Third Quest

In the closing decades of the twentieth century the most hopeful advance in life of Jesus research was the recognition that the quest must primarily have in view Jesus the Jew and a clearer and firmer grasp of the consequences. What distinguishes this 'third quest of the historical Jesus'10 is the conviction that any attempt to build up

99. Theissen and Merz, Historical Jesus ch, 4.

100. The title was introduced by N. T. Wright in his updating of Stephen Neill's The Interpretation of the New Testament, 1861-1986 (Oxford: Oxford University, 1964, 21988) 379. On the continuities and discontinuities between the 'second' and 'third' quests see Du Toit, 'Redefining Jesus' 98-110. The description ('third quest') is sometimes used to cover also what I have called the neo-Liberal quest (as by Witherington, Jesus Quest; Scott, 'New Options' 7 ['third stage']); and in his emphasis that Jesus looked for 'the renewal of Israel' Borg certainly overlaps with characteristic 'third quest' concerns (§4.7 above, as also Horsley, §4.6). Meier's emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus (albeit 'a marginal Jew') also qualifies him as third-quester; in Marginal Jew 3.8 he points out that he uses the term ('marginal Jew') to avoid a set definition of Jesus and in imitation of Jesus' own 'riddle-speech'. Funk notes the key question to be 'what role to assign Jesus the Jew in the Jewish sect known as Christianity' (Honest to Jesus 32, 58-59), but subsequently distances himself from 'the third quest' (65), though his dismissal of 'third questers' ('faith seems to make them immune to the facts') seems to ignore the fact that none of his 'facts' is undisputed.

However, I invest no significance or importance in such numbering of the quests. C. Marsh, 'Quests of the Historical Jesus in New Historicist Perspective', Biblical Interpretation 5 (1997) 403-37, distinguishes nine quests in all: (1) The Positivist Quest (eschatological a historical picture of Jesus of Nazareth should and must begin from the fact that he was a first-century Jew operating in a first-century milieu. After all, when so much is historically uncertain, we can surely assume with confidence that Jesus was brought up as a religious Jew. There is no dispute that his mission was carried out within the land of Israel. And his execution on the charge of being a messianic pretender ('king of the Jews') is generally reckoned to be part of the bedrock data in the Gospel tradition.101 What more natural, one might think, what more inevitable than to pursue a quest of the historical Jesus the Jew?102

Such an objective seems very obvious, but it is one which generations of scholarship seem to have resisted. Indeed, one of the most astonishing features of two hundred years of earlier quests is the way in which they have consistently attempted to distance Jesus as quickly and as far as possible from his Jewish milieu. Although Reimarus set Jesus within Judaism (Christianity was founded by the apostles), his importance, according to Kümmel, is that he raised the question, 'what role in the emancipation of Christianity from Judaism is to be attributed to Jesus'.103 Susannah Heschel observes that liberal theologians painted 'as negative a picture as possible of first-century Judaism' in order 'to elevate Jesus as a unique religious figure who stood in sharp opposition to his Jewish sur-roundings'.104 A unique religious consciousness, unaffected by historical circumstances, in effect cut Jesus off from Judaism. Renan, for example, could write: 'Fundamentally there was nothing Jewish about Jesus'; after visiting Jerusalem, Jesus 'appears no more as a Jewish reformer, but as a destroyer of Judaism . . . Jesus was no longer a Jew'. And for Ritschl, Jesus' 'renunciation of Judaism and its law . . . became a sharp dividing line between his teachings and

Jesus); (2) The Positivist Quest (non-eschatological Jesus); (3) The Romantic Quest; (4) The Form-critical Quest; (5) The Quest of the non-Jewish Jesus; (6) The Traditio-historical Quest; (7) The Existentialist Quest; (8) The Jewish-Christian Quest; (9) The Postmodern Quest (41015). See also J. Carleton Paget, 'Quests for the Historical Jesus', in M. Bockmuehl, ed., The Cambridge Companion to Jesus (Cambridge: Cambridge University, 2001) 138-55 (147-52). For a German perspective on the 'third quest' see Theissen and Winter, Kriterienfrage 145-71.

102. The case is well made by Wright, Jesus ch. 3.

103. Kümmel, New Testament90; Brown points out that 'Reimarus's interest in the Jewish background (of Jesus) extended no further than his interest in reducing Jesus' mission to a messianic political coup' (Jesus 53).

