Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Historical Jesus Studies: A Dead End?

posted by Scot McKnight

JesusConstruction.jpgLet me define historical Jesus studies as the attempt to get behind the canonical Gospels to discover what the real Jesus was like. Inherent to the historical Jesus discipline is the belief that the canonical Gospels and the Church got Jesus wrong or are biased — or should I say that the Church believes too much about Jesus and that the real Jesus was less than the Church’s Christ. In other words, historical Jesus studies attempt to construct an image of Jesus in distinction from the canonical Gospels and the Church’s beliefs.

Example: Is that what you think Jesus looks like? This is what a BBC program sketched for what a 1st Century Jewish male looked like. The jolt of this image with your image is what historical Jesus studies attempt to do.

I participated in this discussion for the better part of 15 years. Much fruit has come of historical Jesus studies, most notably the sharper profile of Jesus in his Jewish context. But the enterprise makes no sense until we see it as the attempt to construct an image of Jesus more accurate than what we find in the Gospels.

Let me say this one more way: Yes, historical Jesus studies try to get back to what Jesus was really like but involved in that is the belief that the real Jesus and the canonical Gospel Jesus are not the same. I know some conservatives conclude that virtually everything is authentic and conclude that the canonical Gospel Jesus is the same as the historical Jesus. But I don’t think such studies really are historical Jesus studies. Critique of the Church’s belief about Jesus is inherent to historical Jesus studies.


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This introduces what I think is the most significant, even if thoroughly skeptical, study on the historical Jesus discipline in the last fifty years: Dale Allison’s new book The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus
. There’s a melancholy to this volume, almost a looking back at the hopes of a former era when some thought they’d find the real Jesus behind the Gospels, and that melancholy comes into words with this: “I do not long for that old-time religion, nor do I wish to believe in my own belief but, as quaint as this may sound to some, I want to know the truth, even if I cannot cheer it” (4).

The book therefore is Allison’s “personal testimony to doubt seeking understanding.” He’s skeptical we have tools that let us get back to what Jesus was like behind the Gospels. “When we read [the Gospels], we should think not that Jesus said this or did that but rather: Jesus did things like this, and he said things like that” (66).

I like this book, not because I agree with Allison’s own conclusions about specifics, but because I came to some similar conclusions when I wrote Jesus and His Death. When I was done I wrote an introductory chp that sketches historical method and I concluded that the historical Jesus has very little use for the Church and that, essentially, we face a choice: we either believe the Church’s construal (the Gospels Jesus) or we make up a Jesus for ourselves with the methods that cannot prove certainty. The historical method can only do so much — and I tried my best in that book — and the one thing it cannot do is get us back to a Jesus before the Gospels. Every construction always looks like the one who writes the history.

A dark cloud looms over the attempt; the attempt is worth it, Allison thinks. We don’t know he seems to be saying, and he doesn’t mind the ambiguity. Historical Jesus studies has light to shed, and more light to shed, but the conclusions are not terribly encouraging — that’s how I read Allison.

Allison’s book brings the quest for the historical Jesus to a new dead-end. We can’t do what we thought we were going to do. The Third Quest is, at least for me, officially over. Questions remain; passions for historical probings still remain — but Allison’s book is the new fiery brook over which each scholar must cross.



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Stephan Huller

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:28 am


Finally someone who makes sense! I have been arguing with those ‘critical’ or ‘higher criticism’ scholars who deny the existence of a historical Passion and say that Christianity only began in the second century for years. They happen to be on the other side of the spectrum but the point is still the same. At some point people are going to have to accept that all that we have is what Mark saw, witnessed and passed on about Jesus. This doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t exist !!!!!! I simply don’t understand these people. Someone once said ‘be careful when you fight a monster that you don’t become one in the process.’ Balance is possible. We just have to learn to think properly.



