Friday, May 27, 2011

Constructing Jesus

I just started Dale C. Allison, Jr.'s most recent (and, apparently, final) contribution to historical Jesus scholarship, Constructing Jesus: Memory, Imagination, and History (Baker Academic, 2010). I have the privilege of writing a review essay for an upcoming issue of The Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus; the standard format of these kinds of things is that two or three people will offer reviews of a significant recent publication, and the author will respond to each of the reviewers. I've never done anything like this before, so I'm looking forward to this. (Allison and I are also co-participants in an upcoming conference on "the demise of the criteria of authenticity," to be held on Lincoln Christian University's campus in 2012 and for which a volume will be published by T&T Clark International.)

At any rate, I really have only just started reading this book; to date I've only read the preface. But already I like what I'm reading, especially as I compare it to Allison's previous work on Jesus (especially his volume, Jesus of Nazareth: Millenarian Prophet [Fortress Press, 1998]):
This volume as a whole is testimony to my conviction that the means that most scholars have employed and continue to employ for constructing the historical Jesus are too flimsy to endure [yes!!], or at least too flimsy for me to countenance any longer. I learned the discipline during the era when everyone was taught to employ the so-called criteria of authenticity. We were to find Jesus by, first, isolating individual units and then, second, running them through a gauntlet consisting of multiple attestation, dissimilarity, embarrassment, and so on. After many years of playing by the rules, however, I have gradually come to abandon them. I have decided that knowing the old directives has been of much less help than promised. I am trying something else. This book is the result. (x; my emphasis)

This is, perhaps, the best beginning to a book on Jesus I've read in a very long time. And that would include my own book on Jesus.

I'll comment further as I work through this weighty book (pp. xxix + 588).

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