Reviewed by Alan Goss in SOFN Newsletter #27
A definitive book about the historical Jesus has never nor ever will be written, but this volume by Robert Funk, the founder of the Jesus Seminar, is a significant milestone. Even Funk's staunchest opponents must give credit where credit is due.
The aim of this book is to rescue Jesus from the creedal and scriptural prisons in which he is incarcerated. He needs to be distinguished from the reports about him preserved in the gospels since that Jesus is, in large part, the product of his early admirers. Scholars must therefore try to sift out what we can know historically about Jesus the Galilean from the portrait of Christ produced by each of the evangelists.
Those engaged in this new quest sharply distinguish the historical Jesus from the Jesus of the gospels and the Christ of the creeds. Funk contends that Jesus' followers, rather than focussing on Jesus' vision of God's kingdom or domain—which was his priority—directed most of their attention at Jesus himself. The vision was replaced by the visionary, the iconoclast was converted into an idol. The intention was to market the messiah. In so doing Jesus followers cloaked the irreligious, irreverent and impious Galilean sage with layers of interpretation, transforming him into the martyred righteous one or the dying/rising lord of Gentile christianity.
The real flesh and blood Jesus, which we yearn for, was displaced.
This book will help not only those within the church who are questioning its beliefs and practices but also those outside the insitution who think christianity is a tradition worth reforming and saving. Robert Funk's visit here later in the year will inevitably precipitate some thunderstorms. But at least they help to clear the air.
The following is a promotional item from the publishers printed in Sea of Faith Network New Zealand Newsletter 25
Speaking out on the historical Jesus for the first time, the founder of the pioneering Jesus Seminar launches a landmark new investigation into who Jesus really was. With brilliant insight, Robert Funk reveals how Jesus was transformed from iconoclast to icon, and outlines a daring, tradition- shattering agenda for freeing Jesus from the constraints of orthodoxy and reinventing Christianity for the coming era.
"I am inclined to the view that Jesus caught a glimpse of what the world is really like when you look at it with God's eyes. He endeavored to pass that glimpse along in short stories we call parables and in subversive proverbs we call aphorisms. But he did not spell out what he meant. I have a glimpse of the real Jesus stealing a peek at God's domain. My glimpse is informed by, but bypasses, the Jesus of the Gospels the Christ superimposed by the evangelists on their own glimpse of the real Jesus... I am convinced that the New Testament conceals the real Jesus as frequently as it reveals him."
from the Introduction
In Honest to Jesus, Robert Funk, one of the preeminent biblical scholars of our time, embarks on a radical investigation into the transformation of Jesus, the social rebel and iconoclast, into Jesus, the religious icon.
Founder of the Jesus Seminar: the group of writers, philosophers, and theologians spearheading new research into the historical Jesus and the authenticity of the gospels Funk has never before articulated his own bold and fearless vision of who Jesus truly was and how his legacy should be approached by the modern world.
Forthright, penetrating, and as radical as the mysterious figure it investigates, Honest to Jesus is a new classic in the debate over the search for the real Jesus and its implications for modern Christianity.