There have been some interesting blog posts on the state of historical Jesus studies around the blogosphere recently:
In order to introduce the topics of memory and gap-filling in historical Jesus studies Anthony Le Donne asks, “Was Jesus breastfed?” in “Of Memory and Mother’s Milk”.
Pat McCullough responds in “Breast was Best for Jesus” by asking why this matters. Then he proposes that we might go a different direction with such questions. Rather than “digging up historical details” about Jesus he finds that these types of questions open the door for different areas of inquiry, such as “gendered discourse” and “group boundaries and ideals.” Then McCullough mentions in “Jesus: All Things to All People” a recent blog post by Kate Daley-Bailey titled “Jesus’ Remains: Teaching Multiple Jesi” where it is observed that “…our job…is not to magically distill the ‘real’ Jesus from the swill of theology and political packaging, but rather to highlight the nuanced processes of constructing ‘Jesi’ and query the discursive strategies deployed to flesh out the impoverished Jesus.” In other words, most historical Jesus scholars do not find the “real Jesus” they seek, but rather create another Jesus for all to consider, so a more fruitful approach is the embrace the reality we won’t find the ‘real’ Jesus by becomign aquainted with the multiple depictions of Jesus (she calls them “Jesi”) available to us.
James McGrath challenges this pessimism in “Is Historical Jesus Studies Futile?” He observes that while there is diversity in how scholars present Jesus, and even in how the Evangelists present Jesus, that doesn’t mean there isn’t commonality to be found. He advocates the role of “scholarly consensus” as a guide to historical Jesus studies, admitting that the nature of the field is to discover something new, which may create confusion and excessive diversity, but that doesn’t mean there are not aspects of the life of Jesus that most scholars affirm which can tell us something about the man.