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The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth [Paperback]

By Ben Witherington III (Author)
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Item description for The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth by Ben Witherington III...

In recent years, John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg, and Burton Mack have sparked controversy with their conclusions on the historical Jesus. Professor Witherington, in this popular critical review, presents the work of E.P. Sanders, N.T. Wright, and other noted scholars to give a clear, balanced understanding of the debate.

Publishers Description
Voted one of Christianity Today's 1996 Books of the Year In recent years Jesus' time, place and social setting have received renewed scholarly attention. New research on the Dead Sea Scrolls and other Jewish and Hellenistic texts has resulted in a surge of new images of Jesus and new ideas about his ministry. Dubbed the Third Quest for the historical Jesus, this recent effort is a transformation of the first quest, memorialized and chronicled by Albert Schweitzer, and the second quest, carried out in the 1950s and 1960s in the wake of extreme Bultmannian skepticism. The controversial works of John Dominic Crossan, Marcus Borg and Burton Mack, and the results of the Jesus Seminar have been thrust upon the public by publicists and media as the voices of learned consensus. Meanwhile, at the center of the scholarly investigation of Jesus, a less celebrated but certainly no less informed majority rejects many of the methods and conclusions of those who have captured the limelight. In The Jesus Quest Ben Witherington, a participant in the Quest, offers the first comprehensive determination and assessment of what scholars are really saying about Jesus. In addition to the views of Crossan, Borg and Mack, he presents and interacts with the work of important scholars such as Geza Vermes, E. P. Sanders, Gerd Theissen, Richard Horsley, John P. Meier, N. T. Wright and Elisabeth Schssler Fiorenza, as well as outlining his own understanding of Jesus as sage. Here is an indispensable survey and assessment of the most significant religious scholarly debate of the 1990s. Now with a lengthy new postscript, the new paperback edition of this widely praised book updates you on the continuing saga of the Third Quest for the historical Jesus.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: IVP Academic
Pages   334
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.02" Width: 6.02" Height: 0.96"
Weight:   1.1 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jun 8, 1997
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
Edition  Revised  
ISBN  0830815449  
ISBN13  9780830815449  

Availability  2 units.
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More About Ben Witherington III

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Ben Witherington III has an academic affiliation as follows - Asbury Theological Seminary Kentucky.

Ben Witherington III has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Letters and Homilies
  2. Letters and Homilies for Hellenized Christians
  3. New Testament Theology and Ethics

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > General

Christian Product Categories
Books > Bible Study > New Testament Studies > Jesus Studies

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Reviews - What do customers think about The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth?

Keep on searching  Feb 8, 2006
Ben Witherington has a distinguished list of publications to his credit, so it comes as a surprise to find that this volume lacks much of the scholarship for which he is known. He claims to survey the major views of Jesus in this 3rd quest (e.g., cynic, escatological prophet, social reformer, sage), however, he ignores three of the main views (ie., magician ala Morton Smith; Essene ala Barbara Thiering; Pagan composite ala Tim Freke and Peter Gandy). Such an omission raises questions about the objectivity of this book, and a cursory reading of the text confirms any misgiving you may have - this is a highly personal and subjective book. Here are some examples of this approach...

"In its statement of purpose, found conveniently in the back of its [the Jesus seminar] red-letter edition..." (p. 43)

"...Crosson is, if anything, in this latest book even more dogmatically against..." (p. 91)

"...and Funk, Crosson and their kin..." (p. 79)

You can see in the choice of words ("their kin", "conveniently", "dogmatically", etc) that this is hardly an objective or scholarly piece.

In addition, there are many errors. For example,

He claims "One of the earliest pictorial renderings of Jesus is found in Rome. It is on a 4th Century sarcophagus...(p. 59)." That simply isn't true. There are renderings going back to the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, so 4th Century is hardly earliest.

He claims "The frequency, immediacy and approach of his [Jesus] cures distinguish them from a number of other ancient miracle stories. (p. 70)." Also not true. Any reader of Smith or Freke and Gandy knows this assertion is false.

He claims "There are six exorcism stories, 17 healings and 8 nature miracles in the Gospel tradition. (p. 71)." By whose count??? There are 18 healings in Mark alone, and another 9 in Matthew that aren't mentioned in Mark, and 5 in Luke that aren't in Mark or Matthew, etc.

