MSJ 23/1 (Spring 2012) 7–42
THREE SEARCHES FOR THE “HISTORICAL JESUS”
BUT NO BIBLICAL CHRIST:
THE RISE OF THE SEARCHES (PART 1)
F. David Farnell, Ph.D.
Professor of New Testament
The Master’s Seminary
N. T. Wright
N.T. Wright has been a profound influence on this “Third Search for the historical Jesus” as he has been for the New Perspective on Paul. In his Jesus and the Victory of God, he contends, “I still believe that the future of serious Jesus research lies with what I have called the ‘Third Quest’, within a broadly post-Schweitzerian frame.” As noted, this questing period, even its name, largely received its impetus from Wright’s efforts. Although it is labeled as the least skeptical of the quests, this assertion about “least” is only relative in comparison to the other two quests, since it still remains heavily skeptical and continues the “search” for the “historical Jesus.” Moreover, the question still remains as to whether a“Third” Quest actually should be distinguished from the “Second” Quest. Wright, who is largely responsible for promulgating this distinction, admits, Does this flurry of activity belong with the older ‘New Quest’ [a.k.a. what Wright now labels the “Second Quest”], or with what I have called the ‘Third Quest’ . . . . From one point of view this is a mere matter of labels. It does not much matter whether we think of the “Jesus Seminar,” and its key players such as Mack and Crossan, as being on the radical wing of the “Third Quest,” or whether we recognize the major differences between them” [and others involved in this most recent questing].
N.T. Wright對於這個『第三次搜尋歷史的耶穌』具有深厚的影響力，就如同他對於保羅新觀的影響力一樣。在他的耶穌並神的勝利（Jesus and the Victory of God）一書中，他辯稱，『我仍然相信嚴肅的耶穌研究的未來取決於我所謂的‘第三次搜尋’，在一個更為廣泛的後史懷哲（post-Schweitzerian）的架構中。』如果我們指出的，這個搜尋的時期，甚至它的名字，打比方都是Wright鼓吹的結果。雖然它的表情使得那些搜尋較不被人懷疑，這個『較不』的看法僅僅是先對於比較其他的兩個搜尋而言的，因為它仍然非常被質疑，並且繼續『搜尋』那個『歷史的耶穌。』此外，『第三個』是否當與『第二個』搜尋區分仍然是一個問題。當為宣揚這種區分負責的Wright承認，這種行動上的搖擺不定屬於較早的『新搜尋』（a.k.a. Wright如今標籤的『第二次搜尋』），或我所謂的『第三次搜尋』。。。。從一個角度而言，這不過就是標籤的問題。如果我們想想『耶穌會有』，並其主要人物，像Mack和Corssan，他們都屬於『第三次搜尋』的極端人士，或者我們承認它們間巨大的不同』[並其他參與這個最新的搜尋的人士]。
Wright makes the distinction because of his personal demarcations that have become accepted now by others. He would have us believe that the New Quest is old (the Second Quest) and the “Third Quest” is new due to its emphasis on Jewish studies. It well could be just a matter of emphasis rather than distinction. This statement reveals, nonetheless, that the so-called “Third Quest” may not be easily separated from the previous ones because it is still rooted in historical-critical ideologies and significant skepticism. Wright goes on to insist, “It would not . . . be much of a caricature to say that orthodoxy . . . has had no clear idea of the purpose of Jesus’ ministry.”
