The Historical Jesus
Looking back it appears now to have been relatively easy to demonstrate
that across the diverse writings which are extant there is a fairly
constant emphasis on Torah as God's gift and on the priority of God's
grace . Caricatures of
Judaism as a system of self-justification by accumulating merit, borne
of reading Paul's disputes with fellow Christian Jews as a source for
understanding Judaism as a whole and of historical disputes within post
Reformation western Christianity, are slowly giving way to more
sensitive and differentiating assessment.
While Sanders's attempt to portray a
"common Judaism" has not convinced all ,
the importance of Sanders's exposition
of restoration theology is that it provides a context for Jesus'
preaching about the kingdom. The hope was not some vague utopian dream
but a vision of changed reality, especially for Israel. For the poor and
for oppressed Israel it is good news. It will bring reversal. The
imagery associated with this hope in the Jesus tradition reflects
prophetic hope for Israel's restoration, the gathering of the lost and
scattered sheep, the eschatological banquet, the renewal or rebuilding
of the temple, the establishment of new leadership on the twelve thrones
of Israel, and signs of healing and deliverance. This makes sense of the
particularity of Jesus' vision and ministry, focused on Israel.
Sanders' emphasis on the Jewishness
of Jesus' eschatological hopes finds affirmation in Wright's massive
volume on the historical Jesus, part of an ambitious undertaking to
write a comprehensive account of New Testament Theology
takes Sanders's notion of restoration eschatology further.
Wright speaks regularly of the hope
for the completion of the return from exile. The language feels somewhat
imposed on the material, more so than the general language of
restoration which Sanders used. It suggests the strength of a motif
which is not directly present. Nevertheless my chief difficulty with
Wright's construct is that it has been set within the frame espoused by
Caird and influential in Borg's work ..
There is doubtless much truth in this,
but I find Wright overplays this emphasis. Eschatological imagery is not
be collapsed into contemporary politico-religious commentary. Ideas of a
judgement day, of resurrection, of being at table with Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob in the restored Israel, suggest something of grander scale
established by divine initiative. Wright's analysis, though much less
sceptical than that of Jesus Seminar scholars, nevertheless is
vulnerable to similar criticism.
How then could there be such
discontinuity between the alleged understanding of eschatology shared by
Jesus (and Wright would argue, John the Baptist) and that of the early
church? The problem is that he has posed the alternatives too sharply.
We may agree: it is not a prediction of the end of the world but also a
good deal more than return and renewal. Transformation and
transfiguration, judgement and resurrection, do suggest something in
The most careful, painstaking, current
project is that of J P Meier, who introduces his project as based on a
fantasy of what a Catholic, a Protestant, Jew, and an agnostic scholar,
using the resources of the Harvard library, might agree to say about the
historical Jesus .
While conscious of the difference between faith in Jesus and the task of
historical reconstruction, though not as sharply as Luke Johnson
Meier proceeds with methodological rigour, but always, it seems to me,
with a keen eye for how faith might respond to his constructions
. What emerges is more the reality of a
careful Catholic biblical scholar attentive to the Church's agenda, yet
seeking not to be too bound by it, after the model of Raymond Brown.
It is still too early to comment on
his work as a whole. Thus far it represents a cautious, some might say
more conservative, approach to the historical data, with fine
discussions of Jesus' origins, Jesus and John the Baptist, the kingdom
of God, and miracles. It is less racy than Wright's work and more
rigorous in methodology.
4. The Historical
Historical Jesus research is like working over a jigsaw puzzle. We are
far from just having emptied the box onto the table and exposed 1000 or
2000 fragments. From the musings of many generations of scholars we can
identify clusters, larger pieces of the puzzle. For many of us the
constellation of unfinished work as its stands is already enough to
suggest meaningful contours.
History needs a good dose
of imagination for anything to emerge and deceives itself if it believes
it can produce completed puzzles. History remains a matter of degrees of
probability. It seems to me that there are some large identifiable
clusters - even if, like reconstructions of the sky and the sea, we may
eventually find the clusters are not perfectly put together in
One cluster is Jesus' eschatological
outlook, commonly linked with what must have been his favoured term "the
kingdom of God", which we might paraphrase as the expectation and hope
that there will come a time when God will rule, restoring Israel to
wholeness, liberating her from her oppressors, and bringing
righteousness and peace to the land.
