New Testament Survey: Gospels - Lesson 11

Criteria for Authenticity

By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

Robert Stein
New Testament Survey: Gospels
Lesson 11
Watching Now
Criteria for Authenticity


The Criteria for Authenticity


I. Positive Criterion for Establishing Authenticity

A. Multiple Attestation

B. Multiple Forms

C. Aramaic Linguistic Phenomena

D. Palestinian Environmental Phenomena

1. Parable of the seed

2. Parable of kingdom of Heaven like a net

3. Parable of laborers in the vineyard

E. Dissimilarity (a.k.a. Discontinuity)

1. Use of the word "Abba" for God

2. Title "Son of Man"

F. Divergent Patterns from the Redaction


II. Negative Criterion for Establishing Authenticity

A. Tendencies of the Developing Tradition

1. Peter lopping off the guy's ear - more specific

2. Mark 5:22 - less developed

B. Contradiction

1. No motorcycles in Jesus' day

2. Mark 10 - Issue of divorce

3. Herod's wife divorcing her husband

C. Contradiction of Authentic Sayings

1. Jesus used exaggeration (apparent contradiction)

2. Matthew 7:1, 6

3. Luke 14:26

  • The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke record some of the same stories and even use the same wording in sections. They also each have material that is unique, and the chronology is different in some places. Both the purpose of each gospel and the role of oral and written tradition play a role in understanding the similarities and differences.

  • The Gospel of Mark is shorter than the other Gospels and some of the grammar and theology is unique. There are also significant portions of Mark that are contained in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke.

  • Discussion of the extensive similarities between the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. It's possible that Mark was already written and they used that as a source. It's aslo likely that they had in common other oral and written sources of what Jesus did and taught. 

  • Some time passed between the ascension of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels because there was no need for a written account while the eyewitnesses were still alive. In that culture, oral tradition was the primary method of preserving history. Form critics also note that it is likely that it is likely that many of the narratives and sayings of Jesus circulated independently.

  • Form criticism is the method of classifying literature by literary pattern to determine its original form and historical context in order to interpret its meaning accurately. The Gospels were not written to be objective biographies. They omit large portions of the life of Jesus, they include accounts of miraculous events and they have a purpose to demonstrate that Jesus is both God and human.

  • Redaction criticism focuses on evaluating how a writer has seemingly shaped and molded a narrative to express his theological goals. Examining how Matthew and Luke used passages from Mark can give you insight into their theology and their purpose for writing their Gospel.  

  • Studying the background and theological emphases of the Gospel of Mark helps us to understand the central message of his Gospel. The central point of the Gospel of Mark is the death of Jesus when he was crucified. This event happened because it was a divine necessity in God's plan to redeem humanity. It's likely that the Gospel of Mark is a written record of the apostle Peter's account. 

  • The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes how Jesus' life, death and resurrection fulfilled prophecies that were made in the Old Testament. Matthew also shows concern for the church and has a strong eschatological emphasis. 

  • Luke emphasizes the great loving concern of God for the oppressed, such as tax collectors, physically impaired, women and Samaritans. He warns of the dangers of riches and emphasizes the ministry of the Holy Spirit. 

  • John's Gospel focuses on Christology and emphasizes dualism and eschatology.  John has long pericopes, clear statements about the identity of Jesus and a number of stories not found in the synoptic Gospels. 

  • By studying the background and comparing the text of the synoptic gospels, we can be confident of their authenticity. Many of the accounts in the Gospels appear in multiple Gospels and are confirmed by separate witnesses. Details in the narratives and parables are consistent with the culture and common practices of the time in that region.  

  • In order to understand Jesus' teaching, it is important to understand how he uses exaggeration and determine when he is using exaggeration to make a point. An exaggeration is something that is literally impossible and sometimes conflicts with teachings of the Old Testament or other teachings of Jesus. They often use idiomatic language that had a specific meaning to the original hearers. 

  • The Gospels record how Jesus used different literary forms to communicate his teachings. He communicated effectively with everyone including children, common people, religious leaders and foreigners. He used a variety of literary devices to communicate in a way that was effective and memorable. (This class was taught by a teaching assistant of Dr. Stein's but his name was not provided.) 

  • It's important to know how to interpret parables to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. At different times in history, people have used different paradigms to interpret parables. Each parable has one main point. To interpret the parable, seek to understand what Jesus meant, what the evangelist meant and what God wants to teach you today.

