John P. Meier, «The Present State of the Third Quest for the Historical Jesus: Loss and Gain», Vol. 80 (1999) 459-487
Despite the questionable method and positions of the Jesus Seminar, the third quest for the historical Jesus has resulted in seven notable gains as compared with the old quests. (1) The third quest has an ecumenical and international character. (2) It clarifies the question of reliable sources. (3) It presents a more accurate picture of first-century Judaism. (4) It employs new insights from archaeology, philology, and sociology. (5) It clarifies the application of criteria of historicity. (6) It gives proper attention to the miracle tradition. (7) It takes the Jewishness of Jesus with utter seriousness.
via negativa of rejecting the distortions of Judaism in the first two quests does not guarantee a clear and uncontested picture of Judaism in contemporary research. One need only survey the competing portraits of the Pharisees drawn by Morton Smith, Jacob Neusner, E. P. Sanders, Anthony Saldarini, Shaye Cohen, Steve Mason, Günter Stemberger, and Roland Deines to appreciate the witty remark of Prof. Joseph Sievers: we know considerably less about the Pharisees than an earlier generation "knew"22. Nevertheless, there is a positive gain here. One cannot read such works as Sanderss Judaism: Practice and Belief or Vermess Jesus the Jew and proceed to repeat the caricatures of Judaism that used to make it the perfect foil of Jesus or Christianity. One is instead challenged to explain where on the complex and confusing map of first-century Judaism one intends to locate Jesus. In my opinion, the phrase "Jesus the Jew" has become an academic cliché. The real challenge is to unpack that phrase and specify what sort of 1st-century Jew Jesus was23.