The following comments are written by a scholar whose main field of interest and research is, in broad terms, the historical anthropology of Syria-Palestine/the Levant during the Bronze and Iron Ages (c. 3300–600 BCE), including the history of that (those) Palestinian entity(-ies) known as ‘Israel’. Thus, the reader will find here only general statements and thoughts by an outsider to the field of New Testament studies regarding epistemological and methodological issues for the history-writing of the Near Eastern world, in which the figure of Jesus together with the whole of biblical traditions should be understood. My main aim is to reflect, from strictly historical and anthropological perspectives, on what we can know about the figure of Jesus and what we cannot: about what can be considered historical knowledge and what is to be deemed myth or mythic creation by ancient writers. Both categories, ‘history’ and ‘myth’, are to be taken into account seriously and understood as intellectual phenomena, each with its own social and historical contexts and dynamics.
As ‘minimalist’ as these remarks may be seen, they stand as reflections on the methodological problems of the search for a historical Jesus in New Testament studies that should be acknowledged, addressed and responded to by scholars, but also as a plea for a critical understanding of the nature of ancient literature and the intellectual worlds supporting such.