  • Dr. Stein uses the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example of how to apply the four rules of interpreting parables. He also applies the four rules to interpret the parables of the hidden treasure and the pearl, the ten virgins, the unjust steward and the laborers in the vineyard. 

  • Jesus used different literary forms to communicate with people. It's important to know how to interpret these literary forms, including parables, to accurately understand what Jesus was trying to teach. The rule of end stress is one factor in determining the main teaching of a parable. Dr. Stein describes two parts of a parable as the, "picture part" and the "reality part." 

  • The kingdom of God is God's kingdom invading the earthly kingdom. In the Gospels, there are both "realized" passages and "future" passages. There is a tension between the "now" and "not yet" and it is important to emphasize each aspect equally.

  • Jesus' teaching about the fatherhood of God reveals for us a tension between reverence and intimacy. Jesus shows his reverence for God by not using the name of God even when referring to God. When he refers to God as Father, it is an indication of a personal relationship. 

  • Jesus does not provide an organized ethical system, but his ethical teachings are scattered throughout the Gospels. Sometimes they seem to be contradictory, until you look at them more closely. He emphasized the need for a new heart and the importance of loving God and our "neighbor." Jesus upheld the validity of the Law but was opposed to the oral traditions. 

  • Implicit Christology is what Jesus reveals of himself and his understanding of himself by his actions words and deeds. Jesus demonstrates his authority over the three sacred aspects of Israel which are the temple, the Law and the Sabbath. 

  • Explicit Christology deals with what he reveals concerning his understanding of himself by the use of various titles. Christ is the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew word, Messiah. The titles, Son of God and Son of Man refer both to his human nature and divine nature. 

  • The Chronology of Jesus' life in the Gospels begins with his birth and ends with his resurrection. How you explain the miracles of Jesus depends on your presuppositions. He performed miracles to heal sicknesses and also miracles showing his authority over nature. 

  • The birth of Christ is an historical event. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental aspect of his nature and ministry. The details of the birth narrative in Luke are consistent with historical events. 

  • Except for the accounts of a couple of events in Jesus' childhood, the Gospels are mostly silent about the years before Jesus began his public ministry. Luke records the story of 12 year old Jesus in the temple to show that already, you can see something different about Jesus. Jesus' public ministry began when John the Baptist baptized Jesus publicly in the Jordan River.

  • The three temptations that Satan put to Jesus were significant to him and instructive to us. Jesus had a specific purpose in mind in the way he called his disciples and the fact that he chose 12.

  • After Simon Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ, Jesus begins teaching about his death and focuses his efforts on teaching the twelve. The Transfiguration was a significant event because the pre-existent glory of Jesus broke through and it was also a preview of future glory.

  • The events surrounding Jesus' "triumphal entry" into Jerusalem were the beginning of the week leading up to his crucifixion and resurrection. When Jesus cleansed the temple in Jerusalem, he was rejecting the sacrificial system, reforming temple worship and performing an act of judgment.

  • At the Last Supper, Jesus celebrated with his disciples by eating the Passover meal. He reinterpreted it to show how it pointed to him as being the perfect Lamb of God, the atoning sacrifice for the sins of all people. When we celebrate the Lord's supper, there is a focus of looking back at the significance of what Jesus did and how the Passover pointed toward him and of looking forward to the future. 

  • The night before his crucifixion, Jesus went to Gethsemane with his disciples to pray. Judas betrays Jesus there and Jesus allows himself to be arrested.

  • The trial of Jesus involved a hearing in the Jewish court conducted by the high priest and the Sanhedrin, and a hearing in the Roman court conducted by Pilate. The Jewish leaders brought in false witnesses against Jesus and violated numerous rules from the Mishnah in the way they conducted the trial. 

  • Jesus died by crucifixion. The Romans used it as a deterrent because it was public and a horrible way to die. The account of the crucifixion is brief, likely because the readers knew what was involved and it was painful to retell. Jesus was buried by friends.

  • The historical evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is compelling. Jesus appeared physically to people, many of whom were still alive when the books in the New Testament were written. Rising from the dead confirmed that Jesus has power over death and gives hope of eternal life to people who put their trust in him. 

  • The Gospels are eyewitness accounts that clearly show that Jesus claimed to be fully human and fully God, and what he did to back up this claim. Some people try to reinterpret the Gospels to make Jesus out to be a moral teacher with good intentions, but not God in the flesh.

