Toward an Understanding of Jesus


The Jesus of Historiography and the Jesus of Faith


In the Gospel of John, Pilate poses an unavoidable question. Jesus had just spoken about truth, how he saw his mission as bearing witness to that truth, and how anyone who is of the truth hears his voice. Pilate responded: "What is truth?" (Jn 18:37-38). Philosophers, saints, and ordinary people have struggled with that question. Universities are communities in search of truth. At times we talk about our true selves or being true to ourselves. Gandhi entitled his autobiography "The Story of My Experiments with Truth." Truth is associated with knowledge, light, enlightenment, wisdom, and even mystery. The question, "What is truth?," is, therefore, not a facile one.

Our concern here is not to explore this question itself, but rather to alert ourselves to the fact that there are different kinds of truth, different kinds of intellectual knowledge, different ways of knowing. lt is a disservice to truth and to humankind to exalt one kind to the exclusion of the other. At this point in our discussion of Jesus, we need refer only to two kinds of knowledge. These will be two complementary ways of knowing Jesus.

The first kind of knowledge is objective and the second personal. 1 I describe objective knowledge by one or several of the following adjectives: analytical, discursive, logical, scientific. It may be either rational or empirical. It seems to be publicly verifiable or demonstrable. It is often observable or factual. Logical deductions, scientific experiments, arithmetic equations, or historical facts all illustrate the search for objectivity.

I prefer to use the word "objective" to describe this kind of knowledge rather than one of the other adjectives because it points to a common quality. In this way of knowing, objectifying that which is known, considering it as an object outside oneself and putting some distance between it and the knower, is considered a value.

There is no such thing as purely objective knowledge. 2 Objective knowledge and personal knowledge are not in. absolute opposition. Objective knowledge is not completely non-personal or impersonal, and personal knowledge is not completely non-objective. Thus objective knowledge is not accurately described as impersonal, nor is personal knowledge accurately described as subjective. Rather, the word objective points to a value, a personal value, within a particular method of inquiry. The value is in being able to put some distance between the inquirer and the object of inquiry. Complete objectification of this sort, however, is neither possible nor even an ideal. The assumption that it can be achieved is false. Yet, for some purposes, or in some methodologies, it is a value to try to do so to whatever degree possible. Scientific and historiographical research and behavioral studies seek to diminish the degree of personal involvement. They see objectification as valuable to their goals.

One of the values in objective knowledge is that it has a public quality to it. It is capable of verification. Theoretically, it can be shown by someone else to be true or false. Hence, its objectivity does not flow simply from one inquirer's ability to achieve a distance from the object. Even if one is passionately personally involved, the results are open to verification by others who thus lend credence to the results. One can reflect upon such results critically. Objective knowledge is public property and open to critique.

I use the word "personal" to describe knowledge that is experiential, intuitive, or pre-reflective. This is not to say that it is subjective, private, or unrelated to the extramental world. It is personal because it involves more of the observer. This type of knowledge does not value distantiation between the knower and the known but rather values the fuller participation of the knower. The basis for this knowledge is one's experience, insight, or intuition. One suddenly sees something -- mental sight, insight, synthetic awareness. It may be proverbial or practical wisdom which one cannot easily verify but which one knows to be true. It is less objective, but not subjective (not non-objective). It comes from deeper within and is apprehended by more than the discursive intellect alone.

Michael Polanyi also uses the expression "personal knowledge." I have not borrowed it from him and I am not using it in precisely the same way. 3 Yet his exposition helps to clarify what I mean by personal knowledge. Personal knowledge seeks understanding: it is a grasping of parts into a whole. "We cannnot comprehend a whole without seeing its parts, but we can see the parts without comprehending the whole." 4 Objective knowledge can give us facts, but personal knowledge gives meaning to those facts. To know something is not only to know it, but to know its significance. Personal knowledge focuses on the significance, the meaning, the whole, and is only subsidiarily aware of the particulars. It seeks understanding. Objective knowledge is focused on the particulars and unaware of the whole. In fact, an awareness of the whole or of its meaning can get in the way and is perceived as disadvantageous if one is seeking objectivity. Hence the focus of awareness in objective knowledge is distinct from that in personal knowledge. The goal of one is factuality or objectivity. The goal of the other is understanding. One can focus on a rose as a botanical or an aesthetic object. One can study its biological processes or admire its beauty. Both kinds of knowledge are valid and both are valuable.