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Jeff

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:34 am


So, Schweitzer is still right? I mean, it’s been a hundred years since he defined historical Jesus studies as scholarly attempts to find Jesus in the mirror (essentially). What does this say for “biblical scholarship”? Might we then produce a much more revealing study if we turned our attention to a study of the psychology of biblical scholars?
I guess it’s not a surprise to me. On many levels, “historical Jesus” research depends so much on the presuppositions of the researcher. No one can argue (if s/he is being honest) that the origins of this endeavor were neutral. The first scholarly contributions in the field were offered by those who forthrightly admitted their intentions to unveil the historical fallacies of the gospels and the Church’s baseless theology.
I guess on this point, I’ll take my stand with the gospel writers. Long after people have tired with reading Wrede or Jeremias or even Wright (heaven forbid!), they’ll still be reading and encountering Jesus in the canonical gospels!



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Kyle

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:42 am


Scot,
Declaring an end to the Third Quest? Wow, that’s a pretty bold claim!
This would be a good time to plug another one of your friend’s books. I’m thinking of Mark Roberts “Can We Trust the Gospels?” It’s simple, well written and smart. It would be a helpful resource for many of your readers. Most people simply want to know whether or not they can trust the basic gist of what they read in the gospels, and Roberts does a good job of assessing that question.



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steph

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:48 am


It will be interesting to see what you make of Maurice Casey’s forthcoming book Scot. I think it completely misrepresentative to claim that “Inherent to the historical Jesus discipline is the belief that the canonical Gospels and the Church got Jesus wrong or are biased — or should I say that the Church believes too much about Jesus and that the real Jesus was less than the Church’s Christ.” Does all historical Jesus research start with church belief? I don’t think so. I think it starts with the texts. We might want to accuse some ex Christians in the American Jesus Seminar for example of attempting to construct an image of Jesus in distinction from the canonical Gospels and the Church’s beliefs but it is a bit of a stretch to apply this to all scholarhship.
I think the statement “Every construction always looks like the one who writes the history” is an overused cliche, unfair to good scholarship and overly pessimistic.



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Greg Clark

posted May 7, 2009 at 1:45 am


Putting Jesus in his Jewish context was no small thing… but rather than thinking of that as getting at the Jesus behind the Gospels, perhaps it is better thought of as helping us recover the Gospels themselves and the Jesus they present. Good post Scot!



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Eddie Fearon

posted May 7, 2009 at 3:21 am


I think the next step is to find an appropriate synthesis between historical Jesus studies and gospel studies. A clear distinction has been made between these two, and this has been helpful, but I think scholarship has come to a point where the two need to be united.
Why? We are either seeking to discover the ‘real’ Jesus, and the gospels are merely sources which we need to sift and ‘get behind’, or we are interested simply in trying to understand the ‘theology’ of each gospel with little regard to Jesus.
What I want to see are more studies which treat the gospels as the appropriate lenses through which to understand the real Jesus, instead of trying to form new lenses…



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Your Name

posted May 7, 2009 at 4:12 am


Eddie: are you suggesting that historical Jesus studies ignore the gospels as their sources? I find your comment confusing and if that is what you mean, I wonder whose work you are thinking of.



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John C

posted May 7, 2009 at 5:41 am


Scot – Isn’t announcing the end of the Third Quest a bit like announcing the end of the New Perspective on Paul – i.e. it seems too Piper-like (we just need our Bibles not those fancy Second Temple Jewish sources!). Isn’t the point of Historical Jesus scholars to provide a richer historical context for the Gospels, one that might undermine their credibility, but could alternatively reinforce the historical plausbility of their accounts? It seems to me that that’s exactly what Tom Wright, Craig Evans, McKnight etc have done. And the point about their work is that it doesn’t leave us quite where we started. Even if they get described as ‘conservatives’ (in contrast to radical/liberal scholars), they leave Jesus looking different, more Jewish. It’s as if the contours of the Jesus of the Gospels are thrown into high relief by scholarship which places him against his richly painted Jewish background.