It seems to me that there is little
doubt that his was a version of Israel's hope and that it stood beside
other versions, many of which would have been in conflict with his own.
He appears to have spoken of this hope primarily in relation to what it
would mean for ordinary people, but not just as individuals but as part
of the community of Israel. His vision had to entail changes in Israel's
leadership and liberation from oppressive powers, but does not appear to
have entailed a political or military strategy. It is clear that he
spoke of this hope with the kind of immediacy with which John the
Baptist had warned of God's impending judgement and that he saw his own
ministry as already being an indication that the hope was beginning to
The vision of inclusiveness expressed
itself already in his radical inclusiveness in reality. The vision of
liberation already expressed itself in reality in individual acts of
healing and exorcism, which, in turn, reinforced the reality of what was
to come in fullness. I think we see in Jesus' kingdom sayings both the
joy of anticipation of what is to come and the celebration that it had
begun to advance into the present.
But major components of the vision
were still outstanding. Still to come was the great restoration,
establishment of justice and peace, the resurrection and the judgement.
Still his followers (and the poor and hungry who had received promises)
are to pray, "Your kingdom come!" I am not convinced that Jesus' vision
of the kingdom should be collapsed into individual or community
wellbeing in the present. Nevertheless the strength of its hope was
grounded in more than faith; it was grounded in what people saw
happening in the present which went beyond hopeful anticipation.
This large piece, as I see it, must
retain its awkward shape: Jesus' hope did not become reality as he
apparently supposed, but that is a problem for theology.
In this context I
have already mentioned a second cluster of pieces. Jesus appears to have
practised exorcism and, despite the accretion of many doubtful features,
the tradition gives weight to the conclusion that he was also a healer.
Such activities were seen (by him and those around him) as evidence that
Israel's prophetic hopes were reaching fulfilment. It seems very likely
that they were seen as manifestations of God's Spirit, as promised for
the time of salvation. This cluster should not be shunted aside in the
interests of appeasing the modern world.
Another cluster already touched upon
is the radical inclusiveness which appears characteristic of Jesus. This
may need some qualification because his stance towards the
Syro-Phoenician woman was initially far from inclusive
. Nevertheless, at least within Israel and
perhaps with initial reluctance towards Gentiles, Jesus appears to have
shown an inclusiveness which in turn led to controversy. This behaviour
must be directly related to the value given to compassion in his sayings
and the theology of compassion which informs his statements about God,
including the nature of God's coming reign.
It was in that context that the
radical inclusiveness is to be understood: doing now what is envisaged
as coming about then. The theology establishes its warrant by appeal to
every day experience in family life rather than to Israel's epic
traditions. This all coheres well with a stance which gave value to the
ordinary in contrast to the institutionalised forms of religious
experience and tradition ("not as the scribes"). The inclusiveness
ranges across acceptance of the disadvantaged like the poor, women, the
sick and disabled, children to keeping company with sinners (toll
collectors and prostitutes), although the precise nature of the
statement Jesus was making by being in such company is still, to my
mind, somewhat uncertain.
Jesus' Jewishness, including the
assumption that he was Torah observant, must be a central cluster in the
puzzle. Images of Jesus as somehow standing above or outside his own
religious tradition strain credibility. He was not a Christian among
Jews but a Jew. His interpretations of Torah, whether in witty defence
or in occasional exposition of its values and sometimes its specific
commandments, fall within the range of Judaism known to exist in the
period. This makes it all the more interesting to identify his
particular slant or slants in interpretation and to understand the areas
The Markan tradition preserves
anecdotes which portray a clever Jesus engaging in refutation by wit and
aphorism rather than by argument, and doing so seemingly over against
rather extreme legalist positions. There seems to be a common feature
across all main streams of the tradition of Jesus rejecting sham and
espousing compassion as the primary value and criterion for applying
scriptural law. But such prioritising still included observance of
purity laws, tithing and such like, even at times detailed observance.
