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Whose Historical Jesus?

William E. Arnal

Publication Year: 1997

The figure of Jesus has fascinated Western civilization for centuries. As the year 2000 approaches, eliciting connections with Jesus’ birth and return, excitement grows — as does the number of studies about Jesus. Cutting through this mass of material, Whose Historical Jesus? provides a collection of penetrating, jargon-free, intelligently organized essays that convey well both the centrality and the complexity of deciphering the historical Jesus.

Contributors include such eminent scholars as John Dominic Crossan, Burton L. Mack, Seán Freyne and Peter Richardson. Essays range from traditional to modern and postmodern and address both recent and enduring concerns. Introductions and reflections augment these lucid essays, provide context and help the reader focus on the issues at stake. Whose Historical Jesus? will be of interest to all who wish to understand the current controversies and historical debates, who want insightful critiques of those views or who would like guidance on the direction of future studies.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Christianity and Judaism

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-2

The 1980s and 1990s have witnessed a breath-taking revival of historical-Jesus studies. Recovering the first-century Jesus matters more to Christian Origins scholars now than it has for over a century. Particularly in North America, the "Jesus Seminar" has reflected and enhanced this modern quest;1 so too have...

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Part One: Recent Concerns

Research on the historical Jesus has recently exploded, becoming a publishing cottage industry and a revivified academic sub-field. This veritable blizzard of productivity has involved more than a rethinking of old problems; it has witnessed the introduction of several controversial themes into the scholarly...

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1. The Mediterranean Jesus: Context

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pp. 4-6

The following papers make an important contribution to the discussion about the relation of Jesus or the Jesus movement to first-century Cynicism. All three engage the issues forthrightly and contribute to the most lively segment of New Testament research at present...

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2. Itinerants and Householders in the EarliestJesus Movement

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pp. 7-24

[There are] evil rumours and reports concerning shameless men, who, under pretext of the fear of God, have their dwelling with maidens, and so expose themselves to danger, and walk with them along the road and in solitary places alone. . . . Now we, if God helps us, conduct ourselves thus: with maidens we...

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3. Q and a Cynic-Like Jesus

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pp. 25-36

There is loose shale on the eastern slope of the Mission Mountains in Montana. A single step off the high ridge can start a slide that cannot be stopped for a thousand feet to the glacier lakes below. You need good boots and a bit of balance if you want to enjoy the ride. It is dangerous otherwise...

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4. The Gospel of Thomas and the Cynic Jesus

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pp. 37-60

Recent years have witnessed a resurgence of historical-Jesus research.2 Jesus—variously portrayed as healer, charismatic, magician, prophet, revolutionary or reformer—can now add Cynic to his resume; he is a gadfly, a pesky mutt nipping at the heels of the establishment.3 For the most part, the...

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5. The Galilean Jewish Jesus: Context

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pp. 61-62

The title of Sean Freyne's paper is eminently descriptive. It signals his use of the methodology on which he has built his reputation, i.e., the careful social, cultural and economic description, and analysis, of Roman Galilee. The title also signals the rather novel element of this paper: the effort to bring that...

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6. Galilean Questions to Crossan'sMediterranean Jesus

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pp. 63-91

In this paper I would like to engage in an exercise of intertextual reading of a kind. I read John Dominic Crossan's book, The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, with great enjoyment and not a little profit, as I hope will emerge from this discussion.1 It would be naive, however, to suggest...

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7. Socio-Rhetorical Interests: Context

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pp. 92-97

Historical-Jesus research is much like any other historical research: an operation that retrospectively tries to describe and disseminate a present perception of some exempla—events, activities, persons—located in the past. Historians, including Jesus historians, are not detached and isolated technicians of a...

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8. The Rhetoric of the Historical Jesus

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pp. 98-117

In her recent book, On Looking into the Abyss: Untimely Thoughts on Culture and Society,1 Gertrude Himmelfarb takes on contemporary deconstructionism and postmodern scholarship, which she sees as celebrating relativism and anarchy over the search for truth. This criticism is tendered not because such...

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9. Cosmology and the Jesus Miracles

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pp. 118-131

The significance of any miracle story is immediately controlled by the cosmology presupposed as its backdrop. Once such a basic lens is affixed, it generates the expectation of a particular set of images appropriate to that cosmology. Only allusions and stories understood to share a similar world-view...

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10. The Theological Importance of the "ThirdQuest" for the Historical Jesus

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pp. 132-142

As this century comes to a close, have we come full circle in the study of the historical Jesus, returning to the beginning of the century when Albert Schweitzer wrote The Quest of the Historical Jesus? This may seem a strange proposition since Schweitzer's criticism of liberal theology and its quest has...

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11. Academic Engagement: Context

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pp. 143-145

The two papers which follow represent a radical methodological and substantive challenge to the historical-Jesus project as it continues to be conducted within the discourse of traditional historical criticism. Schaberg's work reframes the project within feminist critiques of ecclesiastical, social and academic...