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Kyle

posted May 7, 2009 at 6:02 am


Scot,
It was downloadable on Kindle and really short (it took about an hour to read). It was so personal at times that it made the reading go quickly as well.
I was intrigued by his conclusion. There is no doubt that Allison no longer buys the old standard that we must come to the evidence without bias and find an objective analysis (because we all know there’s no such thing as a non-subjective analysis or neutral interpretations of evidence). Toward that end, he does some of his analysis as though a deistic god exists…yet when he gets to the final chapter he admits that he believes in the God of Jesus and thus a resurrection (giving an answer to the problem of evil).
So ultimately, he says that his conclusions are bound in his personal faith in the God of/in Jesus. I wonder how the book would have differed (or his other recent books since taking a more theological turn) had he started with his presuppositions and worked from there. “I believe the God of Jesus exists, thus…” instead of “I believe the God of Jesus exists, but I’m going to try my best to resist this belief and pretend that he doesn’t exist at all, or is at least radically different…” Of course that book wouldn’t be accepted by many in the field of biblical studies, but it might serve as a more important contribution in the grand scheme of things.
I read an interview with one Scot McKnight that illustrated this point in regards to a question on faith and scholarship. He said, “It is my daily prayer that all of my scholarly work be empowered by faith in Jesus Christ and be aimed at aiding that faith, both my own faith and the faith of others. I would not say it ?enhances? my scholarship but drives it and shapes it. That notwithstanding, I believe all of scholarship, whether that of an evangelical or a non-evangelical, an atheist or an agnostic, is driven by that faith.” We are all biased by our presuppositions and faith positions, so why don’t we just lay them on the table to begin with and work from there? I think it would be much more effective than attempting to work within an unbiased perspective for the sake of general acceptance.



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Paqid Yirmeyahu

posted May 7, 2009 at 6:06 am


Tunnel-visioned. The historical Jew was a Pharisee Ribi NOT a Greek myth. Accordingly, the definition of a 1st-century Pharisee Ribi is found in pre-135 C.E. Judaic literature, NOT Greek Hellenist literature.
We can see as clearly what Ribi Yehoshua was like from Dead Sea Scroll 4Q MMT as we can see what the Hellenist Christian man-god, Jesus, was from the Hellenist Greek sources subsequent to 135 C.E.
They are intractably antithetical polar opposites, forcing a choice to follow one or the other.
See http://www.netzarim.co.il
(Our History Museum will soon be extensively refurbished, providing even far more information than it already does.)



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RJS

posted May 7, 2009 at 6:44 am


John C,
Well-put.
And I don’t think that Scot is saying that there was no good come from the endeavor. But perhaps it is time to move on to other considerations.



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Percival

posted May 7, 2009 at 7:21 am


I don’t often recognize Jesus/Yeshua from the historical reconstructions, but hey! I recognize the look in that photo. He used to give it to his disciples every once in a while. That’s the how-long-do-I-have-to-put-up-with-you look.
(A little animation of the picture to include a slow shaking of the head would make it complete.)



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Tim

posted May 7, 2009 at 7:29 am


I never thought of “historical Jesus” studies as saying that the Gospel accounts are not good enough. For me, the studies help to understand Jesus and the canonical Gospel writers in their context.
You have the portrait of Jesus from the BBC. I, for one, vote for that portrait over against Salman’s portait, appearing in many churches including my own. To inject a loaded phrase, the “Salman portait” of Jesus needs to be deconstructed in order for the church to be faithful to Jesus who is the Christ.
“Jesus,” “Christ,” “Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “King of the Jews,” “Bread of Life,” etc. all have specific historical resonances in the original context that we generally miss 2,000 years later. For me, historical study serves the faith.
Tim



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Your Name

posted May 7, 2009 at 8:31 am


It is necessary to learn what we can about history and be as informed as possible. But our perspective, whether of the present or the past, is not divine. One of the problems of engaging with God’s Word is how it is at once so relevant and true to life but it also contains divine perspective, a perspective often jarringly different from ours. Life from death, birth from barren wombs, strengh from weakness, love for hate, forgiveness instead of vengeance, miracles that only God can do, etc.
Those who interacted with God in their present, whether the leaders, judges, kings, prophets, people of the OT era or those who interacted with Jesus in the NT era rarely found that the divine perspective exactly matched theirs, only phrased better. Seems to me that often those who heard God’s perspective on the matter felt tension trying to reconcile their perception of reality with what God was saying. So I would expect a similar tension for us who come along later, trying to reconstruct some elements of what those people experienced first-hand – whether the historical Jesus or the historical anyone else, Samuel, David, Moses, the prophets, Saul, whoever. If God were on par with us, we might say that Scriptures have a divine “spin”: God’s creative interpreting of the facts. Yet, God isn’t on par with us. For him, creation of reality is not so distinct from interpretation of reality as it is for us. Past or present, God’s interpretation of what is and what should be can be expected to be surprising.
And a person who is unwilling to bow in deference to God in the present is unlikely to do so in the study of the past.
Really enjoyed this post and glad to know about the book.