Adding more caution to Wright’s typical British-modifying approach are the following samplings of his ideological approach: Firstly, he affirms use of tradition criticism to the texts of the gospels (“criterion of dissimilarity”) but with “great caution,” which principle still assumes the burden of proof upon the gospels for authenticity no matter how much Wright tries to make it palatable to evangelicals;  secondly, Wright asserts, “The critics of form-criticism have not, to my knowledge, offered a serious alternative model to how the early church told its stories;” thirdly, he refers to the gospel stories in terms of his own modified version of “myth”: “The gospels, then, are myth in the sense that they are foundational for the early Christian worldview. They contain ‘mythological’ language which we can learn, as historians, to decode in the light of ‘other apocalyptic’ writings of the time.” For Wright, “Jesus and his contemporaries” did not take apocalyptic language “literally, as referring to the actual end of the time-space universe.” Instead, “the language of myth, and eschatological myths in particular . . . are used in the biblical literature as complex metaphor systems to denote historical events and to invest them with their theological significance;” Wright is also very unclear as to his viewpoint regarding the authorship of the gospels, for he asserts, “I make no assumptions about the actual identity of the evangelists, and use the traditional names for simplicity only.”
Paraphrasing Acts 25:12, where Festus used Paul’s own words to sentence Paul to a hearing before Caesar, “You have appealed to Caesar, to Caesar you shall go” to send him to Rome, Wright rephrases this conversation as a guiding principle in the Third Search in regards to Christianity’s appeal to historical claims, “Christianity appeals to history; to history it must go.” He argues that the Third Quest expresses a “real attempt to do history seriously” as opposed to the other quests.
As with Sanders, Dunn and Charlesworth, he lauds “a real willingness to be guided by first-century sources, and to see how Judaism of that period in all its complex pluriformity, with the help now available from modern studies of the history and literature of the period.” As with the others, he prefers a holistic approach rather than an atomistic one, “We do not need to detach Jesus’ sayings from the rest of the evidence, and examine them in isolation.” Wright notes that Sanders’ holistic approach “is right.” As with the others, he stresses that “Jesus must be understood as . . . a first-century Jew.”
Wright concurs with Charlesworth when the latter “‘tells of how he abandoned his previous admiration for New Testament scholars who were ‘cautiously reticent until they [could] defend virtually infallible positions.’” For Wright, “the pursuit of truth—historical truth—is what the Third Quest is all about. Serious historical method, as opposed to the pseudo-historical use of home-made ‘criteria’, is making a comeback in the Third Quest. How much vaunted ‘normal critical tools’, particularly form-criticism, are being tacitly (and in my view rightly) bypassed in the search for Jesus; enquiry is proceeding by means of a proper, and often clearly articulated, method of hypothesis and verification.”
Wright goes on to note that “much of the impetus for form-critical and redaction-critical study came from the presuppositions that this or that piece of synoptic material about Jesus could not be historical . . . that an historical hypothesis about Jesus could already be presupposed which demanded a further tradition historical hypothesis to explain the evidence.” Instead, he prefers “a viable alternative historical hypothesis” about Jesus or the early church where “the need for tradition-criticism within the search for Jesus . . . could in principle be substantially reduced and altered in shape.” Wright cites the work of Sanders and Meyer as supporting his claim: “This is exactly what happens in the hypotheses of (say) Sanders and Meyer: all sorts of things in the gospels, which on the Bultmannian paradigm, needed to be explained by complex epicycles of Traditions geschichte turn out . . . to fit comfortably within the ministry of Jesus.” As regards the synoptic gospels, he argues, “It is becoming apparent that the authors of at least the synoptic gospels, which still provide the bulk of relevant source material, intended to write about Jesus, not just their own churches and theology, and they substantially succeeded in this intention.”
To Wright, this third quest has “certain solid advantages.” He lists three: (1) “it takes the total Jewish background seriously”; (2) “its practitioners have no united theological or political agenda, unlike the monochrome New Quest and its fairly monochrome renewal”; (3) “there has increasingly been a sense of homing in on the key questions which have to be asked to make progress.” He lists five key questions: Firstly, How does Jesus fit into Judaism? Secondly, What were Jesus’ aims? Thirdly, Why did Jesus die? Fourthly, How and why did the early church begin? And fifthly, Why are the gospels what they are?
