Talk:Quest for the historical Jesus

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q 1
Why is the term "quest" used here?

A: The process for studying the historical Jesus is called "quest" because Albert Schweitzer called it that in 1906, and it became common thereafter. If Schweitzer had called his book "search for Jesus" that may have become the topic name. But the whole field now calls it "quest", in the same way that New York is called New York. The fact that scholars widely use the terms "second quest" and "third quest" is an indication that the term has been totally attached to the topic now, and is hence used per WP:Commonname.

Q 2
How is this article different from Historical Jesus?

A: This article discusses the "processes and the techniques" used by academics. The Historical Jesus article discusses the end product of those efforts. This is in the same sense that automobile manufacturing is the process by which automobile is produced as an end product. Another analogy for this article being about the "academic process" and the Historical Jesus article being about the "material/end product" is this:

  • The article Coffeemaker discusses a "device and a process" for making coffee.
  • The article on Coffee discusses material involved in and produced by the process.

Of course, the Coffee and Coffeemaker pages refer to each other, but they are separate concepts and separate articles. So this article (which is about the process) and the Historical Jesus article (which is about the material/product) refer to each other, but are distinct concepts and articles.

Q 3
How does this article fit in the overall scheme of the articles on Jesus?

This article is about "techniques and processes" for gaining an understanding of Jesus. The article Historicity of Jesus on the other hand does no address these issues, but only focuses on the very basic issue of the "existence of Jesus" - in effect only addressing the question: "Did Jesus walk the streets of Jerusalem?". The Historical Jesus article discusses the various aspects of what can be understood about the activities of Jesus as he walked the streets or preached, e.g. "Was Jesus seen as a social reformer by the people of his time?" These are hence three different aspects and topics with three separate articles. For a further overview of the related articles, please see Jesus and history which lists more items.

For a March 2005 deletion debate over this page see Wikipedia:Votes for deletion/The Quest for the Historical Jesus


Recent changes[edit]

The article no longer contains the title in the first sentence as is usual for ALL articles on Wikipedia.Theroadislong (talk) 13:30, 12 April 2013 (UTC)

Right. But mostly a plural problem. Will try... Content will need t get fixed as well... will do. History2007 (talk) 13:33, 12 April 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for fixing that. I am going to try to get the body of the article cleaned up in the next few days, now that no one responded to the offer to do it since Oct. Hope to finish before the end of next week. History2007 (talk) 22:41, 12 April 2013 (UTC)

Merge from Oral gospel traditions[edit]

Closed after one week. See #Merge strategy for outcome. While it would have been preferable for all parties who had previously been involved to have either had a chance to support, oppose, or comment on the new merge proposal -- a closure seems not unquestionable considering the drop off in activity. That said, should this merge proposal be contested some time in the near future, the discussion should be re-opened for an additional week; consider this a soft close. Mkdwtalk 23:21, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

The following discussion is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.

The page Oral gospel traditions discusses issues that relate to early 20th century ideas supported by Bultmann, etc. The ideas are still floating around and may have a few breaths left, but would fit in the section here where Bultmann is discussed, so the merge makes sense. There is not much well sourced content there anyway, and if and when that subject develops further, it may separate out again, but for now the merge makes sense.History2007 (talk) 06:36, 13 May 2013 (UTC)

