Who are the big names in historical Jesus studies?

One of the ways to see trends in biblical studies is by seeing the scholars that are most frequently cited and comparing these citations in a “n-gram.” If we look at the top historical Jesus scholars, we will be able to see two things (a) a significant amount of diversity and (b) many popular conservative scholars are trailing behind liberal scholars.


Bio’s from top to bottom.

John Dominic Crossan – a former priest who left Catholicism and is sometimes classified as a “Christian Atheist.” Currently one of the most read and cited biblical scholars, in any specialization, alive today. Believes that Jesus was a man of great wisdom and courage who taught a message of inclusiveness, tolerance, and liberation.

James Dunn – a moderateMethodist who is often considered the top historical Jesus scholar that believes in a physical resurrection. (Some of his “liberal” views include that Jesus believed in an imminent apocalypse, and was proven wrong and a rejection of Biblical inerrancy.)

Geza Vermes – Raised as a Christian, served as a Catholic priest, then embraced a very liberal form of Judaism. Specializes in Jesus as a Jewish teacher who avoided the gentiles. (He has always been elusive as to whether he believes in the Jewish God, never answering the question.)

Marcus Borg – Former conservative Lutheran who rejects a physical resurrection of Jesus, opting for a “spiritual resurrection in our hearts.” Often accused of being a Christian atheist.

Ben Witherington III – Conservative evangelical, who serves as a Methodist pastor, and believes in the physical resurrection for the salvation of Christian believers. (Has some untraditional views in other fields, such as a rejection of eternal conscious torment in hell).

Bart Ehrman – Former Baptist preacher who left Christianity to become an agnostic. Is considered one of the world’s experts in textual criticism, has put forward the proposition that Jesus was a failed apocalyptic prophet.

John P Meier – A moderate Catholic who has been quoted by the pope, promotes the mainstream Catholic view about Jesus being God incarnate, who died and was physically resurrected, but has a critical view of scripture, including that all the natural miracles in the Gospel are not historical

E.P. Sanders – Raised a Christian, educated at numerous Christian seminaries, agnostic regarding the issue of God, his arguments regarding Jesus have been that Jesus was a human creating an eschatological Jewish movement for the restoration of Israel.

N.T. Wright – A conservative Anglican, one of the most popular Christian authors today. He promotes a traditional view of Jesus’ physical death and resurrection. However, does have many “liberal” views like the acceptance of the theory of evolution, rejection of a historical Adam, etc.

Robert M. Price – is a former Baptist minister/theologian who eventually became an atheist, however, frequently writes of his deep love for religion. He currently holds to a very minority fringe view that Jesus the historical figure didn’t exist, or if he did, it is impossible to know anything about him.

Larry Hurtado – A conservative Pentecostal who promotes the mainstream view of physical resurrection of Jesus. Argues for certain unorthodox views, such as that the early church was “Binitarian” instead of “Trinitarian.” Has also disagreed on many issues with traditional Pentecostal doctrine, especially on the issue of glossolalia.

(Source of the original chart is Dr Robert Myles at http://bibleandclassstruggle.wordpress.com/2014/08/03/n-grams-and-historical-jesus-studies/


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