A popular view in the mid-twentieth century taught that Jesus did exist but that very little can be known about him. This approach was disproven by the data, and has lost most of its appeal. The disregard for details concerning the historical Jesus and their relation to faith, an a prioridismissal of the possibility of miraculous events such as Jesus’ resurrection, historical objections to radical form and redaction criticism, and the demonstrated reliability of the New Testament text are some of the reasons we rejected this option. Other problems are also apparent.
Many prefer a more historical view that constructs a life of Jesus from the available records, apart from either doctrine or miracles. However, this view, while seemingly more compelling, suffers both from ruling out miracles a priori, and by its frequent denial of a historical investigation of miracle-claims. Further, this approach failed in its attempt to offer naturalistic alternative theories concerning the resurrection, as even critics admit, and by ignoring the possibility that Jesus’ theological teachings would very possibly be relevant if it could be shown that he was literally raised from the dead in time-space history.
Lastly, some charge Christianity with having no extrabiblical references for Jesus’ life whatsoever. Not only is such a claim false, as we will show in Part Two, but there are good reasons why there are not even more secular sources for the life of Jesus than the surprising number of ancient non-Christian sources that are available.
These alternative approaches to the historical Jesus therefore present no roadblock to our investigation of his life. Applying normal historical methodology to early Christian creeds, archaeological evidence, ancient non-Christian, and Christian (non-New Testament) sources, we will examine what history tells us about the life of Jesus. But first we will study some more or less popularized presentations of Jesus that portray atypical views of his life, as well as examine two recent movements that seek to explain the life of Jesus in non-orthodox terms.