Wednesday 24 August 2005

N. T. Wright and John P. Meier

The September issue of New Blackfriars is out, and it includes this article by Christopher McMahon: “Stories, Hypotheses, and Jesus: N. T. Wright, John Meier, and Historical Jesus Research,” New Blackfriars 86:1005 (2005), 537-45. (You can read the article online if your library subscribes to Blackwell Synergy.)

In the article, McMahon critiques Wright’s historical methodology and argues in favour of Meier’s method: “Meier’s project serves as the benchmark for the way historical Jesus research ought to be done—progressing from available sources to historical judgments about the data in those sources, and finally to the verification of a hypothesis about what is moving forward in the history reflected in the data” (p. 544).

Certainly this is one way of viewing the historical task—and McMahon’s critique of Wright rests squarely on this view of historical method. But this hardly settles the problem, since the question at issue is precisely whether such a historical method should be preferred over Wright’s critical realist method. Similarly, nothing would be resolved if Meier were critiqued on the basis of Wright’s critical realism, since this too would simply sidestep the basic methodological question.

It’s unfortunate that McMahon doesn’t attempt to analyse this fundamental difference in historical outlook that separates Wright and Meier. For it seems to me that only such a fundamental methodological analysis can hope to clarify the diversity of current historical Jesus research.


Chris Tilling said...

This wouldn't be our friend Dr. C. Matthew McMahon of the Puritan Mind who recently made those mad pronunciations against Wright would it?

Ben Myers said...

No -- this person is a very good, scholarly McMahon!

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