It makes sense to me that beside the
compassion oriented stance of Jesus we sometimes glimpse a conservatism
in some areas such as sexuality and dealings with Gentiles which may
reflect the conservative Jewish upbringing which the family names
Scholars who see parallels with
popular Cynicism are identifying in particular those sayings and
behaviours which portray Jesus as tilting at hypocrisy, scourging
opponents with wit and aphorism, confronting the established values with
challenges to the power of wealth and family, including in his
lifestyle, and arguing from common every day experiences about faith and
providence. Such behaviours also bring Jesus into close connection with
Israel's wisdom tradition. He may even have used wisdom mythology to
explain his ministry and John's .
It remains striking, however, that
there is so much material which appears to have close parallels in the
popular philosophy of the time. The problem remains understanding the
connections, if any. Were there such secular philosophers in Galilee?
What would a conservative Jesus be doing imitating them? Was he, like
second century Christian writers, employing their wiles to attack the
evils of his day? Is the connection rather more secondary? Was there a
Jewish tradition which, like Israel's wisdom tradition, drew on the
wisdom resources of surrounding cultures?
I think these pieces form a coherent
structure. I can see how they connect to Jesus' radical message of the
kingdom and to his theology, but for the moment the connections beyond
that remain incomplete. But these pieces are not the unattached grouping
Mack would have us believe.
The most worn pieces of the puzzle
reflect Christian preoccupations with titles of authority. Of Messiah
there are few - and these are so ambiguous that the most we might dare
to say is that if Jesus saw himself in this light, he left history to
define its connotation, so that during his ministry it could have only a
chameleon-like quality, a cause for chiding those who espoused it.
Yet the strength of its presence in
the early accounts of Jesus' trial and death may indicate that it
belonged in some sense to Jesus' self understanding and surfaced in the
final conflict. Otherwise it seems strange that what appears incidental
soon became the symbolic focus of Jewish Christian faith and usurped the
kingdom of God as the dominant motif of their preaching
One dark piece of the puzzle seems to
fit in two different directions - the title "Son of Man". It sits quite
well with the imagery of future hope as one of a few strands of
speculation expounding the great vision of Daniel 7
The sombre colours
which make up the image of Jesus' last days reflect responses to Jesus'
provocative behaviour in the Temple. These two pieces clear fit together
in some way. The larger picture indicates in my view that Jesus
understood himself (and God) to be on a collision course with the Temple
authorities and he must have suspected it would cost him his life. We
cannot imagine his imaginings so we do not know whether he expected some
kind of divine intervention to be occasioned by his pilgrimage.
Vindication would have to have been part of it and resurrection at the
end time would have been a standard expectation, even if vindication had
not been an issue.
It is probably
irrecoverable whether at the last supper he really foresaw his death as
having vicarious significance, as some early strands of Christian
tradition were to believe and make the focal point of their message,
indeed of the whole story. It was clearly not the whole point of the
story during Jesus' ministry; at least none of the early traditions
suggest this was so. The later image of a Jesus coming to die for our
sins has very few pieces on the table of the historical puzzle, however
aptly it may interpret his death in retrospect. Yet the last days
complete an image not of deluded visionary or failed reformer, but of
one who confronted systems of power to the point of ultimate
vulnerability. The result is an enigma which some find revelatory and
others find pathetic or tragic.
It is a matter of debate whether the
colourful resurrection and appearance pieces belong in the puzzle or
constitute their own secondary puzzle. Their story is about the
disciples' perceptions, perhaps more than about an empty tomb - which
may be more of a deduction than a reality. But there is little doubt
that in the minds of the disciples Jesus had been vindicated as he would
have in some sense hoped and that this event provided not only evidence
of his exaltation to God's presence but also of the truth of his claim
that the kingdom of God was at hand. Disciples with a different
anthropology and eschatology might have seen it differently,
but theirs implied that to live on had to mean he lived in an embodied
state even though at a higher order of reality; and that to be raised in
this way was a promise preserved for the climax of history. They were
indeed living in the last days.
The pieces lie on the table. I have
tried to depict them as I see them in their own setting and with their
own integrity. This has included sensing where they are strange to us
and where they at present appear unconnected and unable to be connected.
