HT to Jim West for announcing this forthcoming book from Equinox Press, ‘Is This Not The Carpenter?’ The Question of the Historicity of Jesus, edited by Thomas L. Thompson and Tom Verenna.
Here’s the table of contents provided by the publisher:
Introduction: Thomas L. Thompson and Thomas Verenna
Into the Well of Historical Jesus Scholarship
1. Roland Boer (University of Newcastle) – The German Pestilence: Re-assessing Feuerbach, Strauss and Bauer
2. Jim West (Quartz Hill School of Theology) – A Very, Very Short Introduction to Minimalism
3. Lester L. Grabbe (University of Hull) – “Jesus Who is Called Christ”: References to Jesus Outside Christian Sources
4. Niels Peter Lemche (University of Copenhagen) – The Grand Inquisitor and Christ: Why the Church Doesn’t Want Jesus
5 Emanuel Pfoh (PhD student) – Jesus and the Mythic Mind: An Epistemological Problem
Paul and Early Christianity: Historical and Exegetical Investigations
6 Robert M. Price (Johnnie Colemon Theological Seminary) – Does the Christ Myth Theory Require an Early Date for the Pauline Epistles?
7. Mogens Müller (University of Copenhagen) – Paul: The Oldest Witness to the Historical Jesus
8. Thomas S. Verenna – Born Under the Law: Intertextuality and the Question of the Historicity of the Figure of Jesus in Paul’s Epistles
The Rewritten Bible and the Life of Jesus
9. James Crossley (University of Sheffield) – Can John’s Gospel Really Be Used to Reconstruct a Life of Jesus? An Assessment of Recent Trends and a Defence of a Traditional View
10. Thomas L. Thompson – Psalm 72 and Mark 1:12-13: Mythic Evocation in Narratives of the Good King
11. Ingrid Hjelm (University of Copenhagen) “Who is my Neighbor?” Implicit Use of Old Testament Stories and Motifs in Luke’s Gospel
12. Joshua Sabih (University of Copenhagen) – Born Isa and Baptized Jesus: The Quranic Narratives about Isa
13. K. L. Noll (Brandon University) – Investigating Earliest Christianity Without Jesus
I’m intrigued, both by the contents which seem to indicate that the book will reflect a variety of viewpoints and include contributions by excellent scholars, and by the description, which may be an attempt by the publisher to generate hype but nevertheless remains problematic:
For some time, New Testament scholarship, particularly in its conservative and evangelical wings, have avoided direct questions regarding the historicity of Jesus. Many have followed Rudolf Bultmann, who had suggested that “The Jesus Christ who is God’s Son, a pre-existent divine being, is at the same time a certain historical person, Jesus of Nazareth…” (1941). This has become a mantra, which, today, is accepted and hardly questioned by most scholars, who, accordingly, have lost sight of the context of the literature of the New Testament, ignoring the theological emulations, allusions, and edifying functions of many of the Gospel narratives, the epistles, pastorals, and the book of Revelation. The presupposition of historicity supports an historical interpretation of the texts and makes alternative explanations for allegories, edifications, eponyms and allusions unnecessary. With the assumption of such figures as Jesus, Paul and the disciples as historical, significant intentions which are implicit to our texts are frequently ignored or misunderstood and whole subtexts are created which might never have existed in the pastWe are faced with an endless production of works on the historical Jesus, without a clear engagement of historical methods and little discussion of the central question of the function of these texts. This study presents a dialogue, which raises the question of historicity directly, much as the so-called Copenhagen school successfully raised similar questions as to the historicity of the figures of the patriarchs and other origin traditions of the Hebrew Bible. The volume questions of the value of current trends of historical Jesus scholarship, presents a new perspective regarding the exegesis of the books of the New Testament (and primarily Paul as our “earliest testimony” to the figure of Jesus) and outlines the implications of the literary function of the rewritten Bible.
The problem I had immediately with this brief description on the publisher’s web site is that it simply is not the case (except for the conversatives mentioned at the beginning) that the view that Jesus existed results in scholars having “lost sight of the context of the literature of the New Testament.” Neither has it resulted in us “ignoring the theological emulations, allusions, and edifying functions of many of the Gospel narratives, the epistles, pastorals, and the book of Revelation.” Mainstream scholarship which concludes that there was a historical Jesus is chock full of recognitions of material as spurious, ahistorical, of dubious or uncertain historicity, allegorical, “Scripture historicized,” and so on. It is certainly a false antithesis to suggest that there are only two camps – those who uncritically accept the historicity of Jesus and all stories about him, and those whose critical scholarship leads them to conclude that Jesus is a fictional character. There is a full spectrum in between, and there have been plenty of scholars (like Bultmann, who gets mentioned) who concluded that the Gospels are full of legendary and fictional material, and that it nonetheless makes sense to view the legends and fictions as things that arose from or are based on an actual historical figure.
Be that as it may, I hope I’ll have the opportunity to read and review the book. It certainly looks intriguing!