Saturday, December 29, 2007

Third Quest out of steam?

Scot McKnight, in an ETS address last November, and Markus Bockmuehl, in his recent Seeing the Word (c. p44), have both intimated that the ‘Third Quest’ for the historical Jesus is running out of steam (though cf. Bockmuehl’s brilliant work for qualifications).

While I am not half the NT man these guys are, I am not so sure I agree. When I think of the contributions of, for example, Michael Bird or Brant Pitre, and works in progress, such as Michael Barber’s, I believe that restoration eschatology has an awful lot to lend to the discussion. I tend to think it is a lively and open discussion, with many possibilities for significant breakthroughs.


At 12/29/2007 9:15 PM, Anonymous Jim said...

They are, with their new methodology, really engaging in a "4th" Quest- having set aside the tools of the former generation.

In a real sense the third quest died with Kasemann and people have been playing at it till now.

At 12/29/2007 11:52 PM, Anonymous Doug Chaplin said...

OTOH, I'm with Dale Allison who argues in Resurrecting Jesus (I think?) and elsewhere that there never was a time of "no quest", so that third quest is anyway a misnomer — running out of steam or not. Maybe these things just ebb and flow, but I can't see it going away.

At 12/31/2007 1:15 PM, Anonymous John C. Poirier said...

I think the enterprise has momentarily slowed down, but the next line of investigation will have to do with correcting all of Crossan's blunders, esp. his uncritical assumption that Jesus was an illiterate "peasant".

At 1/03/2008 4:12 AM, Anonymous Brant Pitre said...


Thanks for the honorable mention, especially alongside guys like the Mike Bird and Michael Barber. I agree with you, and don't think that the Quest (however you number it) is "losing steam." What I do think is that it is currently in a period of seeming "stasis", or at least transition, for at least two reasons:

First, an older generation of scholars (Sanders, Wright, Dunn, McKnight) have had their say, and made their contributions. I don't think we should expect much more from any of these "giants" in the field as far as big Jesus books go. (I was at the seminar where McKnight made that statement; he also basically said he was done with HJ research.) So if you assume that these guys are it--remember though that John Meier has two (yes, two!) more volumes to go--then you might also think that the Quest per se is "losing steam," simply because some of them are retiring, or moving on to other projects.

Second, the broader discipline of Gospel studies--upon which the Quest has always rested--is in a period of transition right now, with a great deal of discussion taking place and the questioning of a number of fundamental assumptions about the nature and origin of the Gospels (think here of Bauckham or Bockmuehl's recent work). Michael Barber and I agree that perhaps some of the slowing down of production in Quest research may have to do with all of the rethinking taking place in the study of the Gospels, such as on the genre of the Gospels (think here of Burridge). I think that the next generation of Jesus researchers may be doing this as we speak. I know that from a personal perspective my own research has been slowed by having to go back and rethink some fundamental historical and methodological assumptions because of the work of people like Bauckham and Bockmuehl, as well as a fantastic essay that Joel Willits wrote for JSHJ.

Anyway, in short (and I'm never short), I seriously doubt that the writing of books about Jesus will ever come to a complete halt. But the Quest per se may be in a period of transition right now. In my opinion, this may actually be sign of its health and vitality, as well as a sign of good things to come.

At 1/03/2008 3:57 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Thanks for the great comments.

You may all be interested to read James Crossley's response here.

Brant, thanks especially for your comment. Very helpful. I'd be interested to hear what you make of Burridge's 'ancient bio' thesis.


Post a Comment

<< Home