It is my conviction that any historical reconstruction must take these
pieces or clusters of pieces seriously. The temptation will always be to
leave the awkward ones to one side or to bring together only those which
give us a more commendable image.
Unfinished puzzles drive some people
to distraction. Forcing the pieces never really works because it creates
other gaps. We can only visit and revisit the table, try new
possibilities, sense the contours which emerge, and sometimes, maybe,
take much of what we thought fitted together well apart and start all
For some, puzzles are a distraction, a
wonderful time waster, and historical Jesus research is little
different. For others, each puzzle is a challenge. But this is one which
will not be conquered. I think there is enough of a pattern there on the
table for me to recognise where my faith in the Jesus story connects to
But I am not there desperately hoping
for faith's validation. The story fascinates me. It belongs to a history
which has given shape to who we are. In it we find again the fragility
of knowing and not knowing and beyond it the lonely responsibility of
decision and faith which creates community.
There are a number of very useful reviews of
current Jesus scholarship. Among the most recent I include the
following: M. J. Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship (Valley
Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1994); J. Carlson, and R. A.
Ludwig (eds) Jesus and Faith. A Conversation on the Work of John
Dominic Crossan author of The Historical Jesus (Maryknoll: Orbis,
1994); R. Crotty, The Jesus Question. The Historical Search
(Blackburn, Vic.: HarperCollinsReligious, 1996); L. T. Johnson,
The Real Jesus. the Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the
Truth of the Traditional Gospels(San Francisco: Harper, 1996); B.
Witherington, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of
Nazareth (Downers Grove: IVP, 1995); N. T. Wright, Christian
Origins and the Question of God Vol 2. Jesus and the Victory of God.
(Minneapolis: Fortress, 1996) 3-124.
In his critical review of recent research,
Johnson, Real Jesus, writes: "But looking at the 'story of Jesus'
not in terms of a collection of facts or in terms of a pile of discreet
pieces, but in terms of pattern and meaning, we found a
deep consistency in the earliest Christian literature concerning the
character of Jesus as Messiah" (p. 165). "If the expression the real
Jesus is used at all, it should not refer to a historically
reconstructed Jesus. Such a Jesus is not 'real' in any sense, except as
a product of scholarly imagination. The Christian's claim to experience
the 'real Jesus' in the present, on the basis of religious experience
and conviction, can be challenged on a number of fronts (religious,
theological, moral), but not historically" (p. 167). J. P. Meier, A
Marginal Jew. Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Vol 1. The Roots of the
Problerm and the Person (New York: Doubleday, 1991), expresses
himself similarly, "What, then, ask the objectors, is the usefulness of
the historical Jesus to people of faith? My reply is: none, if one is
asking solely about the direct object of Christian faith: Jesus Christ,
crucified, risen, and presently reigning in his Church. This presently
reigning Lord is accessible to all believers, including all those who
will never study history or theology for even a single day in their
lives. Yet I maintain that the quest for the historical Jesus can be
very useful if one is asking about faith seeking understanding, i.e.,
theology, in a contemporary context" (p. 198). Meier is strongly
committed to the critical role which historical research may play for
theology, not least because theology, itself, "is a cultural artifact"
(p. 198). He sees such historical research serving the interest of faith
in resisting attempts "to reduce faith in Christ to a content-less
cipher, a mythic symbol, or a timeless archetype .. to swallow up the
real humanity of Jesus into an 'orthodox' emphasis on his divinity .. to
'domesticate' Jesus for a comfortable, respectable, bourgeois
Christianity" and to have Jesus "easily co-opted for programs of
political revolution" (p. 199). One of the strongest cases for the
relationship between the historical Jesus and the faith of the Church is
in the work of John Knox who emphasised the foundation of faith in the
impression created by the event of the historical Jesus preserved in the
Church's gospels. See J. Knox, Jesus Lord and Christ (New York:
Harper and Row, 1958) and also an application of this approach in P.
Carnley, The Structure of Resurrection Belief (Oxford: Clarendon,
This is the argument of Crotty, Jesus
Question. See also my review of this work: in Colloquium
29.1 (1997), pp. 69-72.
