Several other bloggers who are participating in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus blog tour which I previously mentioned would be taking place have already posted their contributions for today. Here’s mine.
I suppose that the title was the hook that initially lured me in – reminiscent as it is of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. And it turned out to be a volume that could very well have (copyright issues permitting) carried the label “Don’t Panic!” on the front. This is a book about exploring the intersection of faith and scholarship, and about learning to live with ambiguity and uncertainty. The first reaction of many people of faith when confronted with critical Biblical scholarship is indeed panic. And so Fisk’s sharing of such reactions, and description of the discovery of a better way, it refreshing and helpful.
The book is very different from any other textbook I have encountered in this field in one major respect more than any other: It introduces academic scholarly methods, concerns and issues through the medium of fiction. In know some other bloggers have mentioned Gerd Theissen’s The Shadow of the Galilean as comparable, but that is fiction set in the time of Jesus, whereas this is fiction set in our own time. Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus tells the story of Norm, a student who visits Israel/Palestine hopeful that the experience will shed some light on the questions that puzzle him regarding the historical figure of Jesus.
I find myself having a special appreciation for what Fisk offers in his book, not only because I can relate to Norm’s experience (as I expect many professors and students will be able to) but also because the experience of my own first visit to Israel/Palestine is fresh in my mind. I vividly recall walking the same streets and visiting the same sites as Norm, and pondering many of the same questions. And as I look ahead to my plans to travel there with students for the first time in May 2012, I am seriously considering using A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Jesus as one of the assigned readings for the course, since I am sure that at least a significant number of the students who go on the trip will themselves wrestle with Norm’s questions, follow in his footsteps, and hopefully, benefit from his example.
I am planning to blog through more of the details of the book over the course of the next several days. A single blog post won’t do justice to it.