Eerdmans’ Excellent “Jesus Research” 2-Volumes (Gupta)

JRIn early 2014 I received a two-volume set from Eerdmans called Jesus Research (2009, edited by Charlesworth and Pokorny; 2014, edited by Charlesworth with B. Rhea and Pokorny). These two volumes come from the first and second “Princeton-Prague Symposium on Jesus Research” and boast essays by conference speakers such as Craig Evans, Klaus Haaker, Ulrich Luz, Stan Porter, Jens Schroeter, Gerd Theissen, Dale Allison, Richard Bauckham, Darrell Bock, Bruce Chilton, Kathy Ehrensperger, Peter Flint, Richard Horsley, Craig Keener, Werner Kelber, D. Moody Smith, Geza Vermes, and Bob Webb (and many, many more). Between the two volumes there are more than fifty chapters!

Why is it called “Jesus Research”? This is how the conference participants (and particularly Charlesworth) characterize the current phase of Jesus studies. He explains that he dislikes the word “quest” for a number of reasons, not least is that there are several Jewish scholars who have contributed to Jesus studies in recent years and have no interest in seeking to know Jesus as savior. Thus, to call it “Jesus Research” recognizes that many scholars studying Jesus are not driven by theological claims or concerns. Here are some highlights from this set:

Stan Porter, “A Dead End or a New Beginning? Examining the Criteria for Authenticity in Light of Albert Schweitzer” – Porter makes the important point that Schweitzer was more constructive than many scholars acknowledge regarding historical Jesus study.

Jens Schroeter, “Jesus of Galilee: The Role of Location in Understanding Jesus” – Schroeter argues that we should not overplay geographic politics setting Galilean Jesus against the political agenda of Antipas. Jesus was primarily in debate with the Pharisees.

Geza Vermes, “Reflections on Improving Methodology in Jesus Research” – this is a great, candid set of reflections. Basically, Vermes thinks the authenticity criteria are seriously flawed.

Stan Porter, “How Do We Know What We Know: Methodological Reflections on Jesus Research.” Love this paragraph

One of the major factors to consider in discussing the criteria for historical Jesus research is the simple fact that, so far as I can tell, very little of what we might identify as criteria for authenticity has made its way into the larger field of historical studies. Michael Grant, a historian of antiquity, uses the criteria in his book on Jesus, but he does not appear to use them anywhere else in his historical studies– at least explicitly, as he does in his book on Jesus. This raises the question of legitimacy of the criteria as defined by what they purport to do, insofar as they are used within a historically based discipline. (2014, p. 88).

James Charlesworth and Mordechai Aviam, “Reconstructing First-Century Galilee: Reflections on Ten Major Problems.” Deals with important questions like what constituted a synagogue pre-67were there tensions between Galileans and Judeans, and How Jewish was Galilee?

Sean Freyne, “Reimagining Jesus in His Culture: Reflections on Some Recent Scholarly Byways.” Again, great candid self-reflection.

Dale Allison, “Jesus and Apocalyptic Eschatology.” Was Jesus an apocalyptic prophet?

On my view, if Jesus promoted such an eschatology, if the future he imagined included eschatological tribulation, resurrection, humanity’s appearance before God’s tribunal, and supernatural repair of the world, and if in addition he reckoned those things to be near, and if those expectations were near the center of his message and self-conception, then he was an apocalyptic prophet (2014, p. 218)

I could go on and on, but perhaps this is enough to whet your appetite.

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