NOTE - The above statement is incorrect. Please see Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist?, HarperCollins, 2012. pp 83 - 93 and 98-101 Thanks - Ret.Prof (talk) 14:49, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I had not seen Oral transmission (synoptic problem). Thought of drinking a strong Scotch after I saw it... Should become a section in Synoptic Gospels. It is a piece of that story. But Oral transmission (synoptic problem) is a truck load of haphazard text, and only some of that makes any sense anyway. Will tag as such. History2007 (talk) 08:32, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Strong Oppose: There was a talk page consensus - a discussion in which both of you took part - to reduce the article to a stub and build it up from there. That is exactly what Huon did. This latest stunt is nothing more than an attempt at railroading by redirect. If you want to delete it, do it with an AfD or make your merge proposal there in a public forum. Ignocrates (talk) 13:21, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
That is interesting.... I did take part in that discussion back in Jan 2013 and now did not even recognize the article looking at it. Either my memory is going or was a case of Freudian rejection of those memories... they could not have been great.. Anyway, I should say that before you blow an artery here. So if there was a long discussion that may make a difference... So let us see what people say there, etc. Or let us hear suggestions for what to do. Continue with the merge discussion or not... I am not going to push for a merge in view of that now, so consider it a suggestion now. History2007 (talk) 14:38, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the good will and not pushing for a merge! I'm even older than Ignocrates and would not like to blow an artery. Please check out Ehrman above. The oral tradition is now a hot topic! Thanks again! - Ret.Prof (talk) 14:57, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
PiCo is proving himself to be a genius at these reclamation projects. I would give him, and any other interested editors, more time to develop the stub into something useful. Blood pressure back to normal. Ignocrates (talk) 15:05, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree and as has been pointed out Dunn's The Oral Gospel Tradition is coming out later this summer! Therefore I agree that we allow interested editors, more time to develop the stub into something useful. - Ret.Prof (talk) 15:19, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
I am now getting a Freudian block that stops me from reading long discussions. Let me say that I am not going to look into this any further, comment any further, and will just let you guys talk it over for the next decade or two... have fun. History2007 (talk) 16:00, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Ignocrates "This latest stunt is nothing more than an attempt at railroading by redirect" - no it's not, it was based on an understanding that exactly what is happening now wouldn't happen. That hasn't been honoured so the idea of a merge is back on the table. It's pretty evident the intention is to regrow the WP:OR in the same shape and size that has already been cut back to the root repeatedly. Again and again and again. In ictu oculi (talk) 10:48, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose merge, as a newcomer to the article. But if the current stub content is not in this article, maybe it should be, while leaving the other to, with luck, regain something like its previous size. The other surely has a subject that deserves its own article. Johnbod (talk) 16:32, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
Johnbod, any suggestions, in which article is this subject partly covered at the moment? i.e. what is it a breakout from? From where should incoming links come. In ictu oculi (talk) 10:48, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, no, it's not an area I know well here, but it is neither covered adequately here, nor does it fall within the scope of the article as it currently is. Johnbod (talk) 13:23, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
@In ictu oculi...A good question. The topic has always been notable. However with Dunn's book it has become a hot topic in Biblical Circles. I believe the rush to delete Oral gospel traditions by redirect is a big mistake. In any event I will prepare a list "From where should incoming links come". Also a note of thanks for all the good work you do. Cheers - Ret.Prof (talk) 15:56, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose the merge, for the reasons given by Johnbod and Ignocrates. - Ret.Prof (talk) 23:52, 13 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Weak oppose - While I strongly believe that the topic is notable enough on its own, the article in question lacks significant detail. However, as Prof points out above, Ehrman (and probably a number of sources I can' recall off-hand) make use of the idea in multiple publications. We don't merge articles just because they're bad, or just because, like this one, they're really, really stubby. Evanh2008 (talk|contribs) 16:58, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree that Oral gospel traditions is really, really stubby. Yet because of strong concerns about the reliability of Bart Ehrman etc. there has been consensus we expand the stub slowly! Cheers - Ret.Prof (talk) 17:11, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Well, that's rather what I'd gathered. I like Ehrman myself, though I can see how he might be considered a little too "pop history" for those who favor more academic sources. Evanh2008 (talk|contribs) 17:14, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Just above here back in 2009 someone asked why does this article exist. And in April 2013 I gave the example of the separate articles on coffee and coffee maker. These are two separate topics in that Historical Jesus is the portraits (coffee) the other the process (coffee maker) just above on this talk page. That describes "how people see Jesus" this is about the research methods, criteria used, etc. Another analogy is teh difference between "automobile" and "automobile manufacturing". Most people have more interest in cars than in the manufacturing processes. And given the sizes, they will get too hard to read and manage. Hypertext is there for that purpose. Oral transmission (synoptic problem) is not just a historical item but could be a purely theological issue to settle differences among theologs. You are right that the quest for the historical Jesus is not limited to oral transmission issues and goes beyond those. So the quest is a much larger superset of the oral transmission issues. The question will be if the oral transmission issues need to be a separate page or not. But as we all know, in Wikiland that truth will be determined by chance. History2007 (talk) 18:05, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
