The Historical Jesus – Gary R. Habermas (introduction)

The Historical Jesus

Gary R. Habermas


Bibliographic data here.


Table of contents:

1. The Modern Quest for the Historical Jesus
2. Did Jesus Ever Live?

About the author:
Gary Habermas is a Distinguished Professor of Apologetics and Philosophy at Liberty University. He has authored, co-authored, or edited twenty-two books including The Resurrection of Jesus, The Historical Jesus, Beyond Death, In Defense of Miracles, The Verdict of History, and has published over a hundred articles in top scholarly journals such as Religious Studies, Philosophia Christi, Christian Scholar’s Review, Faith and Philosophy, and Biblioteca Sacra. Dr. Habermas is one of the world’s leading experts on the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, Jesus as a historical figure, and the Shroud of Turin. He has engaged in several high-profile debates on the resurrection including one with famous British atheist Anthony Flew. Dr. Habermas holds an M.A. in philosophical theology from the University of Detroit; a D.D. in theology from Emmanuel College, Oxford; and Ph.D. in history and philosophy of religion from Michigan Sate University.”

– Edited author description from


Some think gospels are poor historical records

Purpose of the book

Numerous attempts to formulate the “fictitious Jesus” from 18th through 19th centuries: secret groups (e.g. Essenes) manipulated words of Jesus

Karl Bahrdt (1784-1972): Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were secret Essenes, secret group forged
miracles, Luke was responsible for healings and surviving crucifixion

Karl Venturini (1800-1802): Jesus trained by Essenes as a child, healings were done through medicines, Jesus
 revived by Joseph and Nicodemus after death (he didn’t invent plot surrounding his death)

Gfrorer (1831-1838 about), Hennell (1838), Salvator (1838): Essenes involved in many aspects of Jesus’ ministry, Jesus nursed back to health by them after crucifixion

Response to these attempts: attracted very little scholarly attention, “rather a sorry makeshift” (Schweitzer in    
Habermas, 16)

Protestant liberal accounts

Protestant liberal accounts of Jesus as merely a good example (1799 – WWI)

Jesus was a mere man, miracles and resurrection are non-historical
Stages of development of views concerning Jesus

Early: rationalization of miracles as having occurred but misunderstood (Heinrich Paulus, 1828)
Challenge to early view: mythical strategy questioning reports of Jesus (David Strauss’ Life of Jesus,

Gospels = mythological and un-historical
Purpose of NT = express inexpressible truths and their applications to life
Early 20th century: liberalism encountered problems when optimism destroyed by WWI (and later
WWII) and obviousness of human nature’s weakness

Barth & Neo-Orthodoxy

Barth and neo-orthodoxy (1918 with his Epistle to the Romans)

Uninterested with historical Jesus
Focus is upon God’s sovereignty and faith
Other contributors

Bultmann “New Testament and Mythology” (1941): demythologization, transcendent language sufficient by
itself, existential significance (differed much from Barth in theology but agreed in irrelevance of history of Jesus)

Others agreed but not always in their conclusions

The New Quest

The New Quest (Ernst Kasemann’s lecture, 1953)

 Belief in Jesus requires belief in some minimal historical content
 Scholars followed and began to look into history of faith
 James Robinson saw faith as separate from history, but that history was still important (Kerygma needs a
 historical basis)

 “Criterion of Dissimilarity”: authentic material about Jesus can only come from primitive Christian teachings or

Problem: yields much less material than old quest come uncover with their methods
Problem: Jesus could share neither Christian nor Jewish beliefs, silly
Problem: whether additional data can be justified and on what grounds

 Other contributors:

Pannenberg: resurrection as history is vitally important
Jurgen Moltmann: importance of God’s participation in past and present history

The Third Quest

Third quest for the historical Jesus

 Positive outlook towards formulating a historical account of Jesus today

 Many different views, difficult to characterize

 One chief characterization: focus upon historical background of Jewish culture, settings of Jesus’ time (religious,
 political, economic, social influences in Palestine, e.g. archaeological findings and Hellenistic and Roman
 influences in Galilee)

E.P. Sanders, Richard Horsley, Ben Meyer: their views based on background information (25)

Exception: Jesus Seminar –> follow traditions of Strauss and Bultmann, mythical gospels


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