- Series: Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology
- Paperback: 136 pages
- Publisher: Baker Academic (March 1, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0801027101
- ISBN-13: 978-0801027109
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.3 x 8.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 11 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,016,316 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology)
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About the Author
James D. G. Dunn (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Colossians/Philemon, and 1 Corinthians, as well as The Theology of Paul the Apostle and Jesus Remembered.
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He wrote in the Preface to this 2005 book, "I soon realized that what I regarded as the key methodological contributions made by 'Jesus Remembered' might become lost in the scale on which I found it necessary to operate in the book. Fortunately, the invitation to deliver the Hayward Lectures [in 2003] ... gave me the opportunity to spell out these insights more fully and to carry them further forward in the light of my continuing research." (Pg. 8)
He suggests, "we may say that the 'Gospel of Thomas' is like the Gospel of John: they both attest the influence of later faith, in the one case the gnostic faith, in the other Christian faith; that is, both exemplify in their different ways the Christ of faith in protest against which the quest of the historical Jesus was first undertaken." (Pg. 32)
He argues, "The brutal fact is that we simply cannot escape from a presumption of orality for the first stage of the transmission of the Jesus tradition. So if we are to 'get back to Jesus of Nazareth' in any confident degree, we have no choice other than to use well-informed historical imagination to attempt to enter into what was happening to the Jesus tradition during that initial stage. I believe these identified characteristics of oral tradition help us to do just that." (Pg. 53)
He asserts, "Where a particular saying or episode reflects such a characteristic motif, scholarship should be asking not 'Why should it be attributed to Jesus?' but 'Why should it NOT be attributed to Jesus?' ... I therefore conclude... the Jesus tradition was a way of remembering Jesus, showing how Jesus was remembered... My threefold thesis can be summed up simply. First, Jesus made an impact on those who became his first disciples, well before his death and resurrection. That impact was expressed in the first formulations of the Jesus tradition... Second, the mode of oral performance and oral transmission of these formulations means that the force of that original impact continued to be expressed through them... And third, the characteristic features running through the Jesus tradition give us a clear indication of the impression that Jesus made on his disciples during his mission." (Pg. 77)
This is an excellent summation of his points, for people who don't have the time or inclination to work their way through 'Jesus Remembered.'
Dunn's next point is to attack the overly literary mindset of historical Jesus scholars in their primary focus on getting to the written sources behind the gospels like Ur-Markus or Q. Dunn is not claiming that such investigation is useless but that at best it partly tackles the issue because the earliest tradition was transmitted orally before it was committed to writing. Dunn offers some interesting views about how this was done though an "uncontrolled authoritative" means rather than the "controlled authoritative" rabbinical tradition or the "uncontrolled un-authoritative" of a contemporary game of telephone. Dunn rightly emphasizes that 1st century culture was very much orally based even when things were written down like the gospels or the letters of Paul. It is a whole different paradigm of thought as compared to the literary mindset.
Dunn's last main point is that instead of using the criterion of dissimilarity like a bludgeon to produce a strange Jesus wholly different from his Jewish background and the Christianity that followed him, historians should look for the `characteristic' Jesus who was both influenced by his Jewish background and also in turn influenced the early church.
Basically, James Dunn argues for a more open view of the Jesus tradition and is critical of the anti-Christian biases that has affected historical Jesus research since its beginnings in the 19th century.