This is the first part of an introductory course to the New Testament, covering the books Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. The synopsis Dr. Stein refers to is the Synopsis of the Four Gospels, English Edition, published by the American Bible Society. You can click here to order it from American Bible Society or click here to order it from Amazon

The lecture notes you can download (to the right) are for both NT Survey I and II. In some of the lectures, Dr. Stein does not cover all the points in his outline, but we include the additional outline points for your benefit. 

Thank you to Charles Campbell and Fellowship Bible Church for writing out the lecture notes for both sections of Stein's NT Survey class (to the right). Note that they do not cover every lecture.

Recommended Books

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This participant’s guide is intended to be used with the BiblicalTraining.org class, New Testament Survey - The Gospels with Dr. Robert Stein. This is the first part of an...

New Testament Survey: The Gospels - Student Guide

This month, just a few days ago, Muslim terrorists came into a Karachi meeting place, took out seven Protestant and Catholic workers, and executed them. The freedom you and I have should never be taken for granted. Let us pray.

Father, we pray for those who have suffered and are suffering for righteousness sake, who name Your name throughout this world. Our Father, we pray that we may never succumb to a little embarrassment because what we say is not politically correct. We pray that You would give strength to those, especially in places like Pakistan, Indonesia, other parts of this world where Your people are giving their lives for the gospel's sake.

Grant us courage, our Father, and when and if that time does come that we, too, will bear testimony that Jesus Christ is Lord through the shedding of our blood. Give us the joy at that moment, be present and real, that we, too, may have the privilege of bearing our testimony in such a way. For those who are suffering this time, we pray for Your special presence and courage. In Jesus' name. Amen.


The day and age where people are very skeptical, especially in Biblical circles and the burden of proof are to say prove that Jesus said something that's found in the gospels, they have arisen in the discussion certain historical tools that will assist with the claim that Jesus spoke these things.

These are called the criteria for authenticity, criteria that help us authenticate that something in the gospels was said by the Lord Jesus. There are a number of these that I want to discuss with you.

A. Multiple Attestation

One of the criteria for arguing that you can demonstrate that Jesus said something is called the criteria of multiple attestations. It goes based on this.

If you are in a court of law and you had one person witness to something having taken place, or someone has said something, would that be as convincing to you than if you had five people who bear witness to that person had said something?

The more witnesses you have to attest, the more credibility you give to that witness. Now if in our gospels, we have several different sources where this material is coming from, the priority of Mark, which would be responsible for Mark and the triple tradition in Matthew and Luke but you also have another kind of source, year-old traditions in which we associate or written tradition we associate with Q.

Then you also have Luke's special source, another traditional witness, and Matthew's special source, and then you have the [Johannine] tradition. Now let me give an example of this and how this works.

If we wanted to say did Jesus teach that in some way the kingdom of God had occurred and taken place in his ministry that it had arrived, it is realized, we will talk more about that when we talk about the kingdom of God in length, how would you go about demonstrating this?

One way is to say that there are five different sources that bear witness to this. In Mark, if you want to turn with me to page 43, Mark 2, verses 21 and 22, you have a saying in which Jesus announces that something new has happened: 'The kingdom of God has taken place.'

The Old Testament has become old. A new covenant, the new covenant, the kingdom of God, has arrived. Look at lines 21 in Mark. "No one sows a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. If he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear are made. Moreover, no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will be lost, and so are the skins, but new wine is for fresh skins."

The kingdom of God has come. There is a new wine that's taking place. That is why we do not fast. We are in the rejoicing of the kingdom of God has arrived. That is what we find in Mark. Now there is also material in the Q tradition of page 173 in which Q material, another separate source, also bears witness to this.

If you look at the material on lines 31, notice that Matthew and Luke have this material, it is Q material. Jesus says, "But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you."

See, there is another source that bears witness to the kingdom of God has come. Now in Luke 17, this would be page 201; you have L material unique to Luke in which you also have the understanding that the kingdom of God has come. The bottom of page 201, Luke 17:20.

"Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was coming, he answered them, 'The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, 'Lo here it is, or there,' for behold the kingdom of God is in the midst of you."

Now the old liberal theology that this was to be interpreted that the kingdom of God is within your heart is very strange if you, in the context of Jesus' teaching. He never says the kingdom of God is in your heart. He says the kingdom of God is in your midst.

I am here. The kingdom of God is in the presence of you. Now that is L material. In M material, in Matthew 5:17, page 52, you have another such saying, which witnesses to the kingdom of God have come, and here you have top of page 52, "Think not that I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them."