104. S. Heschel, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1998) 9, 21. On the anti-Jewishness of nineteenth-century NT scholarship see particularly 66-75, 106-107, 117-18, 123, 153-57, 190-93, 212-13, 227. See also H. Moxnes, 'Jesus the Jew: Dilemmas of Interpretation', in I. Dunderberg, et al., eds., Fair Play: Diversity and Conflicts in Early Christianity, H. Räisänen FS (Leiden: Brill, 2002) 83-103 (here 83-89, 9394).

105. Heschel, Abraham Geiger 156-57.

those of the Jews'.106 Schweitzer's own account of the quest simply failed to take account of the substantial debate between Jewish and Christian scholarship on the theme of Jesus the Jew.107 The irony of Liberalism at this point is that it not only sought to 'liberate' Jesus from the distorting layers of subsequent dogma, but it also sought to present Jesus as the one who 'liberated' the quintessential spirit of religion from the 'outmoded garb' of Jewish cult and myth.108

In the twentieth century, in a not wholly dissimilar way, Bultmann's existential Christ of faith could make the quantum leap into the present moment of encounter without any dependence on his historical (Jewish) background.109 It remained fairly commonplace in German theology even after the Second World War to describe Second Temple Judaism as Spätjudentum (late Judaism)110 — that is, Judaism ceased to have significance thereafter — and to describe Jesus as doing away with Judaism or bringing Judaism to an In the second quest the principal criterion, the criterion of dissimilarity, tried to make a virtue out of what second questers perceived as a necessity by reconstructing their picture of Jesus out of what distinguished from his historical context and set him over against his Jewish milieu.112 And the neo-Liberal quest differs from the old Lib-

106. Heschel, Abraham Geiger 123. Note also the response to Weiss by W. Bousset, Jesus im Gegensatz zum Judentum: ein religionsgeschichtlicher Vergleich (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, 1892): 'In late Judaism there is no really living power, no creative spirit. .. . Jesus' message above all and first of all must be understood in light of its contrast to Judaism . . .' (6-7), cited by Kümmel, New Testament230-31,

107. Heschel, Abraham Geiger 3, 127.

108. In effect working out the programmatic understanding of Christianity and its beginnings as indicated by Baur already in his Paul 3 (cited above in chapter 1 at n. 13). On Hegel's anti-Judaism see Brown, Jesus 88-90. Dungan also points out that the triumph of Markan priority in effect dethroned the Jewish Matthew from its former pre-eminence (History 339).

109. Despite his recognition that the proclamation of Jesus belonged under the heading of 'Judaism' (see above at n. 54).

110. See C. Klein, Anti-Judaism in Christian Theology(1975; ET London: SPCK/Phila-delphia: Fortress, 1978) here ch. 2; still in F. Hahn, Christologische Hoheitstitel (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck, 51995) 133, 351; Becker, Jesus, e.g., 88, 224 n. 146.

111. See, e.g., Pannenberg, Jesus 255; L. Goppelt, Theology of the NewTestament. Vol. 1: The Ministry of Jesus in Its Theological Significance (1975; ET Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1981) 97 ('Jesus actually superseded Judaism at its very roots through a new dimension'). See further J. T. Pawlikowski, Christ in the Light of the Christian-Jewish Dialogue (New York: Paulist, 1982) 37-47. Heschel gives a very unsympathetic reading of a 1992 contribution by Käsemann to a debate on Christian identity in dialogue: 'Käsemann writes that calling Jesus' teaching Jewish is insulting and renders Christianity meaningless' (Abraham Geiger 232, referring to E. Käsemann, 'Protest!', EvT52 [1992] 177-78, but this is not an actual quotation from Käsemann). The debate was initiated by J. Seim, 'Zur christlichen Identität im christlichjüdisch Gespräch', EvT 51 (1991) 458-67; Seim responds in EvT52 (1992) 185-87.

112. See further above §5.4. H. Merklein, Jesu Botschaftvon der Gottesherrschaft (SBS

quest at this point only by its argument that the influence of Hellenization, which in view marked out the difference of the early church from Je sus, is already to be found in Jesus' own teaching; despite the acknowledgment of Jesus' Jewishness, the Tendenz is to play up the similarities between Jesus' teaching and Hellenistic culture and the differences from his native Jewish cul-ture.113 In the history of Jesus research nothing has evidenced the flight from history more devastatingly than the persistent refusal to give any significance to the Jewishness of Jesus.