An important aspect of these two kinds of knowledge is their complementarity. It is not a question of validating or valuing one or the other. They are not related to each other as either/or, but as both/and. 5 First, neither exists in pure form. I repeat that objective knowledge is not impersonal. There is no such thing as pure objectivity. Objective knowledge is also personal knowledge, but knowledge in which one chooses not to focus on the personal element, but in fact attempts to transcend it. And personal knowledge is not totally subjective. It is also objectified, communicated, articulated. It may not always be articulated or capable of articulation with "scientific" language; its mode of expression may be poetic, figurative, or even silence. The different ways of knowing express themselves in different kinds of language. 6 In personal knowledge one does not choose to transcend the personal element, but to re-present it. If one objectifies what one attempts to articulate, one can use objective language (which can conceal the fact that the knowledge itself is not completely objective). But if one attempts to articulate what is personalized, scientific language is of no avail. It cannot do it. Yet personal knowledge can be formalized. Varied modes of expression are possible from art to philosophy.

A second aspect of the complementarity is that both modes of knowing and all different kinds of language are valuable. Our tendency, however, is to ask which is more important. The natural scientist is likely to say one and the novelist the other. But this is to perceive the relation between the two falsely. Which is more important, inhaling or exhaling? Objective knowledge and personal knowledge are not opposed to each other. We need both. In the end, we cannot have one without the other because we need both the "facts" and the "significance." Some tasks may require objectification, others personalization. On one day I may wish to approach the rose objectively, as an object, and on another day personally, as conveying some personal meaning. I can see an apple as cells, as food, or as a gift. I can know another human being more objectively, as my client, or more personally, as my spouse. Both kinds of knowledge are valid, and both are valuable. The one who knows me more personally does not necessarily know me without objectivity.

Modern epistemology has struggled extensively with the problem of knowledge. Our only purpose here is to realize and recognize that there are different kinds of knowledge and different ways of knowing, and these need not be opposed to each other. I have spoken here of two: objective knowledge and personal knowledge. Associated with these two types of knowledge are two different mistakes, going so far in one direction as to deny the legitimacy or value of the other kind of knowledge. The mistake of the objectivist, rationalist, or empiricist can be to have positive or factual knowledge and thus to presume understanding. On the other hand, the mistake of the personalist, existentialist, or intuitlonist can be to presume an understanding without its being based on something that is objectively real. Meaning becomes separated from the factuality of events. Both of these errors can be simply a manifestation of the fallacy of dogmatism (a mind unopen to truth perceived from another point of inquiry). 7

Historiography and Faith

We are now conscious of two distinguishable types of knowledge, a more personal, experiential knowledge and a more objective, analytical knowledge. Historiography (the critical study of history) is an example of objective knowledge, and faith is an example of personal knowledge. Approaching Jesus in two ways enables us to talk about the Jesus of historiography and the Jesus of faith. But let us first say something further about historiography and faith themselves.

Methods of historical research and philosophies of history can vary. Yet modern efforts to lay open the past are more or less critical, exacting, and scientific in approach, with some objectivity a presumed goal. The word "history" can be used in different senses. It can refer to the past, that which is studied, what happened, and also to the study itself, the discipline, the research of the historian. History is what an historian does. It is also what he or she seeks to unfold. Ordinarily I will use the word history to refer to the past as an object of historical inquiry and I will use historiography for the academic and scientific study of that history. 8 Historiography is our means of access to history, but history cannot be equated with historiography. There is more to history than historiography has access to. Historiography is both aided and limited by its scientific critical methodology.

Much that has been said of objective knowledge can be said of historiographical knowledge as well. The historian seeks to objectify what is being studied, to eliminate personal bias. History is out there, to be observed, apart from me. Yet there is no such thing as purely objective historiography. Discussing this point, Polanyi writes,