This is the age of fulfillment, Jesus says. The kingdom of God has come. Then you could also find in John 4 verse 23, that would be page 29 of saying from the Johannine witness here, where in verse 23, that would be line 20, Jesus says, "The hour is coming and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth, for such the Father seeks to worship it."

The hour has come. The kingdom of God is at hand. Did Jesus teach that the kingdom of God was, in some way, a present reality? Well, Mark says so. Another source, the Q material, says so. The L material says so. The other source of that we call the M material and John all witnessed this.

You have multiple attestations. To deny this takes a much greater skepticism than if all the I, all the sayings that the kingdom of God had come in Jesus ministry were found in Mark alone spread all over.

You have multiple attestations. It would be extremely skeptical about arguing that the kingdom of God was not in some way pronounced by Jesus, and even in European scholarship that is very skeptical, no one would argue that Jesus did not, in some way, say the kingdom of God is at hand.

B. Multiple Forms

It has too many multiple attestations, too many separate witnesses. Now another such criterion is the criterion of multiple forms. Supposing, you found that the teachings of Jesus at the kingdom of God had come only in parables and nothing else.

You would begin to wonder whether, somehow, behind these parables or maybe it was not Jesus but someone else, because you would expect, well, this should show up in other kinds of material, as well, not just in the parables.

What we find, for instance, and I will not read them for you, that the kingdom of God is, announces having come in various miracle stories. We find them in the parables. I gave you one. I could have given you a lot more. They are found in various pronouncement stories.

Parables are found in various forms of sayings. So the kingdom of God as a present reality and the ministry of Jesus is not only in multiple sources but in multiple kinds of material, which also adds additional weight to the authenticity of that particular kind of teaching.

C. Aramaic Linguistic Phenomena

No, it is not the same teaching. It is different forms that have that same teaching and talk about the kingdom of God as a present reality. Now other kinds of arguments go this way. Supposing you found something in the gospels that witnesses to being part of an Aramaic tradition.

You have the Greek gospels. You have the Greek oral tradition. Now we are working our way back. You have Aramaic oral traditions, and you have Jesus who teaches in Aramaic. Do you have something in Aramaic, you are closer to Jesus than the gospels.

You, you are working your way back. For instance, we have some say-, some words in the gospels that are in Aramaic. One that's of particularly important is a title that he uses for God, Abba. Where does this come from? It does not come from Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, who write gospels in Greek.

It does not come and arise during the Greek oral period. Well, you, you have to get back to Aramaic. Well, now, you are getting real close to Jesus, and I have a suggestion as to who may have referred to God as Abba Father and spoke Aramaic. It is Jesus.

So you are working your way back further and further to, to Jesus, and you give greater and greater credibility to that. There are also kinds of literary forms that we know Jesus tended to use. Turn with me to page 151. We have many sayings of Jesus that are in parallelism. We will talk about that next week.

We will talk about various literary forms. One is poetry parallelism. Now, in Mark 8:35, the bottom of page 151, we have a saying, which is in the good poet-, poetic form. "Whoever would a save his life will lose it. Whoever loses his life be for my sake, and the gospels will save it." A) save me life, you lose it. If you lose it, you will save it. Very much the kind of poetry that we know is associated with Jesus.

You have some sayings in our gospels that if you translate them back into Aramaic, not in the present form, but Aramaic, they come to be a pun. Matthew 23:23 is a good example of that. That would be on page 252. Now you will not see the pun here but let me explain it to you.

Matthew 23:23 that would be page 252, line 66. "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you, tithe mint and dill and cumin, and you have neglected the weighty matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith."

They tithe everything that came into their possession because they did not know that somebody perhaps had not tithed it originally, so they wanted to be exact. Even their herbs in the garden, they tithe it very carefully, so God got his tenth, and then he says, "These you ought to have done without neglecting the others. You blind guide, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel."

Now there is no, nothing unusual about that here, but in Aramaic, the word for gnat is 'Gamla', and for camel is 'Gamla'. You have a reversal of these two letters. It is a hilarious pun, I think. You blind guide your strain out a 'Gamla', and you swallow a 'Gamla', and I think Jesus' audience just roared. One for Jesus. 

Yeah. That, that is good. Well, the fact that this is a pun in Aramaic, is that just coincidental? Not likely. It quite likely, Jesus used this Aramaic pun here. So, again, Jesus spoke Aramaic, you, back into the area where Jesus spoke puns that way.

Other kinds of plays on words, typically associated with Jesus when you come across one, look like, as the other ones, this probably comes from Jesus, Aramaic linguistic phenomena.

