An ambitious but unsatisfying intellectual history of the quest for
the historical Jesus by a contributing editor to Lingua Franca.
Despite the subtitle, Allen's point is actually that this quest
reveals far more about those who engage in it than it does about a
distant man from Galilee. Rejecting, for instance, theories that
Jesus was black or a feminist, she writes, "the search for the
'historical' Jesus in the end has yielded a figure who is not
historical at all, and to whom historical reality is irrelevant."
She attempts to document the "historical quest" impulse in nearly
all its incarnations in Western culture in the past 2,000 years,
skipping from Roman emperors to German Romantics to contemporary
iconoclasts like John Dominic Crossan. Along the way, we make some
interesting incidental discoveries but get lost in the sheer weight
of this undertaking. The author also neglects the larger question
of why different philosophers, from wildly divergent cultural
contexts, have resorted to the same demythologizing impulse again
and again. There is surely a significant parallel, for example, in
Thomas Jefferson's careful trimming of all miracles out of his New
Testament and the contemporary Jesus Seminar's relentless pursuit
of his authentic sayings. That said, some of her jagged chapters
contain fruitful insights. Particularly intriguing is her
discussion of Joseph Ernest Renan's "cinematic Jesus," a feminized,
sensual creature whose portrayal benefited from Renan's friendship
with the lascivious Gustave Flaubert. Throughout, though, Allen's
tone is too harsh for her subjects, especially those still living.
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza is ridiculed for presenting Jesus as
"an androgynous personage of feminist leanings," while other
feminists "have re-constructed a re-imagined historical Jesus on
the cross as a woman suffering from menstrual cramps." There are
some perceptive moments here, but the vast scope of the project and
its occasional biases overshadow Allen's obvious erudition. (Kirkus
This is a history and critique of the secular search for the
historical Jesus throughout 2000 years. It examines how accepted
wisdom about Jesus developed through the centuries and how
researchers have often ended up portraying Jesus in their own
Is the information for this product incomplete, wrong or inappropriate?
Let us know about it.
Does this product have an incorrect or missing image?
Send us a new image.
Is this product missing categories?
Add more categories.
Review This Product
No reviews yet - be the first to create one!