Napoleon's career forms a series of actions, while gravitation comprises merely events, not actions. Human action involves responsibiltiy, which raises the question of motive: such questions, for example, as how far Napoleon was responsible for the wars waged by France under his leadership. Professor Pieter Geyl has compared the views of twenty-seven French historians of Napoleon on these and similar questions. He gave his survey the title Napoleon, For and Against, which shows that the historians' analysis of motives has resulted in the apportioning of praise and blame. . . Professor Geyl observes, accordingly, that the appreciation of Napoleon depends on the political views of the historian. He finds that these views have varied with the date of writing and the professional affiliations of the historian. Feelings of national pride or anti-clericalism favour Napoleon, while anti-militarism and religious feelings speak against him. We may recall how our own reactions to the Russian Revolution have recently caused historians to work out new interpretations of the French Revolution and of the Millenarian movements that preceded it. Thus, the writing of history is itself a process of history.... 9
Even scientific historiography cannot completely separate fact from interpretation. Even factual statements about history can only be formulated by the use of some assumptions. Let us take as an example, "Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492." 10 Further reflection reveals that Columbus did not in fact discover America. There were already others there. We try to be more precise. Columbus was the first European to discover America, and it was 1492. This, however, disregards the prior Viking voyages. And even so, what Columbus "discovered" was not America but a land later to be named America. Thus we say that in 1492 Columbus, a European, came to a new land, which was only new to Europe and not those people who were living in the new land, a land which later was named America. How different it would be if the textbooks said: "In 1492, a man, Christopher Columbus, under the auspices of Spain, came to a land inhabited by people hithertofore unknown in Spain, which people they disregarded, and they began to treat the land as their own, as land for colonization. This land was later named America by the Europeans." Even this statement contains interpretation. The date 1492 would be perceived differently by Jewish, Christian, and Moslem dating patterns. We see how difficult it is to separate the "history" from the "interpretation" and frequently after attempting to do so, we discover that the interpretation was more important to us than the history was (historiography is also personal). Yet, in spite of difficulty, modern historiography strives after an objectivity.

We ought not oppose historiography to personal knowledge. They complement each other. One tries to find the facts while the other seeks to understand them. A bare fact by itself is of little interest. Hence the difficulty of separating it from interpretation.ll Interpretation (a more personal knowledge) has already given some significance to the fact or it wouldn't be included in history books. Fact and interpretation, historiography and personal knowledge, go hand in hand. Yet the historiographer tries to achieve objectification, and that is the value of what he or she does. The search for factual accuracy is important. We can neither reduce truth to objective factuality, nor can we separate truth from it.

Now to turn for a moment to faith, which can be understood in several ways.12 Faith primarily denotes trust in God, as when we speak of Abraham, Mary, and Jesus as examples of faith. In a Christian context, faith refers to the belief that Jesus is the Christ. And faith also refers to those beliefs which accompany Christian life.

Faith, as a kind of knowledge, is an example of personal knowledge. Faith, whether as trust or belief or a way of life, is grounded in experience, the experience of God. One trusts or follows or believes One whom one has experienced personally. This experiential knowledge of God or Jesus is the ground of faith. Hebrew; Israelite, and Jewish faith is deeply rooted in the experience of the people. The early Christian proclamation and faith were rooted in the experience of Jesus as raised from the dead. Throughout history many have given witness to their own personal experiences of God in Christ. Faith then is an experiential, personal knowledge.13

What we have said of personal knowledge above can be said of faith knowledge here. Faith is not subjective and private. It is personal because it involves all of me. In experiential knowledge I do not distance myself from the experience. I am the experience and it is constitutive of who I am. The experience of God can lead to faith, conviction, insight, or to a knowledge of some aspect of God such as God's love or mercy. This knowledge of God comes from within me. Faith seeks understanding, attempts coherence, formalizes itself for the sake of communication. Faith opens up the meaning of the life of Jesus, makes it significant and puts it in the context of a whole history of God's saving acts. One can know Jesus historiographically, but also experientially or personally by faith. We ought appreciate the complementarity of these two kinds of knowledge. They can be distinguished but not separated. Faith cannot be severed from historical events and an historical Jesus whom historiography (to some degree) can rescue from subjectivism, ideological distortion, and unguarded bias. Yet historigraphy can never give us the full story of Jesus. The Jesus of history can be submitted to scientific historiography but also transcends its domain. We need both historiography and faith in order to know Jesus.14

Historiographical knowledge is not without its biases. And faith is not completely non-objective. It rests upon testimony and experience. The language expressing historiographical truth and faith truth will not be the same. Nor can one say that either faith or historigraphy is the more important in our understanding of the historical Jesus. Neither historiography without faith, nor faith without historiography grasps the Jesus of history. Historiography and faith need not oppose each other; faith seeks understanding and is rooted in history; historiography welcomes interpretation that illuminates the facts.

