A New Quest of the Biblical Jesus

by James M. Robinson

James M. Robinson is the Arthur J. Letts Professor of Religion and Director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at the Claremont Graduate School and Co-chair of the International Q Project.

Published by SCM Press LTD, Bloomsbury Street, London, 1959. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.


(ENTIRE BOOK) A respected New Testament scholar indicates the impossibility of the nineteenth-century German quest for the historical Jesus, and describes a different kind of quest based upon new premises, procedures and objectives. This quest calls for a total encounter with the person of Jesus, and calls upon the seeker himself to make a radical decision.


  • Chapter 1. Introduction

    From a survey of current German discussion we may conclude that the proposal of a new quest of the historical Jesus, originally made within the context of the ‘post-Bultmannian’ direction of leading pupils of Bultmann, has broadened itself, not only in traditionally conservative circles, but also by support from the Barthian side as well as from Bultmann himself.

  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 2: The Impossibility and Illegitimacy of the Original Quest

    Dr. Robinson examines the various factors at work in the study of the “historical” Jesus which crystallized into the consensus that the quest is both impossible and illegitimate.

  • Chapter 3: The Possibility of a New Quest

    A new quest for a historical Jesus must be built upon the fact that the sources do make possible a new kind of quest, working in terms of the modern view of history and the self.

  • Chapter 4: The Legitimacy of a New Quest

    Although the historical existence of Jesus could not be proved objectively by any quantity of the authenticity of his sayings, yet that historical existence can be encountered historically and understood existentially. The existential decision with regard to the kerygma is an existential decision with regard to Jesus.

  • Chapter 5: The Procedure of a New Quest

    Jesus’ thought centers in a call to the present on the basis of the eschatological event of the near future. He pronounces divine judgement and blessing, and explains God’s other mighty acts (such as exorcism) which he does on the basis of the nearness of the kingdom. This call to the present in terms of the nearness of the kingdom is so central a theme as to produce something approaching a formal pattern.