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MatthewS

posted May 7, 2009 at 8:32 am


oops, #14 Your name is me.



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Doug Allen

posted May 7, 2009 at 9:26 am


Does this make sense? The quest has led to many things: the general agreement that scholarly research is justifiable (and subject to scholarly review) even when it leads to “melancholy” results, Jesus is rooted in his Jewishness, some of the stories of Jesus’ life and miracle working were probably fasified or misinterpreted, the Christian canon was written by individuals who, like all writers had interpretations and agendas, probably extra-Jesus agendas, there is no way to come to certain conclusions by scholarly methods about many things central to Christian belief. Thus, the requirement for faith seems both more necessary and more difficult for the students of the quest than for the unschooled whose naive realism is untested?
Doug



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Derek Leman

posted May 7, 2009 at 10:23 am


All:
Just want to make sure no one thinks Paqid (#10) represents Messianic Judaism.
Scot:
I am interested to know your idea of the future of Jesus studies. You have persuaded me. What of the suggestion, made above, of a synthesis of gospel and historical Jesus studies?
What about a New Perspective on the Gospels school, disassociating from historical church-based interpretations for a fresh reading of the gospels?
Derek



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Steve Ryder

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:14 am


While I accept the probability of an historical Jesus, my faith does not depend on it. My faith is based on life-experience: when I follow Jesus teachings my life is better, when I don’t, it is not. While I have been active in Presbyterian, Congregational, Baptist and Episcopal churches all my life, my spiritual surrender happened in 1991 when I started working the program of AA. One of AA’s practices is to behave “as if” there is a loving forgiving God, and see how that works for you. Thus I equate John 14:6 to mean no one can come to know God (the Father because this was said in a paternalistic society) until one knows and practices accepting and giving forgiveness. To me that is the underlying meaning of The Jesus Creed. Part 1 is accepting God’s forgiveness, part 2 is extending forgiveness to others. “There is no ACTION greater than these. ACTION substituted for commandment.



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dopderbeck

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:23 am


This drawing doesn’t bother me at all, except that from the expression on his face the guy looks like he just ate a bad burrito or something. Make him smiling, or looking wise and “Rabbinic,” and I think the drawing wouldn’t be jarring at all.



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Travis Greene

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:27 am


That reconstructed picture is interesting, but I always thought it was stupid that they presented it to the media as “what Jesus looked like”. It’s what some guy looked like from the region, time, and people group of Jesus. It’s good to remind us that Jesus wasn’t from Northern Europe. But “what he looked like” is impossible to reconstruct, and the way they described the photo is as silly as if, in several thousand years, they dig up my skull, reconstruct my features, and say “this is what FDR looked like!”.



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dopderbeck

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:32 am


Ok, on a more serious note: not an area in which I have any expertise, and not waters I want to wade too much into. Steve (#18) — no, I think our faith as Christians really does depend on there having been a “historical” Jesus, meaning a person who lived in history and claimed to be God. I’m sorry, but I don’t think only a faith that says “Jesus is Lord” can be called “Christian”: no Jesus, no Jesus is Lord. Anyway, I don’t think there’s too much serious debate about whether Jesus was an “historical” person. The question is, who was this person really?
But, Scot — does there have to be such a dichotomy between “historical” Jesus studies and the canonical interpretation of Jesus? Obviously, the conclusions of historical Jesus questing are incompatible with Christian faith, insofar as they deny that the “real” Jesus could actually have been God incarnate who truly rose from the grave. But couldn’t some efforts to “get behind” the canonical narratives be useful in feeding back into our appreciation of many of the Gospel stories? Something like the picture you show here, to me, is compelling, for example. Wait a minute: this human being I confess is God incarnate probably looked a bit scrubby, not like the hippie dude in the Flannelgraphs? Cool.



