In that sense, I do not understand these, among Richard Hays' questions for N.T. Wright:
What roles, if any, do the church’s scriptural cannon and tradition play in helping us know the truth about Jesus? Is there a legitimate discipline of historical inquiry that can operate outside and apart from that tradition? And if so, what claim does such a discipline have on determining the ways in which Christians know Jesus?Let me try to condense that: What claim would any legitimate discipline of historical inquiry - which is also non-traditional - have on determining the ways in which Christians know Jesus?
I admit, I'm stupefied by this question. Knowing Jesus? How can History help us know Jesus? Seriously? Does Hays, Wright or anyone really think that's the goal of reading the Gospels historically? To "know" Jesus?
In my humble opinion, the best thing a historically contextualized view of the Gospels could EVER do for us is give us a more precise view of the FACTS ABOUT Jesus.
And yes, we need to know more about Him, and about His life. I believe we need that much more than most people can possibly imagine.
But knowing Him? Actually, presently, Him?
To be fair, I'm not sure if Richard Hays was really suggesting that we "KNOW" Jesus primarily because of what we read about Him in the Gospels, whether traditionally or otherwise. I hope somehow he misspoke or I misunderstood him. However, if Richard Hays DOES think that, then I don't mind saying that he's wrong. Dead wrong.
Furthermore, IF that actually is to any significant degree the established view of christendom in general - and let's be frank, institutional christendom has purposely kept the more mystical expressions of our faith at arms length for many centuries... IF that were the traditional view... it could go a long way toward explaining why Theologians don't want to see History written on top of the Gospels.
If all you have is what's written on paper, you'd better not let anything challenge whatever you've already built up.
That is, you'd better not let anyone ELSE build on top of that paper.