Who was Jesus? This question has dominated recent New Testament research, with scholars searching for its answer among biblical texts, the apocrypha and archaeological remains. Their work has garnered overwhelming interest among Bible scholars, who flock to hear each other’s accounts of the Real Jesus at academic conventions, and among the public, which has made books on the historical Jesus bestsellers. But, lately, a backlash has developed. In the December 1995 BR, New Testament scholar Luke Johnson (see “The Search for (the Wrong) Jesus”) claimed that these attempts to reconstruct the Jesus of history are destroying our only true witness to early Christianity—the New Testament. But is the search for the Jesus of history misguided, as Johnson suggests? Looking at the four divergent accounts presented in the gospels as models for interpreting Jesus’ story, John Dominic Crossan challenges Johnson and demonstrates “Why Christians Must Search for the Historical Jesus.”
Crossan is professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University in Chicago. His own best-selling reconstructions of Jesus’ life include The Historical Jesus (HarperSanFrancisco, 1991) and Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography (HarperSanFrancisco, 1994).