M. K�hler, The So-Called Historical Jesus
and the Historical Biblical Christ (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1964;
originally published in German: Der sogenante historische Jesus und
der geschichtliche, biblische Christus, 1892).
R. Bultmann, Jesus and the Word,
(London: Collins, 1958; first published in German, 1926);The Theology
of the New Testament, 2 vols(London: SCM, 1952, 1955 first published
in German, 1948-1953) esp. 3-32.
A. Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical
Jesus. A Critical Study of its Progress from Reimarus to Wrede
(London: A & C Black, 3rd edn., 1954; German original published in
J. D. Crossan, The Historical Jesus. The
Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant (San Francisco:
HarperCollins, 1991). Crossan believes Jesus offered the "brokerless"
kingdom, that is, access to God without intermediaries, was radically
egalitarian, and trying to change society accordingly through the
Robert W. Funk, founder of the Jesus Seminar,
and co-chair with J. D. Crossan, called scholars together in 1985 to
participate in an ongoing Jesus Seminar. Around 200 have participated,
with about 40 ongoing. They discuss, then vote with beads on historicity
(red-yes; pink-maybe; grey: probably not; black: no). Not much of Mark
survives; Lord's Prayer goes; mostly sayings surviving in the Q-Thomas
tradition are left reflecting particular presuppositions about
eschatology and about Q and Thomas. See also R. W. Funk, Honest to
Jesus. Jesus for a New Millenium (Rydalmere, NSW: Hodder Headline,
Her theories first appeared in Redating
the Teacher of Righteousness and The gospels and Qumran: a new
hypothesis and The Qumran origins of the Christian church,
published in 1979, 1981 and 1983 respectively in the ANZSTS/Colloquium
monograph series, Australian and New Zealand Studies in Theology
andReligion, in Sydney. She developed her approach further in Jesus
the Man. A New Interpretation from the Dead Sea Scrolls (Sydney:
Doubleday, 1992), and it keeps being extended as she has been applying
her so-called pesher approach to New Testament writings. See most
recently her Jesus of the Apocalypse (Sydney: Doubleday, 1994).
Her approach entails the belief that just as the Dead Sea Scroll writers
saw their own history predicted in Old Testament texts, so they wrote
the New Testament writings to refer to their story (that is a very big
assumption). It allows Thiering to create a Tolkien like world of John
the Baptist, Jesus and his followers, which includes Jesus' life after
the so-called death, subsequent marriage, travels and so on. Apart from
the methodological assumption, the other major weakness is the dating of
the scrolls which on the latest carbon dating and religio-social
research best fits in the period beginning two hundred years earlier.
Thiering's work appeals (to the media and the public), because it offers
an alternative view of Jesus to the traditional church picture. Despite
a complete absence of scholarly agreement, her work goes on.
B. L. Mack, The Lost Gospel. The Book of Q
and Christian Origins (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993). See
also his A Myth of Innocence. Mark and Christian Origins
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1988) and Who wrote the New Testament? The
Making of the Christian Myth (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco,
1995). For Kloppenborg's influential analysis see J. S. Kloppenborg,
The Formation of Q. Trajectories in Ancient Wisdom Collections,
Studies in Antiquity and Christianity, (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1987).
Mack dismisses Mark as a rationalisation by Mark of Christian failure. Q
(its earliest sapiential/wisdom saying layer) and Thomas tell us Jesus
was a Cynic type sage, challenging the establishment, not interested in
eschatology nor in Jewish Law and history. Mack has done useful work on
the form of the early traditions, but his historical reconstruction is
extreme. It assumes that a community of early Q (pre- or even non
Christian) read only one source. Mack, Crossan, Borg and those
dismissing the relevance of future eschatology face difficulties: how to
explain the close link with John the Baptist and the many Christian
traditions (including Paul) who clearly espoused a future eschatology.
Answer: Jesus and John fell out or Jesus changed his mind after John's
arrest - who is writing fiction now? Even harder to explain is the
transition to the Church. Answer: diverse Christianities, of which only
Q/Thom retains the original emphasis.
