But the Jesus of history was and is a citizen of another time and place -- a place of particularity that was Jewish and a first century Jew at that. Paula Fredriksen of Boston University provides helpful insight into our dilemma. First she points out that we must "respect the distance between now and then; between his concerns and commitments and ours." Then she makes this statement that needs to be heard: "The historical Jesus of Nazareth was never and can never be our contemporary." If we should desire to place on him our agendas and ideals, then we will distort and obscure his person. But, how tempting it is to do just that!
To make the connection between the Jesus of history and our own time and needs, we must do responsible "re-interpretation," which is doing theology and can't be confused with doing historical work. Thus:
To regard Jesus historically requires releasing him from service to modern concerns or confessional identity. It means respecting his integrity as an actual person, as subject to passionate conviction and unintended consequences, as surprised by turns of events and as innocent of the future as anyone else. It means allowing him the irreducible otherness of his own antiquity, the strangeness Schweitzer captured in his poetic closing description: "He comes to us as One unknown, without a name, as of old, by the lakeside." it is when we renounce familiarity proffered by the dark angels of Relevance and Anachronism that we see Jesus, his contemporaries, and perhaps even ourselves, more clearly in our common humanity. (Paula Fredriksen, Jesus of Nazareth King of the Jews, Vintage Books, 1999, pg. 270).