D. Palestinian Environmental Phenomena

Another argument in favor of authenticity is if you should find something Palestinian, whom do you know that did much teaching in the early, the first third or, or the middle third, I should say, of the first century who lived in Palestine.

I can tell you one, and several sayings of Jesus typify that. Turn with me to page 114. We may cover some of this again when we talk about the parable, but let us look at this right now, 1:14. Here, you have a parable of the soils. Have you ever been troubled? Any of your parents' farmers?

Have you ever looked at that parable and say there is something weird about this parable? I mean, do you throw your seed out in the field, and then you decide to plow it up? No, first you plow, and then you seal here, and if you do it in one step, you have the five bottom plow or the drag that whatever you are using and behind it, you have the drill press.

This guy seeds first and then plows. Well, it just so happened that that was fairly typical of the method of farming in Palestine. Not the rest of the Mediterranean, but in Palestine, you would sow first, and then you would plow afterward. Interesting.

Well, who do you know in Palestine that was going around telling parables? That leads to the authenticity of this parable. Another one that you could look at now is page 120, a parable here. You have the parable of a net at the bottom of the page.

"The kingdom of God is like a net which was thrown into the sea and gathered fish of every kind. When it was full, men drew it ashore and sat down and sorted the good into vessels but threw away the bad. So it will be at the close of the age; the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw away into the furnace of fire, throw them into the furnace of fire. There were men will weep and gnash their teeth."

All right now, you would assume that this parable takes place among people who know something about fishing. Well, the Mediterranean, a lot of people fish. The Sea of Galilee, people fished. You do not fish in the Dead Sea. There is nothing there but much fishing in Sea of Galilee, a major staple for the people of Israel where the fish are in the Sea of Galilee, but that is not very specific.

You need to have a place where you can fish, but there is something unusual about this fishing. You have people separating good fish from bad fish. Now, what is going on here? Oh, so, well, it is the di-, dead fish. You throw them away. Now wait a minute, dead fish do not swim into nets, do they? There is something very specific here.

This betrays a very Jewish background. What are the bad fish? Fish without scales. So you have after the fishing, the separation of the catfish and the bullheads from the trout, the bass, and the salmon. Well, they are different kinds of fish, of course, but anyhow, you have here a very Jewish situation.

So you have people fishing who are Jewish fishermen, but where is the best place that you know of where there is much Jewish fisherman? How about the Sea of Galilee? Now, whom did you know was telling many parables like this? So now you have an Aramaic, rather a Palestinian, environment that bears witness to the authenticity of the parables of this particular parable.

On page 220, there is another kind of parable, the parable of the laborers in the vineyard. This also bears witness to the coming out of the land of Palestine. There are two things in this parable about the laborers in the field. One is that the laborers are being paid. Most farming in the Mediterranean were large estates, which use slaves, so in Egypt, Rome, Italy, and places like that.

One place where they still hired many people to do farming was in Israel or Palestine. So now we have a situation that fits Palestinian kind of farming where people are paid, and it is even more specific than that because they are paid. They are not paid at the end of the week. They do not get a biweekly check or end of the month check. They get it at the end of the day. Does that ring a bell with any of you Old Testament scholars here?

The law requires you to pay people at the end of the day. You have another, a Jewish custom. So I would say, look, you have a situation which fits the agricultural scheme where a lot of hired workers are done, and you have a situation, if it is a very Jewish nature of the, of the, of their understanding, that they are paid at the end of the day, you would have to be pretty skeptical to say this parable did not originate with Jesus.

E. Dissimilarity (a.k.a. Discontinuity)

So you have the criterion of Palestinian environmental phenomena. Now one criterion that was used with great frequency is called the criterion of dissimilarity, also sometimes called the criterion of discontinuity.

Now, Rudolf Bultmann had brought such skepticism as to the ability to find out what any real sayings of Jesus in the gospels, that the quest for the historical Jesus that existed in the 18th and 19th Century, What was the real Jesus like? What did he say? just died.

After World War I, it just died, and it was great skepticism until a Bultmannian scholar by the name of Ernst Kasemann said, 'Hey look, we cannot be that skeptical. There are pieces of evidence that we have to agree to go back to Jesus,' and so the beginning of 1952, what was called the new quest for the historical Jesus and one of the tools used was this. If you found a saying that you knew the early church would have never created if you knew a saying that is attributed to Jesus that could not have arisen out of a Jewish Rubinek kind of background, then who else could it have come from but Jesus himself.

