Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The "Corrected" Jesus

Looking through some old files, I found this one by Richard Hays. A Review essay: "The Corrected" Jesus of The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus. Edited by Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar. Macmillan. 576 pp.
It was one of the first reviews I read of the Jesus Seminar and their ambitious work on the gospels and Jesus. Hays' critique is devastating. Piece by piece the sections of their arguments begin to crumble. Hays writes that,
The distortion lies more in what is denied than in what is affirmed. The depiction of Jesus as a Cynic philosopher with no concern about Israel's destiny, no connection with the concerns and hopes that animated his Jewish contemporaries, no interest in the interpretation of Scripture, and no message of God's coming eschatological judgment is-quite simply-an ahistorical fiction, achieved by the surgical removal of Jesus from his Jewish context. The fabrication of a non-Jewish Jesus is one particularly pernicious side effect of the Jesus Seminar's methodology. One would have thought that the tragic events of our century might have warned us to be wary of biblical scholars who deny the Jewishness of Jesus.
If you haven't read this essay, and are not familiar with the work of the Seminar, it's an insightful and brilliant critique. This should not be taken as a rejection of all of the members work on Jesus. Many of them have provided good food for thought, and have made us weary of sterile assumptions. I can list many who have helped us all in their meticulous research and well reasoned positions. But this book [The Five Gospels], with it's method and results is clearly not worth the paper it's printed on.


Rafael Rodriguez said...

Thanks for this link; Hays's review is a good read. Relatedly, I find Crossan's work (esp. 'The Historical Jesus' [1991]) important and in many ways helpful for the inter-disciplinary perspective he brings. Yet, despite Crossan's care to eschew positivistic claims, the comment on the front of 'The Historical Jesus' - which I can only assume he approved - claims it to be 'The first comprehensive determination of who Jesus was, what he did, what he said.' I can't help but think Crossan is too intelligent and careful a scholar to actually think this of his book.

Loren Rosson III said...

I can't help but think Crossan is too intelligent and careful a scholar to actually think this of his book.

Crossan is, unfortunately, one of the most pretentious scholars in the field, and from the tone of the book I think he did believe the grandiose claim made on the cover.

Rafael Rodriguez said...

I don't know, Loren; maybe, but being pretentious isn't the same as being unintelligent. And Crossan does a good job pointing out the problems of objectivity and positivist historiography EVEN AS he pursues his project somewhat postivistically. This, I think, is one of the most problematic tensions pulling his book in multiple directions.