Reviews Of Books -- By: Anonymous
WTJ 67:2 (Fall 2005) p. 429
Reviews Of Books
James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered. Christianity in the Making 1. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003. Pp. xvii + 1019. $55.00, cloth.
_________, A New Perspective on Jesus: What the Quest for the Historical Jesus Missed. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005. Pp. 136. $12.99, paper.
These two books from the Durham don are targeted to different audiences, but cover similar ground. Jesus Remembered is the first installment on an intended three-part work covering the development of Christianity from its beginnings through the early post-apostolic period. This volume covers the methodology and philosophy of historical Jesus study, and also discusses the history itself. Its most significant and distinctive features are a vigorous apologetic for a positive evaluation of the oral tradition as historically conservative rather than inventive, and a corresponding positive attitude toward faith as not a distorting force but an impetus toward careful preservation of the memory of Jesus. These features are boiled down and made accessible to a broader audience in A New Perspective on Jesus. Except for some applicational suggestions and a heightened rhetorical vigor in the latter volume, almost all of Dunn’s arguments in New Perspective are also found in Jesus Remembered, so this review will focus mainly upon the larger work.
Jesus Remembered issues several challenges to contemporary scholarship on the study of Jesus and the Gospels. Dunn begins (pp. 25-97) with a penetrating but succinct survey of the development of the discipline over the last couple centuries (one of the best features of this volume, I might add), summarizing both its advances and blind spots. The titles to this section are suggestive of his analysis: “Flight from Dogma” (tracing how scholarship tried to distance itself from theology and get back to a “pure” historical figure untainted by church doctrine) and “Flight from History” (the particularly twentieth-century enterprise that regarded the actual historical Jesus as inaccessible, focusing instead on theology). It is rather interesting to note here that though Dunn is broadly critical of the “flight from dogma,” his summary (p. 65) mostly stresses the positive consequences, while the “flight from history” is presented as eventuating in postmodernism, which Dunn apparently regards as a flight from meaning
Dunn follows his historical survey with a chapter that begins to raise questions of historical method and hermeneutical assumptions. His stance of “critical realism” (p. 110) sees proper historical study as maintaining the integrity of both the objective reality of historical events and the inseparability of the knower of that reality from h...
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