Baker Academic

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

A New "No Quest" Era? - Le Donne

In a comment to my recent post "Both Bultmanns", Larry asks:

Anthony, I would love to read your thoughts on Bultmann in light of your thoughts (and those of Chris Keith) in your book "Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity." While the book does not propose a single alternative to the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, one alternative that springs to mind is a second period of No Quest ... which would inevitably lead to an encounter with Bultmann, no?

Thank you Larry,

I have heard from several people that our recent book marks a second "no quest" era in Jesus studies. While our egos are well-prepared (=over-prepared) for such praise, I think your comment is much more sober and closer to the mark. The book probably signals a shift already underway in Jesus research.

I don't go in for the "Quests" paradigm, but I think I take your meaning well enough. My opinion is that there never was a "No Quest", unless one confines the scope to Germany during the rise of national socialism. Dale Allison has suggested the phrase "no biography" for these years.

If the modus operandi of 1950-1990s Jesus studies is now outmoded, it is inevitable to want to return to a previous era's insights to find security. Notice the affinity between Scot McKnight's new view and that of Martin Kahler. I could say more about this, but I don't think that "no Quest" is the best way to think of the new directions in Jesus studies. For the sake of brevity and because these words are much better than anything I could come up with, I will quote the blurb by Alan Kirk on the back cover of Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity:
"Keith and Le Donne write the epitaph of the criteria-movement in historical Jesus research and the quest for 'authentic tradition.' But rather than retreating into a fashionable agnosticism, this volume points the way forward to a defensible historiography."
Alan Kirk, James Madison University, USA

Thank you Alan!


1 comment:

  1. Anthony, thanks so much for replying.

    Agreed strongly, Bultmann’s program was a type of quest. You didn't say so in your comment, but I’d argue that the Third Quest has borrowed much from Bultmann – in particular, a certain suspicion about the historical source material that I don’t see in writing about the historical Buddha or the historical Socrates. If what you’re pointing to is more of a Fourth Quest than a second No Quest (and while I understand you dislike the Quest paradigm, it DOES make for useful shorthand), perhaps one feature of the Fourth Quest could be a greater willingness to trust the gospels. I don’t mean an uncritical trust, just the kind of trust that (say) a scholar of Buddhism might bring to the Buddhacarita. I don’t think scholars of the Buddha carry with them formalized criteria of authenticity, where all Buddha material is judged inauthentic until proven authentic.

    But I’m veering off topic. What you have in mind for a “defensible historiography” is of great interest to me, but you’re prolific here and elsewhere, and I can be patient. Thanks for writing something positive about Bultmann. I’m not a big fan of his, but I think he deserves better than what he gets these days.