Jesus the Founder of Christianity3

We have already noted the irony that for most of its existence, the 'quest of the historical Jesus' was not historical enough in that it attempted to distance Jesus, by one means or another, from his historical context as a Jew. As many of the rationalists, savaged by Strauss, had attempted to 'save' the miracle-working Jesus by allowing a little bit of miracle, so most of the Liberals had attempted to 'save' the real Jesus by 'inoculating' the quest with a little bit of history. At the same time, the other strand in 'life of Jesus' research, from Reimarus to the neo-Liberals, has attempted to 'save' Jesus from Christian dogma by distancing him from the movement which followed his death and which became Christianity. In the most common scenario, it was Paul who counts (or is to be blamed!) as the real founder of Christianity.4 This has been one of the real peculiarities of the quest, that it has attempted to find a Jesus who was neither a Jew nor founder of Christianity, or who was contingently one but not the other. But in seeking to avoid the Christianized Jesus as well as the Jewish Jesus, all that remained, all that could remain, was the idiosyncratic Jesus, who could hardly be other than an enigma to Jew and Christian alike, and who reflected little more than the quester's own idiosyncracies.

In fact, the obvious way forward is simply to reverse the logic. If the starting assumption of a fair degree of continuity between Jesus and his native religion has a priori persuasiveness, then it can hardly make less sense to assume a fair degree of continuity between Jesus and what followed.6 The initial considerations here are straightforward.

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