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.
church practiced a rite of baptism, as apparently did Jesus during his public ministry (John 3,224,1; cf. the negation of this embarrassing tradition by the Final Redactor of the gospel in 4,2). Hence the criterion of discontinuity does not apply.
However, the gospel sources betray an increasing uneasiness or embarrassment with the superior, sinless Jesus being baptized with a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins by his supposed inferior, John the Baptist. Thus, Matthew places an explanatory dialogue before the baptism to stress Jesus superiority to the Baptist (Matt 3,14-15). Luke removes the Baptist from the event by noting his imprisonment by Herod Antipas (3,19-20) before mentioning ever so briefly Jesus baptism (3,21); no administrator of the rite is explicitly indicated. The Fourth Evangelist suppresses the entire event of Jesus baptism by John, while retaining the christological theophany, now narrated after the fact by the Baptist and completely detached from the original context of Jesus baptism (John 1,32-34). Indeed, one might see the theophany itself as the earliest example of a Christian attempt to resolve the inherent embarrassment of Jesus being baptized by John: no less an authority than God himself declares to Jesus that "you [and not the Baptist] are my beloved Son" (Mark 1,11 parr.).
While embarrassment, as a distinct criterion, has its own force and value, it also has, like the other criteria, its built-in limitations. First, relatively little material in the gospels falls under this criterion. Second, there is the hermeneutical problem that what we might judge embarrassing today might not seem embarrassing for the first Christian Jews. To take a famous instance: a prime example of the criterion of embarrassment has traditionally been the cry of dereliction from the cross (Mark 15,34 par.): "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Yet the more one appreciates that the Psalms of the suffering just man form an important underlying grid for the theology of the primitive Passion Narrative, and the more one appreciates that allusions to such psalms are scattered throughout the Passion Narratives of the four gospels, and the more one appreciates that Psalm 22 has already been alluded to earlier in the Marcan and Matthean narratives of the dividing of Jesus garments (Mark 15,24 par.), and the more one appreciates that the opening words of Psalm 22 would be immediately identifiable to Christian Jews as a venerable prayer of lamentation, then the more one must question whether the criterion of embarrassment really applies here.