Paul Foster’s Grenade in the Playground of Historical Jesus Studies

My good friend Dr. Paul Foster (Edinburgh Uni) has chuzpah! He’s just thrown down the gauntlet to a lot of historical Jesus scholarship with an article so provocative that it is like, metaphorically speaking, slapping someone in the face with a velvet glove and in the glove are several ball bearings!

In the latest issue of Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 10.3 (2012), Paul Foster’s piece is: “Memory, Orality, and the Fourth Gospel: Three Dead-Ends in Historical Jesus Research,” 191-27. Here is the blurb:

Three recent approaches to historical Jesus studies are assessed in this article. First, the use of memory studies as a means of validating the historical authenticity of Gospel traditions. Secondly, claims that Gospel traditions should be understood as primarily reaching the evangelists orally, and that this process provides greater confidence in the historicity of such traditions. Thirdly, the Fourth Gospel is seen in some quarters as an important source in historical Jesus research based upon new paradigms and radical redefinitions of historicity. Contrary to such claims, here it is argued that for a series of different reasons that none of these methods offers any significant advance in accessing the ‘historical Jesus’, as that term is usually understood. This is not to say that the methods are without value. Rather, it is the over-confident application of such approaches to the ‘historical Jesus question’ that is critiqued. This is especially the case when it is claimed that they provide a key methodological break-through, enabling reclamation of more Gospel traditions as being securely founded in the ministry of the historical Jesus.

I wonder what Crossley, Keith, Le Donne, Rodriguez, and Goodacre have to say about this.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Bill Heroman

    One of these days, we’re going to get past trying to settle on certainty in historicity, and just proceed *anyway* towards spending more time on the other two thirds of what historiography calls for: analyzing Gospel material for implications about Jesus’ life and reconstructing more fleshed out scenarios, albeit with conditional validity, depending on historicity.

    I’m tired of conservative scholarship always playing defense. Let’s make historiography on the Gospels offensive!

    • No More Mythology

      You can’t. It is illogical and irrational to claim historicity upon your bible just as it is illogical and irrational to base historicity upon the Iliad and the Odyssey; the idea of a 6,000 year old earth, Adam and Eve, a talking snake, and a mythical god sound no different to me than an angry Zeus and Poseiden, cyclops, and sorcery.

      • Bill Heroman

        Wow. It’s working already.

  • No More Mythology

    This explains the “historicity” of Jesus…

    • Dan Hayter

      Sorry, but that article’s method basically brushes away the whole of ancient history. Doubting the accuracy of the Gospel stories is one thing (you will find plenty of scholars who do that), but doubting the existence historicity of Jesus, at least with the poor arguments and methods of that article, is simply dishonest.

  • r.holmgren

    Your friend, Dr. Paul needs to meet Jesus, develop a healed and forgiven relationship with Him and then choose something more profitable to do with his mind.

    I fear that, “Get away from Me. I never knew you,” is looming large in the good Dr.’s future.

  • anthony

    Chris Keith responds to Foster over at the Jesus Blog.