It is distinctive. It comes from Jesus himself. It must, therefore, go back to him. For instance, the use of the word Abba for God; that term, we do not know if Jews ever used that term for God. One researcher says, [the earliest he can find in any Jewish literature where that intimate name Abba is ever used of God is in a prayer dating in a Jewish prayer book around 1400. He cannot find anything that intimate prior.]

No, God can be referred to as a father, but he is never addressed in prayer as Abba Father. Well, where would something like this have come from? Well, it is attributed to Jesus. It does not come out of Judaism. As such, it must be associated with him.

The title Son of Man, where does this title come from in the gospels? Well, we know the early church did not like the title, especially. In Acts to Revelation, it kind of just dies out. Once used in a sense, Jesus used it in all of the Acts to Revelation, there are titles they prefer are Lord and Christ.

Where would this have arisen from? Well, the church does not seem to have created; it must come from Jesus. Well, what about, was this a title that Judaism used for the Messiah? No, never. The title of the Son of Man is not used that way. So here you have a Christological title coming into existence. It is not a title that seems to be at all popular in Judaism if ever used.

It is not pop-, title popular among Christians, because it appears so seldom in Acts to Revelation, and if you thought they were the ones that created it, you would think that you would find it also in the gospels. Well, there is only one other place to look, and that is that Jesus used that title, and that is why it, we find the title attributed to him in the gospels.

He alone used this. All right, so that would be the criteria of dissimilarity. Now there is a danger here, and what happened was they began to be and say the only sayings of Jesus that we know that he said are those that fit this criterion. Well, think by definition then, the Jesus that you are accepting as the real Jesus is one, Christian.

You like saying, you know, I do not think we ever-, really can ever know what exactly what Martin Luther said, but if a Catholic could not have said it and if a Lutheran could not have said it, then it goes back to Luther. Well, if that is the only thing you accept, you have a non-Lutheran, non-Catholic Luther, which is a weird Luther, that says you would have a very weird Jesus who does not have ties with Judaism.

Now you can get bits of information that are helpful, but if this is all you use, by definition, you are going to have a Jesus that just does not fit either Christianity or Judaism. Some pieces of information like Abba, the Son of Man, yeah, that is very helpful, but you do not want to universalize this and make it the only way.

F. Divergent Patterns from the Redaction

You have here the fifth one, the criterion of divergent patterns from the redaction. That is a mouthful. What does that mean? Supposing, you found something in a gospel writer that tended to go against the emphasis of the evangelist. He would not include it in his gospel, then, unless it was such a sure part of a tradition that even if it does not go with a particular emphasis, I have in mind, Jesus said it, and it has to come.

Now turn with me to page 99. Here in Matthew 11:13, we find something that Matthew records Jesus as saying. Beginning at line 20 on page 99, Matthew has, "From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, men of violence take it by force." That is a pun that's not self-evident, but then he goes on.

"For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. Moreover, if you are willing to accept that he is Elijah, who is to come." All the prophets and the law prophesied until John. What does that give you the impression of? Since john what? The law and the prophets have come to an end, but now, think of the emphasis of Matthew.

What is his emphasis? The continuity. Jesus came, not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them. This, thus was fulfilled what was written by the prophet, and here you have a saying that at first glance could almost look like the law, and the prophets had come to an end, which would not be his particular theological emphasis.

Why would he include it? It must be a good tradition. It must go back to Jesus. It must have been so well known that Jesus said these words that he put it in even though it does not make particular forward or advance his particular emphasis on the fulfillment of the law and the prophets in that the teachings of the law and the prophets continue for Jesus did not come to bring them to an end to destroy them but to fulfill them.

So here is a saying that seems to go contrary to the particular emphasis of the evangelist. As a result, it must be a very good tradition. Now those are the positive ones. There another one I can say in this area is the gospel of John makes great efforts to demonstrate that Rome was not the cause; the main cause of Jesus' death.

I think he wants to emphasize that Jesus is not a revolutionary. Jesus was not put to death, primarily because Rome saw him as a revolutionary. However, their active part in the crucifixion is very clearly portrayed. Well, that is, that is because he cannot change the story. The tradition's too good.

So you point out that the Roman culpability and the crucifixion but you elsewhere have been emphasizing, oh, it is primarily the leadership that is the result of that, but, yeah, talks about their [pardon] anyhow.


