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Studying the Historical Jesus : A Guide to Sources and Methods

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Interest in the historical Jesus continues to occupy much of today's discussion of the Bible. The vexing question is how the Jesus presented in the Gospels relates to the Jesus that actually walked this earth. Studying the Historical Jesus is an introductory guide to how one might go about answering that question by doing historical inquiry into the material found in the Gospels. Darrell Bock introduces the sources of our knowledge about Jesus, both biblical and extra-biblical. He then surveys the history and culture of the world of Jesus. The final chapters introduce some of the methods used to study the Gospels, including historical, redaction, and narrative criticisms. Darell Bock, a well respected author, provides an informed evangelical alternative to radical projects like the Jesus Seminar. His audience, however, is not limited only to evangelicals. This book, written for college and seminary courses, offers an informed scholarly approach that takes the Gospels seriously as a source of historical information.


Baker Academic
Book Format
Number of Pages
Darrell L Bock
Publication Date
July, 2002

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Bock is a respected, c...

Bock is a respected, conservative New Testament scholar. In Studying the Historical Jesus, he offers one of the most accessible introductions to the study of the "Historical" Jesus. If you have simply read your New Testament your entire life and are now curious about its background, origins, and the history behind it. Or if you have had little exposure to the New Testament and wonder what it is all about, historically speaking. This book delivers. The Introduction opens with brief discussions of sources relevant to the study of the historical Jesus, including the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, the Pseudepigrapha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, and Josephus. Each is only a few paragraphs long but explains well the source and its relevance to studying Jesus. The main event of the Introduction, however, is his run down on each of the Canonical Gospels. Bock delivers solid discussions of each, including their structure, unique emphasis, authorship, and date. Not surprisingly, Bock's conclusions are traditional. Bock also delivers a chapter on the Nonbiblical evidence for Jesus, ably covering the "usual suspects" of Josephus, Thallus, Tacitus, and company. Next there is an informative discussion about the chronology of Jesus' life. Bock nondogmatically discusses the various alternatives about when Jesus was born, how long his ministry was, and the date of his death. Thereafter, Bock delivers a helpful general history of the Greek and Roman empires, and then a more focused discussion on the geography, population, and culture of first century Palestine. In Part 2 of his book, Bock moves into a more argumentative tone as he discusses and criticizes the search for the "historical Jesus." There is a helpful history highlighting the key players and their theories in the three "quests" for the historical Jesus. Bock then summarizes five systemic problems in historical Jesus research, including an undue skepticism of narratives or sayings that are similar to Old Testament narratives and sayings, and inadequate historical attention being given to Luke's special material, Matthew's special material, and the Gospel of John. The criticisms are well taken and receive insufficient consideration in most New Testament research. Next Bock devotes chapters to several methods of historical inquiry as applied to the New Testament: Historical Criticism, Source Criticism, Form Criticism, Redaction Criticism, Tradition Criticism, and Narrative Criticism and Gospel Genre. The discussions are well done, defining each as well as emphasizing the strengths and weaknesses inherent to each disciple. Bock is no reactionary. He sees a role for each in researching and understanding the New Testament and Jesus, but appropriately chides much modern "historical Jesus" studies as overly skeptical. In sum, Bock has delivered an excellent resource for those interested in looking into the unfamiliar ground of New Testament criticism or studying the "historical" Jesus. Indeed, this would be one of the first books I would recommend to any such person.

This book should be re...

This book should be read by all people wishing to pursue Gospel study. The historical information leading up to the time of Jesus and the surveys of the culture, geography, and key sects will give you understanding that will open up texts beyond what you ever dreamed. This book along with Bailey's book are the first 2 books I would recommend anybody before they start gospel study. I haven't read many other works on it, but these are indispensible. I loved this book, but it is very educations and informational. I ended up taking notes on it just so I could review b/c he gives you so much information. I loved this book!

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