In 1991, John P. Meier, Catholic priest and New Testament scholar, published A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, Volume 1. Next spring, Volume 4 is to be published. And a Volume 5 is anticipated. Meier has spent almost two decades researching and writing about the historical Jesus, which raises the question for me: What do I know for sure about the Jesus of history?
In his initial volume, Meir imagines the following scenario: "Suppose that a Catholic, a Protestant, a Jew, and an agnostic - all honest historians cognizant of first century religious movements - were locked up in the bowels of the Harvard Divinity School library . . . and not allowed to emerge until they had hammered out a consensus document on who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended . . ."
If all were honest and maintained their academic integrity, what consensus would emerge from such a gathering. And, more importantly, what might emerge from our own historical study of Jesus?