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.
While I would not go that far, I think that the heavy emphasis by some scholars on larger pagan Greco-Roman cultural forces has obscured the specific Palestinian-Jewish coloration of this man from Nazareth. To be sure, Hellenistic culture had long since penetrated Palestine54. But the degree and nature of such penetration probably varied a great deal from city to town or from town to village, and various Jews responded variously to the cultural incursion, some consciously embracing it, others consciously seeking to avoid or exclude it, and others unconsciously imbibing it while remaining in their own eyes faithful Jews55. The exact extent of Hellenistic influence on Jesus himself is certainly debatable, and I do not favor an apologetic stance that would seek to exclude it entirely. Various aspects of Jesus ministry, such as the model of the itinerant religious figure recruiting disciples who travel with him, may reflect wider Greco-Roman cultural currents. Nevertheless, I think that the sources we possess argue strongly that the preponderance of religious and cultural influences molding his life and message were native Palestinian-Jewish, however this category is more precisely defined. In brief, apart from the Jesus Seminar, most participants in the third quest, be they E.P. Sanders, James Charlesworth, or Craig Evans, have helped make "Jesus the Jew" more than just a fashionable academic slogan.
After having been militantly historical and non-theological throughout this article, I would like, paradoxically, to conclude with a theological postscript on the Jewishness of Jesus. In my opinion, the third quests emphasis on the Jewishness of Jesus has willy-nilly made a lasting contribution to christology. No one could be stronger than myself when it comes to insisting on the distinction between the area of academic history called the quest for the historical Jesus and the branch of theology (i.e., faith seeking understanding) called christology. Yet theology, unlike basic Christian faith, is a cultural artifact reflecting the dominant intellectual tendencies of a given