I have been arguing that there are ways to extract historical information about Jesus from the Gospels – even if they were not written to provide disinterested accounts of what he really said and did but were meant to promote faith in him.

So far I have discussed two positive criteria: independent attestation (if a tradition is found in multiple independent sources then that increases the likelihood that it goes back to the life of Jesus, since none of the sources themselves could have made it up) and dissimilarity (if a tradition contains information that the followers of Jesus would decidedly not have wanted to make up, then it more likely is something that actually happened).

Now I move to a negative criterion, one that eliminates possible traditions from consideration as unlikely to be historical (rather than a positive criterion that shows which ones are more likely).  It is called the criterion of contextual credibility.   Again, this is from my book Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet.


If The Shoe Fits…. The Criterion of Contextual Credibility.

You’re probably not going to believe a witness in a court of law if his or her testimony doesn’t conform with what you otherwise know to be the facts of the case.  The same applies to historical documents.  If a recently “discovered” diary purports to be from the hand of “Joshua Harrison, explorer of the Western territories of the United States,” and is dated A.D. 1728, you know that you have a problem.

For ancient documents, reliable traditions must …

To see the rest of this post, you will need to be a blog member.  If you are not one, then you, literally, do not know what you’re missing.  Why not join?  It doesn’t cost much, you get big bang for your buck, and every buck goes to help those in need!  No one loses!