Historical-anthropological Jesus research : the status of authentic pictures beyond authentic material

19 Mar 2010

A historical-anthropological approach to the study of the historical Jesus sets its own research agenda, starting with the research problem: to establish Jesus' identity as a historical figure. The interpretive style used to deal with such a figure is a cable-like process which accepts that the social type he belongend to, the stories about him, the setting within which he operated and his personal profile are configurations of each another. For example, when trying to understand the sources, the dynamics of the social type within a specific setting has to be taken into account. It is argued that identifying a social type is a matter of social analysis and not of merely labelling pre-established "authentic" parts of the tradition. If a social type is identified about whom stories such as those about Jesus are told, it is highly likely that Jesus could have been such a figure. This approach is used as a yardstick to evaluate the effectiveness of historical critical apporaches (the Jesus Seminar and the third quest) in dealing with a figure from a distant historical cultural setting. It is shown that neither of these approaches with their rationalist presuppositions and interpretive styles is very useful in understanding across cultural barriers.