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dopderbeck

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:34 am


Ooops — MAJOR typo in my post (#21): I meant: I’m sorry, but I think only a faith that says “Jesus is Lord” can be called “Christian”



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William Cheriegate

posted May 7, 2009 at 11:56 am


Having always read the Bible for what it means to me or to us today actually robbed me of thinking or trying to understand what it meant to them, the people with whom Jesus walked with in sandals in those dusty Palestinian hills in the 1st Century.
So some of the historical Jesus search has brought me back to the 1st Century, it has helped me understand what Jesus meant as if I lived right there, on that very generation he spoke about.
When RCSproul told me years ago that Reformed Theology is Biblical Theology I just took it as truth. Years later I realized that it isn’t, no one’s theological preference can claim it.
Much of our theology is built on this and I believe there’s a vast difference between Jesus and Christianity, whatever flavor we might prefer. The historical search for Jesus brought me back to the 1st Century, it is there his words are to be understood. As a famous professor once said, “what Jesus saw beyond the destruction of the Temple remains a mystery.”
His message is eternal but boy we better understand what the heck it meant to them first.



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Randy

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:06 pm


My first encounter with Tom Wright nearly 15 years ago was with Jesus and the Victory of God, I have since gone back to his previous volume.
Long before I heard of a New Perspective on Paul I rejoiced to see Wright’s effort to take on the Historical Jesus scholars from a believing point of view. I am trained as a historian after all.
peace,
Randy



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Michael W. Kruse

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:10 pm


Craig Hill writes in In God?s Time: The Bible and the Future:
“Can one bypass the New Testament and get directly to Jesus? Only if one is content to find a projection of oneself. To know and to listen to Jesus necessarily means knowing and listening to Matthew and John and Paul. The New Testament books are irreplaceable guides into an otherwise inaccessible territory; they are the gold standard against which all claims about Jesus must be tested.” (26)
That sums it up for me.



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DML

posted May 7, 2009 at 12:18 pm


Personally, I have found the Third Quest to be a really interesting endeavor. I realize that modern biases can easily creep into this issue, but nevertheless, I believe the Jesus Seminar conclusions to be the most accurate on the whole. The Gospel of Thomas really drove me to their side. After abandoning the eschaton model and stepping over to the other side, Jesus’ parables really open up and become truly great and inspiring. Give it a try.



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Alan K

posted May 7, 2009 at 1:27 pm


DML,
If the Jesus Seminary conclusions are so accurate, then why has it been left in the dustbin of history by most New Testament scholars? There is good reason why NT Wright is the doyen of Jesus scholars, and also why the Gospel of Thomas is seen by most as a late, divergent strand in the storytelling world of the early church.



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Rick

posted May 7, 2009 at 1:28 pm


DML:
N.T. Wright’s comments on the Jesus Seminar’s book, The Five Gospels, which deals with the Gospel of Thomas:
“This thing which is thus being often brilliantly communicated, especially the Five Gospels, is not the assured result of scholarship. It is a compromise of pseudo-domocractic scholarship, based on principles we have good reason to question, employing methods that many reputable scholars would avoid, ignoring a great deal of very serious (and by no means necessarily conservative) contemporary scholarship, making erroneous and anachronistic assumptions about the early church and its cultural context, and apparently driven by a strong, and strongly distorting, contemporary agenda.”
http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Five_Gospels.pdf



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Your Name

posted May 7, 2009 at 1:40 pm


DML,
I found the Jesus Seminar also opened my mind to possibilities. Marcus Borg, who is a seminar member then sketched a Christianity much more alive (for me) and more difficult than the one I had previously known because it calls us to follow Jesus’ teaching (James’, too) and example in ways that are not only very difficult, but often draws the scorn of both Christians and non-Christians alike.
Doug



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Joseph

posted May 7, 2009 at 1:46 pm


The historical Jesus is more critical to Christianity than the Bible. Without a historical Jesus, the Bible is just another book. Without the Bible, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are still there and leading us to the Kingdom.