In dealing with understanding Jesus’ miracles, for Wright it involves a “suspension of judgment.” He relates, “It is prudent, methodologically, to hold back from too hasty a judgment on what is actually possible and what is not within the space-time universe.” He rejects extremes found in Hume, Lessing and Troeltsch as well as post-Enlightenment philosophy. He also rejects the views of “conservative apologists”: “The appeal for suspension of judgment . . . cannot be used as a Trojan horse for smuggling in an old-fashioned ‘supernaturalist’ worldview under the pretense of neutrality; this is sometimes done by conservative apologists, who are often interested at this point, not in Jesus himself, but in miracles as test cases for whether the Bible is believed to be ‘true’ or not—a position that brings its own nemesis.” Instead, he argues that words used in the gospels for Jesus actions such as “paradoxa” (things one would not normally expect), “dunameis” (displays of power and authority) “terata,” or “semeia” (signs or portents) as well as “thaumasia” (marvels—Matt 21:15)：
[D]o not carry, as the English word “miracle” has sometimes done, overtones of invasion from another world, or from outer space. They indicate, rather, that something has happened, within what we would call the “natural” world, which is not what would have been anticipated, and which seems to provide evidence for the active presence of an authority, a power, at work, not invading the created order as an alien force, but rather enabling it to be more truly itself. And that describes equally as well the impression that other aspects of Jesus’ ministry made on people: here was an unexpected phenomenon, a prophet apparently questioning the nationalistic hope.
Jesus’ mighty works are to be understood best in terms of Jesus’ proclamation as “signs that the kingdom of Israel’s god was indeed coming to birth.”  In terms of Jesus’ resurrection, after long discourse and many pages of equivocation, Wright argues that the early church believed “that Jesus of Nazareth was bodily raised from the dead. This belief was held by virtually all early Christians for whom we have evidence.” For Wright, the two factors that are “historically secure” about Easter are the emptiness of the tomb and the meetings with the risen Jesus.” Wright then argues for factors that caused this belief regarding Jesus’ resurrection. He distinguishes differences between necessary and sufficient conditions: a necessary condition is something that has to be the case for the conclusion to follow . . . . A sufficient condition is something that will certainly and without fail bring about the conclusion.” While the empty tomb and appearances of Christ to the disciples are individually “insufficient to generate early Christian belief . . . . they form, in combination, a sufficient condition.” The matter of the resurrection does, however, lie “beyond strict historical proof” since “[i]t will always be possible for ingenious historians to propose yet more variations on the theme of how early Christian belief could have arisen, and taken the shape that it did, without either an empty tomb or appearances of Jesus.”
Yet, Wright himself believes that both the empty tomb and the appearances both constitute necessary conditions for belief in Jesus’ resurrection: “We are left with the conclusion that the combination of the empty tomb and appearances of the living Jesus forms a set of circumstances which is itself both necessary and sufficient for the rise of early Christian belief.”1 Such a belief “remains, of course, unprovable in logical or mathematical terms.” Wright concludes that “the historian, of whatever has no option but to affirm both the empty tomb and ‘meetings’ with Jesus as ‘historical events’ “. . . they took place as real events; they were significant events . . . they are . . . provable events.” His claim is: “that the bodily resurrection of Jesus provides a necessary condition for these things; in other words, that no other explanation could or would do. All the other efforts to find alternative explanations fail.” Wright admits that this does not constitute “‘proof’ of the resurrection in terms of some neutral standpoint. It is, rather, a historical challenge to other explanations, other worldviews.” So with Wright, the resurrection cannot be proven with ideas of certainty, but perhaps that the evidence points to that conclusion as the most likely or probable conclusion.
The Basic Operating Procedures of the Third Quest
The basic operating procedures of the Third Quest share much in common with the first two searches: historical criticism. To be sure, some criteria have been modified as well as newly proposed (e.g. criteria of embarrassment, rejection and execution, and historical plausibility). However, all three searches share much in common in spite of apparent diversity.
