Ben Witherington III, “The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of Nazareth”

I’ve noted elsewhere on this site other books by this author, all very good including this one.  He’s conservative and traditional but not a believer in inerrancy.  The book is a summary and critique of the “Third Search,” which includes mostly (but not exclusively) the Jesus Seminar.  The author is always evenhanded and fair, but it’s clear that he does not find the Left here persuasive.  Since he is basically saying what is not persuasive, in my view the book is not as useful (or as worthy of rereading or buying) as a book that discusses what is persuasive.  But note that Witherington does summarize some of his own work (185-94) in here — see one excerpt noted below — about Jesus seeing Himself as “sage and Wisdom.”

Two nuggets:  (1) “Jesus and his followers probably knew some Greek” (27); and (2) in interpreting an incident, look at what precedes and follows it in Scripture (passim).

I also photocopied three longer excerpts.  In the first one (159),  Witherington rebuts the claim that Jesus was anti-hierarchical.  You can read it here [link:].

Second (194, footnote omitted, emphasis in original, summarizing Witherington’s own ideas):

   To put things another way, the sage and Wisdom proposal is the only one I know of that makes sense of Jesus’ teachings, Jesus’ miracles as Son of David (i.e., one like Solomon cf. Mk 10:46-52), Jesus’ self-presentation as Son of Man in bringing in the kingdom of God, Jesus’ yoke and binding his disciples to himself, the connection between messianic concepts, sapiential concepts and Son of Man material and the development of Christology found in the church as early as the Christological hymns (Phil 2; Col 1; Jn 1). In short, the vast majority of all the material in the Synoptics, and especially its distinctive markers of parabolic teaching, Son of Man sayings, kingdom material, and miracles can be explained by this approach.

   Perhaps what is most impressive about this approach is its cumulative effect and its breadth.  While one may wish to quibble about one piece of exegesis or another, even if I am only right about some of the texts mentioned above, one must take the Jesus as a sage and Wisdom proposal very seriously.  Notice that it allows an explanation of the character, nature and purpose of Jesus’ ministry as a whole, as well as how he viewed himself, without having to resort to a wide variety titles or disparate ideas.  It also provides a reasonable explanation for the historical continuum between Jesus and his followers, both before and after Easter.  A sapiential understanding of Jesus and his ministry allows his earliest disciples to hold together their experience of the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith.

The third excerpt likewise (244) likewise summarizes Witherington’s own approach, and concludes with this caveat:  “I stressed that this proposal to see Jesus as sage and Wisdom should not be taken in isolation from the helpful insights to be gained from seeing Jesus as prophet, Spirit person and messianic teacher.  No one descriptive term or title adequately encompasses the ‘man who fits no one formula.'”

Finally, note that Chapter 9 summarizes the whole book.