the Jews' (this much, at any rate, can be inferred from the titulus), and, on the other hand, stimulates an interest in being in touch with that very concrete reality. Even if legendary, her story is a kind of quest for the Jesus of history.
The purpose in telling Helena's story has been twofold - to illustrate what people knew and thought about Jesus at the end of the period covered by this volume, and to provide a parallel to the historical problems associated with Jesus himself. If we review the preceding paragraphs we observe the following difficulties in reconstructing what really happened:
• Post-Enlightenment questions about the perspectives and beliefs of those who told the story, not least the belief in miracles and supernatural power
• The nature of the sources and the question of their mutual compatibility
• Considerable time-spans between the events and the accounts
• Questions about the validity of oral traditions
• Gaps in the evidence
• Issues about the authenticity of material remains
• Post-Reformation rejection of relics and their veneration.
Such factors likewise affect the quest of the historical Jesus. Since the nineteenth century,31 there have been repeated attempts to reconstruct the facts behind the gospels, to distinguish the 'Jesus of history' from the 'Christ of faith'. Thus, the case of Helena exemplifies the dilemma for anyone approaching the subject of Jesus at the start of a history of Christianity. It may be customary to open the history of a movement with a biography of its founder, but is Jesus the founder and can we write his biography? Even if we could, would that explain the rise of Christianity?
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