Ben F. Meyer, The Aims of Jesus. San Jose: Pickwick Publications, 2002 (first edition 1979).
History is the asking and the answering of certain kinds of questions. To consider first the asking of a question: ‘Who murdered Dunaway?’ supposes as known that Dunaway is dead; that his death was neither natural nor accidental; that somebody murdered him. The unknown is the identity of the somebody. Here the knowns have been selected out of a reservoir of knowns concerning the death of Dunaway, and selected with the precise purpose of specifying the unknown to be known. The same is true of every deliberately formulated question. These knowns are selected to specify this unknown, and this unknown is fastened on for the sake of some yield, some gain, envisaged in the conversion of the unknown into a known. The key to the selection of the unknown to be known–the key, therefore to the whole enterprise–is purpose. Purpose may be of any kind, and in the history of inquiry bearing on the historical Jesus it has widely varied. For Reimarus, the purpose was to commend the religion of reason and to discredit that of revelation; for Strauss, to translate Christianity into Hegelian wisdom; for the post-Bultmannian ‘new quest,’ to reintroduce Jesus into theology as more than a merely factual presupposition. Relative to the asking of historical questions, all such purposes are presuppositions. (p. 14)