Some Responses to Jesus Project(s)
There have been a couple of responses and I have a bit of spare time and, unusually for time and place, a wireless connection so...
1) Not all historical Jesus scholars operate with the "great man" view as evidenced by John Meier's "Marginal Jew" and Gerd Theissen's somewhat illusive "Galilean".
Actually, I think Meier is an important example of individual and great man history (so long as we don't take the great man too literally). The multi-volume project explicitly based on fact finding is a spectacular example of individualism and the individual as prime mover so to speak. This is very much a great man history (which can include those constructed as outsiders in their time).
(2) You cannot "explain" Christianity simply by reference to its socio-historical context and surrounding cultural currents because sooner or later you still need to do business with the text of the Gospels themselves: we need biography and sociology in our historical reconstruction! I assume that James would agree with me here, why else would you learn Aramaic unless you're prepared to go logion for logion and pericope for pericope.
Yes, certainly. I said challenge and test the dominant view and I think this is the key point. But yes. Also, we could look at broader issues on basically agreed points and try to explain...
(3) I also plea to James to be equally "deconstructive" to the Jesus Project as he is to other bastions of scholarship on the subject matter because he rightly recognizes how theologically and ideologically loaded all historical Jesus scholarship can be.
Yes, I have no problem with that. Indeed, my kind of thing actually. So yes, yes, yes. It may take a bit more time and hindsight before anything meaningful can be said. As a guess this Project looks like (as I think Chilton suggests) more a product of the harder secular/religious issue particularly in the States (and think also of Dawkins et al) more typical of this decade. Of course, as ever, this doesn't mean right or wrong but it is already possible to do a bit of historical and cultural contextualisation and deconstructing (sort of).
Interestingly, the Aramaic issue has been picked up by both Mike (comments on previous post) and Tom Verenna (I'll respond to his pretty detailed points in due course). I didn't really mean to stress this issue too much other than agree with Chilton so I won't add too much, other than refer, for now, to comments on Tom's blog