October 23, 2009

Book Report

I read Dale Allison's slim tome, The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, a couple of weeks ago and I've been meaning to blog about it. It is the first HJ book I've gone straight through from cover to cover. And I thur'ly enjoyed it.

The author carries on a thoughtful internal dialogue about faith and skepticism in attempting historiography on the Gospels. Theological bias was something to beware of, which I appreciate, and overall he seems motivated to trust the Gospels as far as he can do so reasonably. What believer is any different? I can still wish he'd go just a bit farther, but his innovation (near the end) to begin generalizing the kinds of things Jesus said and the kinds of things Jesus did was fascinating, and his argument that we should find greater reliability in these general patterns is absolutely valid in and of itself. This method is one of the things I believe we should do historically, with the Gospels. It was actually exciting to see such pages in print.

There were a few times through the book when I griped just a bit, and obviously some points on which I disagreed, but there were also a handful of times when I exclaimed out loud, "Yes!" or "Thank you!" All skeptics should think more like Dale Allison. Some of my readers who aren't used to critical views on the Gospels might find it a bit of a roller coaster at times. Sometimes you're not really sure quite which way he's headed, or wants to be. But again, the discussion on historiography and the Gospels was gripping, reasonable and fairly comprehensive. It made me think about my own project in ways I deeply appreciate. I'll probably read it again, more than once.

We still need more faith in Jesus historiography, but Allison has made a worthwhile and positive contribution, imho.

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