It diverges from the general pattern of the editorial redaction and emphasis. Now those are the positive criteria for trying to demonstrate the authenticity of a saying and teaching of Jesus. There are some three negative criteria that work on the reverse, something that meets its criteria supposedly refutes the authenticity of a saying.

A. Tendencies of the Developing Tradition

One of these is to say, we know the tendencies of the tradition, and if something goes contrary to that tendency, then we can argue against its authenticity. For instance, turn with me to page 300, and we find something here, and this is often used as an example to explain the development of the tradition.

For instance, in Mark 47, beginning at line 38, page 300, Mark has, in the garden of Gethsemane, a story, "But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his ear." Now they argue, see. Now notice how tradition tends to develop. Luke becomes more specific, and one of them struck the slave of the high priest and cut off his right ear.

See, you become more specific as the tradition goes on, and John, which is later, still, as then Simon Pete having a sword, drew it and struck off the high priest slays slave, struck the high priest's slave and cut off his right ear. The slave's name was Malchus, and I had not only his right na-, the right ear, but his name.

See that is the way traditions develop. So the more developed the tradition, the later you will find it to be. Well, I do not think it works exactly that way. We talked about this under when we discussed form criticism but turned to page 125.

Now in Mark 5:22, line 4, we read, "There came one of the rulers of synagogue Jairus, [inaudible] and seeing him." Luke has there came a man named Jairus, who was the ruler of the synagogue. So you have Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue in Luke, but notice Matthew, which, by our understanding, is later than Mark has.

While he was thus speaking to him, a ruler came in and knelt by him. He is not only not specified as a ruler of the synagogue, but his name is not given. Now you tend to become less specific and to eliminate names. Well, how do you make a general rule out of that?

If, in the former example, we have tendencies tend to become more and more developed, here you have just the opposite. It tends to be less developed. That was page 125, Mark 5:22, and parallels, 5:22.

So right now, the whole idea that there is a single development tendency is has been pretty much thrown into, into doubt and if you, if you do not know how tendencies are, if you know, if you, you get to the conclusion that traditions do not follow a single pattern of development.

B. Contradiction

That rule becomes very questionable. Another criterion would be the criterion of environmental contradiction. In other words, if Jesus says something that's not possible, then you know that he did not say it. For instance, if we have in the gospel, 'no man can ride two motorcycles,' that cannot be authentic, because they do not have motorcycles in Jesus' day.

So if you have a saying of Jesus that violates the environment of Jesus, then he could not have said it. One verse that's often used as an example of this is on page 215, Mark 10, verse 12. This is the saying on divorce, 216, line 26, following Mark, verse 11, "And he, Jesus said to them, 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her, and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.'"

Frequently, it is argued that the last thing about a wife divorcing a husband cannot be authentic. The reason is that Jewish wives could not divorce their husbands at the time of Jesus. That is right, and so the conclusion by many is that this is a [Mark in] addition because he is writing to a Roman audience. In Rome and Italy, women could divorce their husbands, but Jesus could not have said it, women could not divorce their husbands in Jewish society.

Well, there is, that may, that may be very well true. They could not divorce their husbands, but do you know why John the Baptist had his head cut off? Why? He criticized a woman for divorcing her husband to marry Herod. So the most famous marriage in all of Galilee is one in which a woman divorces her husband.

John the Baptist, probably a cousin of some sort of Jesus, has his head cut off because he told that this was sinful. Now is it impossible that Jesus would have said something like that? We have to be very careful about ruling out what the environment would have permitted or not.

Here is one I that is often imbued as the example for that, but I think it is simply fallacious. Jesus could very easily have said it. I think he probably he would have said it, and this is perfectly possible, because there was a woman, a very famous woman, who married the most famous person in all of Galilee, Herod, Herod the Tetrarch, and the result was that we know John the Baptist said something like this.

C. Contradiction of Authentic Sayings

Now Jesus could not have said? No. So we have to be very careful as to what we eliminate as possibilities of Jesus saying. Now the third and last one is the criterion of the contradiction of authentic sayings. If you know Jesus said something and you are sure by other various criteria that he said x, saying y, which contradicts x, Jesus could not have said it.

Well, all right, I, I, I can handle that in some ways but, you know, technically, you always say, well, maybe Jesus contradicted himself once in a while, but leaving that aside, one of the dangers we have here is that we lose sight of the fact that he may have used exaggerated terminology, which looks like it might have been contradicting something else he says but they, but it does not. At least in the mind of the evangelist, it does not.

