The most recent contribution to the field of Jesus scholarship is James Dunn’s A New Perspective on Jesus. Like Thiede, Dunn emphasises faith, but his goal is not to persuade the reader to believe. It is rather a corrective to the efforts of contemporary ‘questers’. To seek, as Robert Funk and other Jesus Seminar scholars do, for history in the Gospels without valuing the faith which brought them into being is as Dunn demonstrates a nonsense. Dismissing as unhistorical events simply because they cohere ‘too’ closely with the expectations of the faithful is a flawed enterprise.
Dunn convincingly identifies other failures in the approach of contemporary New Testament scholars. The desire to uncover a distinctive Jesus, somehow at odds with his environment, has fed into weird and wonderful portraits built on selective fragments of evidence. The results vary wildly and bear little semblance of likely reality. This criticism is not wholly new - indeed it resembles the critique with which Schweitzer effectively derailed the original quest (on which see Wright or Dunn's own introduction). But Dunn is right to advocate an alternative: good scholarship would do better to concentrate as he suggests on continuous emphases rather than atomistic data.
Dunn has deliberately set out to show what has been missing from the quest. The most stimulating of his three criticisms is that of scholarly reliance on the 'default setting'. Scholars appear to be incapable of thinking outside the "literary paradigm". The acknowledgement that the earliest gospel traditions were oral rather than literary is a commonplace, but scholars continue to attempt to explain the variations within the gospel narratives solely by recourse to ‘document’ theories. It is time to reimagine oral culture.
Now if oral transmission is once taken seriously the puzzle – the ‘source’ of agreements and variations not easily explained within the two-document hypothesis (which Dunn largely accepts) dissolves. It is the insistence on thinking in terms of documentary dependence, layers and written editions of gospel sources that creates the puzzle. Oral sources are multiple and diverse, fixed and yet also flexible. If the first accounts were indeed oral, then the truth is simple: "We can speak of an originating event, but we should certainly hesitate before speaking of an original tradition of the event." 
If Dunn's critique receives the attention due - and it should - it will bring a much needed breath of fresh air to the ongoing quest for the historical Jesus.
It is often only the most grotesque (and least respectable) of the quest's portraits that capture the secular imagination. But at its best the quest is a task which desires to locate Jesus within his first-century Jewish context, and through that to make both historical - and where applicable - theological sense of his impact. This is a task which Dunn, Vermes, Thiede and Wright each undertake in different, respectable and highly stimulating ways.