A Word to the Wise: Scholars seek to unearth 'historical' Jesus with book

By: Tom Rupp
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For the Christian, Christmas is a time when we think of the advent of Jesus. I know the celebration that we call Christmas has pagan roots and that Jesus has nothing to do with Dec. 25. Yes, many Christians have taken this celebration and co-opted it for their own purposes. I have a cultural affinity for instance for the manger scene, lights and decorated tree for starters. That’s OK with me. Speaking of Jesus, I recently read “The Historical Jesus — Five Views,” published by InterVarsity Press. Five scholars present varying views concerning the historicity of Jesus. After each view is defended by a contributor, each of the other four offers a response. The five scholars are Robert Price, John Dominic Crossan, Luke Timothy Johnson, James D. G. Dunn and Darrell Bock. They represent views that span the subject from “there never was a historical Jesus” (Price) to “the Jesus of history is the Christ of faith” (Bock). I do not have enough space in this column to write a full review so I will post one on my blog. I would like to say, though, that the introduction is an excellent and brief 50-page treatment on the “history of the quest for the historical Jesus.” It covers relative unknowns as well as the “big guns” such as Albert Schweitzer and Robert Funk of the Jesus Seminar. Ten years ago I read Funk’s book on the topic titled “Honest to Jesus.” In it he proclaims, “The quest of the historical Jesus is in the spirit of Homer’s Odysseus and Arthur’s knights of the Round Table. It is a quest for the Holy Grail of truth.” The April issue of Christianity Today contains Scot McKnight’s article titled “The Jesus We’ll Never Know.” He asserts that “historical Jesus scholars reconstruct what is in effect a fifth gospel” and that “there is an irreducible futility in the historical Jesus enterprise.” These studies provide an appropriate context for faith, not a substitute for it. I recommend “The Historical Jesus” to anyone who is interested in a civil interchange of scholarly ideas on the subject. Reading books such as these do not interest everyone. Perhaps you instead would like to read four other brief books that bear the names of their authors — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They are the four gospels and they tell the life-changing story of Jesus of Nazareth. Tom Rupp is a Bible teacher at Capital Bible College. He can be reached by e-mail at or through his blog at