Tuesday, June 01, 2004

What is wrong with the academic discipline of research into the Historical Jesus? Quite a lot, I fear. I work in a normal history department and I am really unimpressed by the theologically trained writers on the Jesus of history. Here is a quick list of what I think are the problems.

1) To do history requires training. I would not dream of writing academic theology and can't understand why academic theologians think they can write history. The right people to do Jesus are classical historians who are pointedly ignored by most HJ practitioners.

2) Theology as a subject has been profoundly effected by the post modernism revolution as has history. But the influence of post modernism on theology came about through literature departments while in history it was largely home grown. This leads to profound differences that theologians trying to do history have not appreciated. You cannot do history by reading your sources as literature. If you do that you are doing lit crit.

3) There is not enough material in the subject of the historical Jesus to maintain the massive industry of academics working on the subject. This leads to increasingly daft theories in desperate attempts to be original while the same on ground is turned over again and again. EP Sander's The Historical Jesus just about covered everything and most other work has been superfluous. No one has said anything interesting about the historical Jesus since Geza Vermes pointed out he was Jewish.

4) The subject is so political that you can't trust any of the participants. From Crossan dumping his methodology whenever it suits him to evangelicals twisting this way and that to preserve the text, the whole show is so undignified. Add to that the internet scribblers who use the daft theories mentioned above to push an anti-Christian agenda and the atmosphere is poisonous. The reaction from the many of the historical Jesus crowd to Mel Gibson's masterpiece is a case in point.

On another note, the Sec Web has dropped its requirement that the moderators must be non-theists. As I heard on the grapevine that the main objection to having theists as mods was that I might be one of them, I am not expecting an invitation any time soon!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I take it you enjoyed "The Passion?"