For Jesus, the deeds that he does —healings, exorcisms, preaching to the poor—are all signs that God is becoming king and that Israel’s hopes for restoration are really, visibly, and tangibly happening. In other words, victory is on the horizon. The constellation of hopes associated with Israel’s restoration, of which Isaiah contributed much much to, included items like the advent of a messianic king, a new exodus, the return of the dispersed tribes to Israel, the pilgrimage of the Gentiles to Jerusalem, the defeat of national enemies, the rebuilding of the temple, Yahweh’s visitation to Zion, and the return to covenant righteousness, and all of these can be coordinated with the program and preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. This was his gospel, his declaration.
The Gospel of the Lord: How the Early Church Wrote the Story of Jesus. 15
In various part of the New Testament, notably in the epistles of Paul, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Gospel and Epistles of John, we have a theological edifice constructed upon this plan. The style of building differs considerably. The theology of Paul, of John, and of the author to the Hebrews, though based upon a common tradition of the centre, is far from uniform. As church architecture, based upon a universal general plan, may show the various characteristics of Romanesque, Gothic or Baroque, so each of these theologians builds after his own style. It is a great merit of modern critical study of the New Testament that it has made us appreciate the individuality of the great theologians of the apostolic age, and the rich diversity of their teaching. The question now before us is this: Granted that each of these early thinkers followed the general tradition embodied in the apostolic kerygma, and faithfully conserved its main outline, have they anything in common beyond the bare outline? To put it otherwise, given the ground-plan, and the majestic buildings erected to its pattern, can we find a substructure—a part of the actual edifice—which is common to them all, or are the several buildings individually different from the foundation up?
Some reviewers have accused me of undue affection for the historical critical method. To that I merely reply, mea culpa. I am well aware, of course, that the use (or abuse) of the critical method has been destructive for some, resulting in depreciation of Scripture and loss of faith. For me the opposite have proved true. It has been the historical critical method that has sustained my faith and deepened my devotion to the New Testament, the book I have spent my life attempting to understand and teach.
History of New Testament Research, vol. 3: 3-4.
In some circles, the historical critical method is demonized and blamed for all sorts of interpretative evils. Sadly, I have witnessed this first hand on a number of occasions. The phrase is thrown around like a curse word, and the last thing you want to be caught doing is playing nice with this method.
I find Baird’s wonderful affirmation the historical critical method to be a breath of fresh air. While it may be true that some people have loss their faith due to this method, it is also true that people have loss their faith using the historical grammatical method and other methods as well. I do not blame the method for these tragic apostasies; rather, there is something else going on—something much deeper—in the heart of one who loses their faith in the Son of God.
“And when matters were at that point that they should come and be baptized, some one of our enemies, entering the temple with a few men, began to cry out, and to say, ‘What mean ye, O men of Israel? Why are you so easily hurried on? Why are ye led headlong by most miserable men, who are deceived by Simon, a magician?’ While he was thus speaking, and adding more to the same effect, and while James the bishop was refuting him, he began to excite the people and to raise a tumult, so that the people might not be able to hear what was said. Therefore he began to drive all into confusion with shouting, and to undo what had been arranged with much labour, and at the same time to reproach the priests, and to enrage them with revilings and abuse, and, like a madman, to excite every one to murder, saying, ‘What do ye? Why do ye hesitate? Oh, sluggish and inert, why do we not lay hands upon them, and pull all these fellows to pieces?’ When he had said this, he first, seizing a strong brand from the altar, set the example of smiting. Then others also, seeing him, were carried away with like madness. Then ensued a tumult on either side, of the beating and the beaten. Much blood is shed; there is a confused flight, in the midst of which that enemy attacked James, and threw him headlong from the top of the steps; and supposing him to be dead, he cared not to inflict further violence upon him.”
“But our friends lifted him up, for they were both more numerous and more powerful than the others; but, from their fear of God, they rather suffered themselves to be killed by an inferior force, than they would kill others. But when the evening came the priests shut up the temple, and we returned to the house of James, and spent the night there in prayer. Then before daylight we went down to Jericho, to the number of 5000 men. Then after three days one of the brethren came to us from Gamaliel, whom we mentioned before, bringing to us secret tidings that that enemy had received a commission from Caiaphas, the chief priest, that he should arrest all who believed in Jesus, and should go to Damascus with his letters, and that there also, employing the help of the unbelievers, he should make havoc among the faithful; and that he was hastening to Damascus chiefly on this account, because he believed that Peter had fled thither. And about thirty days thereafter he stopped on his way while passing through Jericho going to Damascus. At that time we were absent, having gone out to the sepulchres of two brethren which were whitened of themselves every year, by which miracle the fury of many against us was restrained, because they saw that our brethren were had in remembrance before God.”
Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions 1.70-71
Note the allusion to Acts 9 and Paul’s travels to Damascus. This is most likely not a historical account of what happened, but it is interesting nonetheless.
Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” and let not that which comes from the ungodly be received by you, nor let that which is done by the godly be disannulled by a second. For as there is one God, one Christ, and one Comforter, and one death of the Lord in the body, so let that baptism which is unto Him be but one. But those that receive polluted baptism from the ungodly will become partners in their opinions. For they are not priests. For God says to them: “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from the office of a priest to me.” Nor indeed are those that are baptized by them initiated, but are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but the bond of impiety. And, besides, they that attempt to baptize those already initiated crucify the Lord afresh, slay Him a second time, laugh at divine and ridicule holy things, affront the Spirit, dishonour the sacred blood of Christ as common blood, are impious against Him that sent, Him that suffered, and Him that witnessed. Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: “Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.” And again: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” But he that says, When I am dying I will be baptized, lest I should sin and defile my baptism, is ignorant of God, and forgetful of his own nature. For “do not thou delay to turn unto the Lord, for thou knowest not what the next day will bring forth.” Do you also baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God. For says He: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not” (6.3.15).
[T]he history that is reported in the gospel narratives, as histories, is put within the framework of synchronic relations emerging as a coherent story. The time is over when the gospels were regarded as mere collections of formal units, as “Perikopenbücher”, like beautiful pearls held together only by the thread of the necklace. Today we see the necklace as a piece of art in itself; and the individual pearls, no matter how beautifully designed each of them appears to be, are closely related to make up a compositional and semantic whole. There are historical items; there is history, but history has become story; it has become present.
Story as History, History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History: 3.
Faith is not an alternative human achievement nor a refined human spirituality, but a declaration of bankruptcy, a radical and shattering recognition that the only capital in God’s economy is the gift of Christ crucified and risen.
Paul and the Gift: 383-84.