On page 60, Jesus says in Matthew 7:1, judge not that you be not judged but look on page 61, Matthew 7:6. "Do not give dogs what is holy and do not throw your pearls before swine lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you." How do you know-, know who not to give what is holy too and who not to throw pearls before unless you judge in some way?

What you have to realize is that judge not that you be not judged is a proverb, and it allows for exceptions. It does not mean never judge anything. Life is not like that, but when you give a proverb, you do not say judge not, well, except in the following instances, of course, you have to judge.

It is not the way Proverbs run, so you have to be very careful about Jesus having said something and, therefore, something is contrary to it. Turn with me to 193. Here, you have a saying of Jesus. Is this a saying Jesus could not have said because it contradicts his emphasis on loving a neighbor, loving enemies, and so forth.

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father or mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Jesus could not have said that, because he talks about hating, whereas he talks about loving your enemies.

Well, you have to realize that the literary form being used is, is hyperbolic and exaggerated terminology. So we have to be very careful before we talk about something being contradictory unless we know that both are using the same literary genre and, therefore, they can be judged on one.

Otherwise, you have to start saying, what does Jesus mean by this saying and does it conflict with what he says when he says you have to love even your enemies? I do not think it is contradictory at all. A very exaggerated form of this is something that I cannot imagine anybody in the early church making up.

It must be authentic. Now in the discussion of the criteria of authenticity, we are dealing with how we can present to people who are skeptical and strengthen the argument of the gospels are reliable. You cannot prove every saying of Jesus this way. Some of them do not fit these particular criteria.

They just do not, do not work, but is it possible, perhaps, that we can show enough ties with various sayings of Jesus that we create a kind of propensity to see, yeah, these make sense. This looks like they go back to Jesus and give then an idea that maybe we should not be so skeptical.

The ones that fit the criteria like this that we can test out seem to be authentic. The ones whose criteria we, which do not meet the particular criteria, are simply ones that we cannot test out, but probably we, they are also authentic, as well, but we just cannot prove it in these instances.

What I think we are trying to do is to draw some lines here. Another thing I think that is helpful here is simply our cur-, our curiosity.

Maybe I am the only unspiritual person in this group, but sometimes I wonder, I wonder if Jesus could have really said something like this. There are some tools that help us to get a kind of feel for this material, just like when, at times, you cannot demonstrate this alleged contradiction to be harmonizable, you have done it enough other instances where you have worked out an understanding, which they do harmonize with one another well enough, the result is that I will just leave this in a kind of limbo and say, 'I just do not think we have enough information, but if I had enough, these other instances where there was more information were provided, I came to understand it, and it worked out well.'

So hopefully, that this will be, be of some use to you. I do not sometimes know I, I use examples in, in, in two classes and another class, and I do not know if I said it. Did I ever explain to you the place I stayed on my sabbatical in 1984?

In 1984, I spent my sabbatical in Germany with my wife and my youngest son and while we were there in Switzerland, we went skiing a couple, oh, wait, wait a minute. Were you in Germany or Switzerland? Make up your mind.  Most people would say that is a contradiction. It will not be when I explain it to you.

We were in a village called Bissingen. It was part of the German province of Baden-Württemberg. That little village in Baden-Württemberg is land lock and within Switzerland. In the 1500s, the prince of that little village was arrested by his Swedish neighbors, died in prison, and he willed that little village, about a square mile, to the province of Baden-Württemberg.

If you go there, the post office uses German money and German postage. We lived in Bissingen. We were about 50 feet from the Swiss border. The border was the City of Schaffhausen. My son, we tried to enroll in the gymnasium in Schaffhausen.

You do not live here. You live in Germany. My son had to get up, be driven to the bus station, take a bus, go through the Swiss border to the other side into Germany, get to a train station, and take a train to the City of Bissingen because we lived in Germany, but we live in Switzerland.

It looks contradictory, but it makes sense. You can see how a person could say Germany or Switzerland because both are true. If you know enough information, you can figure it out but the vast majority of people, if I said those two things, would think it is contradictory, and they would say well, was it Germany or was it Switzerland?

I say what do you do with a square mile in the middle of Switzerland, and you had to go through Swiss customs all the time to get out and to get back, you had to go through German customs.

So there may be things in our Bible that we simply do not know how to reconcile, but there are enough things that I have worked out that I am simply willing to say, "If there was enough information, I think it probably would work out all right. I will give God the benefit of the doubt. I will trust my Bible and simply say, "In this life, if I do not have enough information, it will be fun to find it out in the next one."