In total, there were three quests for the Historical Jesus, as well as a no quest period.
It’s important to note the Gospels are neither fact nor history, but they are theologically stylized narratives with historical roots. Over time, scholars have determined that gospel accounts are not necessarily to be fully trusted, given the time frames in which Luke, Mark, John, and Matthew were written, in addition to the fact that Jesus of Nazareth is seen in a different light- as a faith-based God rather than a historical figure. Matthew tends to define Jesus as a Messianic Savior brought to Earth to lead, while Mark makes it a point to make Jesus appear as The Christ/Son of God figure, someone sent by God to lead for God. Then Luke brings us to the view of Jesus being a savior to all on Earth to fulfill God’s promises (even in death), but in more of a human sense with a type of lineage going back to Adam. John proposes that Jesus is the Divine Son, very close to God, but also ties in with being God in a sense bringing out the Holy Spirit.
In order to look at and understand the gospels more fully, scholars came up with a set of criteria, the Criteria of Authenticity, in an attempt to decide which events and teachings may be legitimate. It’s necessary to point out that none of these points are necessarily guaranteeing proof of legitimacy; however, each may allow for a different type of focus when analyzing the historical Jesus.
The first point of Multiple Attestation emphasizes that if an act or saying appears in more than one source than there is a greater chance that it may be historical. An example of this would be The Feeding of The 5000- this involves two fish and five loaves of bread; however with many in attendance Jesus performs the miracle of giving everyone enough to eat. This could be representative of God proving through Jesus that our view of finite can be overpowered and that our needs will be provided for. This example is reported by all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21; Mark 6:31-44; Luke 9:12-17; John 6:1-14).
The next portion, Dissimilarity, points out that if an event or teaching is dissimilar to the characteristics encompassing Judaism at the time of Jesus and to those of the early church, then there is a greater chance of being historically valid. An example of this would be Jesus’s teaching on the Kingdom of God.
A third piece is the Criterion of Embarrassment, stating that if an event would be seen as an embarrassment to the early church, then there is a low probability that it would have been included or created. If it is observed to be a source of embarrassment, then there’s a greater probability of it being historical. Examples of this would include Jesus’ baptism by John the Baptist, women witnessing the Resurrection, or Jesus’ saying within Mark (13:32) that no one knows the hour of the coming of the Son of Man- something that the church would probably not wanted said since it would demonstrate a lack of knowledge and assurance of and in the Son.
The next criterion is Rejection and Execution stating that- that which may assist in explaining that Jesus was killed has a greater likelihood of being historical. And example of this would be Jesus’ hostility with the Jewish leaders.
A fifth point consists of the ability to Cohere, in which what is shown to cohere with established history, or preserve tradition, is likely to also be historical.
The Criteria do assist in bringing together a representation of the historical Jesus; However, when looked at in their entirety, some criteria can be used to contradict other criteria, making it fairly unchallenging to take advantage of the criteria to make them best support their own thoughts and conclusions.
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