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Robert H. Gundry
Jesus, the Halakic Jew
The quest of the historical Jesus is turning out to be like my wife's search for the perfect coffeemaker: unending. Albert Schweitzer traced the quest critically from the 18th century up to his own time (the early 20th century) and added an apocalyptic wrinkle to that quest, now called "the first quest." Largely because the temporary ascendance of existential theology made historical concerns seem relatively unimportant (what counts is what impacts your existence here and now), questing for the historical Jesus lapsed into something of a coma till Ernst Käsemann revived it with an influential lecture in 1953. This second quest fizzled quickly, though. Its historiographical skepticism kept it from producing very much more than a question mark. In reaction, a cadre of scholars said we can do better by concentrating on the Jewishness of Jesus. For we now have an increased understanding of 1st-century Judaism, against which background we can evaluate the canonical evangelists' portrayals of Jesus. Hence the so-called third quest.
Enter John P. Meier into the ranks of third-questers. Law and Love makes up volume 4 of his A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. Meier intended to write only one volume, but two more volumes followed. He then determined to make volume 4 his last by taking up in it the enigmas of Jesus on the Mosaic law, Jesus' parables, Jesus' self-identifications, and the reason(s) for his crucifixion. (Apparently because it would entail the supernatural, a resurrection of Jesus, along with his miracles, lies outside the confines of enigmas open to historical research "using scientific tools," in which case David Hume wins—historiographically speaking—before an examination of testimonial evidence even starts.) Alas, volume 4 manages to cover only the first enigma; and it is hard to imagine that Jesus' parables, self-identifications, and crucifixion, about each of which others have written voluminously, can be covered in a single fifth ...