By faith knowledge I do not mean accepting an historical fact as historically factual on the basis of faith. Faith and historiography must rightly be kept distinct. We cannot historiographically prove the content of faith. Nor can we argue by faith to something as historiographically accurate. Methodologically they must be kept distinct. What I am saying is that we do not come to a full knowledge of Jesus of Nazareth by either alone. We do not understand Jesus apart from faith, nor do we get more historical information as a result of faith. Faith knowledge neither confirms nor refutes the results of historiographical research, although it may lead us to question those results. Other historiographers help to confirm or refute the historiographical conclusions of another. We do not accept as fact something that falls short of some consensus.

Nor is faith knowledge primarily the acceptance of something on the basis of someone else's testimony. Faith, as I am using the expression here, is accepting something on the basis of personal experience. This is what ultimately grounds faith. It grounded the faith of the very first Christians. It is their faith knowledge which helped them to see -- to understand and interpret who Jesus was. Only that experiential, personal knowledge helped them to know the Jesus of Nazareth whom they had known previously but not fully. For many later generations of Christians, faith has meant acceptance on the basis of someone else's experience. Yet, in theory, for us of later generations, a living faith still implies an experience of Jesus through the power of the Spirit. We come to our own, or to own that experience to which the disciples were the first witnesses. Christian initiation is careful lest this "conversion experience" be lacking. Adult faith still rests upon the experiential knowledge of Jesus as alive. It does not do what only historiography can do, but this experience-based faith enables one to understand better the historical events. Historiography can only arrive at facts and provide some possible interpretations. It cannot grasp fully the meaning because the event of the resurrection, the horizon within which they become meaningful, is metahistoriographical. The Jesus of history will always be an enigma to historiography, but that historiography is still significant for faith. It stands as critical inquiry over against distorted interpretations. Faith and historiography check and balance each other.

Historiographical research into the earthly, historical Jesus is insufficient by itself because not all the "facts" are accessible to historiographical investigation. We have seen in the earlier chapters that one of the most determinative facts about Jesus, namely his resurrection from the dead, is meta-historiographical. Yet no understanding of the earthly Jesus is complete apart from faith in the resurrection. Another element which escapes full historiographical investigation is the experience of the disciples. The experience is personal knowledge, not objective knowledge, and the articulation or formalization of it still does not make it capable of complete historiographical confirmation. The confirmation lies within the testimony that the disciples give it. Thus we cannot limit ourselves exclusively to those elements in the story of Jesus which are capable of historiographical verification lest we distort the Jesus for whom we search. Historiography's search for the real Jesus of Nazareth must thus at least be open to faith.

But Chistian faith, likewise, must also be open to secular historiographical research. For there is something very crucial to faith that is no longer under the control of faith, namely, Jesus who stands always as a challenge to the church's Jesus. There is an element of autonomy and autonomous rationality that is not subject to Christian faith, just as there is an element of history not subject to critical historiography, namely, the resurrection of Jesus.

Walter Künneth makes a similar point with respect to the resurrection. In our quest for the Jesus of history, we cannot dismiss "believing knowledge."15 The knowledge of the resurrection is open only to faith. "Every method that is detached from faith must in principle lead to failure."16 The resurrection narratives themselves are testimonies to the faith of the early Christians in the resurrection. One cannot set aside the character of these narratives: that they manifest and are intended to manifest faith knowledge. One cannot rightly face the narratives without personally being challenged by the question: do you believe? The resurrection narratives can be subjected to historiographical or literary analysis, but historiography alone will never be able to confirm or deny what those narratives testify to.

We are thus saying: (1) The Jesus of history is inaccessible by historiography alone. The Jesus of history is not the same as the Jesus of historiography. Since the expression "historical Jesus" is so widely used in the sense of the Jesus reconstructed by historical, literary and critical research, we should perhps use the expression "earthly Jesus." As christology eventually asserts, there is more to Jesus than the earthly Jesus alone, the earthly phase of Jesus' life and mission. But there is also more to the earthly Jesus than the historiographical Jesus. The Jesus of historiography is not synonymous with Jesus of Nazareth. (2) The Jesus of history is inaccessible by faith alone. One can have a personal experience of the risen Lord, but that experience has to be further grounded in the tradition that makes Jesus accessible. The earthly Jesus cannot necessarily be presumed to be the Jesus in whom one personally believes. Faith knowledge alone is insufficient. (3) The earthly Jesus then (to the degree accessible at all) is the Jesus of historiography and the Jesus of faith, or the Jesus whom we come to know both by objectification and personalization, or the Jesus whom we know as the result of dialogue between modern historiography and Christian tradition. The Jesus of history can only be known by faith, but not by faith divorced from historiography. Historiography can give us "parts" of Jesus but not the whole Jesus. Faith is concerned with the whole picture, but a whole which cannot be separated from the parts. Historiography attempts to provide accurate pieces to the puzzle. Faith tries to put the puzzle together. They need each other.

