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The Flesh Was Made Word
A Metahistorical Critique of the Contemporary Quest of the Historical Jesus
Susan Lochrie Graham

The ‘historical Jesus’ still remains elusive. Who was Jesus? What really happened? How can we know for sure? The latest quest for the truth about him comes at a time marked by radical uncertainty and postmodern scepticism about master narratives, along with a loss of confidence in the traditional methods of historical analysis.

In this context, Susan Lochrie Graham approaches the old debates from an entirely new direction. Armed with a ‘metahistorical’ approach adapted from the work of Hayden White, the philosopher of history, she reads the work of four representative historical Jesus writers: John P. Meier, N.T. Wright, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and John Dominic Crossan. The analysis brings to light the deep literary structures of their portraits, showing the differing plots and rhetorical concepts that shape them, and the types of argument that are deployed by each writer.

This ground-breaking critical investigation exposes the theological and cultural meanings embedded in all historical Jesus writing, showing how narrative forms function ideologically. It concludes with fresh answers to questions both about the methods we use and about the social implications of the contemporary quest of the historical Jesus, and proposes different directions for future research.

Series: New Testament Monographs, 27
978-1-906055-96-7 hardback
Publication November 2010


I. History and Theory
1. A Brief History of History
2. Knowing the Truth: Modernist History
3. Telling the Truth in your Own Words
4. Structuring the Past

II. Elements of Historiography
1. Hayden White's Metahistory
2. Structures and Truth
3. Plot Structures and Historical Explanation
4. Time and Historical Narrative
5. Turning to Tropes
6. Ideological Implications: A Theology of Historical Narratives


III. Seeing Jesus Twice: J.P. Meier's Dual Vision
1. Method in Historical Jesus Research
2. Putting Jesus in Context
3. Elements of a Story of Jesus
4. Dragging in the Net

IV. N.T. Wright's Prodigal Jesus
1. The Prodigal as Heroic Comedy
2. Jesus' Story as Comic Epic
3. Jesus' Story Plotted
4. Plausible History
5. When Is the Kingdom Come?

V. Anamnesis as Political Theology: E. Schüssler Fiorenza's Jesus
1. Historical Construction
2. Philosophy of History in a Feminist Mode

VI. Programmed Performance: John Dominic Crossan's Jesus
1. Fictional History and Historical Fiction
2. Plotting History
3. Philosophy of History

Ouroboric Conclusions and Reflections
1. Summary Ending
2. Politics of Interpretation and Culture Criticism