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Jesus the Purifier

John’s Gospel and the Fourth Quest for the Historical Jesus

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Christianity Today 2024 Book Award (Biblical Studies)

The third quest for the historical Jesus has reached an impasse. But a fourth quest is underway--one that draws from a heretofore largely neglected source: John's Gospel.

In this book, now in paperback, renowned New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg advances the idea that John is a viable and valuable source for studying the historical Jesus. The data from John should be integrated with that of the Synoptics, which will yield additional insights into Jesus's emphases and ministry.

Blomberg begins by reviewing the first three quests, reassessing both their contributions and their shortcomings. He then discusses the emerging consensus regarding demonstrably historical portions of John, which are more numerous than usually assumed. Peeling back the layers, we discover in Jesus's ministry an emphasis on purity and purification. The Synoptics corroborate this discovery, specifically in Jesus's meals with sinners. Blomberg then explores the practical and contemporary applications of Jesus the purifier, including the "contagious holiness" that Jesus's followers can spread to others.

1. The Original Quest for the Historical Jesus
2. No Quest and New Quest?
3. Launching the Third Quest with a Jewish Jesus
4. The Jesus Seminar and Its Kin: A Step Back in Time
5. Has the Third Quest Played Itself Out?
6. Foreshadowing the Fourth Quest: Rehabilitating the Gospel of John
7. Purification, Baptism, and Transformation in John 1-4
8. Purification Starting to Change in John 5-11
9. Ritual Purity Fades Away in John 12-21
10. Purity and the Historical Jesus of the Synoptics


"This book is a treasure. Not only does it helpfully discuss the current state of debate over the third quest and criteria; it points the way to the reintroduction of John into the conversation. Recognizing the value of the third quest, it appropriately raises the need for a fourth. You will profit greatly from this read."

Darrell L. Bock, senior research professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary

"What do the historical Jesus and John's Gospel have in common? Much more than has been imagined, according to Craig Blomberg. In Jesus the Purifier, Blomberg takes up the challenge of bringing historical inquiry to the one Gospel that is often left out of the mix for understanding the Jesus of history. Blomberg not only argues that much more of John is amenable to sketching a portrait of who Jesus was; he also discerns from John an early interest in purification in Jesus's ministry. Jesus the Purifier is required reading for all those interested in the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus."

Jeannine K. Brown, David Price Professor of Biblical and Theological Foundations, Bethel Seminary

"Jesus the Purifier effectively introduces readers to the so-called fourth quest for the historical Jesus. Its arguments advance in significant ways the claim that the Gospel of John can be used as a reliable source in historical reconstructions of Jesus. The method and approach offered in the book will become a model for future generations of scholars, and the implications of its conclusions will challenge and strengthen the theology and mission of the church."

Carlos Raúl Sosa Siliezar, associate professor of New Testament, Wheaton College

"Readers essentially get two good books here: a fair and extremely helpful survey of the history of Jesus research, suitable for a historical Jesus course, that does not leave out voices often marginalized by Bultmannians, and a case for why John's Gospel belongs in historical Jesus research. A leading scholar on John and history, Blomberg provides historical context for the development of various views, critiquing them intelligently and fairly. When he turns specifically to the Fourth Gospel, he shows that a historical case can be made for considerably more of it than many of us Johannine scholars have dared hope."

Craig S. Keener, F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies, Asbury Theological Seminary

"The quests for the historical Jesus have painted various portraits of Jesus. Some have painted him as a Jewish cynic, others as a sage, still others as an apocalyptic prophet. Blomberg's impressive book shows that such portraits are based on the collective witness of the Synoptic Gospels with almost no regard for the Gospel of John. The witness of John shows that the historical Jesus was also concerned with the matter of purity, of cleansing people from things like diseases, demonic forces, and even death. Blomberg's book paints a picture of Jesus worth placing alongside others--Jesus the Purifier."

Miguel Echevarría, associate professor of New Testament and Greek, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Author

  1. Craig L. Blomberg

    Craig L. Blomberg

    Craig L. Blomberg (PhD, University of Aberdeen) is distinguished professor emeritus of New Testament at Denver Seminary in Littleton, Colorado, where he has taught for more than thirty years. He is the author or editor of numerous books, including Can...

    Continue reading about Craig L. Blomberg


Christianity Today 2024 Book Award (Biblical Studies)

"Blomberg, a prominent New Testament scholar, gives a thorough account of the scholarship that has characterized four distinct 'quests' to understand Jesus as a historical figure. As he highlights significant themes and trajectories, he illustrates why the Gospel of John should play a larger role in this research. Blomberg's argument centers on the motif of Jesus as purifier, showing how--in both John and the other Gospels--he moves beyond a focus on ritual purity to speak of being cleansed and sanctified by the Holy Spirit. John's gospel has obvious theological value; Jesus the Purifier helps us appreciate its historical value as well."

May Young,

Christianity Today

"[Blomberg] joins the quest for the historical Jesus, advocating for the importance of the Gospel of John in that pursuit. . . . His final remarks on the contemporary implications of his research are as engaging and challenging as his thorough investigation of the topic."

Laurie Brink, OP,

The Bible Today