I have been talking about the criterion of dissimilarity for one ultimate reason: wanted to show why, in my opinion, a particular passage in Matthew’s Gospel goes back to the historical Jesus, the man himself.  I.e., it does not involve words put on his lips by later followers, but is something he himself actually said.  If you’re a little fuzzy on how the criterion of dissimilarity works, please read the preceding two posts.

The following has been taken from my undergraduate textboo on the NT.  In it I give two examples of how this particular criterion can be applied to the teachings of Jesus.  It is the *second* example that I will be most interested in, but the first can help get you into the swing of things about how the criterion works.


In some respects, there isn’t a whole lot that we can say about the various apocalyptic teachings ascribed to Jesus in our Gospels from the standpoint of the trickiest of our criteria to use, the criterion of dissimilarity. Most of his followers, as I’ve already pointed out, were his followers precisely because they agreed with him, and if the burden of his message was that the end of the world was coming soon through the appearance of the Son of Man, we might expect them to have said something fairly similar. But there are a couple of aspects of the apocalyptic traditions that make them look authentic, even given the difficulties of the case. That is to say, some of the ways Jesus talks about the coming end do not coincide with the way his followers later talked about it, suggesting that these particular sayings are not ones they would have invented.

As an example, consider …

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