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.
largely ignored the massive presence of the miracle tradition in the sources, a tradition that went back to the historical Jesus and helped explain his immense if ultimately fatal popularity with the Palestinian crowds. Crossan took up and popularized Smiths insight, including (unfortunately, in my view) the identification of Jesus miracles with Hellenistic magic46. Other scholars, such as E.P. Sanders and David Aune, confirmed Smiths positive insight about the importance of the miracles for understanding the historical Jesus, although they remained chary of Smiths enthusiastic championing of the label "magician" as an overall description of Jesus47. Individual monographs, such as Graham Twelftrees Jesus the Exorcist and Stevan Daviess Jesus the Healer, have continued to bolster the miracle traditions claim to basic historicity48.
Still, as I came to treat the subject in Volume Two of A Marginal Jew, I felt that the entire question needed a fresh and full airing, beginning with basic methodological problems49. As one approaches this contentious subject, one must be clear from the start about what exactly a historian qua historian can say about Jesus miracles. In my view, the claim that a particular event is an instance of God directly working a miracle in human affairs is, of its nature, a philosophical or theological claim that a historian may indeed record and study but cannot, given the nature of his or her discipline, verify. The assertion that God has acted directly in a given situation to perform a miracle is an assertion that can be affirmed and known as true only in the realm of faith.
Therefore, in the quest for the historical Jesus, what a historian