He claims "...especially in view of the two volume nature of Luke's work." (p. 228). Excuse me, isn't that a theory, not a fact? Indeed, there are some serious questions whether or not Acts (I'm assuming this is the 2nd volume of which he speaks) was written by 1 person or isn't the account of 2 different people, spliced together to make 1 story. And then, of course, there are so many instances of plagurism in Luke, one wonders whether or not it is fair to say that "Luke" "wrote" it at all, but rather "compiled" might be a more accurate word.

I could go on, but you get the point.

Notable omissions, personal attacks and numerous errors make this book less valuable than it might have been. It certainly covers a lot of ground and generally speaking gives a good introduction to those areas where Witherington doesn't show his biases.
Jesus Scholarship: The State of the Art  Apr 17, 2005
Many people read the Gospels as accurate descriptions of the life of Jesus, assuming that the Gospels accurately report what happened and do not omit any significant teachings of Jesus or events in his life. Since the late 1700's, historical criticism has challenged the accuracy of the New Testament portrayal of Jesus, thus beginning the First Quest for the historical Jesus. We are now in the Third Quest, which begin in the 1970's following the decline of Bultmannian existentialism. As in the first two Quests, the Third Quest offers an interesting array of novel interpretations and conservative responses.

Ben Witherington set forth to chronicle the Third Quest in THE JESUS QUEST (1995). Witherington, a moderately conservative NT scholar with an impressive list of publications, is certainly up to the job. This book is more than just a survey of the various big names associated with the Third Quest (Crossan, Borg, Sanders, etc.). Witherington also discusses these writers within the larger issues that have dominated the Third Quest (particularly eschatology, Judaism, and social life in Galilee). Also, he introduces readers to lesser-known studies such as Graham Twelftree's JESUS THE EXORCIST. Simply put, this book is informative on many levels.

The Third Quest shows signs of winding down. Books without end are still written about Jesus, but radically new approaches are hard to come by. So while Witherington's book came out ten years ago, it isn't as out of date as it might seem. Of the books that have appeared since then, my favorites are: McKnight, A NEW VISION FOR ISRAEL; Allison, JESUS OF NAZARETH: MILLENARIAN PROPHET; and Twelftree, JESUS: THE MIRACLE WORKER.
An outstanding overview of contemporary Jesus scholarship  Nov 29, 2002
Yes, Ben Witherington is a (relative) conservative, but don't hold that against him. Yes, he has strong opinions, but don't hold that against him, either, because they are well argued. The fact remains that this is the best overview of "Third Quest" Jesus scholarship I have been able to find. Admirers of the Jesus Seminar may not appreciate his critique, but it is very fair and well-thought out. One of the benefits from a book like this, besides giving interested parties a launching pad for further research, is that the different views of Jesus can help one achieve a well-rounded portrait of the Savior. No one scholar gets it right all the time (not even Witherington, with his own view of Jesus as God's wisdom), but the different insights are valuable, because Jesus is bigger than what any one person can comprehend. That should be a cause for humility (something some Jesus scholars have lacked, at least in print). I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in contemporary Jesus scholarship.
For over two centuries, theologians and Biblical scholars have attempted to sift through the historical texts that bear witness to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, in order to discover what the "Historical Jesus" was actually like. In this comprehensive yet accessible study, Ben Witherington presents and analyzes the portraits of Jesus put forth by some of the most current scholars in the field of Jesus research. This includes the more radical views of Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, and Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, as well as more traditional views voiced by N. T. Wright, John Meier, and Witherington himself. In my opinion, the book deserves to be read by all serious Christians, in order that they may know and appreciate the many interpretations of Jesus that have come about. This book will challenge, enrich, and stimulate anyone who knows (or wants to know) about Jesus of Nazareth.
Fair reviews  Apr 27, 2001
Unlike the other reviewers, I do not see the author as polemic or unfair. He provides reasonable arguements to back his claims. Perhaps he is somewhat harsh on Marcus Borg, but his arguements with the Jesus Seminar are certainly shared by many others (such as Meier). There are only two criticisms I would have: the writing is not as engaging as authors like Meier or Vermes and the book's value primarily would be to those who have read a fair number of the texts he references. To get a picture of Jesus just from this book and biblical accounts would be a mistake.

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