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New Perspective on Jesus, A: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) [Paperback]

By James D. Dunn (Author)
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Item description for New Perspective on Jesus, A: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) by James D. Dunn...

In this compelling study, Dunn provides a critique of the quest for the historical Jesus. Dunn claims that the quest has been misguided from the start in its attempt to separate the historical Jesus from the Christ of faith.

Publishers Description
In this compelling study, renowned author James D. G. Dunn provides a critique of the quest for the historical Jesus. Dunn claims that the quest has been misguided from the start in its attempt to separate the historical Jesus from the Christ of faith.
Dunn argues that Jesus scholars have consistently failed to recognize how the early disciples' pre-Easter faith and a predominantly oral culture shaped the way the stories about Jesus were told and passed on. Dunn also examines the implications of oral transmission for our understanding of Synoptic relationships.
A New Perspective on Jesus proposes a change in direction for Jesus scholarship. It will be of interest to pastors, church leaders, students, and thoughtful laypersons wanting a fresh perspective on Jesus studies.

Citations And Professional Reviews
New Perspective on Jesus, A: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology) by James D. Dunn has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -
  • Ingram Advance - 03/01/2005 page 88

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Baker Academic
Pages   160
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.52" Width: 5.54" Height: 0.36"
Weight:   0.45 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Mar 1, 2005
Publisher   Baker Academic
Series  Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology  
ISBN  0801027101  
ISBN13  9780801027109  

Availability  0 units.

More About James D. Dunn

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! James D. G. Dunn (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is Emeritus Lightfoot Professor of Divinity at the University of Durham. He is the author of numerous books, including commentaries on Romans, Galatians, Colossians/Philemon, and 1 Corinthians, as well as The Theology of Paul the Apostle and Jesus Remembered.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Jesus > Historical Jesus
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > Criticism & Interpretation > Criticism & Interpretation
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Reference > General

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

Reviews - What do customers think about New Perspective on Jesus, A: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed (Acadia Studies in Bible and Theology)?

The oral basis of the Jesus tradition   Jan 17, 2008
In this brief book (125 pages) James Dunn argues that the quest for the historical Jesus has been incorrectly operating out of a default literary paradigm rather than an oral one. Dunn accepts the Q hypothesis, but argues that the gospel writers would have also relied heavily on the oral traditions of their respective communities. Even after the gospels were written this oral tradition would have remained primary due to high illiteracy in the first century. Oral tradition by nature had both stability and variation; it would not change dramatically within a community due to the commitment of its members to the ideas, but at the same time there would have been flexibility over details that were not considered essential.

Dunn explains a number of implications of an oral paradigm. For example, the "Christ of faith" and the "historical Jesus" cannot be separated, because the oral tradition was faith based from the beginning. An "excavation" method of trying to uncover the historical Jesus is doomed to failure because there is no single account to go back to. There would have been multiple faith based accounts right from the beginning, because different followers would have heard or understood various sayings differently. Also, to determine historicity scholars have tended to focus on what was unique within the first-century Jewish or early Christian contexts, but Dunn argues that emphasis should go onto what is characteristic of the oral tradition, and the events that could have given rise to it.

This book left me with a sense of the gospels as a snapshot of a dynamic oral tradition. My impression after reading this book is that the gospels are historically reliable providing one comes to them with expectations appropriate to this tradition. This book is highly readable, but those without any knowledge of the historical quests may prefer to begin with an introductory text, perhaps something like NT Wright's "The Contemporary Quest for Jesus."
Can there be no reconciliation?  Jul 4, 2006
JDGD sets a nice dichotomy between the historical Jesus and that of tradition, which he calls the Jesus of faith. He argues that those who follow the quest for the historical Jesus using modern science and research does not give them the "real" Jesus but gives them the Jesus of their faith. Their research tends to confirm the interpretation that fulfills their values and ideals. The Jesus of Faith, on the other hand, which is based on theological traditions of interpretation of the NT, turns out to be closer to the real Jesus, since how Jesus would have inspired a faith among his disciples is the closest we can come to avoiding our own values and ideals. This is a very nice ironic twist to the whole enterprise I think. I can also see value in interpreting the various interpretations along this interpretation! But what exactly is the traditional faith based Jesus and how is He to be interpreted? I had thought all along, despite the sharpness of JDGD's critique, that it was to improve the traditional interpretational faith based Jesus to an educated rather than merely protestant and dumbed down or fundamentalist view that was the goal of the quest for the historical Jesus. Shouldn't the Jesus interpreted from the Gospels be reconcilable with what our science tells us about our world? How do we know what Jesus meant to say to His audience unless we know something historical about the audience? In short, how can I hold two images of Jesus and try to view Him as either one or another, one of some sort of fantasy or one of what appears to me as what a person could really be like? Rather, let the dialogue represent the merging of what is best in narrative, food for the soul and source of value, and model for excellence, while at the same time believing that the narrative is coherent with what science tells about the world. Reading the wonderful introduction to "Jesus Remembered" I remember the conclusion that there is no non-interpretative point of view on this. I read JDGD and others in the hope that I will have the most reconcilable point of view.
"A New Perspective on Jesus" dares to ask the big questions. What if the entire long quest to find the historical Jesus was fundamentally flawed from the beginning? What if all those scholars, all those books, starting in 1832, had missed the very obvious?

This is a revolutionary book of biblical scholarship. Yet it is a mere 125 pages long. And it's written in Dunn's usual clear style, so that it's accessible to anyone interested in the subject.

For almost 200 years, scholars have been trying to find a different, more 'historical' Jesus from the Jesus of faith presented in the gospels. Their assumption was that the historical Jesus must be different from the Jesus of the New Testament, and that, with enough research, they'd be able to tease out this other Jesus.

But as Dunn points out, the quest was flawed. Where could they find this other Jesus? "The only Jesus available to Jesus as he was seen and heard by those who first formulated the traditions we have--the Jesus of faith, Jesus seen through the eyes and heard through the ears of the faith that he evoked by what he said and did" (p 31). Yet there is an entire industry of alternatives to the actual gospels, suggesting all sorts of dark conspiracies. Jesus as a mushroom! Jesus as Caesar! Jesus as the hippie Cynic sage! Alll of them based on hot air and a vivid fantasy life.

The problem for all these desperate alternatives to the gospels is that "to discount the influence that Jesus actually had, to strip away the impact that Jesus actually made, is to strip away everything and to leave an empty stage waiting to be filled by...the historian's own imagination. If we are unsatisfied with the Jesus of the Synoptic tradition, then we will simply have to lump it; there is no other" (p 34).

This would make a terrific Christmas present to any biblical scholars you know.
Helpful for a balanced approach to Jesus studies  May 19, 2005
James Dunn's small book on the origin of the synoptic gospels (Matt, Mark, Luke) is apparently a slice of his other work titled "Remembering Jesus." This is a helpful introduction to issues related to the character of, and indirectly the historicity of, the gospels. Dunn argues, against more liberal/skeptical scholarship, that the similarities and differences in the synoptic gospels are best explained by oral transmission of these events and teachings in the early church.

While not arguing against documentary theories (e.g. "Q"), he feels many avenues have not been suffiently explored in explaining the gospels. Specifically, he argues that scholars have not sufficiently reflected on the nature of a largely oral (as opposed to literate) society; also that Jesus' positive influence on his hearers has been likewise overlooked.

His view seems to honor the gospels as accurate, historical pictures of Jesus. This small book is useful for apologetics and for better appreciating the world of the New Testament.

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