Criteria of Authenticity
The purpose of the critieria in the first two searches for the historical Jesus had design or intent behind them: to result in “a critically assured minimum” of gospel material to find a Jesus acceptable to the subjective biases of the searcher.  Importantly, philosophical presuppositions were deliberately applied in the formulation of these criteria to guarantee a minimalistic Jesus to those who applied these criteria. An a priori operating bias resulted in criteria that guaranteed the result desired by the searcher. This is hardly a scientific approach. The apparent shift in burden of proof in the Third Search, however, has really happened by arbitrary, fiat decree. The consensus was that the previous two quests as well as the pause during Bultmann were too skeptical, so that third questers now have decided, largely on consensus, to allow for more historicity in broad or holistic terms. As seen with the writings of Charlesworth and Porter, the Third Quest has suggested different criteria and modifications of existing ones. Much of a similar negative bias is seen in the criteria of many of the Third Search, although perhaps, depending on the quester, not to the same degree of dehistoricization (e.g. Sanders).
While the pessimism of Bultmann may be a thing of the past, pessimism is still replete in the Third Quest. Even if third questers desire to move the burden of proof away from the replete skepticism of the first two questers, the application of such criteria immediately casts doubt on the substantive portion of the gospel material, requiring it to prove itself to the biases of the interpreter. Importantly, in this so-called “Third Quest,” instead of desiring “a critically assured minimum,” the third questers have desired to have a credibly assured modicum (slightly more historicity in broad outlines of Jesus’ life) and designed new criteria and modified old ones to ensure a priori that modicum.
In the above review of Sanders, Dunn, Charlesworth and Wright, the present writer has noted their desire to find a more holistic approach that allows for more historicity in the gospels. This goal is laudable. However, the same subjective bias is found in that the criteria of authenticity designed for this search have been a priori designed to ensure that very same desired outcome. Their criteria allow them to find a modicum of more historicity in broad outlines of Jesus’ life. The outcome is guaranteed based on their already perceived subjective bias as well as intent. These criteria, however, cut both ways, revealing their subjectivity in application. Significantly, the criterion of Palestinian Judaism almost has as its unstated operating procedure something much like the criterion of embarrassment in Sanders’ application. Sanders is embarrassed by Jesus’ anti-Judaistic attitude many times reported in the gospels. His application of the criterion of Judaism allows him to remove any material that would conflict with his intended desire to avoid embarrassment as a liberal Protestant trying to escape charges of an ill-advised perception of Judaism that he perceives as operating in much of the Christian tradition as anti-Semitic.
The Documentary or Markan Hypothesis and Q as an Operating Synoptic Approach
As with the other searches, the third search also takes the Documentary Hypothesis and its Markan priority as its operating synoptic assumption. This hypothesis has been labeled as one of the assured results of nineteenth-century criticism. The criterion in all three searches are heavily weighted for their operational procedure (e.g. multiple attestation in Mark, Q and M, L) to affirm tradition as “authentic.” Increasing doubts about the 2DH and 4DH at the end of the twentieth century suggest that the criteria revolving around this hypothesis are dubious at best. If this 2DH/4DH synoptic hypothesis is wrong, then working within its confines proves absolutely nothing about historicity.
Form and Redaction Criticism as Operating Assumptions
As with the other two searches, a large number of the third questers presume a distortion or bias in the early church as well as with the gospel writers. Simply put, a strategic layering between what Jesus actually said and did is often a priori assumed in both form (reflects theology of the church) and redaction (reflects theology of the evangelist). The question of if and how much of Jesus’ theology can be derived from the gospels is always a problem for the three quests and the non-quest period, for large portions of the gospels are seen as products of the church or some unknown evangelist who composed the gospels with their own distinctive biases.