What we have just said also helps us to appreciate the distinction common in contemporary theology between Historie and Geschichte, both German words for history. Historie denotes what happened, factual occurrence, the record of the past, what we may often think of as history and to some degree the object of historiographical research. Geschichte implies the past as it impinges upon the present, history with a significance to it, history more existentially understood than positivistically researched. The contrast in meaning is sometimes conveyed in English by translating "historisch" as historical, and "geschichtlich" as historic. The kind of history we have in the New Testament is assumed to be Geschichte -- not a record of the past for the sake of an accurate record, but events which changed and still change lives. Martin Kahler introduced the distinction into the modern study of Jesus, but Bultmann with a different emphasis popularized it. Bultmann tended not only to distinguish but to separate the two meanings. What is important from our perspective, however, is to see their complementarity. There can be no Geschichte that is not also in some sense Historie. In other words, the meaning of an event cannot be completely divorced from the actual occurrence of the event. Significance or meaning which not only transcends but in no way relies upon the events interpreted is vacuous, myth in the pejorative sense, subjective. Geschichte then implies an event that is not only "geschichtlich" but also "historisch" although it acknowledges that there is not Historie in the pure sense, no past events which have no significance whatever; or, if so, no one is interested in them. What the historiographer is interested in is a history which is "geschichtlich," at least to the historiographer. Yet he or she studies history under the formality of Historie. Faith, however, is concerned with history under the formality of Geschichte, but with the awareness that its character as Historie is vital to the assertions of faith. The earthly Jesus is both the "historisch" Jesus and the "geschichtlich" Jesus.

Schillebeeckx also indicates the need for a complementarity between historiographical inquiry and faith knowledge.17 "Faith and historical criticism go hand in hand ... (they) have each their own proper competence and angle of approach."18 There can, in fact, be no search for an historical Jesus apart from the confession of faith on the part of the Christians. For Schillebeeckx, the Christian movement is our access to Jesus, and there is no access to Jesus apart from it. Thus any approach to Jesus is inevitably bound to faith already -- that of the proto-Christian movement. Historiography can only have access to "a part of the real past"; hence the Jesus of historiography is also only an image of Jesus, as is the so-called Christ of faith. One cannot deny reality to the non-historiographically accessible. Reality is bigger than what historiography can recover. Jesus of Nazareth is not accessible by historiography alone.

Schillebeeckx describes a valid approach to Jesus as requiring a "second innocence."19 We can relate this to the modern literary theme of innocence, innocence lost, innocence regained.20 An approach to Jesus by faith alone manifests a naiveté, the naiveté and beauty of first innocence. But, with the dawn of the age of reason (for an individual or for human history), this first innocence is lost. It then believes that it must, and can, live by reason alone. But maturity and experience bring them together at a new and deeper level. One can never come to the third level without going through the second. The danger in faith is to try and bypass the second level of critical reason. But the two cannot ignore each other, and eventually a faith seeking understanding or a rationality seeking understanding incorporate. within themselves their needed and complementary shadow, and a new innocence is reached from which true understanding can flow. The complementarity between historiography and faith is the modern version of the medieval debate on reason and revelation.21 It is a question of both/and. Historiography neither produces faith, nor is it dependent upon a faith perspective. Neither is it an enemy of faith. Nor is faith dependent upon historiographical research or an enemy of it.

A word should be said about whether accurate historiographical knowledge of Jesus is possible. There is no need to detail here the history of the quest for the historical Jesus. This has already been sufficiently done. We know the cast of characters: Reimarus, Lessing, Bauer, Strauss, Weiss, Schweitzer, Bultmann, and then "the new quest."22 But every theologian needs to be conscious of being either optimistic or pessimistic about the effort to know the earthly Jesus. There are two extremes to avoid. The first is to assume that anything like a biography of Jesus as understood in the modern sense is possible. Our recovery of Jesus material may give us "Jesus," but it does not give us a life of Jesus in modern terms. The other extreme is to assume that a recovery of authentic Jesus material is impossible. Although it is not an easy task, critical scholars have been able to assess a significant amount of material which gives us access to the earthly Jesus.23

It may be helpful to look at two opinions about the possibility of recovering accurate Jesus material. One, more pessimistic, is Norman Perrin, a biblical scholar. Another, more optimistic, is A.M. Sherwin-White, a secular historiographer or Roman historian. Perrin's research into the teaching of Jesus has done us a great service.24 Yet, his approach leaves one more skeptical about the Jesus material than we need be. The issue depends upon how one perceives the nature of the Gospel material.

