This is Richard’s latest blog. It’s a nice summary of all of his work on the historical Jesus over the last few years, and it starts with a statement that really should have completely altered the religious landscape already. It is; the Jesus of the Bible is not the historical Jesus, even if there was a historical Jesus. This is the consensus of all scholars, even the ones who have taken faith oaths at religious institutions. If you don’t accept this simple fact, you are a fundamentalist. That is, you are not credible as someone who understands how history works or what counts as historical evidence.
This leaves plenty of room for someone who wants to say they have a relationship with a living spirit, but no room for someone who says a story in the Bible about 5,000 witnessing a risen Christ counts as historical evidence. It leaves room for someone who says the intentions or teachings of a man in the 1st century became a parable in the NT, but no room for someone that says “Jesus actually said __________.” The consensus also says this Jesus person was crucified, but that’s it. After that, you’re into theology, you have left history behind.
Why does this matter? Notice what happens the next time someone mentions the consensus that Jesus was a real person. Watch the next words out of their mouth. It will be something from the Bible, and they will treat it as if it is historically accurate. As non-scholars, we might find ourselves on shaky ground attempting to argue the accuracy or strength of the consensus, but really, we don’t need to go there. We can just concede the consensus because it has very little to do with the Bible.