Baker Academic

Monday, April 20, 2015

An Important Overlooked/Underappreciated Historical Jesus Book—Chris Keith

A little bit ago I asked readers of the blog what they considered to be the most overlooked or underrated book on the historical Jesus.  I was pretty intrigued by some of the answers.  As I mentioned on that post, though, I had wondered about this because of a particular book that I don't think gets the attention that it probably deserves.  I confess that I'm not quite willing to say that this is the most overlooked or underrated book on the historical Jesus, but it's certainly an overlooked or underrated book on the historical Jesus.  That book is Der historische Jesus, edited by Jens Schroeter and Ralph Brucker and published in 2002 in the BZNW monograph series (de Gruyter).  The essays are written in English or German and come from some immediately recognizable names in the field (Werner Kelber, Michael Moxter, David du Toit, James Dunn, Jens Schroeter, Christopher Tuckett, David Aune, Joerg Frey, Hermut Loehr, Michael Wolter, Petr Pokorny, Ulrich Luz, and Andreas Lindemann).  It's important, though, because this book in many ways prefigured larger shifts in Jesus research that would come after it.  Especially the essays from Kelber, Moxter, Dunn, and Schroeter reveal the impact of various forms of postmodern historiography.  The essay of du Toit is an overlooked critique of the criterion of dissimilarity.  Kelber's essay was published in English elsewhere (initially in a book with John Dominic Crossan and Luke Timothy Johnson and now in his Imprints, Voiceprints, and Footprints of Memory [SBL]) and Schroeter's essay would go on to be included in his Von Jesus zum Neuen Testament (Mohr Siebeck), which is now, of course, thanks to Wayne Coppins, available in English as From Jesus to the New Testament (Baylor University Press).  It's certainly not the case that the book was totally ignored, but especially in English-speaking scholarship I'm surprised that it's not had a bigger impact.


  1. Thanks for this useful reference.

    After this book, what would be the best overall summary of the very-current, c. 2014 state of Historical Jesus Studies?

    1. That's a good question. That book doesn't exist as far as I know. The closest thing that comes to it is probably Anthony Le Donne's Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know It? or perhaps our co-edited Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity. The former study is more of an introduction to postmodern historiography as it relates to historical Jesus research and the latter focuses specifically on the method of criteria of authenticity and their (in our opinions) very problematic nature. In terms of a general overview, though, I don't think there is one . . . yet.

    2. How could I have forgotten?! See James Crossley's Jesus and the Chaos of History, published just this year.