Perrin writes, "So far as we can tell today, there is no single pericope anywhere in the gospels, the present purpose of which is to preserve a historical reminiscence of the earthly Jesus, although there may be some which do in fact come near to doing so..."25 If Perrin means no pericope whose purpose is exclusively to preserve a historical reminiscence, we must agree. But if he means that historical reminiscences as historical were unimportant to early faith and proclamation, we must disagree. Once Jesus was raised from the dead and experienced as raised, there was great interest in the memoriae Jesu. This does not deny the freedom of the evangelists in the construction of the Gospels. But the evangelists were both theologically and historically motivated. Theological motivation does not exclude historical sensitivity. The evangelists saw their proclamation as the true understanding of the events that had come to pass, for whom the events were important as well as the understanding.

Perrin also makes a major point about the identity in the early church between the risen Lord and the earthly Jesus, and vice versa. He writes, "The early Church made no attempt to distinguish between the words the earthly Jesus had spoken and those spoken by the risen Lord through a prophet in the community.. . The early Church absolutely and completely identified the risen Lord of her experience with the earthly Jesus of Nazareth and created for her purposes, which she conceived to be his, the literary form of the gospel, in which words and deeds ascribed in her consciousness to both the earthly Jesus and the risen Lord were set down in terms of the former."26 The early church did not distinguish between Jesus and the Christ in the way that modern historical scholarship does. The Risen Lord was the selfsame Jesus. And the early church was right.27 Modern critical historiography, however, has an interest which was not important to the early church, namely to distinguish the teachings of the pre-resurrection Jesus from the post-resurrection community of believers. And we have seen the importance of this historiographical pursuit for the faith. In the Gospels, sayings whose origins were most probably post-resurrection are attributed to the earthly Jesus. Yet this does not negate the fact that this early church also respected some of the sayings and deeds of Jesus because they were sayings and deeds of the historical, earthly Jesus whom they had known. Although they could readily attribute a saying to Jesus since the Risen Lord after all was Jesus, they also remembered and collected sayings which were "earthly Jesus" material. Their lack of distinction between the pre-resurrection and post-resurrection Jesus makes our modern historiographical task more difficult. However, it goes too far to imply that the church had no regard for Jesus' words and deeds qua historical.

Perrin distinguishes three different kinds of knowledge in the current discussion on the historical Jesus: (I) descriptive historical knowledge, or Historie, which I have called historiographical knowledge; (2) significant historical knowledge, or Geschichte; and (3) faith know!edge, knowledge of Jesus which is significant only in the specific context of Christian faith.28 Although Perrin's distinctions are helpful, he makes the mistake of separating what he distinguishes. We have to distinguish different ways of knowing Jesus. But, as we have seen, we cannot separate completely Historie and Geschichte. Otherwise, one has a false picture of the situation. Historie without some interpretation or some significance exists only in the abstract. Likewise significant historical knowledge is still historical (historiographical) knowledge. It cannot be severed from it roots in history as it was for Bultmann. Faith knowledge is also knowledge based upon the experience of Jesus as raised from the dead, experiential and valid knowledge of Jesus. It is in the area of faith-knowledge that I disagree most with Perrin. He writes, "'Faith knowledge' depends upon special worth being attributed to the person concerned."29 Faith knowledge does not derive from attributing special significance to Jesus. Rather, attributing special significance to Jesus derives from knowing him by faith, that is, having personally experienced him as having been raised. Faith knowledge does not derive from some abstract significance. It is derived from the experiences of those who knew Jesus and of one (Paul) who did not know him in the flesh but still experienced him as raised. Perrin's approach makes faith knowledge useless in the search for the Jesus of history. He then tends to equate the Jesus of historiography with the real Jesus of Nazareth. Rather we must see that the real Jesus of history is accessible only through both historiography and faith.

