Baker Academic

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Quest for the Real Jesus (Brill 2013) and . . . GIVEAWAY!—Chris Keith

I've just finished writing a review of The Quest for the Real Jesus (ed. Jan van der Watt) for JTS.  I'll provide the link in due course but wanted to share some thoughts now.  Overall the book was a very insightful and enjoyable read on the relationship between historical Jesus research and New Testament theology.  I especially liked the format.  The first essay is Michael Wolter's main lecture from the 2011 Radbound Prestige Lectures at Radbound University Nijmegen, where the volume's editor, Jan van der Watt, serves as Professor of New Testament.  The rest of the essays are from NT scholars, NT theologians, and systematic theologians.  They all respond in one way or another to Wolter's initial essay, so the reader feels like s/he's listening in on their conversation.  The contributors are Cilliers Breytenbach, R. Alan Culpepper, James D. G. Dunn, Craig A. Evans, Christopher M. Hays, Martin Laube, Michael Licona, Robert Morgan, and Notger Slenczka.

I'll copy here a short section from the review, which describes Wolter's proposal:

The book’s emphasis on the theological contours of historical Jesus research begins in Wolter’s opening essay.  Wolter situates his discussion as a mediating position between the opinion of Reimarus, who believed that the historical Jesus behind the Gospels was historically accessible and theologically significant in contrast to the Christ of faith, and Kähler, who believed the historical Jesus behind the Gospels was historically inaccessible and theologically insignificant, since theological significance resided solely in the Christ of faith.  Wolter proposes instead a third path.  After providing a catalogue for the different approaches to Jesus in critical enquiry (“historical Jesus,” “Jesus Christ,” “earthly Christ,” “Jesus Christ remembered,” “Jesus from Nazareth,” “Jesus’ self-interpretation,” and “the real Jesus”), Wolter argues that “the real Jesus,” which he defines as “an ontic reality beyond the images that people have been making of him since the time he lived” (12), “definitely exists” but that “we cannot really say anything about him” because any perception is “contaminated with particular interpretations” (13).  Wolter proceeds, however, to argue that the theologian, as opposed to the non-theological historian, can go further in his or her knowledge since “the real Jesus” is Jesus as he is known and vindicated by God.  Wolter sees this vindication in the resurrection of Jesus and visionary experiences in the early Church, whereby God affirmed “Jesus’ self-interpretation.”  Wolter concludes, therefore, that for the theological historian, historical Jesus questions must ultimately “be answered by the self-interpretation of Jesus” (17). 

As far as I can tell, none of the respondents bought 100% into Wolter's proposal.  All of them praised aspects of it and some were very critical.  One of the most interesting things was to see which scholars chose to address the specific question of whether there is a categorical difference in doing historical Jesus research from a theological perspective, and which scholars chose not to address it.  For me, the two highlights of the volume overall were Christopher M. Hays's and Robert Morgan's essays.  Hays argues for a Gadamerian Wirkungsgeschichte approach to historical Jesus studies, where the differences between theological and non-theological approaches to historical Jesus research essentially amount to how, and to what extent, a researcher engages with Jesus' history of effects.  I'm still thinking on whether Wolter's conversation is one that, at the end of the day, we can really have.  But Hays convinced me that if it is to be had, it must look something like he proposes.  I do wish Hays had given some more attention to the significance of a Gadamerian approach for non-theological Jesus research, though.  Morgan's essay outlines how confessional Jesus researchers can incorporate the results of historical criticism into faith-images of Jesus.  It's a very interesting article, though its explicit definition of historical Jesus research as "subordinate" to Christian theology, and arguments for incorporating historical Jesus research "piecemeal" into an image of Jesus as a means to "safeguard" that image, were more than a little concerning to me.  In my mind, the problem is not a faith or non-faith perspective but rather whether that position is determinative for the scholar doing historical work.  For the sake of honesty in the discussion, or at least its appearance, one must preserve a place for the believing Jesus scholar who is convinced that he or she must follow the evidence wherever it leads.  What is abundantly clear in the volume, however, is that the question of the relevance of historical Jesus research for New Testament theology and Christian faith is nowhere near a consensus.