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Your Name

posted May 7, 2009 at 2:01 pm


DML,
I found the Jesus Seminar also opened my mind to possibilities. Marcus Borg, who is a seminar member then sketched a Christianity much more alive (for me) and more difficult than the one I had previously known because it calls us to follow Jesus’ teaching (James’, too) and example in ways that are not only very difficult, but often draws the scorn of both Christians and non-Christians alike (not for what we do, but for what we believe).
I don’t know about the Jesus Seminar being more or less accurate than other interpretations. Despite Wright’s criticism (put-down is more like it) of the Jesus Seminar methodology (other reputable scholars have and do use a similar methodology). The results of the methodology probably result in a lot more false negatives (Jesus didn’t say this…) than false positives, and I do agree the Jesus Seminar like Wright and every other scholar or group do have an agenda. Since we just don’t know much, I’m for a more modest approach than the Jesus Seminar, Wright, and most others take. Ironically, the more modest our assertions, the greater the common ground, and therefore the closer we may be to God’s Kingdom.
Doug



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DML

posted May 7, 2009 at 2:40 pm


I am well aware of what N.T. Wright has to say about the Jesus Seminar, but I disagree with him. I think the reason why they have been fairly quiet lies in the fact that they have pushed up upon the limits of history at this point. I suppose we will have to wait for more digging in Egypt and the Middle East to add to the story. Until such time, we will have to make due with a steady output of apologetics instead.
I have struggled with the early/late arguments on the Gospel of Thomas myself. More and more, I’m in the early school but I agree that it did get some later proto-Gnostic influence. Still, I find it rather improbable that they could have so cleanly excised all eschatological thought from their gospel if such ideas were presented by Jesus or existed in the early Jesus community.



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Matt Edwards

posted May 7, 2009 at 3:30 pm


Scot,
I am a fan of historical Jesus studies, but I appreciate your comment that inherent to the quest is suspicion of the canonical Gospels. I’ve thought that for some time and it seems to be the elephant in the room in conservative historical Jesus circles.
However, the thing that I love most about the works of guys like Wright, Dunn, John Meier, etc. is that they show that the methods used by the Jesus Seminar can also be used to portray a Jesus that looks like the one you read about in your Bible. The third quest tore down the false dichotomy between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith. But, perhaps it has accomplished this goal and it’s time to move on.
On the other hand, historical Jesus work will continue to serve an apologetic task. There will be a continued need for historical Jesus work because there will always be those who “find new data that proves that the Gospels are wrong.” As long as Bart Ehrman is publishing books, there will be a demand for historical Jesus work.



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Greg Carey

posted May 7, 2009 at 5:49 pm


Love Allison’s book. I don’t agree that historical Jesus study should be dispensed with. I think that work keeps us honest — and let’s face it, we know the Gospels aren’t a straightforward window into Jesus career. It’s the practice of asking that’s important, I believe.



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Jeff

posted May 8, 2009 at 12:52 am


True story: I was in a Ph.D. seminar in a University here in Chicago taught by a renown NT scholar. The seminar was on the “historical Jesus.” We read Meier, Wright, Borg, Crossan and all the rest. At a certain point well into the semester, I raised a question for my instructor and the other students: If one believes that that ‘story’ told in John 1 about the Word becoming flesh is historically true in the person of Jesus, what impact does that have on the process of evaluating the “criteria of authenticity”? Dead silence. Never did get an answer to that question.
I believe that all history is “faith-based” — one way or another.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 4:37 am


perhaps they didn’t understand your question. It doesn’t make much sense to me.



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Kyle

posted May 8, 2009 at 6:20 am


Jeff,
Exactly!
Your Name (#36),
The question makes good sense, and those working on a Ph.D. in biblical studies would clearly know what Jeff meant. The “criteria of authenticity” are the methods that New Testament scholars have used over the last two centuries to decide what Jesus really said and did.
For instance, if a story receives multiple attestation it can be deemed more likely “authentic.” There are also criterion such as the criteria of similarity, of embarrassment, of dissimilarity, etc. These are simply methods created by the fields of historical studies and New Testament studies in order to find the reliability of the New Testament stories.
The problem is that there is also another assumption that comes into play. It is a methodological naturalism when one is doing historical investigation. Therefore, even if an event meets all of the criteria, but contains a miraculous event, it is thrown out, or said to have been true “in their experience.”
Jeff then is saying that if John 1 is true, then everything about how we study the gospels is different. The way we understand the transmission of the gospels is different, the way we understand the impact of Jesus’ words is different, the possibility of real miracles in Jesus’ career increases drastically. If Jesus was just a typical, itinerant Jewish rabbi who died just like every other messianic wanna be from the 1st century, then how we assess the data is radically different than if he was actually what the gospels themselves claim him to have been.



