A longer version of “The Importance of the Historical Jesus,” excerpted from my book The Sources of the Jesus Tradition (due out this summer) is at Bible and Interpretation: http://www.bibleinterp.com/articles/love3141509.shtml
In the case of the “Jesus-question,” there is no point at which the theological imagination does not shape the subject matter. Love comes before the chair, feelings and impressions before the “facts” have been put into place, and interpretation before detail. No matter what element of the Jesus tradition comes first, that element—as scholars for the most part today are willing to acknowledge—comes to us as an act in a religious drama, not as a scene in an ordinary life….
Adapted from: The Sources of the Jesus Tradition, to be published in August 2010 (New York: Prometheus Books,ISBN-10: 1616141891)