Book Notice: Jesus, Skepticism and the Problem of History

Darrell L. Bock and J. Ed Komoszewski, eds. Jesus, Skepticism, and the Problem of History: Criteria and Context in the Study of Christian Origins. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 2019. 384 Pages. $34.99 (paperback).

Edited by Darrell Bock, Senior Research Professor of New Testament Studies and Executive Director for Cultural Engagement at Dallas Theological Seminary, and Ed Komoszewski, who previously taught at Northwestern College and Bethlehem College and Seminary, Jesus, Skepticism, and the Problem of History is a collection of essays touching on a wide range of issues including the philosophy of history, the validity of various criteria for Jesus research, and the flawed historiographies of skeptics.

The work is largely a response to an earlier publication, Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity (2012), edited by Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne, which argued for the abandonment of the standard criteria of authenticity in assessing the historical value of a particular text for Jesus research. In contrast, the present volume seeks to show their continuing value, when rightly used, for the New Testament historian’s toolbox. At the same time, the contributors affirm that the skeptical use of these tools is methodologically unsound, as such skeptics seek to find a Jesus divorced from the church, the canonical Gospels, and the early creeds.

The book is divided into four parts. Part 1 argues for the value of continuing evangelical engagement with historical Jesus studies. Parts 2 and 3 address current historical issues in the Gospels, Acts, and historical Jesus research. Part 4 offers three critical responses by Scot McKnight, Nicholas Perrin, and the late Larry Hurtado.

In an introductory chapter, Craig Blomberg and Darlene Seal provide a helpful assessment of the current state of historical Jesus research and a discussion of how evangelicals should be engaging in the study of the historical Jesus. Although Jesus studies are currently in a “lull” (44), these authors believe that a scholarly focus on the topic will soon be revived. They are hopeful about the future of the field given the “proliferation of evangelicals in the academy” publishing significant works (53). In addition, they argue that a key reason for evangelical interaction with critical scholarship on Jesus is the “apologetic value of the endeavor” (59).

By way of caution, while the issue addressed is important, the book is in fact quite technical. Unless one is well versed in the relevant terminology and historical Jesus research (various criteria, multiple quests, form criticism, etc.), this book might be too specialized for the average layperson. However, Michael Metts’ chapter can help the uninformed reader get up to speed on the various quests for the historical Jesus and some of the key figures, terms, and history. Overall, the work can serve as a helpful primer for those who are interested in critical and evangelical scholarship, though the debate will no doubt continue.

CBS book notices provide brief descriptive summaries and assessments of new publications in biblical studies and biblical theology. The present book notice was written by Quinn Mosier, an M.Div. student at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.


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