Perrin writes, "True, this Jesus of the kerygma, this Jesus of faith-knowledge, encounters us in our historic situation but he is not the historic Jesus, he is the Christ, the eschatological Jesus."30 But such a (common) distinction between Jesus and the Christ is one which we can no longer accept. We can and must distinguish the two phases in the life of Jesus -- pre-resurrection and post-resurrection. However, we cannot identify our access to the pre-resurrection Jesus with historiography and access to the post-resurrection Jesus with faith and church, and sever the two. The Jesus of historiography is not adequate to give us the earthly Jesus of history. And faith not only gives us a "Christ of faith" but a Jesus of faith, but in the end faith is also necessary for the goal of historiography in its pursuit of the real Jesus of Nazareth. I grant with Perrin the necessity of the distinctions. I disagree that the three kinds of knowledge all have different objects. While they may have different formal objects, they do not have different material objects. Both faith and historiography are necessary if we are to reach Jesus.

In contrast to Perrin, Sherwin-White, the Graeco-Roman historiographer, has more confidence in the historiographical nature of the Gospel materials than form critics. "It is astonishing that while Graeco-Roman historians have been growing in confidence, the twentieth century study of the Gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, has taken so gloomy a turn in the development of form criticism that the more advanced exponents of it apparently maintain -- so far as an amateur can understand the matter -- that the historical Christ is unknowable and the history of his mission cannot be written."31 Sherwin-White questions whether the tendency of myth to prevail over historical fact is likely within the period of time within which the Gospels came to be written, a space of three generations. He also questions, on historiographical grounds, the tendency to exaggerate the Gospels' lack of concern for history. In other words, on historiographical grounds, skepticism with respect to historical material within the Gospels is unjustified. "What to an ancient historian is most surprising in the basic assumptions of form-criticism of the extremer sort, is the presumed tempo of the development of the didactic myths... The agnostic type of the form-criticism would be much more credible if the compilation of the Gospels were much later in time, much more remote from the events themselves, than can be the case. Certainly a deal of distortion can affect a story that is given literary form a generation or two after the event, whether for national glorification or political spite, or for the didactic or symbolic expositon of ideas. But in the material of ancient history the historical content is not hopelessly lost. . . Herodotus enables us to test the tempo of myth-making, and the tests suggest that even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core of the oral tradition... It can be maintained that those who had a passionate interest in the story of Christ, even if their interest in events was parabolical and didactic rather than historical, would not be led by that very fact to pervert and utterly destroy the historical kernel of their material."32

Thus, we ought not be uncritically optimistic or skeptical in our historiograhical quest for Jesus; nor ought we assume that historiography alone is the only access to Jesus and that faith is an access to some other Christ but not at all to the earthly Jesus.



1 In Volume Four, I will be discussing a third kind of knowledge or truth: symbolic knowledge or symbolic truth. But that is not necessary for our discussion here.

2 See Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge, Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (New York: Harper and Row, 1964). A briefer exposition of his basic tenets is The Study of Man (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1959). Also see Michael Polanyi and Harry Prosch, Meaning ( Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1975); and Richard Gelwick, The Way of Discovery, An Introduction to the Thought of Michael Polanyi (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977). In addition to Polanyi, Henri Bergson and Jacob Bronowski have been helpful in my effort to understand knowledge.

3 Polanyi has influenced my understanding, but I am not using the expression in precisely the same way as he. Polanyi uses it as a description of all knowledge and sees it as a value in all knowledge; purely objective knowledge is not only not possible, it is not desirable. I use the expression to refer to one of three types of knowledge. We will consider the third type in Volume Four of this series. The word "personal" for me describes the dominant characteristic of one kind of knowledge. Although I do not use the expression to mean exactly what Polanyi means, I agree with his expositon about knowledge in general. Yet it is important to be aware, even when I quote Polanyi, that I am not explicating his theory, but using his insights to explicate my own approach. Polanyi also distinguishes between explicit knowledge and tacit knowledge, and between focal awareness and subsidiary awareness. Sce note two of this chapter.

4 Polanyi, The Study of Man, 29.

5 I reflected further on the need for thinking in terms of complementarity in The Power of Love (Chicago: Thomas More Press, 1979), 268-80.

6 See Edward Schillebeeckx, Jesus, An Experiment in Christology trans. Hubert Hoskins (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), 626-28.

