InterVarsity Press kindly sent me a free review copy of The Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy (IVP Academic, 2009), with contributions by Robert M. Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D. G. Dunn and Darrell L. Bock. I have been looking forward to reading this book for some time, and am glad that the summer has finally afforded me the opportunity.
The book’s introduction does a good job of introducing readers who may not be familiar with the history of study of the Jesus of history to the field and its key methods and issues. Key questions old and new are highlighted, such as whether it is best to start with the “big picture” or to focus in the first instance in assessing the authenticity of individual pieces of the puzzle; what Jesus meant by the “kingdom of God” and whether his predictions regarding it mean he was mistaken; continuity and discontinuity between Jesus and Judaism on the one hand and Jesus and Christianity on the other; and whether the diverse portraits that scholars have put forward are an embarrassing evidence of the failure of historical research into the figure of Jesus, or a wonderful opportunity to debate and discuss not only the conclusions themselves, but also the methods used to arrive at them, thereby hopefully achieving a greater measure of methodological precision and sophistication.
My plan is to set aside individual blog posts for chapters and the responses to them. I have been particularly eager to read Robert Price’s chapter (which is up next!) since I have often been told by mythicists that however many other earlier works by mythicists I had read and found unpersuasive (if not a complete waste of time), if I had not read some of these most recent ones, I still had not “done my homework” adequately. And so I approached Price’s chapter with a mixture of enthusiasm and skepticism. What was my impression? Stay tuned!