“Jesus under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus” (Michael J. Wilkins & J.P. Moreland editors)

This is a 1995 anthology responding to the Jesus Seminar. It’s very impressive:  dense, serious, persuasive, straightforward, and concise, with contributions from the likes of William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, etc.

Some notes:

  • In chapter 1, John Meier’s A Marginal Jew is cited favorably as generally supportive.
  • Religious experience can be bolstered by “natural theology” — i.e., objective arguments for the existence of God (203 n.40).
  • On pages 199-200 there was a discussion I found relevant to the cultivation of faith.
  • Chapter 3 is titled, “The Words of Jesus in the Gospels:  Live, Jive, or Memorex?,” and the answer is “Live” — that is, it’s not made up, it’s not verbatim, “It is summarized discourse that has faithfully preserved the gist of Jesus’ teaching” (94).  I’d add that it’s my understanding that this is how even historians wrote back then. Thus, as is noted by another contributor earlier in the book (35, italics in original):

Many of the seeming discrepancies vanish once we understand the literary convention for writing history or biography in the ancient world. Neither Greek nor Hebrew had any symbol for our quotation marks, nor did people feel that a verbatim account of someone’s speech was any more valuable or accurate than a reliable summary, paraphrase, or interpretation.The order of events described in a famous person’s life was often arranged thematically rather than strictly chronologically. So we should not be surprised to find all kinds of minor variations in both sequence of episodes in Jesus’ life from one Gospel to the next and in the actual words attributed to him on any given occasion.

  • There’s very early evidence of Christians’ belief in Jesus’ identity and significance (soon after his death) (pages 42-43).
  • (a) If the Gospels had been tampered with, why wouldn’t they address the hot issues back then like circumcision?; and (b) “it is likely that written accounts of various provisions of the Gospel record predate the appearance of the final focus of the three synoptic Gospels in the 60s and John’s gospel in the 90s (32).
  • Even Caesar crossing the Rubicon was not crystal clear as to the date, location, etc. (37).
  • On page 6 and then page 8, it’s discussed how belief must be more than 50 percent certain, and there is a thought experiment about someone living happily but delusionally (cf. issues raised by Pascal’s Wager).
  • Finally, I noted and copied four paragraphs from page 194 on estrangement from God and reconnecting with Him, including via revelation.  You can read that passage here [link:  https://books.google.com/books?id=I9zugAzB_-gC&pg=PA194&lpg=PA194&dq=%22jesus+under+fire%22+%22modern+scholarship%22+%22estrangement+that+many+feel%22&source=bl&ots=TuJmlztsgE&sig=Ur7QluyNigDBCifaopidquiqG_E&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi7tt784bTYAhUCTt8KHa76AHoQ6AEIJzAA#v=onepage&q=%22jesus%20under%20fire%22%20%22modern%20scholarship%22%20%22estrangement%20that%20many%20feel%22&f=false ].