Like many others, I have a fascination with books on the "historical Jesus" because of the central role that Jesus plays in my life and because the Christian faith is tied to historical facts. Having said that, I must note that the area of historical Jesus studies is full of much nonsense. Some scholars claim that the Christian faith has nothing to do with history (compare Rudolph Bultmann, pictured at left). Others, with similar-- pardon the language-- stupidity, claim that the fact of the empty tomb is irrelevant to Christian faith even though the early Christians staked their lives on the historical fact of the bodily resurrection of Jesus. You did not need me to tell you this: erudite scholars with doctorates are not immune from stupidity. I often suspect that such absurd conclusions and analyses are more influenced by deep personal confusion or some sort of identity crisis rather than by the dictates of objective, historical method.
Yet, a book by Michael McClymond of St. Louis University is, in great contrast, a balanced, common sense overview of historical Jesus studies. Let's sample his book Familiar Stranger: An Introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (Eerdmans, 2004). Here are a few telling points from the book:
1.) Most scholars hold that the Gospel of Mark was the earliest of the canonical gospels ("Marcan priority"). Yet, "about two-thirds of Mark, prior to the story of Jesus' final week in Jerusalem, concerns the miraculous" (p. 88). So much for those who want to conjure up a Jesus without embarrassing miracles. To do that, you need to follow in the revisionist footsteps of the deeply confused and anti-historical Thomas Jefferson and literally cut the miracles out of the text with your arbitrary scissors.
2.) "While we do not have the fullness of biographical detail and the wealth of firsthand accounts that are available for recent public figures, such as Winston Churchill or Mother Teresa, we nonetheless have much more data on Jesus than we do for such ancient figures as Alexander the Great" (p. 8).
3.) Lo and behold, the "best archaeological candidate for the site of Jesus' death is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem" (p. 128). If you can afford the trip, go there.
In conclusion, below is an extended discussion of foolishness written by scholars Borg and Crossan (in my personal opinion, Crossan takes the cake as the most "wacko" of those who have unfortunately inserted themselves into historical Jesus studies):
In the modern period there has been a tendency among some scholars to interpret the resurrection language of the New Testament as referring to the experiences of the disciples rather than to the person and body of Jesus. Such writers will say that the meaning of the resurrection is continuing hope in God, or a sense of divine presence, or joy in the face of tragedy, or some other experience that is religiously significant but not necessarily connected with the body of Jesus. In this vein, Marcus Borg claims that "the truth of the resurrection is not dependent upon an empty tomb or a vanished corpse. Rather, the truth of the resurrection is grounded in the experience of Christ as a living reality before his death." Similarly, John Dominic Crossan [a typically and unnecessarily long and pompous academic name] explains that "the resurrection of Jesus means for me that the human empowerment that some people experienced in Lower Galilee . . . is now available to any person in any place at any time." While Borg and Crossan have stated what the resurrection means for them personally, this is not what the resurrection of Jesus meant for the earliest Christians.
McClymond, p. 131 (emphasis added by blogger).
That such nonsense exists under the false cover of historical, advanced, specialized academic study is a landmark in intellectual abuse. I strongly recommend Familiar Stranger as a remedy for that profuse nonsense.