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This review is from: The Historical Figure of Jesus (Paperback)
The Jesus Seminar (Crossan, Borg, etc...) has attracted a lot of press coverage and given historical research a bad name. Their scholarship is poor, their motivations clearly political and their conclusions as biased and unfounded as any faith-perspective has been.
But quality reserach has been done in the search for the historical Jesus, and E. P. Sanders is in the front of the march. Sanders is most famous for his "Paul and Palestinian Judaism" which is the most significant study of Paul in the last fifty years. He is a scholar of the highest caliber, even if his publicity is not as great as the JS. Certainly, no one is more qualified to write on this topic.
"The Historical Figure of Jesus" is a lay-level introduction to the topic. Sanders does not cover all the issues in the greatest detail, but he economically makes his case in 281 pages. He does neglect some evidence in order to keep it brief. But he does not neglect evidence that would seem challenging to his view, only that which would make his points stronger. In other words, he is a confident scholar, not overly concerned to press an agenda.
Sanders' view is that Jesus was an apocalyptic prophet, originally a follower of John the Baptist, who was executed because of Caiaphas' fear that he could cause an uprising. This (and the preceeding discussion) may be his only (relatively) direct reference to the Jesus Seminar: "Jesus the thoughtful social and economic planner, who has again become popular, simply cannot be found in the gospels."
Sanders spends several chapters introducing the setting of Jesus' life, and several introducing the sources. About half the book is directly concerned with Jesus' life and teaching. He has an excellent epilogue about the resurrection, and helpful appendices about the chronology of Jesus' life and about his disciples.
Sanders knows far more about this topic than he presents here. If you want more depth, consider his "Jesus and Judaism" or "Judaism: Practice and Belief, 63 BCE - 66 CE." Of course, I recommend his work on Paul even more highly. For evangelical Christians struggling to reconcile their faith with historical scholarship, I recommend the work of N. T. Wright. For Catholics with that problem, Luke Timothy Johnson. Another enlightening book somewhat related to these issues is Jaroslav Pelikan's "Jesus Through the Centuries."