Barth’s Neo-orthodoxy replaced Liberalism in the forefront of contemporary theological dialogue. However, while opposing a variety of the Liberal theological emphases, Barth and his followers were rather uninterested in the historical Jesus, preferring to divorce evidential concerns from the exercise of faith.^12 Even late in his career, Barth continued to express his lack of support for those who sought to study the historical Jesus.^13
The work of Rudolf Bultmann was another major influence against the pursuit of the historical Jesus. His 1941 essay“ New Testament and Mythology” popularized
11 Karl Barth, Epistle to the Romans, transl. by Edwyn C. Hoskyns (London: Oxford University Press, 1933).
12 For one early discussion of such matters, see Karl Barth, The Resurrection of the Dead (New York: Revell, 1933), pp. 130–145.
13 Karl Barth, How I Changed My Mind(Richmond: John Knox, 1966), p. 69.
the theological methodology of demythologization, including a de-emphasis on utilizing any evidential foundations for faith.^14 Biblical descriptions of the supernatural were thought to be crucial indicators of early Christian belief, but simply could not be understood today in any literal sense. Yet, transcendent language was significant in itself. Rather than discard it, such should be reinterpreted in terms of its existential significance for present living and decision-making.^15
While Barth and Bultmann were quite different in their theological agendas, to be sure, and often radically opposed to one another,^16 they agreed that the historical Jesus was an illegitimate quest. Many of their followers agreed, but not everyone followed them in their conclusions.
The New Quest for the Historical Jesus