Larry Hurtado has an intriguing post on the “Historical Jesus Debate.” What I find particularly interesting is his suggestion that there is in historical Jesus studies an oft-unidentified premise:
If a serious difference can be shown between what Jesus himself taught (especially what he taught about himself) and what early Christians believed (especially what they believed about him), then this would comprise a major theological problem for the validity of traditional Christian faith.
Some scholars work to magnify the differences, others to minimize the differences. Hurtado asserts that both sides have an agenda based on the premise which he questions as valid.
Most significantly, Hurtado points out that the New Testament texts themselves ground their Christological claims in God’s actions, not the correspondence between Jesus’ own teachings and the beliefs of later Christians:
. . . the basis for the christological claims of NT texts was never that Jesus taught and commanded them, but, instead, rested in what God had done, in raising Jesus from death and exalting him to unique heavenly glory. That is, NT christological claims always had a profoundly theo- logical basis.
Hurtado lists a few NT examples of this. I would add that of Luke and Acts. The two volumes suggest that assurance about the identity of Jesus, his ministry, and the subsequent ministries of his followers in his name is in large part (but not in totality) rooted in prophetic revelation, especially God’s fulfillment of various promises, most of which are rooted in the OT Scriptures.
It should be noted, however, that fulfillment of Jesus’ own prophetic claims about himself (even if tied to OT texts), especially of his death and resurrection, are also emphasized by Luke (e.g., Luke 9:18-22; 18:31-33; 20:41-44; 22:14-22; 67-70; 24:6-8, 25-27, 44; see esp. these ch. 24 references). So here we have examples of Christological claims which are , quite significantly, on the lips of Jesus. Hurtado does fill us in on how he sees John’s Gospel handling Christological claims on the lips of Jesus (do read his post entirely), but Luke doesn’t read quite the same way. All I am saying is that the the premise pointed out by Hurtado as faulty is not entirely without merit in the NT, particularly in these Lukan examples. But Hurtado is right to point out that the way the NT supports its Christological claims, especially outside the Gospels, is as he says.