E. K�semann, "The Problem of the Historical
Jesus," in Essays on New Testament Themes
(London: SCM, 1964) 23-65.
On this see the useful discussion in Meier,
Marginal Jew, Vol 1, 168-174.
Bultmann, Theology, Vol 2, esp. 59-69.
For discussion of Bultmann's demythologising interpretation of John
which argued that the evangelist also treated pre-existence as a
metaphor, see W. Loader, The Christology of the Fourth Gospel,
Beitr�ge zur biblischen Exegese und Theologie 23, (Frankfurt:
Peter Lang, 2nd edn., 1992) 1-7; J. Ashton, Understanding the Fourth
Gospel (Oxford: Clarendon, 1991) 44-66.
For instance J. Jeremias and W. Zimmerli,
Art. "pa�� qeo�," TDNT 5 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1967; first published
in German 1957) 654-717; V. Taylor, Jesus and his Sacrifice
(London: Macmillan, 1937); T. W. Manson, The Servant Messiah
(Cambridge: CUP, 1953).
Cf. the major studies by N. Perrin, The
Kingdom of God in the Teaching of Jesus (London: SCM, 1963);
Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (London: SCM, 1967); Jesus
and the Language of the Kingdom (London: SCM, 1976).
See Bultmann, Theology Vol 2, 31-42;
J. D. G. Dunn, Unity and Diversity in the New Testament (London:
J. S. Spong, Liberating the Gospel.
Reading the Bible with Jerwish Eyes (SanFrancisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 1996) espouses the view that Luke uses both Mark and
Matthew, a view argued by M. D. Goulder, Luke: a new paradigm
JSNTS 20 (Sheffield : JSOTPr., 1989). On this see the critical
assessment by M. S. Goodacre, Goulder and the Gospels. An Examination
of a New Paradigm JSNTS133 (Sheffield: JSOTPr., 1996). For a recent
restatement of the Griesbach hypothesis according to which Mark abridges
Matthew and Luke see A. J. McNicol et al. (ed.) Beyond the Q impasse
: Luke's use of Matthew: a demonstration by the research team of the
International Institute for the Renewal of Gospel Studies (Valley
Forge, Pa. : Trinity Press International, 1996).
See the discussion in C. M. Tuckett, Nag
Hammadi and the Gospel tradition Studies in the New Testament and
its World (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1986).
H. Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels.
Their History and Development (London: SCM, 1990) 84-124. For
discussion of the contrasting views see F. T. Fallon and R. Cameron,
"The Gospel of Thomas: A Forschungsbericht and Analysis," Aufstieg
und Niedergang der r�mischen Welt II 25.6, 4195-4251; Meier,
Marginal Jew, Vol 1, 123-139.
Kloppenborg, Formation, (see n.10
Kloppenborg, Formation, 244-245.
see n.10 above
Crossan, Historical Jesus, 427-434.
J. D. Crossan, The Cross that Spoke The
Origins of the Passion Narrative (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1988); J. D. Crossan, Who killed Jesus? Exposing the Roots of
Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus (San
Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1995). See the critique in R. E. Brown,
The Death of the Messiah. From Gethsemane to the Grave. 2 vols The
Anchor Bible Reference Library (New York: Doubleday, 1994) 1317-1349;
see also Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 47-52.
Most recently R. Eisenman, James the
Brother of Jesus. Rediscovering the True History of early Christianity.
Vol 1 The Cup of the Lord (London: Faber and Faber, 1997).
Cf. also his earlier works: R. Eisenman and M. Wise, The Dead Sea
Scrolls Uncovered (London: Element, 1992) and Maccabees,
Zadokites, Christians and Qumran. a New Hypothesis of Qumran
Origins (Leiden: Brill, 1983); James the Just in the Habakkuk
Pesher (Leiden: Brill, 1986). On Thiering see n. 9 above.
See E. P. Sanders, Jewish Law from Jesus
to the Mishnah (London: SCM, 1990) and, in response, J. Neusner,
Judaic Law from Jesus to the Mishnah. A Systematic Reply to
Professor E. P. Sanders. Studies in the History of Judaism
84(Atlanta: Scholars, 1993). See also E. P. Sanders, Judaism:
Practice and Belief, 63 BCE - 66 CE (London: SCM, 1992) and B. D.