Of course a Jewish perspective on Jesus was by no means unknown before the 1980s,114 though these earlier studies proved curiously ineffective in regard to the mainstreams of Jesus research. And the contribution of Geza Vermes in particular has had a subtle and significant influence;11 he has been in effect the John the Baptist of the third quest. But what has proved decisive in the new shift of perspective has been the growing groundswell of reaction, in NT scholarship as in Christian scholarship generally, against the denigration of Judaism which has been such a deeply rooted and longstanding feature of Christian theology. The repentance and penitence required by the though in some circumstances in danger of being overplayed, have still to be fully worked through at this point. The mindset which figures Judaism as the religion of law to be set over against Christianity as the gospel, with the chief task being to show how Jesus belongs with the latter rather than the former, still seems to operate at a deep subconscious level. The portrayal of the Pharisees as archetypal legalists

111 ; Stuttgart: KBW, 1983) argues that for the Baptist and Jesus Israel had lost its prerogative of being the chosen people of God and had become 'a community deprived of salvation (Unheilskollektiv)', but he removes the talk of 'Unheilskollektiv' in the later edition (31989).

113. So, particularly, Mack: 'One seeks in vain [in original Jesus' teaching] a direct engagement of specifically Jewish concerns' (Myth 73); the Jewish apocalyptic prophet is replaced by the Hellenized Cynic teacher. See also the critique of Horsley and Draper, Whoever Hears 4-5, 9; Meier, Marginal Jew 3.3-4.

114. For the nineteenth century note particularly Abraham Geiger and further Heschel, Abraham Geiger 130-37, 148-50, 235-38. For the twentieth century note particularly J. Klausner, Jesus of Nazareth: His Life, Times and Teaching (London: George Allen and Unwin, 1925); R. Meyer, Der Prophet aus Galiläa. Studie zum Jesusbild der drei ersten Evangelien (1940; reissued Darmstadt: Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, 1970); S. Ben-Chorin, Brüder Jesus: Der Nazarener in jüdischer Sicht (Munich, 1967); D. Flusser, Jesus (1969; revised Jerusalem: Magnes, 1998). D. A. Hagner, The Jewish Reclamation ofJesus: An Analysis and Critique of the Modern Jewish Study ofJesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1984) describes the various attempts to evaluate Jesus from a Jewish perspective (ch. 1), claiming that 'the Jewish reclamation ofJesus has been possible only by being unfair to the Gospels' (14); 'it is always Jesus the Jew they are interested in and not the Jesus of Christianity' (38). See also Moxnes, 'Jesus the Jew' 89-96, 98-101.

115. G. Vermes, Jesus the Jew (London: Collins, 1973).

and bigots retains a disquietingly stubborn popularity.116 And, as just noted, the assumption that Judaism's only function was to prepare for Christianity (thus 'late Judaism') still persists. Oddly enough, however, despite other potent earlier contributions on Jesus the Jew117 and the recognition that some fresh methodological reflection was necessary to break the impasse of the second quest,118 it was E. P. Sanders' work on Paul which caused the penny finally to drop in New Testament scholarship.119 If traditional New Testament scholarship had misrepresented the Judaism with which Paul had to do, how much more was it necessary for relationship to his ancestral Judaism to be reassessed. In that sense, Sanders' Jesus and Judaism (1985)120 has to be reckoned as the real beginning of the third quest.121

The prospects for such a (third) quest have also been considerably improved by the fresh insights into the character of Second Temple Judaism which have been granted to scholarship during the last fifty years. Here the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has pride of place. More than anything else they have broken open the idea of a monolithic, monochrome Judaism, particularly as set over against the distinctiveness of newly emerging Christianity. It has now become possible to envisage Jesus, as also 'the sect of the Nazarenes' (Acts 24.5, 14; 28.22), within the diversity of late Second Temple Judaism in a way which was hardly thinkable before. This breakthrough has been accompanied and reinforced by other important developments — particularly the breakdown of the previously quite sharp distinction between Judaism and

