Dr. Dale Allison seeks to clarify the divide that exists between the Jesus of history (that is, the picture of Jesus that emerges from a purely historical study of the Gospels) and the Jesus of tradition (which is in many cases devoid of the historical conscience and focuses on theological task). His view is rather grim. Coming from a liberal scholarly background and wanting to focus on Jesus as primarily an eschatological prophet, his conclusion is that we can never really know who Jesus is and what he really says if we rely on the Gospels.
“The Gospels are parables. When we read them, we should think not that Jesus said this or did that but rather: Jesus did things like this, and he said things like that.” (p. 66)
“The end is like the beginning. Genesis is no historical record of the primordial past, and the New Testament offers no precognitive history of the eschatological future. The New Jerusalem, the last judgment, and the resurrection are, just like Eden, the serpent, and Adam, theological parables.” (p. 97)
The ever-shifting world of Historical Jesus scholarship and the presupposition that the Gospels are unreliable records of the life and work of Jesus will limit Dale’s perspective on who Jesus can possibly be.
This work is an example of the Historical-Critical approach to Jesus that does not accord with the traditional view of the church. This Historical-Critical method is a useful tool, even for more conservative scholars that want to explore the Jesus of Scripture. But in the hands of scholars like Dale, it becomes a weapon that destroys the very foundations of the Christian faith. He probably would not agree with my assessment, but that is the understanding that many would come to.
I recommend this work if only for the sole reason that it helps Christians understand how liberal scholarship can cast doubt over the traditional understanding of Jesus as Savior and Messiah.