Chilton and J. Neusner, Judaism in the New Testament. Practice and
Beliefs (London: Routledge, 1995).
cf. J. Jeremias, New Testament
(London: SCM, 1971) 205-208.
Sanders, Jewish Law, esp. 1-96; E. P.
Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM Press, 1985)
See for instance Test. Reuben 3-6;Test.
Issachar 5-7; Test. Dan 2-4; Test. Gad 3-7.
M. Hengel, Judaism and Hellenism. 2
vols (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Fortress, 1974); M. Hengel, The
Charismatic Leader and his Followers (Edinburgh: T&T Clark; New
York: Crossroad, 1981); M. Hengel, The 'Hellenization' of Judaea in
the First Century after Christ (London: SCM; Philadelphia: Trinity,
1990); S. Freyne, Galilee, Jesus, and the Gospels: Literary
Approaches and Historical Investigations (Philadelphia: Fortress,
1988); R. A. Horsley, Jesus and the Spiral of Violence: Popular
Jewish Resistance in Roman Palestine (San Francisco: Harper & Row,
1987), a very useful discussion of the political situation in Galilee,
though tending to impose a spiral model of revolution which fits Jesus
in at a certain stage. The problem is, as Freyne and others have shown,
that Galilee was relatively quiet under Antipas. His most recent work on
Galilee , Horsley, R. A. Galilee : history, politics, people
(Valley Forge : Trinity Press, 1995), argues a continuing Israelite
tradition independent of Judea and the Samaritans - rather forced;
archaeological evidence does not support the thesis.
M. J. Borg, Conflict, Holiness and
Politics in the Teachings of Jesus (New York/Toronto: Edwin Mellen
Press, 1984); M. J. Borg, Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship
(Valley Forge, Penn.: Trinity Press International, 1994); M. J. Borg,
Jesus: A New Vision (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1987); M. J. Borg,
Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time (San Francisco:
HarperSanFrancisco, 1994); Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God.
See the volume, L. Levine (ed.) Galilee in
Late Antiquity (New York/Jerusalem: Jewish Theological Seminary,
1992), which contains a number of contributions directly or indirectly
dealing with Galilean archaeology.
Mack, Myth of Innocence.; and The
Lost Gospel; F. G. Downing, Cynics and Christian Origins
(Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1992); F. G. Downing, Christ and the Cynics:
Jesus and Other Radical Preachers in First-Century Tradition
(Sheffield: Sheffield Academic Press, 1988); F. G. Downing, Jesus and
the Threat of Freedom (London: SCM, 1987); Downing has promoted the
view that Jesus should be seen as close to the Cynics, who in the first
century were wandering preachers, turning up at market places or meals,
espousing a critique of accepted norms, including the cult, challenging
dependence on wealth and the wealthy and calling for honesty and
integrity, often in a way that shocked, and frequently with wit and
smart pithy sayings. They called for simplicity and trust in God, as the
birds and plants are cared for. Many parallels with Jesus and his
manner. Problems: the parallels are drawn from many centuries, though
some. See esp. the collection in A. J. Malherbe (ed.) The Cynic
Epistles (Missoula: Scholars, 197). Were they in Galilee? Yes in
Gadara � a school, but we have to guess. Would Jesus have espoused their
ways, ignored them, been indirectly influenced? Sepphoris, built on
Hellenistic lines, near Nazareth, but settled by Jews.
See the critical discussion in Wright,
Jesus, 66-74; see also H. D. Betz, "Jesus and the Cynics: Survey and
Analysis of a Hypothesis" Journal of Religion 74 (1994)
See Mack, Myth of Innocence, 172-207.
Crossan, Historical Jesus, 421.
On Borg see n. 31 above.
G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew: A Historian's
Reading of the Gospels (London: Collins, 1971); G. Vermes, The
Religion of Jesus the Jew (London: SCM, 1993).
See the demonstration in E. P. Sanders,
Paul and Palestinian Judaism (London: Scm, 1977). See also Sanders,
Judaism: Practice and Belief.
