Storm Over Buchanan’s Life of Jesus
To the Editor:
I read with interest George Wesley Buchanan’s “Exploring The Life Of Jesus,” BAR 03:01, which chided Wendell Phillips for his naive fundamentalism. Not only was Phillips characterized as the “last of the great nineteenth century explorers although he lived entirely in the twentieth,” but his book was described as belonging “among the numerous nineteenth century lives of Jesus.” It appeared to me as I read Professor Buchanan’s article, that his perspective is basically that of a nineteenth century liberal, and that he is still fighting the nineteenth century battles.
From the early Church Fathers to the present, varying answers have been given in explanation of the differences in the Gospels. In the nineteenth century, Bible scholars sought their answers through the quest for the historical Jesus. Such questers were divided into conservative and liberal camps. Conservatives sought to harmonize the discrepancies found in the various Gospel accounts. They did their utmost to preserve all the details, and bring them into one continuous narrative. Liberals, on the other hand, tended to cut away material they considered to be late or legendary accretions.
Albert Schweitzer pointed out the futility of the quest for the historical Jesus. All the efforts of critical scholars to describe the historic Jesus and identify his authentic words have been dead-end streets. In the final analysis, we know Jesus only in the interpretation given him in the Bible.