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A Scandalous Jesus: How Three Historic Quests Changed Theology for the Better

The question of the historical Jesus is not only a historical question but also a historic one. And historic questions can be the most scandalous, says Joe Bessler, because they challenge the assumptions governing societies. Like Galileo questioning the Ptolemaic universe, historic questions transgress the limits of authority, belonging, and institutional legitimacy. Each of the three quests of the historical Jesus from the original quest in the early 20th century, through the new quest, to the renewed quest in the late 20th century has opened up new questions. In A Scandalous Jesus, Bessler seeks to capture the historic questions that surround and to shape research on the historical Jesus and assess the impact of the differing quests on theological and cultural life.

Historical Jesus
Religion & Culture

“I love this book! Bessler thinks so clearly and writes so well. This is an excellent analysis, an important contribution to theology and to the history of biblical scholarship.” — Rick Lowery, Lexington Theological Seminary

“With theological agility and clarity, Joe Bessler teaches us how three quests for the historical Jesus opened historic questions about dissent and free public discourse, about human struggle and diversity, and about the power of language to disorient and reorient.” — Kristine A. Culp, The University of Chicago

“How to manage faith-challenging information and its logical conclusions is an inevitable result of historical Jesus research. Joseph A. Bessler’s A Scandalous Jesus … provides a history of historical Jesus research and shows how those efforts are themselves historic, as they’ve ‘created a series of profound social, political, and theological impacts that have continued to shape and reshape our world.’ Following a detailed overview of key players and moments in the trajectory of historical Jesus research, Bessler admits discomfort with what its implications do to the “ ‘old’ mainline churches,” but is finally optimistic about embracing “models of faith that go beyond official claim of right belief and supernaturalism.” —Publishers Weekly

“Finally—a theologian who takes the historical Jesus seriously! An exciting book that offers to set theology on a new and renewing course.” —Bernard Brandon Scott , Phillips Theological Seminary

“Bessler makes an innovative argument about the question of the historical Jesus and he makes it well. He challenges my own skepticism about the historical Jesus, awaking me from my skeptical slumbers.” — Clark Williamson, Christian Theological Seminary emeritus

“Joseph Bessler describes the recurring search for the historical Jesus with a keen interpretive eye and clear prose. This original and engaging book provides a unique slant on what all of this has meant and means now for theological inquiry as well as the nature of faith and belief.” — Malcolm Warford, Theological Educator and Minister in the United Church of Christ

“Joe Bessler connects various quests for the historical Jesus with the cultures of both Christianity and the public life within which they arise. The result is a fascinating story.” — Mark G. Toulouse, Emmanuel College, University of Toronto


Publisher: Polebridge Press
Publication date: 2013
ISBN: 978-1-59815-122-0
E-book ISBN: 978-1-59815-123-7
Number of pages: 264
Format: Paperback

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