Toward the end of the Enlightenment, a fascination with providing a historical account of the life of Jesus arose among academics. This fascination remains alive and well today. Scholars have identified three separate “quests” for the historical Jesus, with the third beginning in the 1990s and continuing today. Adding to this academic effort now comes The Historical Jesus: Five Views, from some of the most prominent Jesus scholars of our day. After a scene-setting introduction by the editors that establishes a helpful context for the arguments to come, prominent figures in the Jesus quest set forth their positions and respond to their fellow scholars.
A healthy range of views are presented throughout the book, giving readers a comprehensive taste of this long-standing debate, situated within its proper context. On one end Robert M. Price lucidly maintains that the probability of Jesus' existence has reached the “vanishing point,” while on the other, Darrell Bock ably argues that while critical method yields only a “gist” of Jesus, it does in fact take us in the direction of the Gospel portraits. And between these two extremes are numerous avenues to explore, questions to ask, and “assured results” to weigh. Scholars John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, and James D. G. Dunn probe these issues with formidable knowledge and insight, filling out a further range of options.
The Historical Jesus: Five Views provides readers a unique opportunity to sit in on a virtual seminar on the historical Jesus. The argument and response format of this text breathes life into the debate while offering unique entry into the Jesus quest. For both the classroom and personal study, this is a book that prods, intrigues, and stretches its reader.
“I will argue that it is quite likely there never was any historical Jesus” (Page 55)
“Culminating the old quest: Wrede and Schweitzer. As the nineteenth century drew to a close, the critical quest had left in its wake a wonderfully ‘liberal’ Jesus—a Jesus stripped of the more unenlightened entanglements associated with the Gospels and Christian orthodoxy such as miracles and divine status. This Jesus was a moral reformer to be sure, a teacher who revealed the fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of humankind, and the simple tenets of a reasonable, love-based religion. This Jesus, elaborated by such theological giants as Albrecht Ritschl and Adolf von Harnack, could still appeal to an enlightened European culture.” (Page 19)
“It is, in summary, that clash between the nonviolent historical Jesus and the violent apocalyptic Jesus that convinces me that the former was an actual and factual person. If those earliest Christians were inventing him as a parable person, they would not have needed to invent two divergent parable persons. What they needed to do was to invent a non-historical Jesus, namely that violent and apocalyptic Jesus, who would return soon and rescue them (us) from their (our) inability to live by, with and like that historical Jesus.” (Page 88)
“While form criticism focuses on the question of the pre-Gospel oral Jesus tradition, it brought with it (particularly in Bultmann’s influential version) several methodological assumptions that served to further amplify skeptical attitudes toward the Gospels as historical sources. Among these was the conviction that the Gospels were a mixture of historically rooted tradition and early Christian mythology reflecting the post-Easter faith.” (Page 22)
Beilby and Eddy, along with their authors, are to be commended for a job well done. I thoroughly enjoyed and highly recommend this book.
—Robert B. Stewart, director, Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum in Faith and Culture, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary
James K. Beilby and Paul Rhodes Eddy succeed not only in identifying the major trends, but also in bringing to the surface some of the assumptions in current historical Jesus research. They offer a sympathetic review of some of the major exponents of Jesus research from Reimarus up to the present day.
—Pieter F. Craffert, profesor of New Testament and Early Christian Studies, University of South Africa
The Historical Jesus is a worthwhile addition to your library if you are a scholar, pastor, or layperson with particular interest in the intersection of the Jesus of history with the Christ of Christian faith.
—Tawa J. Anderson, assistant professor of philosophy, Oklahoma Baptist University
With the Logos edition, The Historical Jesus: Five Views will link with your library's wealth of modern and historical encyclopedias, dictionaries, and other resources. This fully indexed text enables near-instant search results for words, people, places, and ideas, while Scripture references appear on mouseover in your preferred translation. With the most efficient and comprehensive research tools all in one place, you can deepen your study with just a few clicks.
Paul Rhodes Eddy is professor of theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His books include John Hick's Pluralist Philosophy of World Religions, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology , and Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views.
James K. Beilby is professor of systematic and philosophical theology at Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota. His books include Why Bother With Truth?, The Meaning of the Atonement: Four Views, Naturalism Defeated?, and For Faith and Clarity. His articles and essays have appeared in such publications as Faith and Philosophy, Philosophia Christi, International Journal for Philosophy of Religion, and Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society.