The Trojan Horse of the Third Search: Jesus within the Confines of Judaism
The emphasis of the Third Search on placing Jesus within the confines of Judaism is not only tenuous, but complete nonsense. It is actually a Trojan horse that destroys the canonical gospels portrait of how Jesus really was in history as He walked the confines of Palestine in His day. The canonical gospel, as well as other portions of the New Testament, presents Jesus consistently as walking in complete conformity, NOT with the corrupt Judaism of His day, but with the OT Law. In His birth He was circumcised on the eight day as the Mosaic Law prescribed (Luke 2:21–24 cp. Lev 12:1–8); He told the Jews that He did not come to abolish the Old Testament but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17–19). Paul reminds Christians in Gal 4:4 that “when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law.” Jesus told the Jews of His day to search the OT Scriptures in John 5:39–40: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life.” After His physical resurrection, in Luke 24:13, He told the disciples on the road to Emmaus how the OT Scriptures testified to Him: “And beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” The gospels portray Him in complete conformity to the Old Testament. Jesus loved His Jewish people, especially the common Jew (Matt 9:36–38; Mark 6:34; Luke 2:29–30; 14:14). The cleansing of the temple in all four gospels drives home the fact that Jesus perceived the Judaism of His day as corrupt (Matt 21:12–17; Mark 11:15–18; Luke 19:45–47; John 2:13–16). As a result, to place Jesus within the confines of the Judaism of His day is to destroy the true Jesus in history and create a false Jesus who, once again, appeals to the predilections and whims of many of today’s scholars.
Three searches for the “historical Jesus” are really one overarching endeavor. What makes the Third Search qualitatively different is that evangelicals are now finding virtue in participating in it, while having rejected the first two searches. The second part will cover evangelical participation in this third search. This searching is rapidly becoming a “watershed” issue. Evangelical, Darrell Bock, who diligently searches for the “‘historical’ Jesus,” attributes disagreement with his searching as due to evangelical ignorance: “this book [Key Events] will likely not be understood by some. What we have done is to play by the rules of Historical Jesus study and made the case for 12 key events in Jesus’ life in the process.” To him (and perhaps other evangelicals who participate in it), any other approach than the historical searching that they are involved in is not “serious historical engagement” in terms of the gospels. Evangelical, Norman Geisler, counters such an assertion by noting the word historical “bristles” with hostile “philosophical presuppositions” whose “premises and procedures undermine the very divinely authoritative Scripture they confess.”
三次搜尋『歷史的耶穌』就是一個不間斷的嘗試。讓第三次搜尋在質量上與其他糧食搜尋不同的地方在於，福音書作者如今被認為有份於這個搜尋，而他們被前兩次搜尋拒絕。第二部分將會涵蓋福音派對於這個搜尋的參與。這個搜尋迅速的變成一種『分水嶺。』福音派的Darrell Bock，孜孜不倦的搜尋『歷史的耶穌』，因著福音派的無知而在搜尋中提出了反對的意見：有些人無法瞭解這本書[關鍵事件]。我們所要做的就是根據歷史耶穌研究的遊戲規則，而在過程中為耶穌生平的十二件關鍵事件提出證明。』對於他而言（或許包括其他參與歷史耶穌研究的福音派人士），任何不屬於歷史研究範疇的方法就不是在福音書中『嚴肅的歷史相遇』。福音派人士Norman Geisler反對那樣的觀點，認為藉著指出歷史這個字與具有敵意的『哲學前設』是相輔相成的，他們的『前設和程式低估了他們所承認的聖經的神聖權威。』
A decisive question remains—Would any true skeptics of the Jesus tradition accept or be persuaded by any positive conclusions (“key events”) of these evangelical searchers who, while using post-modernistic historiography and the ideology of historical criticism, attempt to impose a priori evangelical prepositions on the Gospels, i.e. assuming what they are trying to prove? Or, is it more likely that these evangelicals will further erode the gospels trustworthiness by surrendering the gospels to such replete skepticism?
 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 78.
 Ibid., 34.
