The Jesus Seminar: they get together, argue about whether half a sentence from a gospel is authentic or not, and then use different coloured balls to vote about it (there's a dirty joke in there somewhere but I haven't found it yet). I still half-believe that someone made them up as a joke about the excesses of 'historical' biblical scholarship, but apparently they really do exist, though Wright doesn't think that their scholarship is worth much.
Burton L. Mack: So, Matthew and Luke both seem to have got a lot of their material from Mark (you can tell because they use the exact same words to tell the exact same stories). But they also seem to have some other material in common which doesn't appear in Mark, so some people have suggested (logically enough) that they had a common source: Q. Less obviously, some people have argued that their shared source was a single document – contentious, but fair enough. Burton Mack thinks that not only can we recreate Q, but we can also work out which bits of Q were written first and which bits were added on later. If historical criticism generally is like building skyscrapers on jelly, this is like building the Empire State building on top of cream, which you've layered onto custard, which in turn rests upon a bed of jelly spooned lovingly over a nest of sponge fingers and raspberries. I'd eat it, but I don't buy it.
J. Dominic Crossan: Crossan talks about the system of 'patronage', common in the Greco-Roman world at the time of Jesus. It was basically a really formal system of nepotism, and unless you had friends in high places, you didn't have any power. He argues that Jesus sets out to subvert this system: he kept moving around so no one would see him as a patron and claim to mediate between him and the normal people; and by healing and eating with outcasts Jesus was trying to subvert the social ordering of things. But Wright thinks that Crossan overlooks Jesus' Jewishness, and so misses the really important points. He can't explain why Jesus got himself killed, or why the early church should have seen his death as significant.
Jesus the Cynic?: Cynics were popular philosophers in the Roman world at the time of Jesus, and they basically thought that society sucked and people should know that it sucked. They went around begging with long hair and scruffy clothes, and made sarky comments in the cinema. Some people have argued that Jesus was a Cynic: fine, says Wright, but there were loads of Cynics: why should this one have founded a new world religion?
Marcus J. Borg: Borg argues that Jesus' teachings had political, social, and theological themes; that he prophesied the destruction, by Rome, of Jerusalem and the Temple. But he doesn't think Jesus was the son of God, and doesn't think Jesus expected to found the Church, so Wright isn't satisfied by his work (though I think they're actually buddies, which is sweet).
So, all in all, Wright thinks there is lots of interesting stuff in the New New Quest, but also some major flaws: they priorities the sayings of Jesus over the stories about what Jesus did; they don't pay enough attention to Jesus' Jewishness; they don't think that Jesus expected to be crucified, and they don't think that there was really all that much relationship between Jesus life and teachings and the early church. So what's the answer? Wright thinks it lies in the Third Quest - that's the New New New Quest - and that's what he deals with in chapter 3, and what we'll deal with in the next instalment.