New College, University of Edinburgh
New Helen Bond Book on the Historical Jesus

New Helen Bond Book on the Historical Jesus

(Matthew Novenson) Our New Testament colleague and CSCO director Helen Bond has just published a volume on the historical Jesus in T. & T. Clark’s “Guides for the Perplexed” series: Helen K. Bond, The Historical Jesus: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T. & T. Clark, 2012). In keeping with the approach of the series, the book comprises a concise explanation of the issues in play in contemporary historical Jesus scholarship, but it also includes a wealth of Dr Bond’s own exegetical and historical judgments on contested questions like the authenticity of dominical sayings, the aptness of analogies to other ancient Jewish holy men, and the discrepancies among the resurrection traditions. Those with interests in historical Jesus research would do well to take up and read. See further the book’s publisher page, its Amazon page, and the table of contents: 



1. Origins

2. Ministry

3. Teaching

4. Healing

5. Trial and Execution

6. Resurrection

7. The Jesus movement and the early church


  • CSCO Team,
  • 9th May 2012


  • Steven Carr, 11th May 2012 at 7:39 am | Reply

    On page 164, it is explained that Pilate acted only against Jesus, because he was the ringleader proclaiming the Kingdom of God.

    Who became the new ringleader , proclaiming the Kingdom of God, after Jesus died, and why was he not also executed by Pilate?

  • cscoedinburgh, 9th June 2012 at 9:40 am | Reply

    Dear Steven,
    Yes, the question of why Jesus alone was executed is always an interesting one. Presumably the movement was so clearly centred on Jesus that Pilate (guided by chief priests and others?) thought that executing him would be enough – in the same way that John the Baptist’s execution seems to have taken momentum out of his movement. Assuming the broad historicity of the Acts account, Peter seems to have been the one to assume leadership in the earliest period after Jesus’ death (which is probably what we’d expect from the gospels). He and others seem to have got into trouble for their preaching, and James was executed in the time of Agrippa (41-44), but the authorities clearly thought that any significant attack on the movement would be counter-productive.
    Thanks for your question, Helen

    • Steven Carr, 9th June 2012 at 10:24 am | Reply

      ‘in the same way that John the Baptist’s execution seems to have taken momentum out of his movement. ‘

      There were still Baptists, weren’t there?

      What momentum was there in the Jesus movement that troubled the Romans?

      ‘….but the authorities clearly thought that any significant attack on the movement would be counter-productive.’

      That explains why they left Jesus alone, not why they killed him.

      This is all just special pleading and ad hoc confabulations , as there is no explanation of why Jesus was killed by the Romans, but they did not touch his followers, not even when his brother started to lead the movement.

      Presumably it was Jesus actions of not behaving in the slightest like somebody who was planning revolt against the Romans that persuaded the Romans that he had to go.

  • thinkingoutloudinsarajevo, 26th June 2012 at 4:31 pm | Reply

    Dr. Bond, Thank you for your concise treatment of the historical Jesus. I am one of the perplexed and I am a person of faith.

    (And thanks to your publisher, T & T Clark, for making it available on Kindle!)

    A challenge for me is how to respect the text as it was handed down to me and other people of faith and still study it objectively, as a modern and as a lay historian. (Though some who follow my comments and posts would argue that I’m neither modern nor a historian.)

    It seems to me that most of the amendments to the details of Scripture that historians attempt when reconstructing a historical Jesus are unnecessary, though there are thorny textual issues to be sure.

    So, for example, you explain the probable likelihood that Jesus was really born in Nazareth and was really the biological son of Joseph. But for me “with God, all things are possible” so it is not difficult for me to believe either the virgin birth or that he was indeed born in Bethlehem as two synoptics say.

    The fact that John makes no mention of it and even inserts the comment “can anything good come from Nazareth” is not really a support that Jesus was in fact from Nazareth. When one remembers that his is probably the last Gospel written one can also suppose that the Bethlehem tradition was already known to the believing church by that time. In that case the comment in John comes across as an inside joke to the believers who hear or read it.

    In the same way, John excludes the explanation of the eucharist or communion that is central to the synoptics but includes Jesus’ comments in John 6 about eating his flesh and drinking his blood.

    By writing this way he is playing at the differences between the believing, informed community and the wider, uninformed Jewish community who did not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

    I will comment on one more of your conclusions in the book. And that is when writing about synagogues in Galilee you conclude that since only a handful of synagogues can be dated to the first century the evangelists writing decades later just assumed that Palestinian synagogues were clearly identifiable buildings.

    This conclusion is a weak from many angles. The first angle is the archaeological angle itself. It assumes that all that archaeologists have discovered that remains from Palestine in the first century is all there truly was. But any capable archaeologists knows that the further one delves into the past, the further one delves into uncertainty. This is true even delving into the ANE which is arguably the most studied portion of globe. One must remain humble and admit that we are only making educated guesses. Archaeologists understand that only a fraction of what was remains to this day.

    The second angle is lexical. You stated that the writers assumed that the synagogues were clearly identifiable buildings and then give one example of where the writer of Luke explicitly makes that assumption. Is it possible, as even you explained in the chapter, that the word is sometimes used to describe the congregation and other times to describe a dedicated building?

    I know a town in which the farmer’s market meets only twice weekly. The rest of the time the location is just a park. If you asked me to meet you at that park, I wouldn’t know it by name. But if you said “Meet me at the farmer’s market, I would know the spot immediately, even if it were not market day, I could find you.

    Except in the example you gave, I can’t remember a synagogue mentioned in the Gospels that couldn’t be a structure used for more purposes. But even if they were only single-purpose synagogues, would much evidence of them remain to today?

    The third angle is proximity of time and place. Why would I assume that we, 21st century Westerners would “know” first century Palestine better than the evangelists “writing several decades later”? Even several decades later is much closer to the events than two millennia later. You assert that their understanding of synagogues is shaded by their experience of synagogues in the diaspora. So you assert that the writers are removed not only by time but also by place. And for that reason we can conclude that they are ignorant of first century synagogues in Palestine. (But we, on the other hand, are not?)

    So you assume that the writers are removed by time and space from the locations of the Gospels. That important operating assumption is an assertion made by most historical Jesus studies people but it is not a necessary conclusion drawn by the evidence of the Gospels themselves or by archaeology or historical science.

    Of course you are familiar with Bauckhams’s, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” He gives many compelling arguments to show that the proximity of the Gospel writers to the places and events of Jesus’ life was much closer than most NT scholars grant. I would love it if your Center or the Christian Origins blog interacted some with his work.

    Again, thank you. Please don’t think by my comments that I am assuming that you are not a person of faith.

    • Brian V Hunt, 11th May 2014 at 10:33 pm | Reply

      thinkingoutloudinsarajevo It is important to remember that not a single author of any of the New Testament ever met Jesus in person. No one. Apparently not a single one of the authors was familiar with Hebrew (including Paul) and relied on the Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible with all its shortcomings. All the writers of the New Testament wrote in Greek and with the exception of Paul likely never set foot in the Holy Land. They also wrote after the first Jewish revolt against the Romans that cost the lives of half the population of Israel (including followers of Jesus) and the total destruction of Jerusalem. Today Hebrew is well understood by modern biblical scholars and is again a living language. And we can easily access the Holy Land via airplane from nearly any corner of the planet. So yes we are better positioned than the authors of the New Testament to comment on the ‘primitive church’ and locations of synagogues in the first century.

Add comment