OK, love your analogy of the coffee maker, chuckled at it, and understand the distinction completely—but now must ask why this is called a "quest". We have, for instance, a methodological article on Homeric Question, but not quest for the historical Homer. If we had an article on sorting out "Alexander romance", as our article is somewhat boneheadedly titled, from the historical Alexander the Great, we wouldn't call it quest for the historical Alexander. Dare I hope there's an appliance to explain this? This is not quite off-topic, as it bears on the merge. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:18, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
It is called "Quest" because Schweitzer called it that, and it stuck. If he had called his book "search for Jesus" that may have become the topic name. But the whole field now calls it that. So the same reason New York is called New York I guess. The fact that people use the terms "second quest" and "third quest" is an indication that the term has been crazy-glued to the topic now. History2007 (talk) 20:25, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Thank you for your patience. It just sounds a bit History Channelish to me. I'm afraid I still oppose the merge, and (no doubt out of ignorance) still see the two oral transmission articles as better merge candidates. I appreciate your time. Cynwolfe (talk) 20:33, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
No worries - and it does sound unusual, as you said. And as I said, I am not pushing hard for the merge - I had forgotten that it had a long story when I suggested it. And you should also see my comment on the Wikiproj Christianity page. I think this Quest for Historical Jesus topic is clear cut enough (i.e. boring enough) to remain a stable article. The oral gospel traditions issue will be a roller-coaster ride for long - and the edit histories show that. Back in Oct 2012 I said I was hoping someone would work on this article because it was dormant for about 2 years. So it has not been a hot topic - and I fixed it last month - it is in good shape now. The other article has been, and will likely remain that way. In fact merging them will probably just add chaos here with no benefit after all... History2007 (talk) 20:40, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Cynewolfe & others might want to comment at Talk:Synoptic_Gospels#Merge_of_Oral_transmission_.28synoptic_problem.29 too. Johnbod (talk) 20:48, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Yes, that is a good suggestion. But I have self-exiled from that discussion due to its troubled past. History2007 (talk) 21:53, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Oppose -- to put it most succinctly: "oral gospel tradition" is NOT only about "finding the historical jesus"; it's about other things as well. those other topics do not fit as sub-topics here, & they DO belong in the article about oral gospel tradition (which could be improved & expanded on considerably). therefore, that article shouldn't be merged in here.
(as discussed by other editors above)
i'm not even sure that we've chosen the best title for THIS article ("quest...") Lx 121 (talk) 23:06, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
-did some minor revisions on my comment (mostly to fix the broken "oppose"), went to get a snack & found an edit conflict. hopefully my alterations won't alter the views of the commentor below Lx 121 (talk) 23:29, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
I agree with your first comment in that the oral traditions also have a theological component, as discussed here. But regarding the title of this article see FAQ item 2, and the discussion just above. You can be sure that is the title in widest use (WP:Commonname) if you do some research on it; or read the article in detail. History2007 (talk) 23:12, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for the link to the other convo. i understand about the name, but sometimes "the most common name" isn't the best choice (wp: ignore the rules, be bold, etc.). (btw, it would be nice if someone could turn the faq into a "collapsed section" instead of a separate page. i'm not going to attempt it; lack of skill, lack of time, & i'm trying not to spend time on that sort of task. it uses up time my time & i'd rather spend it on other work.) Lx 121 (talk) 23:40, 14 May 2013 (UTC)
It is also a collapsed section, just below there. But those usually don't get noticed. History2007 (talk) 01:02, 15 May 2013 (UTC)
User:Lx 121 hi. When working out whether a NT related article is really a notable subject I have to confess to looking at what de.wp does, well at least this article has Dansk Deutsch Esperanto Français Italiano Српски / srpski Srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски.. which leads me to think that this article is probably more standalone-notable than these two essay stubs above, neither of which have any de.wp counterpart. At the moment these are two orphans looking for integration with the rest of wp Christianity's coverage. But where? In ictu oculi (talk) 09:15, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Your logic is correct, but reality at times trumps logic. The heart of the problem is, of course, a content issue: "objection to the stubby nature of those articles". A possible solution may be to merge Oral transmission (synoptic problem) with Oral gospel traditions so you get a more localized effect. And the other point is that the jury is out whether Dunn will manage to resurrect the topic of Oral gospel traditions. I know this is frustrating, but that is how these discussions work... In many cases persistence rules and discussions go on for years. So as a temporary solution can try suggesting a merge of Oral transmission (synoptic problem) with Oral gospel traditions until more content appears. Apart from heartache there is no other way now, it seems. History2007 (talk) 09:29, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I hope you can appreciate the irony of the community reducing a much more comprehensive article to a stub as an alternative to deletion by redirect and then proposing that it be deleted by redirect because it is a stub. Am I the only one who sees the humor in this Catch 22? Ignocrates (talk) 18:25, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
please remind me why the article was redacted in the first place? Lx 121 (talk) 08:43, 18 May 2013 (UTC)
There are no pleasant memories there... It was so bad I seem to have blanked my own mind about them. Pretty contentious arguments and plenty of OR gathered over time, some by various IPs. It was a spring clean by and large, hoping for a fresh start. Now it may just get that. History2007 (talk) 08:49, 18 May 2013 (UTC)

