I responded to a comment on a recent post about the historical Jesus, and thought I’d share what I wrote in a separate post, to see if it generates more discussion.
There is a common misunderstanding about the plurality of “Jesuses.” This simply shows that there are a lot of people working in the field – nothing more. When a field of history is vibrant, scholars, needing to come up with something new and worthy of publication, will try to come up with new ways of configuring and interpreting evidence. But not every proposal becomes part of a scholarly consensus. To make much of this would be as mistaken as the attempt by creationists to point to exciting science headlines which contradict one another, or which did not pan out under further scrutiny, as though it invalidates those things which scientists consider to be relatively clear and agree about.
I also think that talking about “Biblical” accounts, as though the later decision to incorporate texts into something called a “Bible” makes them historically useless, is problematic. Nor does the fact that there is material in them that is judged unreliable by historians make them any less useful than other texts about which the same judgment would be passed. It is difficult, but we must strive to not give these texts special treatment – either especially favorable or especially hostile – merely on the basis of the fact that they came to be important to particular groups of people.