This is really a response to Sabio’s post here, but I’m responding here because I want to include an image.
Sabio is responding to someone who is claiming that one can challenge the religious right’s use of Jesus by appealing to the Jesus of the New Testament. He rightly says that there is no ‘Jesus of the New Testament’ – there are many of them. And he is right to say that the historical Jesus (the facts about Jesus we can be reasonably confident in as historians) are very few indeed.
I’ve been banging the drum for a better public understanding of the diversity of content in the bible for some time. So this is right up my alley.
But it strikes me that the two arguments pass in the night. It is both true that there is a diversity of concepts of Jesus in the NT, that the historical Jesus (HJ) is very minimal, and that one can argue that the religious right have Jesus all wrong. And I think the route of the mismatch is in understanding that the historical Jesus is not the same as the consensus Jesus of the NT. The gospel writers do agree on quite a lot about who Jesus was, what was important to him, and what he did. Historically much of this is dubious, a lot of it downright absurd, but that’s beside the point, I think. If you grant that the bible is authoritative in some sense, then even though you acknowledge its diversity, you can ask of it: does it have a consensus on this issue? And if it does, then one would presumably want to be able to mobilise that consensus as clear teaching from that authority.