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.
acting within the restrictions of his or her academic discipline can do is ask a more modest question: whether the claim or belief that Jesus performed miracles during his public ministry goes back to the historical Jesus and his actions or whether instead it is an example of the faith and missionary propaganda of the early church retrojected onto the historical Jesus. As we have seen, Bousset claimed that the latter was the case, and many in the Bultmannian tradition have tended partly or wholly to agree. It is this older religionsgeschichtlich consensus that the many participants in the third quest have questioned. Many scholars today would emphasize that miracle working, faith healing, or exorcism formed a major part of Jesus public ministry and contributed in no small degree to the favorable attention of the crowds and the unhealthy attention of the authorities.
In support of this emerging trend in the third quest, I maintain that a number of the criteria argue forcefully in favor of the global assertion that, during his public ministry, Jesus claimed to work what we would call miracles and that his followers and at times even his enemies thought he did so.
(a) The single most important criterion in this question is the multiple attestation of sources and forms. Every gospel source (Mark, Q, the special Matthean source, the special Lucan source, and John) as well as Josephus in Book 18 of his Jewish Antiquities (Ant. 18.3.3 §63-64) affirms that Jesus performed a number of miracles. This multiple attestation of sources is complemented by the multiple attestation of literary forms. For example, in Mark, Q, and John, both narratives about Jesus and sayings of Jesus (in addition, at times, to statements by other people) affirm Jesus miracle-working activity.
(b) Closely intertwined with the criterion of multiple attestation of sources and forms is the criterion of coherence. The various narratives about Jesus and sayings of Jesus from many different sources do not simply lie side by side like discrete and hermetically sealed units. In a remarkable, unforced way they converge, mesh, and mutually support one another. For example, the various narratives of exorcisms in Mark, such as the Gerasene demoniac in Mark 5,1-20 or the possessed boy in Mark 9,14-29, cry out for some deeper explanation. What is the meaning of these exorcisms? How do they fit into Jesus overall proclamation and ministry? The Marcan narratives, taken by themselves, do not say. But the various