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.
Jewish Scriptures, only three great prophetic figures perform a whole series of miracles: Moses, Elijah, and Elisha. Of these three, Moses never raises an individual dead person to life. And if we ask which of these three is expected to return to Israel in the end-time to prepare it for Gods definitive reign, the answer from Malachi and Ben Sira through the intertestamental writings to the rabbinic literature is: Elijah. I would therefore contend that it is not the early Marcan, Q, or Johannine traditions that first thought of Jesus in terms of the miracle-working, eschatological prophet wearing the mantle of Elijah, though they certainly may have developed this idea. The traditions coming from the historical Jesus strongly suggest that he consciously chose to present himself to his fellow Israelites in this light. How this coheres or whether it coheres with the gospel traditions that portray Jesus as the awaited Davidic Messiah or present him speaking of himself as the Son of Man is a problem with which I must still grapple. However one views the relationship among these competing traditions and titles, I think that the critically sifted data of the gospels demand that the depiction of Jesus as the eschatological prophet working miracles à la Elijah must be a key element in the reconstruction of the historical Jesus which is to say, in effect, that the miracle tradition is likewise a key element. The validation of this insight is a major contribution of the third quest.
VII. Taking the Jewishness of Jesus Seriously
Finally, many aspects of the six gains already mentioned in this article contribute to a seventh gain: an emphasis that was theoretically affirmed in the past but hardly ever exploited to its full potential namely, the Jewishness of Jesus. As we look at the proliferation of titles and subtitles of books like Jesus the Jew, The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant, or A Marginal Jew, we can sense a shift in the very way scholars of any stripe feel they must approach the question today. And yet this new or revitalized orientation creates a new set of problems for scholars. For example, what writings are considered most relevant in defining the Palestinian Judaism that formed Jesus and his earliest followers? Needless to say, one must first look to the Jewish Scriptures. Yet nothing like a closed canon existed at the time, and one must wonder what an open and fluctuating canon would have meant to Galilean peasants as distinct from learned élites in Jerusalem. Moreover,