Now, for those of you who have really only been reading this because of the word "giveaway" in the title of the post . . .  I happen to have an extra copy of the book and I'm going to give it away.  You know the rules.  You can enter to win by commenting below, sharing this post on any and all social media and leaving a comment, signing up to follow the blog and leaving a comment, or . . . for the wild card, telling us your 80s or 90s music guilty pleasure.  Mine is probably the Bangles.

61 comments:

  1. Looks like an interesting book, I do agree with the concerns that you stated especially regarding safeguarding an image of Jesus.

    And definitely put me down for wanting to win a copy. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Facebook'd: https://www.facebook.com/dannyyencich/posts/522134961182

    ReplyDelete
  3. Twitter'd: https://twitter.com/dyencich/status/476777330040246272

    ReplyDelete
  4. My guilty pleasure? The 1990's Tooth & Nail Records roster.

    ReplyDelete
  5. To win this book I'm willing to admit that from time to time I still listen to Shaq Diesel.

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Oh man, that book sounds interesting enough for me to admit that I have a soft spot for... *gulp*... Stryper. Wow, now I hope I don't win so that no one ever reads this. Also, I blare Rick Astley in the car unironically.

    ReplyDelete
  8. https://twitter.com/paul_trainor/status/476790866682466304

    ReplyDelete
  9. I'm a sucker for all things Billy Joel.

    -anthony

    ReplyDelete
  10. The one book I was planning to buy at SBL but it exceeded my price range - so here's a facebook share with the hope of winning it =)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hootie and the Blowfish. Hootie is still tearing it up; he's so good he's gone country!

    ReplyDelete
  12. A very interesting book.

    Of course, Queen rules!

    ReplyDelete
  13. I was into Nirvana and Blink 182 when I was in highschool.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Another intriguing book I would like to win.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Pretenders, Rush, or Elvis Costello ... but, the 80s and 90s can't compare to the 60s and 70s!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alright, so I misunderstood about "guilty pleasure", as I don't feel guilty about those artists. My guilty pleasure (very early 80s) is After the Fire.

      Delete
  16. Tim Dillon Says heybto Chris Keith!

    ReplyDelete
  17. Ace of Base. No, I'm not ashamed of that.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Looks enjoyable.

    ReplyDelete
  19. 80s and 90s? I'm too old for that and the older I get the further back I go. I'm into folk music such as the Brothers Four. George Mearns

    ReplyDelete
  20. 90's guilty pleasure was definitely the Mortal Kombat soundtrack on my walkman.

    ReplyDelete
  21. Paul M, following the blog...

    ReplyDelete
  22. Favorite 80s music guilty pleasure--Billy Ocean.

    ReplyDelete
  23. following the blog and posted on fb

    ReplyDelete
  24. Looks like an interesting book...hope I win!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Hey, I won last time. Let's go for two. Come on, lucky sevens!

    ReplyDelete
  26. 80s/90s guilty pleasure: Creed, the first two albums. Even saw 'em in concert. No regrets, baby!

    ReplyDelete
  27. Dave Matthews Band, The Verve Pipe--to name two.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Sounds like an interesting read--
    80s/90s guilty pleasure: Weird Al Yankovich... get me some Amish Paradise and some badgers!

    ReplyDelete
  29. 80s or 90s music guilty pleasure: Petra, MXPX :)

    ReplyDelete
  30. already following the blog, almost everyday!

    ReplyDelete
  31. Music of the 80's..., I think that now say one of the greatest texas bluesmen of all times: SRV!

    ReplyDelete
  32. And, why not, another bluesman but now from the Old Ireland: Rory Gallagher.

    ReplyDelete
  33. Count me in! and I already follow the blog.

    ReplyDelete
  34. Please sign me up for a chance at the book, Chris.

    See you in San Diego.

    Jeff

    ReplyDelete
  35. (Late)-90s music: "Blue" by Eiffel 65 - got me through elementary.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Done and done!

    80's music — Oingo Boingo. There, I said it!

    ReplyDelete