See Neusner's criticism (n. 26 above).
Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God
(see n. 1 above).
At a number of points I find Wright, Jesus
and the Victory of God , uncritical. See, for instance, his use of
the Sermon on the Mount, 287-292, the Lukan Nazareth manifesto, 179-180,
and the Jerusalem chapters of Mark, 489-510. The case for historicity is
not well established.
G. B. Caird, Jesus and the Jewish Nation
(London: Athlone, 1965); G. B. Caird and L. D. Hurst, New
Testament Theology (Oxford: OUP, 1994).
So Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God
, 320-368. There he cites his earlier work, Christian Origins and
the Question of God. Vol 1. The New Testament and the People of God
(Philadelphia: Fortress, 1992): "There is virtually no evidence
that Jews were expecting the end of the space-time universe. There
is abundant evidence that they . . . knew a good metaphor when they saw
one, and used comic imagery to bring out the full theological
significance of cataclysmic socio-political events (333; italics as in
original). Similarly Wright makes much use of the motif of return from
exile. I found this a disturbing feature of the book, because it occurs
constantly and frequently feels forced on the material of the gospels,
which do include related motifs but these are not all encompassed by
that image or necessarily connected with it as motif (eg. the dominant
motif, kingdom), however close its origins may be to the kind of hope
expressed in Isa 52:7. Wright's treatment of the Law issue is also
unsatisfactory: "All that the temple stood for was now available through
Jesus and his movement" (Jesus and the People of God, 436). This
is effectively a return to the problematic view that Jesus in fact
abrogated much of Torah and all the attendant difficulties which that
view has faced since the work of Sanders and others.
Meier, A Marginal Jew, Vol 1, 1.
see n. 2 above
This is especially so in his treatment of
Jesus' birth in the first volume and in treatment of miracles in the
See W. Loader, "Challenged at the Boundaries:
A Conservative Jesus in Mark's Tradition" JSNT 63 (1996) 45-61.
See also Meier. Marginal Jew Vol 1,
205-208 and generally on Jesus' stance see W. Loader, Jesus' Attitude
towards the Law. A Study of the Gospels. WUNT 2.97 (T�bingen:
Mohr-Siebeck, 1997) and also forthcoming: W. Loader, Jesus and the
Fundamentalism of his Day. Jesus, the Bible and the Church
(Melbourne: Joint Board of Christian Education, due late 1997 or early
E. Sch�ssler Fiorenza, Jesus. Miriam's
Child, Sophia's Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology
(London: SCM, 1994) focuses on the few sayings in Q which have Jesus
speak of Sophia (Wisdom) or in wisdom language, to argue a theology of
Jesus with God as Sophia, and of an egalitarian inclusiveness (women,
especially) related to a compassionate parent image of God, but now
overlaid by men's reporting, argued earlier in her In Memory of Her:
A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins (New
York: Crossroad, 1984). A strand like this is there and in different
ways it reappears in John (Logos and Wisdom Torah images, bread, light,
life) and Paul (firstborn, mediator of creation, image of God). The
issue of overlay is hard to assess � feasible, but what are the
controls? There may be a danger of ignoring less acceptable traditions �
what if Jesus does not reflect the ideal? Borg favours the sage approach
in his Meeting Jesus as does B. Witherington, The Jesus Quest:
The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth (Downers Grove: IVP, 1995).
See the discussion in N. A. Dahl, The
Crucified Messiah and Other Essays (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1974);
and "Messianic Ideas and the Crucifixion of Jesus," in J. H.
Charlesworth (ed.) The Messiah. Developments in Earliest Judaism and
Christianity (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1992) 382-403.
H. E. T�dt, The Son of Man in the Synoptic
Tradition (London; SCM, 1965); F. Hahn, The Titles of Jesus in
Christology (London: Lutterworth, 1969); A. Y. Collins, "The Origin
of the Designation of Jesus as 'Son of Man'," HTR 80 (1987)
Vermes, Jesus the Jew; B. Lindars,
Jesus Son of Man (London: SPCK, 1983); D. R. A. Hare, The Son of
Man tradition (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1990).