Book Review: The Historical Jesus: Five Views

The-Historical-JesusThe Historical Jesus: Five Views, edited by James K. Beilby and Paul R. Eddy, brings together a wide spectrum of opinions from today’s leading voices in the quest for the historical Jesus. Beilby is the professor of systematic and philosophical theology, and Eddy is the professor of biblical and theological studies at Bethel University. Together they have written and/or edited numerous books, including, Divine Foreknowledge: Four Views and The Nature of the Atonement: Four Views. Beilby and Eddy bring both expertise and direction to the conversation as they continue to exhibit a growing track record of healthy discussion across various theological spectrums. It is largely the work of these two men that brings together an otherwise disconnected array of scholarship. Consequently, The Historical Jesus: Five Views exhibits a breath of fresh air amid a rapidly growing and diverse conversation that is certain to engage and enlighten readers of all backgrounds.

The book begins with a healthy introduction to the historical landscape surrounding the quest for the historical Jesus. The reader already familiar with the ongoing discussion concerning the issues of the book will find this opening chapter to be a solid refresher to an increasingly complex conversation. The reader largely unfamiliar with the conversation will appreciate the breadth of detail overflowing from these 45 pages, and should be able to confidently place the coming chapter within the broader discussion. Because the aim of the book is to highlight and examine the various methods used to unearth the historical Jesus, the methodological survey in the introduction is invaluable. Personally, I found the introduction among the most helpful chapters in the entire book and anticipate most readers will as well—especially considering the wide spectrum of opinions that follow.

The layout seems to move from left to right across the evangelical spectrum, with ample room for interaction following each contributing article. First, the reader will encounter a self-attested “controversial essay” by Robert M. Price. Price is among the few scholars today who still maintains the notion that Jesus “probably” didn’t exist. I found myself disagreeing with Price on almost every page, but I appreciated his contribution and anticipated his interaction with the other contributors more than any of the other contributors. Second, the reader will encounter an important essay by John Dominic Crossan. Crossan has been a voice within the conversation for some time now and his interaction is valuable, but the interaction against Crossan from the other contributors was even more valuable—especially from Dunn and Bock. Third, the reader will meet a stimulating article by Luke Timothy Johnson. The reader will appreciate the brevity of Johnson’s methodological approach. However, despite my agreement with many of his points, I found his contribution mediocre at best. Fourth, the reader will encounter the contribution of James D. G. Dunn. Dunn largely summarizes and synthesizes his more detailed work on the subject. This is helpful for those unfamiliar with Dunn, or those who simply don’t have the time to read his fuller work. Finally, the reader will encounter the contribution of Darrel L. Bock. Similar to Price, Bock’s contribution will be controversial for many. Not because he is a sceptic but because he is a conservative evangelical.

The Historical Jesus: Five Views is has brought together the most prominent contemporary voices in the current quest for the historical Jesus. As stated above, and, as is the case with all the books within the Spectrum: Multiview Books series published by IVP Academic, the present volume is a goldmine for familiarizing oneself with the broader conversational voices. Still, The Historical Jesus: Five Views is among the most helpful of this type of resource and comes highly recommended to anyone interested in embarking on the quest for the historical Jesus.

I received this book for free from IVP Academic in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

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