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Historical Jesus: What can we know and how can we know it?

Historical Jesus: What can we know and how can we know it? By Anthony Le Donne. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011. ISBN-10: 0-8028-6526-7. ISBN-13: 978-0-8028-6526-7. xiv and 146 pages. Paper. $12.00.

In this brief but engaging volume, Anthony Le Donne weaves sound scholarship with popular culture for an easy and informative read. Bringing historical Jesus scholarship into conversation with postmodern historiography, he points to "a new beginning" rooted in "the interpretation of memory refraction." (134) Using a telescope as analogy, Le Donne argues that memory makes visible the invisible past through the process of refraction, or interpretation. Rather than searching for unattainable certainties, he redefines the object of the historical quest in terms of plausibility. His goal is not to paint a picture of who Jesus was, but rather of who it is plausible to conceive him to be.

Weighted more toward theory than history, this book does not provide much in the way of new insights into the historical Jesus, but is rich with insights into how Jesus may have been understood in his own culture and how we might understand him in ours. Instead of pronouncing certain texts true or false, Le Donne puts forward a way to read them as historical narrative.

Le Donne structures his argument in three parts with repeating sections: (anticipated) Questions, Perception, Memory, History, and Jesus. The middle categories put forth his answer to the questions by way of theoretical argument, while the Jesus sections illustrate the application. These last sections are the least developed; however, the book provides a strong entry into discussion of the historical Jesus. Written in a style familiar to pastors and teachers, it incorporates sources as diverse as Spiderman and Heraclitus and utilizes experience and analogy to explain difficult concepts in a clear and sensitive way.

Amy L. Allen

Vanderbilt University
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Author:Allen, Amy L.
Publication:Currents in Theology and Mission
Article Type:Brief article
Date:Oct 1, 2012
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