When I was growing up in St. Kevin’s Parish in the Dorchester section of Boston in the 1940s and ’50s, Jesus was unquestionably a Christian. Even more strangely, in Germany during the Nazi era Jesus was an Aryan Christian. How did a first-century Galilean Jew become a Christian and, for some, an Aryan Christian at that?
Before we laugh at this foolishness from the supposed superior viewpoint of the late 20th century, we should remember that we have not one word written by Jesus and not one contemporary account of his activities. Instead, we have four late-first-century interpretations of Jesus: the Gospels. Each demands and has received constant reinterpretation. Though the risk of misinterpreting Jesus is great, every generation has no choice but to try to make sense of the Gospels.
We necessarily interpret as we read, but not all interpretations are created equal, despite the claims of some postmodern thinkers. A Christian Jesus is a parochial, self-serving myth and an Aryan Jesus a perverse one. But why then have Christians so persistently thought of Jesus as a Christian and resisted admitting the obvious, that Jesus was a Jew? Answer: the pervasive problem of uniqueness.