(2) Many books on the historical Jesus have as part of their introduction a discussion on the nature of the oral tradition beneath the Gospels and the theological creativity of the Evangelists in shaping the traditions within the Gospels; but very little attention is given to the nature of the textual tradition that transmits the Gospels to modern readers. One might argue that there was a reliable stream of oral tradition from Jesus to the Evangelists (e.g. Gerhardsson, Riesner, Hengel, Bauckham, et. al.) and that the Gospels, though clearly theological biographies, have not so theologized the tradition to make all history irrecoverble. But all that is of little consolation if we do not have a reliable textual tradition to work with. We cannot automatically assume that UBS4 or NA27 takes us back to the historical Jesus even if there was a reliable oral tradition and even if the Evangelists and their sources were not too creative in shaping the tradition. Some like Bultmann eschewed the quest for the historical Jesus for theological reasons (it is tantamount to seeking "Christ according to the flesh") but one of Bultmann's students, Helmut Koester, has seen the quest as impossible partly due to the nature of the Gospels. Koester himself writes:
(3) Most historical Jesus book say very little about textual criticism and when discussion does occur it is usually confined to comments on well-known variants link the pericope de adultera and are usually dependent upon Metzger's textual commentary when they do make comments.
Matthew 6.8: Before you open your mouth.
Matthew 6.25: What to drink.
Matthew 9.34: By the authority of demons.
Matthew 12.47: Someone said to him.
Matthew 16.2b-3: The signs of the times.
Matthew 20.28: The conspicuous places.
Matthew 21.44: Falling upon this stone.
Matthew 27.49: Water and blood.
Mark 1.2: In the prophets.
Mark 10.2: The testing Pharisees.
Mark 14.39: Saying the same word.
Mark 16.3: Angels descending and ascending.
Mark 16.9-20, : The endings of Mark.
Luke 3.22: Today I have begotten you.
Luke 5.38-39: Old wine and new.
Luke 6.5: On the sabbath.
Luke 9.55: What kind of spirit.
Luke 10.41-42: Need of one.
Luke 12.21: Not rich toward God.
Luke 13.7-8: A basket of dung.
Luke 22.19b-20: In my memory.
Luke 23.5: Not baptizing as we do.
Luke 23.17: To release one man.
Luke 23.34: Father, forgive them.
Luke 23.48: Woe to us.
Luke 24.3: Of the Lord Jesus.
Luke 24.6: He is not here.
Luke 24.12: Peter at the tomb.
Luke 24.36: Peace to you.
Luke 24.40: Hands and feet.
Luke 24.51: Borne up into heaven.
Luke 24.52: Having worshipped him.
John 4.9: Jews and Samaritans.
John 5.3-4: The stirring of the water.
John 7.53-8.11: The pericope de adultera.