118. We should recall Jeremias' Proclamation, notable for its appreciation of Jesus as an Aramaic speaker. Meyer's Aims ofJesus was an important precursor of Sanders (n. 120 below), but his work was equally if not more significant in highlighting the importance of a better her-meneutic for would-be questers (see further below, chapter 6). J. Riches, Jesus and the Transformation ofJudaism (London: Darton, Longman and Todd, 1980) anticipates some of Borg's emphases, though his central motif ('the transformation of Judaism') is problematic (a reworking of Judaism's fundamental beliefs). The attempt of Harvey, Jesus and the Constraints ofHis-tory, to give a new turn to the discussion by the notion of 'historical constraints' works well initially (political constraints, the crucifixion) but progressively less so as he proceeds. And B. Chilton, A Galilean Rabbi and His Bible: Jesus' Own Interpretation of Isaiah (London: SPCK, 1984), proposes a quite narrowly focused thesis, as indicated by his subtitle.

119. E. P. Sanders, Paul and Palestinian Judaism (London: SCM, 1977).

120. London: SCM; see his critique of previous studies (23-51), starting with a scathing denunciation of W. Bousset's Jesus (London: Williams and Norgate, 1906) (Jesus and Judaism 24-26).

121. So also Scott, 'New Options' 11, and Meier, 'Present State of the "Third Quest'" 462; it was Sanders' work which brought the third quest to German attention (Theissen and Winter, Kriterienfrage 152).

nism,122 the recognition that the portrayals of rabbinic Judaism in Mishnah and Talmud may not simply be projected backwards into the first century,123 the renewed interest in the rich range of apocryphal and pseudepigraphical Jewish literature as further testimony to the diversity of Second Temple Judaism,124 and the increasing sophistication in evaluating the steadily mounting archaeological data from the Israel (particularly Galilee) of Jesus' time. In short, it is no exaggeration to say that scholarship is in a stronger position than ever before to sketch a clearer and sharper picture of Judaism in the land of Israel at the time of Jesus and as the context of Jesus' ministry. As Nils observes: 'Everything that enlarges our knowledge of this environment of Jesus (Palestinian Judaism) indirectly extends our knowledge of the historical Jesus himself ,126

Not least of importance is the fact that the New Testament documents themselves can and should be counted as part of the evidence for the character and diversity of first-century Jewish literature. Paul is the only Pharisee from whom we have first-hand documentation from before 70 CE. And if the letters of Paul have to be counted as Jewish literature in an important sense,127 then how much more the Gospels. Even if one or more of the Gospels has to be attributed to a Gentile author, the traditions which they contain (we need only reckon with the Synoptic Gospels at this point) can hardly fail to be classified as 'Jewish'.128

The most significant attempts to portray Jesus within late Second Temple Judaism in this renewed (third) quest thus far have been those of Sanders and

122. M. Hengel, Judentum und Hellenismus (WUNT 10; Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 31988); EI Judaism and Hellenism (London: SCM, 2 vols., 1974).

123. The many works of J. Neusner have been important here; see particularly The Rabbinic Traditions about the Pharisees before AD 70 (Leiden: Brill, 1971); also From Politics to Piety: The Emergence of Rabbinic Judaism (Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, 1973); also Judaism: The Evidence ofthe Mishnah (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1981); see also on the one hand P. S. Alexander, 'Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament', ZNW 74 (1983) 237-46, and on the other C. A. Evans, 'Early Rabbinic Sources and Jesus Research' in B. Chilton and C. A. Evans, Jesus in Context: Temple, Purity and Restoration (Leiden: Brill, 1997) 27-57.

125. See particularly J. H. Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism: New Lightfrom Exciting Archaeological Discoveries (New York: Doubleday, 1988); also Jesus and Archaeology (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, forthcoming); J. L. Reed, Archaeology and the Galilean Jesus (Harrisburg: Trinity, 2000); see further below, §§9.6-7.

126. N. A. Dahl, 'The Problem of the Historical Jesus' (1962), Jesus the Christ: The Historical Origins of ChristologicalDoctrine (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1991) 81-111 (here 96).

127. So, e.g., A. F. Segal, Paul the Convert: The Apostolate and Apostasy of Saul the Pharisee (New Haven: Yale University, 'Paul should be treated as a major source in the study of first-century Judaism' (xi).

