The Historical Jesus according to John Meier and N. T. Wright -- By: Dennis Ingolfsland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 155:620 (Oct 1998)
Article: The Historical Jesus according to John Meier and N. T. Wright
Author: Dennis Ingolfsland


The Historical Jesus according to John Meier and N. T. Wright

Dennis Ingolfsland

Dennis Ingolfsland is Assistant Professor of Bible, Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee.

Two contemporary scholars in the field of historical Jesus research are John Meier and N. T. Wright. Both have written significant works on Jesus and are at the forefront of the so-called “Third Quest” for the historical Jesus.1 John Meier, a Catholic priest, is professor of New Testament at Catholic University of America. N. T. Wright is an Anglican canon who, after teaching for twenty years at such prestigious institutions as Cambridge and Oxford universities, is now dean of Lichfield Cathedral in England. This article presents a brief overview, comparison, and critique of the historical methodology and views of Jesus presented in Meier’s A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus2 and N. T. Wright’s New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God.3

The Historical Jesus according to John Meier

According to Meier the term “historical Jesus” refers to facts about Jesus’ life that can be reconstructed by means of modern historical research.4 While no one can know

everything a person said and did, enough is known about many public figures in modern history to gain a fairly complete picture of their lives. Unfortunately evidence does not allow such complete reconstructions of most people in the ancient world. So although the evidence does not present a very complete picture of the “real” Jesus, people can know the “historical Jesus.”5

Meier begins with a detailed discussion and critical analysis of historical sources for Jesus’ life, including Josephus, Tacitus, and the Apocrypha. The Apocrypha is dismissed as being historically unreliable, though the Coptic Gospel of Thomas is discussed at some length because of its recent use in post-Bultmannian circles. Meier concludes that it is probable “that the Gospel of Thomas knew and used at least some of the canonical Gospels, notably Matthew and Luke.”6

Meier also briefly discusses Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Lucian, the Dead Sea Scrolls, the agrapha, the Pseudepigrapha, Philo, latter rabbinic literature, and the Nag Hammadi texts, but he dismisses them as not contributing much directly to the topic. Meier concludes that none of these works conta...

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