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RJS

posted May 8, 2009 at 6:40 am


Kyle and Jeff,
To a certain extent – isn’t what we get when one believes John 1 as the foundation, that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us – Tom Wright and Scot’s Jesus and his death, and others in this vein? Scholars who grapple with all of the historical evidence – but not from a foundation of naturalist skepticism.
I think we need this (as others have said above). Simply reading Tom Wright’s first two big books (New Testament and the People of God and Jesus) and then some other books by other authors was … I can’t find the right word – perhaps transforming is best … transforming for me and my path/life because here was a path blazed that demonstrated that it was possible to think and be Christian.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:21 am


Kylie: actually I was being ironic. I thought that was ‘obvious’. But thank you for the long and detailed explanation. Obviously I have nearly completed my phd in NT. Obviously if one approached historical studies with organised belief then there is no need for the criteria of authenticity. And no, tradition which contains ‘the miraculous’ is not thrown out if it meets the criteria. In fact in reconstructions sayings cannot be thrown out just because they fail to meet the criteria – take for example the Golden Rule. I think Meier is mistaken to throw it out. But that’s another story.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:36 am


Actually Kylie I was being ironic and I have nearly completed my phd in NT. But obviously is one approaches historical study with one’s belief organised, one is effectively rejecting challenging and there is no need for any criteria to be met. Also Kylie, tradition which contains ‘the miraculous’ is not discounted if it meets the criteria. Take the exorcisms for example. And sayings which fail to meet criteria, contra Meier, should not necessarily be discounted. Take the Golden Rule for example. I do however have huge issues with the Jesus Seminar and publications such as The Five Gospels with sayings voted with beads in or out. Their methodology is flawed to the core. But that’s another story.



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RJS

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:38 am


Your Name (#36,39,40)
And how from the comment was anyone to know that you were 1. Ironic and 2. A Ph.D. student in NT?
And 3. From what I’ve read of Crossan and others – the miraculous is thrown out, even those stories related in all four gospels – because miraculous cannot be true.
Kyle gave a good response to the question.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:39 am


And I should add, Jesus’ saying on the resurrection. They fit the criteria and should not be discounted yet they allude to the miracle. Now the Jesus Seminar will discount them but as I said that’s another story and part of a work in progress.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:41 am


Crossan is part of the American Jesus Seminar.



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RJS

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:45 am


Your Name, (#43)
I am aware of that – your #42 came after my comment.
But lets have a respectful conversation – and the tone of your anonymous response to Kyle demolishes hope for respectful conversation.



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Your Name

posted May 8, 2009 at 7:45 pm


I’m afraid I replied with pomposity as I found Kylie’s condescension pompous. The fact is that you can’t prove Jesus didn’t say something just because a saying doesn’t fit the criteria and honest reconstructions of Jesus aren’t dependent on them. But taking a saying in isolation with unwillingness to test it in context is superficial.



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Kyle

posted May 8, 2009 at 8:00 pm


I wasn’t being condescending or pompous. Your comment neither showed that you were “obviously” a Ph.D. student, nor that you were “obviously” being ironic. I assumed that you didn’t understand the question or that it didn’t make sense (since that’s what you said after all), and was just trying to help you out.



