"Where do we begin Historical Jesus research?"


Mark Goodacre over at NT Pod had just put out a twenty-minute podcast outlining three different approaches to the historical Jesus by three prominent NT scholars (N.T. ‘Tom’ Wright, E.P. ‘Ed’ Sanders, and John Dominic Crossan).

Basically, it’s all about the question of what to use as the starting point when trying to study the historical Jesus. There’s Ed Sanders’ approach (Jesus and Judaism), which is to gather all the undisputed key facts about Jesus’ life (e.g., Jesus was a Galilean Jew, Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus gathered disciples, Jesus had some run-ins with the authorities, Jesus was crucified) and then extrapolate something out of them. There’s also the Jesus Seminar type of approach, refined by John Dominic Crossan (The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant), which consists of looking at and analyzing various sayings of Jesus (“Blessed are the poor,” etc.) and using them to reconstruct a picture of the Man. Then there’s also Tom Wright’s method (Jesus and the Victory of God), which is simply to lay all the available data from the synoptics (without worrying first whether something is ‘authentic’ or not) and then try to work them into one’s synthesis of the historical Jesus.


I think this is a good starting point.




I’d be interested in this, too. Coming from agnosticism back to Catholicism is a bit of a jolt. I’ve gone from reading bits of Hitchens and Dawkins, Erhman and Carrier to straight scripture reading, mainly because all of the burning, pointed questions I had as an agnostic no longer matter much to me anymore. Still, I should think God would wish me to be somewhat educated on what the Catholic Church believes about the scriptures and Jesus Himself as a historical figure, if only to help or enlighten others. I’ve been at a loss to explain to my priest as to what I am looking for exactly. I’ll start with that article, Edwest. Thank you.


The Gospels.

Jesus of Nazareth – Pope Benedict XVI


Glad to help.



In case anyone is interested, here are some helpful books I’ve found:

Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary G. Michuta
Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300-1700 by Scott W. Hahn

Good books from Protestant scholars aimed at the general reader and refuting the claims of the current host of atheists:
Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels by Craig A. Evans
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig L. Blomberg

Recent archaeology:
Jesus and His World: The Archaeological Evidence by Craig A. Evans

For true biblical scholarship, here are some of the more important ones:

Judaism and Hellenism by Martin Hengel - explains why Hellenism did not creep into the dogmas or scriptures
Memory and Manuscript with Tradition and Transmission in Early Christianity by Birger Gerhardsson - a very famous book that first argued in favor of oral scripture. The Second Temple Jews, for the most part, believed oral scripture the equal of written scripture. And guess what! The early Catholic church believed in scripture and tradition. What a coincidence! Gerhardsson explains how oral transmission was, indeed, reliable. Take that, Bultmann!
Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition by Paul Rhodes Eddy and Gregory A. Boyd - good book that refutes the arguments of the Jesus is a myth, Jesus was really Osiris, and Jesus was yet another. dying-and-rising god. If you haven’t been trapped someplace with a college boy full of beer and arguing in favor of this, you haven’t visited a university campus lately.
The Bauer Thesis Examined: The Geography of Heresy in the Early Christian Church by Thomas A. Robinson -argues against the early-Christianity-was-diverse theory of Bauer, Pagels, and Ehrman.

We are in desperate, desperate need of Catholic biblical scholars. Even the briefest brush with early Catholic literature such as 1 Clement and the letters of Ignatius of Antioch should squash most atheist biblical scholars. But where are the scholars arguing this? Where?

God bless, hope someone is interested in this, Johnwl


Not just “Historical Jesus” but biblical history from Moses to Christ. It appalls me just how unprepared we are in rebutting supercilious skeptics and ignorant agnostics on the historicity of scripture.

Actually, this is an area where Catholics and Protestants should work together. Catholics are pretty good when it comes to the Church Fathers. Protestants have produced some top-notch chronologists.


Good Recommendations. I would add “Books and Readers in the Early Church” by Harry Gamble, and “The Earliest Christian Artifacts” by Larry Hurtado.


Wow, thanks! That’s very helpful. I’ll look into these.


To the reference works given already, there are:

The Founding of Christendom, A History of Christendom, Vol.1, Dr Warren H Carroll, Christendom Publications, 1985.

The Consciousness of Christ, Fr William G Most, Christendom College Press, 1980.
Readable on line at The Father William Most Collection: Browse by Title:

The Hebrew Christ, Claude Tresmontant, Franciscan Herald press, 1989.

The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, Servant Books, 1983.


I’d recommend anything by Larry Hurtado. There’s also his One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism and Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. :wink:


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