Who Is Jesus?: Linking The Historical Jesus With the Jesus Of Faith, by Darrell L. Bock
In one sense, this book is an example of colossal hubris. At first, when I read the beginning of this book, I was ready to tear into this book like I tear into an herb-crusted ribeye steak or some boneless chicken cooked to excellence, a fate that most authors greatly dislike for their books. After all, contrary to the author and others like him, God and the Bible are not in the dock to be tried by even sympathetic judges like the author, but we are in the dock seeking the mercy of God. When people cease to be students of a text and try to be critics and judges of the biblical text, they move into a role that cannot help but hinder their spiritual lives and lead them to dishonor the Bible. Even so, this book was not as bad as I initially thought, as it front-loads its objectionable material and makes sure that it aims its writing at an audience in which I am not a part, and that is those who need the historical Jesus as a bridge to the Jesus of faith, and not those that can take what the Bible says for what it is and view it as the authority of one’s life and faith.
The author begins with a set of rules for the historical and scholarly inquiry into the Gospels by people who are not coming from the perspective of faith (1). After that the author looks at various stories and themes and judges their likelihood according to these rules. The author examines the activities of John the Baptist (2), looks at the choosing of the twelve (3), as well as Jesus’ problematic (in Jewish eyes) association with tax collectors and “sinners” (4). The author examines Jesus and the Sabbath (5), his reputation for exorcism (6), and Peter’s declaration of faith at Caesarea Philippi (7). He looks at the atriumphal entry into Jerusalem (8) as evidence that Jesus was a different type of king, discusses the cleansing of the temple (9), and looks at the issue of liturgy and authority at the last supper (10) before looking at his examination by Jewish authorities (11). Finally, the author discusses the examination by Pilate and Jesus’ suffering death for sedition (12), the discovery of the empty tomb (13), and a conclusion that looks at who Jesus is according to the rules established by the author (14).
This book is clearly aimed at an audience that fancies themselves to be rational and intellectual people and not fundamentalists or other people of faith. In fact, the author goes out of his way to speak in the language of possibility and likelihood and not in the dogmatic language of someone who views the Bible as sufficient authority that does not need to be bolstered by human reasoning. In fact, reading this book, or this sort of book, as a believer is certainly a disadvantage, because the writer inevitably comes of poorly because of the presumption of judging God and the Bible, even if the purposes (as is the case here) are almost evangelical in nature. Indeed, it appears that with this book the author is trying to evangelize for an audience that views itself too cool and too knowledgeable to be taken in by simple myths and fairy tales, and who feel the need to subject the truths of scripture to a more searching and critical analysis. If the author still comes off as presumptuous, at least a charitable reader with some understanding of the flaws of contemporary intellectual culture can understand why he goes about his task of demonstrating the plausibility of the Gospel accounts in the way that he does. One can understand without fully accepting it, though, as a valid way to view scripture.