7 See Alfred North Whitehead, The Function of Reason (Boston: Beacon Press, [1929] 1967), esp. 49-61.

8 The distinction is comparable to the distinction between music and musicology. Or one may choose to speak of material history and formal history, material history as the past with its varying degrees of relevance to the present, and formal history or historiography as the academic, critical, and scientific discipline by which material history is interpreted and written.

9 Polanyi, The Study of Man, 78-9.

10 For example, for a different reading of the "facts," or of the ordinary presentation of the facts, see Howard Zinn, A People's History of the United States (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1980). esp. 1-22.

11 See Van A. Harvey, The Historian and the Believer, The Morality of Historical Knowledge and Christian Belief (Philadelphia: the Westminster Prcss, 1966), esp. 214-21 on "facts" and "interpretation." Constructive insights on history and historiography can be found in John Marsh, The Gospel of Saint John, Pelican New Testament Commentary (New York: Penguin Books, 1968), 17-20; note especially his distinction between "what took place," and "what was going on." Also see R.G. Collingwood, The Idea of History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, [1946] 1967); Bernard Lonergan, Method in Theology (New York: Herder and Herder, 1972), 175-234; and T.A. Roberts, History and Christian Apologetics (London: S.P.C.K., 1960).

12 See the article by Avery Dulles, "The Meaning of Faith Considered in Relationship to Justice," in The Faith That Does Justice, ed. John C. Haughey (New York: Paulist Press, 1977), 10-46.

13 Bernard Lonergan provides a brief description of faith as knowledge. See Method in Theology, 115-18.

14 Hence the importance of both distinguishing but not separating the "Jesus of historiography" and the "Jesus of faith." The earthly, historical Jesus cannot be reduced to the Jesus of historiography alone. Thus I agree with David Tracey that the Jesus of modern historical-critical exegesis cannot be the basis or norm for Christology (David Tracey, The Analogical Imagination Christian Theology and the Culture of Pluralism [New York: Crossroad, 1981], 233-41; 242, n 5; 300; n 97; 334, n 15), but I do not think we can any longer terminologically identify the Jesus of history with the Jesus of historiography. See Volume One of this series, Donald Goergen, The Mission and Ministry of Jesus (Wilmington, Del.: Michael Glazier, 1986), 11-22 esp. n 1, pp. 11-12.

15 Walter Künneth, The Theology of the Resurrection, trans. James W. Leitch (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1965), 102-7.

16 Ibid., 103.

17 Schillebeeckx uses the word historical to describe what I mean by historiographical. I use the word historiographical so that we can keep the varied meanings of "history" distinct. He also speaks about Jesus as experienced and interpreted by the proto-Christian movement; I use the expression faith knowledge to be consistent with my own exposition. Schillebeeckx's expression and mine are related but not co-terminus. For Schillebeeckx's discussion of the relation between historiography and faith, see Jesus, an Experiment in Christology, trans. Hubert Hoskins (New York: The Seabury Press, 1979), esp. 19-36, 43-80; and Interim Report on the Books Jesus and Christ, trans. John Bowden (New York: Crossroad 1981), 27-49, 93-102. Hans Küng also points to the complementarity between historiographical research and faith. See On Being a Christian, trans. Edward Quinn (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday and Co., 1976), 119-65.

18 Schillebeeckx, Jesus, 34.

19 Ibid., 79.

20 Consider this theme, for example, as developed in thc writings of Hermann Hesse. Also valuable are the reflections of Rollo May, Power and Innocence (New York: W.W. Norton and Co., 1972).

21 See Etienne Gilson, Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, [1938] 1966).

22 See the bibliography of suggested readings pertinent to this chapter at the end of this volume.

23 One can note here the ongoing work of The Historical Jesus Section of the Society of Biblical Literature as well as The Jesus Seminar of the Westar Institute and its journal, Forum.

24 Especially valuable are Norman Perrin's clarity of expression and exposition of four stages of biblical hermeneutics (textual, historical, literary criticism, and hermeneutics proper). See Jesus and the Language of the Kingdom (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1976),1-14.

25 Norman Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus (New York: Harper and Row, 1967), 16.

26 Ibid., 15; also see 15-53.

27 Is this not the primary purpose of Mark's Gospel? See H.C. Kee, Community of the New Age: Studies in Mark's Gospel (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 9.

28 Perrin, Rediscovering the Teaching of Jesus 234-44.

29 Ibid., 237.

30 Ibid., 238.

31 A. M. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1963), 187.

32 Ibid,. 189-91.