Alternative proposal[edit]

In view of the last comment above, how about combining Oral gospel traditions and Oral transmission (synoptic problem), the eventual title being "Oral gospel traditions". That may reduce some of the issues being debated and it can be argued that Oral transmission (synoptic problem) is a subtopic of the oral traditions and transmissions anyway. And that way the Oral transmission (synoptic problem) page that everyone agrees needs help and trimming will get looked at. History2007 (talk) 11:43, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

I do not buy the finest type talk, but if you agree, that may help reduce headaches all around, and more material can come together in one place. The oral synoptic problem issues may be seen as a subset of the oral tradition discussions anyway. History2007 (talk) 12:43, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok, so let us see if In Ictu agrees with that. To be upfront, I think the challenge here is concern about future WP:OR coming in either from the Oral transmission (synoptic problem) page or elsewhere. But that is a future issue. So if you guys can agree to 200% source things before adding them, there will be less future heartache all around. History2007 (talk) 16:22, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I think it goes without saying that everyone involved needs to strive to be impeccable with their own edits. I can't imagine doing otherwise. Ignocrates (talk) 16:43, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Support. Overlapping topics with shared methodologies. Cynwolfe (talk) 18:41, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

General discussion[edit]

I think voting/consensus can take place above, but let me briefly say what I think the eventual article needs to explain to a reader. A typical thinking reader who has not looked at the scholarship would say:

  • Were there oral traditions before the gospels were written? Of course there were. That is certain given that according to the gospels themselves only John may have been present at the crucifixion along with some women followers. And it is pretty certain that John did not have his iPhone with him that day (some say he left it at the last supper room) and did not take photos. So those stories were oral traditions. That is the first stage.
  • Were the gospels written? Of course. So that is the last stage.
  • Was there any intermediate form between the start and the end? Given the widespread Q source discussions, most probably.

So now the discussion will be about the existence and number of the intermediate forms in between the first oral traditions and the final written items. Was there one intermediate stage or two? So the real issue is explaining the stages 2 and 3 ideas and how that would tie into the synoptic problem, Q, etc. And those issues together will probably an article make. History2007 (talk) 13:12, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

