for years, not pleasant) kept me all over the countryside (because the air of Paris gave me pneumonia. After my parents changed doctor and my tonsils & polyp were removed, I was OK and healthy ever since). Then, after my parents moved to a village in the south, I survived nine years into boarding schools in the cities to pursue my education.
My education, up to I was twenty-one years old, moved into the technical field, electrical technology and electronics. I worked mostly in controls system design for oil & gas/chemical facilities as a employee or contractor (and often "in between jobs") but now I am retired. The highlight of my modest career is a ten months stint in Japan as the project lead electrical engineer during the construction of a special offshore drilling platform.
I was baptized as a Catholic and went through catechism at least twice. I remember asking many questions. Around twelve years old, I was so religious my parents thought I would become a priest. I grew up out of it and drifted since toward total disinterest & atheism. Now, I consider myself a humanist, proud (and optimistic) about the on-going man-made advances in the area of sciences, technology, tolerance, understanding, democracy and freedom. Of course, there are black spots, many of them generated by greed, ignorance, overpopulation and, as always, wicked elements in our society. I am very tolerant of others' religious beliefs. And in the work place, a real global village, I was fortunate to deal with excellent people of different sex, age, ethnic origin and religious background. But I certainly object when religion is used by greedy & unscrupulous people to generate hate, abuse, violence, killing, loss of freedom, division, discrimination, stagnation & ignorance.
In my young years, I realized my parents were not getting along. My aging & humble father was satisfied to continue his routine, but my ambitious younger mother was intent to be "into the money" and getting very agitated. That situation grew worse and became very audible. Then I noticed a shift: dissatisfied with the money making ability of my father, she started to look at me as her instrument and, as she was often saying, "her only hope". In this difficult situation, I became distant of both of them and was looking for the time I would leave these confused days behind me and be on my own. Maybe because I came from a broken home or, as my mother said, I value my freedom more than anything else, I never got (or even wished to be) married.
After my studies, I first worked in Algeria, then I permanently settled in Western Canada. I love it here! I am outdoors orientated, as a hiker, skier and mountaineer. I travel the world extensively in search of sights, beauty, history, nature and humanity. I am also very interested in some art forms (painting, sculpture, architecture and classical music) and by now, I pride myself to have visited and enjoyed (almost) all of the world class art museums on this little planet of ours. And, of course, I am always fascinated by ancient history, my indoor hobby. Why? Maybe because of the still unresolved mysteries and the humanity & accomplishment of the people in those times.
Long ago, after I lost my job during a slow down and had plenty of free time, I decided to do research on the subject of the real Jesus. I did not know then how far I would go into that field.
At first, borrowing study bibles from the
public library and, some time after that,
critical books, I became very confused about
the mess I was involved in: nothing made
sense. For sure, one of my fear did not happen:
I did not feel a pull to become religious.
As a matter of fact, the opposite occurred:
I kept shedding away any remain of my old
It also became obvious that the key of the whole thing was to be able to answer, for each N.T. books and other early Christian writings, the following questions: why, where, from whom, to whom, when and how. Then I discovered that, almost everywhere, there are many "matter of fact", trivial, anecdotal, "against the grain" and other interesting clear-cut indications which could be used as "keys". I knew then, if I would persevere, I could reconstruct what I was after, the factual truth. As far as theology is concerned, understandably, I first kept my research simple, focusing on the diverse Jesus' titles and other items which could be answered simply: mention of pre-existence or not, who is the Judge?, where is the Kingdom?, etc.
Little by little, my understanding grew and my research got more sophisticated & productive. Not being a (paid) theologian, scholar or writer (but my work has been qualified as "scholarly" by some of my readers), and starting from scratch & using a "global" approach & spending a huge amount of time, gave me (I strongly believe so) a tremendous advantage & unrestricted freedom and, shall I say, allowed me to see the forest from the trees.
I felt I made "breakthroughs", and now I have a clear understanding of early Christianity & its development. I must say, this has been the center of gravity of my work and where I am the most confident. Other subjects, such as the historical Jesus (which I got disinterested for years) and others, such as the prophetic books, I consider them to be by-product or peripheral outcome of my studies.
More about my methodology:
a) Stay always within the historical, social, cultural & religious (ancient) contexts, when studying each event & writing.
b) Acknowledge that people in the 1st/2nd century (most of them illiterate) had some common sense (& religious aspirations) and were living mostly in a secular, "low-tech" (& unscholarly!) world: they thought in real time (their own day to day present).
c) Consider the (early) Christian texts as written by "flesh & blood "persons (and not necessarily scholars!) likely to have human motives (sometimes very obvious), and as addressed to contemporaries. Then research the circumstances surrounding their compositions.
d) Have an all-encompassing view: everything of any pertinence has to be investigated, from all sources available, more so the closest (in time) to the facts.
e) Determine with accuracy (and great efforts!) the sequence of events, timing and the dating of writings (that's lacking into many scholarly works), because that provides another dimension, the most crucial one: many (preceding & following) points are considerably affected by the dating & sequencing.
f) Do not charge with some theory/concept (yours or borrowed) because it suits you (unfortunately, agenda-driven works are prevalent nowadays).
g) Sort out the evidence and check it in depth (accuracy, validity, context, correct translation, etc., for each bits), by way of critical analysis. Justify any rejection with good reasons, preferably many of them.
h) Do not ignore "down to earth", obvious, mundane or trivial details (usually considered unworthy of scholarly interest). Do not overlook contradictions and oddities (as you would for the work of a subordinate, as a detective would for a suspect, as a legal officer would for an eyewitness!). Pay attention to "against the grain" and embarrassing bits (they might be telling!).
i) Follow the evidence, stay close to it, allow it to "discipline" & direct you: avoid free intellectual extrapolations & speculations (we have enough of those!).
j) Practice reality checks along the way: avoid absurdities.
k) Stay on the right track, on solid ground; do not hesitate to turn back when a trail is disappearing; explore all options, but remember, only one can be correct (& not necessarily the first one which pops out from the top of your head!).
l) Accept what you discover, rather than decide first what to find & reject.
m) Be scrupulous: "fudging" & "ignoring" NOT allowed (why should I fool myself & my readers? And this website will not advance my career or make money for me!).
n) Reject ill-substantiated assumptions, even if they are widely "swallowed" (beware of "studies" which accept them, either unannounced ("transparent") or with a short introduction!).
o) Look somewhere else if you need long discussions to justify your position.
p) Provide (concisely & accurately) the whole evidence & argumentation for each step (to keep you honest and prevent unproven claims to creep in): each piece of the puzzle must stand on its own.
q) Go back over all the preceding points because later findings are bound to have implications on previous understandings (and vice versa. I never said it was an "auto-pilot" one-way process. Beware of simplistic methodologies!). Examine back everything, including the options you chose along the way (everything has to fit, but keep observing all the points!). Do it over & over, again & again ...
This is what I tried to abide by, but if any one of my readers objects on these points or thinks I do not adhere to them (or missed some other ones), please let me know (but be specific!). Contact me here.
And if, (despite) complying with all the aforementioned, overall & throughout COHERENCE of the reconstruction is achieved, then you succeeded.
If not, well, either it cannot be done (according to the available evidence) OR you went wrong someplace!
Furthermore, this kind of study should not be a vehicle for (or driven by) anti-Christian or pro-Christian propaganda (or bias)! Also, it should not be influenced by any author's peculiar fixation(s), source of income or/and "market" consideration. And beware of those works which use the "historical Jesus" in order to showcase a scholar/professor's field of expertise, such as old-fashioned theology, in low demand otherwise.
Best regards, Bernard D. Muller