April DeConick has posted her thoughts on the emerging “Fourth Quest for the Historical Jesus.”
I, for one, fall into the camp that believes the Historical Jesus, as it is currently being sought, has little meaning or value. I whole-heartedly admit that I am not current on Jesus scholarship as my interests steered me away from the topic. Let me explain why…
It has been said by several that the myriad of Historical Jesuses which exist are the result of each scholars’ agenda. Scholar X emphasizes the eschatological prophet; Scholar Y emphasizes the Jewish peasant; Scholar Z emphasizes the experiential element of Jesus’ ministry.
I happen to believe that these views are the direct result of what the scholar wants to find in the text. However, I think that each represents a part of the whole truth.
If we tried to get to the Historical George Washington, no doubt, we’d find ourselves talking about Washington from a number of different angles. I might want to emphasize his belief in God. Someone else might emphasize his military leadership. Still someone else might be more interested in his statesmanship. We’re all writing very different descriptions of the same person.
Likewise, it’s no wonder that scholars write very different portrayals of Jesus. If you think about it, the gospels are exactly that—different facets of the same diamond. Luke focuses on social reversal while John is interested in the individual, etc.
Can we get at the Historical Jesus? Probably not. There is a curtain drawn by the complexity of human-ness. Our human-ness makes us complex and defies explanation. We can think about and study different aspects of the Historical Jesus—but, in the end, we’re just going to come out with facets of a many-sided jewel.
A little stream of consciousness soap box on the Historical Jesus for your reading pleasure…