The best way to interpret God's voice over the Jordan, for our purposes, is to keep it simple. Not to anthropomorphize the Divine One, but since the Gospel writers all spoke in human terms, let's assume God's pleasure is earned the same way anyone's pleasure is earned. How does anyone please anyone? Do what they want. [and/or] Do what they like. [and/or] Do what they tell you to do.
I personally believe the 'top rank' of God's pride in Jesus had nothing to do with his actions. The Son was the visible image of the Father, so God must have taken pleasure simply from looking at Jesus. I also believe God simply liked the fact that Jesus was alive on the earth as a man. But that's clearly not all. For God's statement "I am well pleased" to make sense historically, he must have been pleased with Jesus' actions as well.
Since we have agreed to assume this (since post #2), our next question is, what kind of actions? Deliberate? Or accidental? It's certainly possible for someone to like everything you do even when you weren't making conscious efforts to be liked by that person. And it makes sense to think that God was pleased in some ways by things Jesus did that just happened to please him. In other words, it could be possible (logically, at least in theory) that Jesus' actions were pleasing to God purely by accident. (No, I don't think that's completely the case, but bear with me a moment.)
Without appealing to dogma, theology or personal experience, is it possible to show by historical analysis of the Gospel accounts whether Jesus grew up making conscious, deliberate, purposeful efforts to please God the Father? Yes, I believe it is. And what's more, the way we build that case might also lay the groundwork for a method of reconstructing much more detail about what he did during those years. (Hold that thought for a few posts, if you will.)
This brings us to the third of our three methods for pleasing someone - to do what they command. So we ask - while Jesus was living in Nazareth, did he please God by doing things God told him to do? This is the tough part. Without dogma or theology, the Gospels offer plain examples of Jesus obeying God in the years after his baptism - both direct commands given by spiritual communication and indirect commands as found in the scriptures. But does the record suggest, imply or give clues as to whether or not this obedience took place before the baptism? And can we build a strong case that it did without merely assuming it? And, to the overall inquiry here, can we show what things Jesus did, in that obedience, that were part of his actions and lifestyle during the so-called "silent years"? I think we can, if we look at all things historically.
We're finally getting to the good part. But it's also the hard part. It might not even work, but we're going to try. We can't retroject all our beliefs back onto Nazareth, as historical events, but that doesn't mean we should leave it completely alone, from a historical perspective.
To be continued...
You are going to have to work hard to convince Doug Chaplin, who has just posted his not very optimistic assessment of what can be found out about these Nazareth years. Still I'm sure he won't put your ideas in quite the same "tripe" category as the book he quotes from.
Thanks, Peter. Since I value Doug's opinion I'll be thrilled enough to avoid the "tripe" category... at least for starters. :-)
Bill, I am no expert on Nazareth, nor the historical Jesus! ;) However, the words he speaks to his parents when he is 12 seems to suggest some self-knowledge about his relationship to "the Father" does it not? If so, then this leads me to believe that his obedience to the Father preceded his baptism, etc.
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