The twentieth and current centuries have paraded countless pictures of Jesus before an impressionable public. If we have learned anything of all this, it is that the available evidence, cautiously and sympathetically evaluated, will in all probability always lend itself to a range of possible views of Jesus: the Jewish martyr, the unworldly sage, the failed rebel, the messianic Son of God.
This problem has of course been with us from the beginning. Even in the first century there were various ways of interpreting Jesus of Nazareth. Nevertheless, it is also true that all the New Testament witnesses agree on the fundamental identity of the one about whom they speak. To the question, “Which Jesus?” apostolic Christian preaching gave the answer: This Jesus, the one who was crucified under Pontius Pilate, who is also the one whom God raised and thereby powerfully vindicated. “Therefore let the entire house of Israel know with certainty that God has made Him both Lord and Messiah, this Jesus whom you crucified” (Acts 2:36).
Different views of Jesus continue to be possible or even plausible, and on the historical level there can be legitimate disagreement about how best to interpret the evidence. But, although we cannot go back far enough to find a Jesus of history who is not already a Jesus of his interpreter’s faith or unbelief, we do have the pictures of Jesus as seen and experienced by apostolic Christianity. This book seeks to show that the Christ who emerges in the faith of the New Testament churches stands in a causal and organic continuity with Jesus of Nazareth.