 A demonstration that much subjectivity is involved in this distinction is found in John Reumann who sees Wright's so-called “Third Quest” as a part of the Second (or “New Quest”). John Reumann, “Jesus and Christology,” in The New Testament and Its Modern Interpreters, 501–64. Wright's response is to contend that the majority support the idea of a “New Quest” and the paradigm needed time to become fully established. See Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 83–84. Nonetheless, great subjectivity is involved in determining the “Third Quest” from the “Second” or “New Quest” as well as both quests demonstrating significant skepticism.
 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 14.
 Ibid., 86.
 Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 424.
 Ibid., 426.
 Ibid., 425.
 Ibid., 372 n. 4.
 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 11.
 Ibid., 84.
 Ibid., 85.
 Ibid., 86.
 Ibid., 87; cp. Charlesworth, Jesus Within Judaism, 17.
 Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, 87.
 Ibid., 89.
 Ibid., 89–113.
 Ibid., 187.
 Ibid., 188.
 Ibid., 191.
 N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003), 685.
 Ibid., 686.
 Ibid., 687.
 Ibid., 692.
 Ibid., 694.
 Ibid., 696.
 Ibid., 706.
 Ibid., 709.
 Ibid., 717.
 For a thorough vetting of these approaches as well as their validity, once again consult Thomas and Farnell, The Jesus Crisis.
 See Porter, “Table 2—“The Rise of the Criteria and the Development of Form and Redaction Criticism in ‘Quests’ for the Historical Jesus,” in The Criteria for Authenticity in Historical–Jesus Research, 102.
 The present writer has already discussed much of the usage of criteria of authenticity in the first two searches in The Jesus Crisis and the reader is referred there for a more lengthy discussion. See F. David Farnell, “Form and Tradition Criticism,” in The Jesus Crisis, 203–7.
 Nils A. Dahl, “The Problem of the Historical Jesus,” in Kerygma and History, eds. Carl E. Braaten and Roy A. Harrisville (New York and Nashville: Abingdon, 1962), 156.
 Porter devoted half of one of his recent works to “recent developments in the criteria of authenticity,” The Criteria of Authenticity in Historical–Jesus Research, 103–242.
 Brown, “Christology and the Quest of the Historical Jesus,” in Doing Theology for the People of God, 75.
 Since the 2DH and 4DH obtained dominance during the first search for the “historical Jesus,” this approach predominates in all three searches. See William R. Farmer, “A ‘Skeleton in the Closet’ of Gospel Research,” in Biblical Research, Papers of the Chicago Society of Biblical Research, (Chicago: SBR, 1961), 18–43.
 For an excellent discussion of the criteria in the first two searches, see William O. Walker, “The Quest for the Historical Jesus: A Discussion of Methodology,” Anglican Theological Review 1969 51, No. 1 (January 1969), 38–56; Harvey K. McArthur, “Basic Issues: A Survey of Recent Gospel Research,” Interpretation XVIII (1964), 39–55.
 The present writer sees the depth of corruption in Judaism in the fact that Jesus had to cleanse the temple twice: Once in the beginning of His ministry (John) and another time at the end (synoptics).
_recognition_and_other_thoughtshttp://blogs.bible.org/bock/darrell_l._bock/key_events_in_the_life_of_the_historical_jesus_recognition_and_other_thoughts (accessed 11/5/2011).
 Darrell Bock, “Faith and the Historical Jesus: Does A Confessional Position and Respect for the Jesus Tradition Preclude Serious Historical Engagement?” Journal for the Study of the Historical Jesus 9 (2011): 3–25.
 Norman L. Geisler and William C. Roach, “Darrell Bock and Robert Webb on Inerrancy,“ in Defending Inerrancy, Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011): 193–211, quotes from pp. 209, 210. See also, F. David Farnell, “Searching for the Historical Jesus: Does History Repeat Itself,” Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics 3, no. 1 (2010): 83–106.