A few days ago it occurred to me that I had never examined the "Historical Jesus" entry for Wikipedia. I imagine that millions of interested searches have landed on that page. I also imagine that most of these searchers took the low-hanging fruit on offer. I was curious what I would find. In many cases, the information represented is typical. But not always and I thought it might be an interesting project to work through the content and point out strengths, deficiencies, and statements that I simply disagree with or would rather word differently. I suppose that I'll try to take it a paragraph at a time and do something on this weekly. It is also entirely possible that I will forget that I was ever interested in this.
The term historical Jesus refers to scholarly reconstructions of portraits of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. These reconstructions, which are distinct from the question of the existence of Jesus, are based on historical methods including critical analysis of gospel texts as the primary source for his biography, along with consideration of the historical and cultural context in which he lived.
I have no real problems with the first sentence. The term "historical Jesus" is misused by students and scholars alike. It does not mean "Jesus, the man, as he was". "The historical Jesus" is a scholarly construct; it is the Jesus that historians reconstruct. If you want to talk about "Jesus, the man, as he was", just say "Jesus" and leave it at that. So my first point of critique is to say that Wikipedia is helpfully correct here.
The second sentence is a nightmare. Where to begin? I do my best not to correct grammar - I know that I have my own problems - but how about working in a period every now and then? "...which are distinct from the question of the existence of Jesus..."? Does anyone have any clue what this is trying to convey? Is this a way to distinguish the man from the reconstructions of the man? Or is it a veiled nod to the conspiracy theorists? Are historians not interested in Jesus' existence?
Also, doesn't it go without saying that historians are interested in "historical and cultural" contexts? This second sentence isn't misleading as much as it is ugly. God Father, Part III-ugly; Reh Dogg "Why Must I Cry"-ugly.
Okay, more to come - I have a big problem with this whole "Quests" paradigm. But do you (pl) have any thoughts so far?
Part II is here.
Part II is here.