Scholarship about the so-called "historical Jesus" wouldn't be so bad if it weren't quite so ridiculous.
I say this as someone who has just a bit of experience with the field: at Harvard, I took a course called Jesus of Nazareth and the Gospels which was taught by Helmut Koester, who himself was taught by Rudolf Bultmann, the famous demythologizer of Christianity. That course gave me the strong impression that the field of historical Jesus scholarship consists largely in proving that the miracle stories in the Gospels must have been made up, by starting with the assumption that miracles are impossible.
It's not this brand of airtight logic that I take issue with, however. I do think it's a valid intellectual position to believe that miracles do not occur. Now, to prove that they didn't by assuming that they can't doesn't seem like the most intellectually satisfying undertaking to me, but that's really none of my business.
But here's what got me going today. I stumbled across the lecture audio for a Stanford University course called Historical Jesus on the relatively new iTunes U service and started listening to the first lecture (Call Me Yeshua). For whatever reason, the professor, Thomas Sheehan, conveys the unmistakable impression of having a major ax to grind with orthodox Christianity, which seems to lead him, at times, to go a little bit overboard in trying to shock the faith out of anyone in his audience who might have any. At 37:15 into the lecture he says this:
"Here's the point: over the last four decades -- I said that the real turning point is 1800 -- but since World War II, historical scholarship on Yeshua and on his times -- and it doesn't matter who conducts the historical scholarship -- whether Jews, or Christians, or Muslims, or non-believers -- has arrived at a strong scientific consensus about what this undeniably historical figure said and did -- how he presented himself and his message to his Jewish audience."
Alright, fair enough, so far. But then he drops -- in a very pompous and self-satisfied voice -- what you can tell he thinks is a real bombshell:
"Jesus had nooo intention of being a Christian."
Oh, really? Jesus had no intention of being a follower of Himself? I'm positively scandalized!
But he's not done. He pauses dramatically for a couple of seconds and then adds, snidely:
"Not even a Catholic."
Come on! Who is this clown? A very bitter man, apparently, whose bitterness is clearly coloring his scholarship to the extent that, for some reason, he's insinuating in an academic environment that Catholicism isn't Christian.
Now that is ridiculous.
UPDATE: In fairness to Sheehan, I will acknowledge that his "Not even a Catholic" quip is sufficiently vague to support a number of interpretations, not all of which would imply that Catholicism is not Christian. All the other possible meanings of his remark are, however, equally obnoxious.