How much do we know about the historical Jesus?


How much do we know about the historical Jesus?  Not much, but before going any further it’s worth asking why bother looking for the historical Jesus in the first place?  For almost all Christians, Jesus is a figure of faith and belief, not a subject of historical study.  But what about Paul and the gospels, the reader might ask?  Aren’t they the source of our knowledge of the historical Jesus?  No.  Paul and the authors of the synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke) wrote about Jesus in order to create a man who fit the needs of first-century Christians.  They cannot be considered historical sources, even if some of the things they say are historical true.

What can we know historically? 

There is widespread (if not always total) consensus that Jesus was baptized by John, that he taught and preached in Galilee, that he drew followers to himself, that he was known as an effective miracle worker and exorcist, and that he made a final journey to Jerusalem for Passover where, in conjunction with an incident in the temple, he was arrested, convicted by Pilate and crucified.  (Eddy and Beilby, pp 47-48) 

In recent years the Jewishness of Jesus has been unquestioned.  In every facet of his life Jesus was a Jew.  He was born a Jew, educated as a Jew, and lived as a Jew.

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