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John Paul Meier (born 1942) is a Biblical scholar and Catholic priest. He attended St. Joseph's Seminary and College (B.A., 1964), Gregorian University Rome (S.T.L, 1968), and the Biblical Institute Rome (S.S.D., 1976). He is author of the series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (4 v.), six other books, and more than 60 scholarly articles.
Meier is professor of New Testament and holder of the William K. Warren Foundation Chair in the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame. Before coming to Notre Dame, he was professor of New Testament at The Catholic University of America.
Meier's series A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus begins by invoking the methods of modern historical research to "recover, recapture, or reconstruct" the "historical Jesus." Meier suggests that such research might admit agreement of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, and agnostic scholars as to "who Jesus of Nazareth was and what he intended" (v. 1, 1991, p. 1).
The criteria are to be used in concert for mutual correction. Still, any claim is only to the probable, not the certain. The rest of Volume 1 discusses the origins of Jesus as to formative years, "external" influences (language, education, and socioeconomic status), and "internal" influences (family ties and marital and lay status). The volume concludes with a survey of Jesus' life chronology.
On the question of references to Jesus in the Talmud, Meier considers the thesis of Joseph Klausner (1925) that some very few rabbinic sources, none earlier than about than late 2nd or early 3rd century, contain traces of the historical Jesus. He presents further considerations and arguments, including those of Johann Maier (talmudic scholar) (1978) who maintains that the Yeshu texts are later medieval corruptions, and writes that:
Volume 2 (1994) is in three main parts:
The kingdom of God in the second part (pp. 235-506) is examined as to:
The third part applies the same criteria of historicity to miracle stories as to other aspects of Jesus' life. Rather than adopting say an exclusively agnostic or Christian perspective or relying on philosophical arguments whether miracles can occur, it poses narrower data-based historical questions (pp. 510-11, 517). Meier is quoted in a 1997 interview as saying: "The proper stance of a historian is, 'I neither claim beforehand that miracles are possible, nor do I claim beforehand they are not possible.'" Meier finds that Jesus' performance of extraordinary deeds deemed miracles at the time is supported most impressively by the criteria of multiple attestation and the coherence of Jesus' deeds and words (p. 630). In moving from the global question of miracles to the particular, Meier examines each miracle story by broad category. That examination drives the conclusion that no single theory explains all such stories with equal assurance and applicability. Rather, it is suggested that some stories have no historical basis (such as the cursing of the fig tree) and that other stories likely go back to events in the life of Jesus (though theological judgment is required to affirm any miracle) (p. 968). At the global level again, Jesus as healer is as well supported as almost anything about the historical Jesus. In the Gospels, the activity of Jesus as miracle worker looms large in attracting attention to himself and reinforces his eschatological message. Such activity, Meier suggests, might have added to the concern of authorities that culminated in Jesus' death (p. 970).
Volume 3 (2001) places Jesus in the context of his followers, the crowds, and his competitors (including Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, Samaritans, scribes, and Zealots) in first-century Palestine.
Volume 4 (2009) deals with the ministry of the historical Jesus in relation to Mosaic Law, such subjects as divorce, oaths, and observance of the Sabbath and purity rules, and the various love commandments in the Gospels.
Antioch and Rome was reviewed 1984, 1985. * John P. Meier, 1999. "The Present State of the ‘Third Quest’ for the Historical Jesus: Loss and Gain," Biblica, 80, pp. 459-487.</ref> by Larry W. Hurtado 1993 and William Loader.
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