Introducing new students to Historical Jesus studies – 1

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by Neil Godfrey

friendsAnthony Le Donne drew our attention on The Jesus Blog to a book he highly recommended as an introduction to Jesus studies for his seminary students, Jesus among Friends and Enemies. Because Le Donne was fired back in 2012 by Lincoln Christian University over his book The Historiographical Jesus in which he argued for a way of studying the gospels that would lead us to conclude that not everything they say about Jesus was necessarily so, and because Le Donne continues to be associated with what many see as groundbreaking critical historical research into the historical Jesus, I could not resist learning more about a book he highly recommends for beginning students.

Le Donne writes:

The introduction by Chris Keith should be required reading for every seminary student.

The introduction indeed turned out to be an eye-opener.

Here is how the authors of the Preface (presumably Chris Keith and Larry Hurtado) preceding that introduction introduce Jesus studies to new students.

First, I need to point out that the book attempts to do two things and it is the first of these that most interested me:

[T]he first half of each chapter presents what scholars can know about [Jesus and other characters in the gospels] from the broad historical record and the contexts of Jesus and the early church.

The second half of each chapter then turns to consider the portrayals of that character or group of characters in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 

The Preface further bluntly points out that the book “is not a historical Jesus book”, however,

we are nevertheless convinced that its primary focus is relevant to certain discussions in historical Jesus research. . . . [T]he approach of this book can be the first step on a path that leads to studying the historical Jesus and the nature of the Gospels as historical narratives. (My own bolding and formatting in all quotations)

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