I’m going to continue the book reviews for one more week, at least for a little while (book reviews will continue to be a major part of the blog) with a book written in the mid-1990s. This book’s title is “The Real Jesus: The Misguided Quest for the Historical Jesus and the Truth of the Traditional Gospels” by Luke Timothy Johnson, one of the most popular biblical scholars working today. This book is his response to the “The Five Gospels” and other reports put out by the Jesus Seminar.
I’m sure many of you are aware, but in the late 1980s a group of scholars led by Robert Funk declared themselves the “Jesus Seminar” and had discussions where they decided what “Jesus really said,” in the Gospels. As Johnson points out time and again, this was not as much about scholarship as about press and publicity…making sure the press was informed with everything that was happening, using colored beads for people to vote, etc.
The first several chapters of the book are Johnson critiquing the members of the Jesus Seminar, and he does not pull any punches or make apologies for what he writes. He does this by taking their words, found in a multitude of newspaper and magazine articles, and points out the hypocrisies and false scholarship in the (Jesus) Seminar.
This next quotation is from the Booklist book review on “The Real Jesus,” and also provides a good basis for what the rest of the book is about: Johnson’s views on the limitations to trying to find the “real Jesus.”
“Behind Johnson’s dismissive attitude toward the media and his ad hominem attack on Seminar founder Robert Funk lurk three serious questions for readers familiar with the work of Seminar participants, including Funk, John Dominic Crossan, and Burton Mack. The first concerns the place of scholarly debate on issues of public interest; the second, the limitations of history and historical method; and the third, the interrelationship of faith, history, and institution. Despite Johnson’s protestations, scholarly work is most often a war of words, a battle of interpretations–and whether in classrooms, scholarly journals, or the popular press, scholars (like preachers) know that massaging the medium is more than half the battle.”
As always, if you have any ideas and comments for things I could change, please let me know. If you have any books that you have read or have read the books I mention, please leave a comment. We here at Salzmann always want to know what the people are reading. Comments are always appreciated, and anything I can do to make this better I will strive my best to accomplish.
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