Craig Keener on the Historical Jesus

I have read a number of books on the so-called “Historical” Jesus. Most of these works spent a good amount of time explaining how me must be suspicious of the sources used to investigate Jesus. By the time you finish reading a work on Jesus you are left with no real answers as to who he is. Sure, there are speculations (prophet, cynic, messiah, etc.). But what is missing is the theological impact of Christ. There is the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith, never the faithful, historical Jesus Christ.
Anyways, all of that to say that just after reading a few pages in Craig Keener’s “The Historical Jesus of the Gospels” I was left feeling for the first time that the primary sources about Jesus can be trusted. While it is indicative that we thoroughly investigate these sources, we can nevertheless trust them as reliable testimony about Jesus. It is like water for a parched man to read such things.

3 thoughts on “Craig Keener on the Historical Jesus

  1. I have mixed feelings about historical Jesus study. I have felt, too, that this field is frustrating for gaining a coherent, unified view of Jesus without hacking up all the sources, though what I know about the ‘apocalyptic prophet’ school seems to be most promising. At the same time, however, any critical look at the gospels or the simple use of a synopsis is sure to raise historical questions. This, in turn, leads to questions of what material is authentic. I think it is too simplistic to take everything as authentic, given the differences between the gospels (though I wouldn’t find it necessary to be as critical as most historical Jesus scholars are), and trying to harmonize them undermines the integrity of the individual writings. Thus, I think you must either investigate the theology of the gospel in question or investigate it historically. If you mix the two, then you’re either going to come to very limited theological conclusions (too much historical hacking), or you’re not going to fully apply historical methodology (not asking critical enough questions or harmonizing to readily).

    • Drew
      My only concern with an either/or approach is that you are by default causing an unnecessary split in how we interpret the text. I do not think it possible to study the theology of the gospels without historical investigation getting involved in the duscussion and vice versa.

      • You’re right; I was vague. I meant to separate historical Jesus study, which tries to get behind the theology of the Gospels, from theological description of the Gospels. So, yeah, historical and theological questions go together in the sense that exegesis is informed by historical questions, but I’m just saying it seems like mixing historical Jesus stuff and exegetical/theological stuff isn’t very profitable. I hope that clarifies; I’m really tired.

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