This work is a psychological examination and critique of the philosophical assumptions guiding historical knowledge in the quest for the historical Jesus. By combining a critical historiography with a phenomenological reading of C. G. Jung’s analytical psychology, this work brings the hermeneutical question in the quest for the historical Jesus to the foreground. Psyche and world cannot be separated in research and interpretation, and the unconscious ground of our “knowledge” cannot be escaped. The picture of the “historical Jesus” is always a story we tell and not knowledge we discover. While historical criticism cannot recover Jesus, the historical approach to Jesus is important because, rightly understood, it participates in the process of individuation, as described by Jung, through the withdrawal of the projection of the self from the figure of Jesus. This leads to the evolution of consciousness as a contemporary form of incarnation within the individual and society.
“In this brilliant tour de force, Childs lifts the quest for the historical Jesus to a whole new level. Freed from objectivism, positivism, and hermeneutical naivete, the quest becomes a search for our own true selves reflected in the mirror held up to us by Jesus. The task is not to produce the historical Jesus ‘as he really was,’ but to help co-create the ‘myth of the human Jesus.’ Thus understood, the Jesus-quest is the attempt to create a plausible historical portrait of Jesus in response to personal, social, and theological needs of the present.”
—Walter Wink, Auburn Theological Seminary
Hal Childs is a psychotherapist and Executive Co-Director of the California Counseling Institute in San Francisco.