128. Cf., e.g., the remarks of C. G. Montefiore, The Synoptic Gospels (London: Macmillan, 1909, 21927) cxxxiv-cxlv.

Wright.129 Sanders gives only cursory attention to questions of method, so that the main thrust of his work has been twofold. First, he sees the key to understanding Jesus' intentions in Israel's own 'restoration eschatology'; Jesus himself looked for the restoration of Israel.130 Second, Jesus did not pit himself against Judaism, against the law or the Pharisees; set within the matrix of Second Temple Judaism, Jesus remains there throughout.131 Wright likewise makes a double thrust.132 He takes off from Sanders' insight regarding 'restoration eschatology' and develops it in more specific terms as Israel's hope for return from exile, a theme which has become for him something of an idee fixe.133 Moreover, as already noted, he shares with Borg the conviction that Schweitzer got it wrong: Jesus did not expect the end of the world; apocalyptic language is metaphorical;134

129. See also Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism; Charlesworth, ed., Jesus' Jewish-ness; B. H. Young, Jesus the Jewish Theologian (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1995); Allison, Jesus ofNazareth; Ehrman, Jesus; P. Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ (New Haven: Yale University, 1988) ch. 6; also Jesus ofNazareth, King of the Jews; A Jewish Life and the Emergence of Christianity (New York: Knopf, 1999); S. McKnight, A New Visionfor Israel: The Teachings of Jesus in National Context (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999); J. Schlosser, Jésus de Nazareth (Paris: Noesis, 1999); B. Chilton, Rabbi Jesus: An Intimate Biography (New York: Doubleday, 2000). Fredriksen is heavily influenced (in both volumes) by Sanders, and McKnight by Wright. Chilton's Rabbi Jesus, appealing in the raw Jewishness of its portrayal (Jesus as an illiterate but dynamic peasant mystic afire with a passion for Israel's purity), is constructed too fancifully from a few hints in biblical and non-biblical sources of at best doubtful relevance — 'more boldly original than historically persuasive' is the judgment of Keck, Who Is Jesus? 43. Keek's review of 'The Jesus Quest and the Jewish Jesus' (23-47) is full of sharply insightful comment.

130. Sanders, Jesus, Part One, 'The Restoration of Israel' (61-119); Sanders' treatment was more focused and proved more effective (in impact) than Meyer's (Aims 133-37, 153-54, 161, 223-41). In McKnight's view, 'The most important development in recent studies of the historical Jesus has been the recognition that Jesus had a mission to the nation of Israel' (opening sentence of his New Vision viii).

131. Sanders, Jesus, particularly chs. 6, 9, and 10 (174-211, 245-93).

Characteristic of the third quest is Wright's insistence that the much-discussed 'criterion of double dissimilarity' must be complemented by a 'criterion of double similarity: when something can be seen to be credible . . . within first-century Judaism, and credible as the implied starting point... of something in later Christianity, there is a strong possibility of our being in touch with the genuine history of Jesus' (Jesus 132).

133. Wright, TheNew Testament and the People of God268-72, 299-301; Jesus 126-31, 227, 230-34 (even the parable of the sower 'tells the story of Israel, particularly the return from exile'), 255-56, 268-69 ('forgiveness of sins is another way of saying "return from exile'"), 340 and 364 (the expected destruction of Jerusalem indicates that 'the exile was coming to an end at last'), 557 (the Last Supper 'pointed to the return from exile'). For critique see below, § 12.6c(2).

134. Wright, New Testament 298-99, 306-307, 332-33; Jesus 56-57 (against Crossan), 75 (Borg), 81 (cited above, chapter 4 at n. 177), 95-97, 114, 513 ('"Apocalyptic" . .. uses "cosmic" or "other-worldly" language to describe [what we think of as] "this-worldly" realities, and the climax for which Jesus looked was YHWH'S return to Zion (enacted in his own return to Jerusalem and in the expected destruction of Jerusalem). The issues thus raised by Sanders and Wright are fundamental for any quest for Jesus the Jew. They will be important dialogue partners in subsequent chapters.

Yet even as another group of historical critics set out on another quest of the historical Jesus, the fundamental question is being posed more sharply than ever: Is the historical method after all capable of penetrating back to a 'historical Jesus'? Almost without many second and third questers noticing, the spring tide of postmodernism has built up against the dykes of the historical method, threatening to obliterate most of the familiar landmarks on which historical critics have depended for finding their way. Following the interlude of the new quest, the flight from history has resumed with a vengeance. And though the third questers have set out to remedy what has been the most blatant disregard of history in the quest (the Jewishness of Jesus), they too are in danger of being overtaken by the postmodern wave of a-historicism.

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