There is more to it than the theoretical musings of modern scholars, (see Skarsaune (2007) Jewish Believers in Jesus pp.326-33). Skarsaune quotes from Eusebius' Ecclesiastical History about the oral tradition reported by Papias. Eusebius quotes a specific example from Papias' Interpretation of the Sayings of the Lord about the eschatological bounty, which Papias says he received as oral tradition from associates of John the Elder. Papias states in the same commentary that he regards oral tradition to be more reliable than written records because it is the first-hand testimony of eye-witnesses or their immediate followers: "For not in those who have much to say did I delight, as do the many, but in those who teach what is true, ... For I assumed that what is derived from books does not profit me so much as what is derived from a living and abiding voice." (H.e. 3.39.3-4). Ignocrates (talk) 16:22, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I know, I was just giving the common sense version of the events. The underlying issue is that Dunn and others are running out of things to write about, so they will write on these for a while... But 99.9999% of the planet shrugs their shoulders regardless of what will eventually go in the page... History2007 (talk) 16:27, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Agreed. There is no doubt this is a specialized topic which requires a fair amount of in-depth study to write about intelligently, and it will be relevant to only a small number of readers. Ignocrates (talk) 16:39, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I will stop before we get into a heated agreement here. History2007 (talk) 16:45, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok. :0D Ignocrates (talk) 16:51, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
But I saw that after the Ok above, you typed a somewhat longer lecture on Papias in the midst of previous comments. I will not respond to them, for that is a debate for the future article. History2007 (talk) 20:35, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
Sorry. I tried to clarify a few points and thought the additional details were rather interesting. I completely agree "that is a debate for the future article". Ignocrates (talk) 23:07, 16 May 2013 (UTC)
I will stop before we get into a heated agreement here. History2007 (talk) 23:22, 16 May 2013 (UTC)

Merge strategy[edit]

Given that we have opposition to the one merge, and support for the other merge, I would suggest the following:

  • Given the low level of new player traffic in this discussion, we can wait for the weekend. By Monday, a week after proposing a merge, I will withdraw my original merge proposal, and can hence close the discussion.
  • I will comment out the bulk of the Oral transmission (synoptic problem) without deleting the text, but it will look like are direct, with the text still there.
  • You guys can gradually move that text to the Oral gospel tradition page, as you check it for copy vio, source it, etc. I will not be able to do any of that.

That may smoothly end this phase of the oral tradition discussions. History2007 (talk) 17:12, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

A very sensible solution! Practically speaking, one decent article might be an improvement on two low quality ones. Formally, the whole question of oral tradition is a subject in its own right which goes far wider that the "Quest(s) for the historical Jesus" and could be developed into a major article of its own. Hence it is better to keep it apart. Jpacobb (talk) 18:02, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok, great. Given that you know more about the topic than myself, once it happens, you can add/change the one paragraph that I will just move there. History2007 (talk) 18:04, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
  • Comment: This is acceptable with one caveat, have someone else close the proposal to merge, preferably an uninvolved admin, with a consensus of No Merge on the talk page. This proposal had way too much discussion to just withdraw it, and it's also good practice not to close your own proposals. Ignocrates (talk) 18:17, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
I will call John G. over the weekend to see if he will... kidding. But this is a small little item in the greater scheme of things. But anyway, will just post a request for closure on Sunday and any uninvolved ed can do it. But even if I just close it this is not going to Arbcom or John G. It is a just little article discussion anyway. History2007 (talk) 18:26, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
"Little article discussion"s tend to become much bigger discussions on this topic. I'm fine with posting a request for closure. Ignocrates (talk) 18:30, 17 May 2013 (UTC)
Ok, I will just post for closure then so we can be done with it. History2007 (talk) 18:52, 17 May 2013 (UTC)

The discussion above is closed. Please do not modify it. Subsequent comments should be made on the appropriate discussion page. No further edits should be made to this discussion.


Talk page tags concluding merge proposals[edit]

I assume the proposers are going to remove the "proposal to merge" tags from the articles and replace them with the appropriate talk page tags indicating the disposition of the merge discussions. Thank you. Ignocrates (talk) 23:37, 19 May 2013 (UTC)

Also, keep in mind that this discussion was closed with a soft close. It can be reopened in the near future if someone wants to challenge the decision as a WP:local consensus. Ignocrates (talk) 23:54, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
I already removed the tags, and moved the paragraph. And given that you agreed above, you are not going to oppose. And if someone opposes, I will give you a full refund. Promise... History2007 (talk) 23:59, 19 May 2013 (UTC)
Thanks for taking care of it. I assume the closer meant someone who was a part of the original discussion but didn't weigh in on the solution. I'm good to go. Ignocrates (talk) 00:07, 20 May 2013 (UTC)

I have taken care of the talk page tags concluding the three merge proposals. Ignocrates (talk) 02:25, 20 May 2013 (UTC)