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Your Name

posted May 9, 2009 at 8:25 pm


My parents were both children of the Depression, both frustrated and disappointed by the circumstances of their family lives. Although my father was extremely intelligent, the top of his class in grade school his father — a German-Russian immigrant who thought that formal education was a waste for girls and made boys effeminate and lazy — yanked my dad out of school at his 8th grade education to work on the farm. Because my father was the youngest boy, and his other brothers had all enlisted in the service in WW II (in part to escape their home life), he was classified 4F — again consigned to life on the farm.
My mother was also an excellent student, at the top of her class. When she graduated from high school she won a full-ride scholarship to Wayne State University. But her impoverished parents pressured her to give up her scholarship and get a job so that she could help support the family; which she did.
My father was a sad, bitter man whose response to his own thwarted education was to, like his own father, reject education as a waste of time. He opposed my own education, and I had to fight him tooth and nail to go to college.
My mother, on the other hand, always supported me. She told me about her mother, whose stepmother — an evil stepmother right out of a Grimm’s fairy tale, according to the family history — pulled her stepdaughters out of school as soon as possible and kicked them out of her house. My grandmother was nonetheless an avid reader, and her favorite books were stories about college girls back in the day when university education for women was a novelty — books like Polly Goes to College. My mother always told me that she knew her mother was watching my academic success from heaven and smiling. That, and my mother’s own story of disappointment, were great motivators to me in pursuing my own education. I always felt as if I were carrying both of them with me through my university career.
So I thank my mother, and my maternal grandmother, for their encouragement, and for giving me a sense of solidarity with all persons who must struggle to achieve their potential. They helped make me who I am today.



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Your Name

posted May 10, 2009 at 4:35 am


I wonder who that was but it wasn’t me – #45 etc. It doesn’t seem to have anything to do with historical Jesus scholarship.
Kylie: “and those working on a Ph.D. in biblical studies would clearly know what Jeff meant” was unnecessary.



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RJS

posted May 10, 2009 at 6:55 am


Your Name (steph) (#40, 42, 43, 45, 48),
Your whole discourse here – breaks the bounds of civil conversation – beginning with the use of an intentionally patronizing form of Kyle’s name.



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Kyle

posted May 10, 2009 at 7:55 pm


Your Name,
As RJS has pointed out, my name is Kyle. I assumed that you did it originally as a mistake, but you continue to do it.
I don’t understand how you’ve read such a negative tone into my earlier comment. My point was that those sitting in Jeff’s seminar would have known exactly what Jeff meant. I still believe that is true.
There was no ill will involved, and the phrase wasn’t “unnecessary” at all. You had said that you were confused by the question (which you later said that you weren’t), and I was pointing out that those in the seminar wouldn’t have been. That’s not condescension, but setting his question in context and attempting to show that his audience would have understood him.
I’m done here. Have a great week.



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Your Name

posted May 11, 2009 at 1:25 am


Excuse me RJS and Kyle – intentionally?!! You have only just made me aware of my error. I am sorry Kyle – I have not come across your spelling before but I actually have a good friend called Kylie so I read your name as the same. Nobody brought it to my attention before that the ‘i’ wasn’t there. I assumed I was correct in my spelling as you assumed I was intentional in my misspelling. I still find “anyone working on a Ph.D would “clearly know”” quite unnecessary. I know you intended no ill will. It must be a cultural thing. I certainly did not “intentionally” spell your name wrong!! Why on earth didn’t you correct me at first?!



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Your Name

posted May 11, 2009 at 1:27 am


A friend informs me that Kyle is a male name and Kylie is a woman so perhaps I understand your offence. I wasn’t to know that though was I. Sorry.



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Kyle

posted May 11, 2009 at 2:14 am


It’s no big deal. I didn’t clarify in my initial response because I assumed it was a mistake and not worth correcting. Since you did it again after that response I clarified it in my last comment. I didn’t think it was intentional, but since it continued after I responded I thought it might be…but wasn’t sure.
Mistaking me to be a woman isn’t demeaning in the least…what’s demeaning is that my mother used to call me “Kylie-poo,” so I more associated it with accusing me of being childish!
Sorry for the confusion throughout this discussion. I never intended to argue with anyone (that’s not my kind of thing), but was honestly just trying to help since I originally assumed you were confused by his question and needed clarification. As I’ve already said, my reference about “clearly knowing” was in order to show that those in his context would have understood him, and was not meant to come across as condescending. I’m sorry for the confusion and any part I played in it.



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Your Name

posted May 11, 2009 at 5:03 am


Thank you for that. I am steph short for stephanie and have been confused on the internet with a male steph short for stephan, which I didn’t mind – I was amused – so I thought it was strange you might be offended at being mistaken for a female, but now your childhood memories explain it! I’m sorry for the confusion too. I hate the internet for that! My preferred medium for converation is the voice and preferably facing the person I am addressing as alot of meaning is facial expression and tone of voice :-) Have a nice day!



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