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.
who proclaimed the present yet future kingdom, who was also an itinerant prophet and miracle worker in the guise of Elijah, who was also a teacher and interpreter of the Mosaic Law, who was also a charismatic leader who called disciples to follow him at great price, who was also a religious personage whose perceived messianic claims wound up getting him crucified by the Roman prefect, in the end, a crucified religious figure who was soon proclaimed by his followers as risen from the dead and Lord of all. It is this total and astounding configuration of traits and claims that makes for the uniqueness of Jesus as a historical figure within 1st-century Judaism.
Another criterion that has been refined in recent decades is the criterion of multiple attestation of sources and forms. Much more than in the past, scholars are aware that multiple attestation means something more than simply counting up the number of occurrences of a particular saying or story. One must be attentive to the intersecting of different sources with different literary forms, all attesting to the same basic idea or tradition. At times, it is perhaps a basic motif of Jesus preaching rather than a particular saying that enjoys such multiple attestation. Then, too, what is multiply attested may be the absence of a particular motif in Jesus preaching and deeds. For example, the absence of the motif of misogyny is multiply attested in the various wisdom sayings of Jesus (as contrasted with Jewish wisdom and some later Christian views), and this in turn is confirmed by his practice of permitting women to follow him, hear his teaching, and minister to him. But to appreciate fully the importance of a clearly defined criterion of multiple attestation, we should move on to the sixth gain.
VI. Adequate Treatment of the Miracle Tradition
Indirectly connected with the clearer definition and more rigorous use of criteria is a sixth gain of the third quest: a more positive treatment of the miracle tradition in the gospels. Symptomatic of the disdain for the topic among the practitioners of Religionsgeschichte at the beginning of the 20th century is the remark of Wilhelm Bousset in his Kyrios Christos: "We are still able to see clearly how the earliest tradition of Jesus life was still relatively free from the miraculous"40. Actually, this stance simply