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12. A Feminist Experience of Historical-JesusScholarship

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pp. 146-160

In this paper, I originally intended to explore the contribution of feminist New Testament criticism to historical-Jesus research, to identify the precise nature of this contribution in terms of the major questions feminist criticism asks, the rethinking it demands and the challenges it poses. I wanted also to address the...

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13. The Historical Jesus and African NewTestament Scholarship

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pp. 161-180

This paper examines selected studies of Jesus, representative of the emerging discipline of New Testament studies in Africa. African biblical scholarship, not content to leave Jesus in a first-century context, is compelled by social, political and religious convictions to demonstrate his relationship to contemporary...

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14. Recent Concerns: The Scholar as Engage

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pp. 181-186

The following observations are not, in any sense, a neutral review of the preceding essays. One reason is my own inevitable interest in the endurance of those views I find appealing. More importantly, I see no merit in aspiring to the perspective of some "transcendent eyeball" (the term is Ralph Waldo...

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Since its inception, the field of Christian origins, especially the critical study of the historical Jesus, has passed through a series of phases in which first one element, then another, appears to be of paramount gravity for determining the direction of research. Throughout the generations of the "quest," however...

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15. Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls: Context

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pp. 188-189

The new surge of popular interest in the old question of the historical Jesus has emerged in parallel with an equally intense public fascination with the Dead Sea Scrolls. The phenomena are not unrelated. The fact that the scrolls have achieved a firm hold on public awareness, while the Nag Hammadi...

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16. The Historical Jesus and the Dead Sea Scrolls

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pp. 190-211

David Flusser, in his introduction to Judaism and the Origins of Christianity, states one of the central tenets of historical-Jesus research when he notes that "the starting point is a truism: Christianity arose among the Jews—it was once a part of Judaism."1 Flusser, perhaps more than any other contemporary...

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17. Apocalypticism: Context

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pp. 212-214

Edith Humphrey's paper introduces the reader to the slippery concept of "apocalyptic" and the potential difficulties that it presents for authors of recent historical-Jesus studies. She insists on the centrality of "things apocalyptic" to the various contemporary discussions of the historical Jesus, and accordingly...

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18. Will the Reader Understand? Apocalypse asVeil or Vision in Recent Historical-JesusStudies

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pp. 222-244

Prophetic-visionary experience, transformation, alternate vision, stance, social vision, program—the evocation of different scenarios in the samples above makes it clear that the word "vision" numbers among the ranks of theological "slippery words" such as "myth" and "eschatology."5 Elisabeth Schüssler...

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19. The Christ of Faith: Context

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pp. 238-240

One could almost wish that the quest for the historical Jesus were not an essential part of our job description. Sufficiently fascinating to provide scholars of Christian origins with an instant audience, it has, alas, also proved sufficiently baffling to puncture repeatedly any pretension that we might know...

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20. Is the "Historical Jesus" a Christological Construct?

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pp. 241-268

Is the "historical Jesus" merely another theological construct, like the "Christ of faith"? To pose this question seemingly betrays over two centuries of usage and threatens to undermine an essential philosophical and historical distinction championed by David Friedrich Strauss. As a consequence of Strauss's famous...

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21. Continuing Historical-Jesus Studies: Context

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pp. 269-271

Larry Hurtado's essay surveys the work of eight scholars who have written monographs on the subject of the historical Jesus between 1984 and 1994: Ed Sanders (1985), Geza Vermes (1993), Ben Witherington (1990), John Meier (1991), Marcus Borg (1984, 1987), Richard Horsley (1987), Sean Freyne...

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22. A Taxonomy of Recent Historical-Jesus Work

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pp. 272-295

It is widely reported that we are in the midst of a revived and large-scale scholarly effort to investigate Jesus of Nazareth historically. The ample flow of major publications on Jesus has also prompted a number of other recent efforts to log and characterize the current enterprise.1 The importance of the historical...

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23. Enduring Concerns: Desiderata for FutureHistorical-Jesus Research

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pp. 296-307

The "third quest" of the historical Jesus is now in full swing, with new books appearing almost monthly. Methods of approach and concomitant theories are broad and varied, with some notable—even newsworthy attempts—being diametrically opposed to each other. There is no sign of the quest for Jesus...

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24. Making and Re-Making the Jesus-Sign:Contemporary Markings on the Bodyof Christ

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pp. 308-319

If the collection of essays presented here is representative—and it appears to be—three issues seem to be broadly characteristic of scholarly "hot spots" in current work on the historical Jesus. They include the "Judaism" or broad cultural context of Jesus, apocalypticism and epistemic neutrality. All three...


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p. 320-320


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pp. 321-338

Series Information

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E-ISBN-13: 9780889208940
Print-ISBN-13: 9780889202955
Print-ISBN-10: 0889202958

Page Count: 352
Publication Year: 1997

Series Title: Studies in Christianity and Judaism