Abstract

Jacob Neusner's review of John Dominic Crossan's The Historical Jesus and John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew is insightful and helpful at many points. Although Neusner is not himself a Jesus scholar, his work in rabbinica qualifies him for meaningful participation in what is a technical and difficult field of study. Neusner rightly criticizes Crossan's uncritical use of apocryphal gospels, especially with respect to Morton Smith's Secret Gospel of Mark. But Neusner infers too much from this particular controversy; Jesus research is not in a state of chaos, nor has the discipline been unable to defend itself from hucksters and sensationalists. Neusner claims too much when he accuses Crossan and Meier of defending their work on "blatantly theological grounds." Both discuss the implications that their research has for Christian faith, but the work itself is not defended on theological grounds. It is concluded that historical Jesus research is credible and necessary.

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