Thursday, June 02, 2011

a new [or non-]criterion of authenticity

This will be much shorter than my previous post. In Constructing Jesus, Dale Allison defends what he calls "recurrent attestation," that is, when "a topic or motif or type of story reappears again and again throughout the tradition" (20). Allison finds that such recurrently attested themes or motifs are either genuine and authentic impressions of the historical (= "real") Jesus, or the Gospels have fundamentally misconstrued Jesus to such an extent that we cannot employ them to know anything historical about Jesus. Again, such recurrently attested themes or motifs convey genuinely historical information about Jesus even apart from the question of the authenticity of any particular saying or narrative or pericope in the Gospels. So even apart from the question of the authenticity of any particular exorcism story in the Gospels or any particular statement about exorcism from Jesus, the historical Jesus must have been widely regarded as a powerful exorcist if the Gospels are of any historical value whatsoever.

At any rate, I highlight this new [or non-]criterion of authenticity because it appears to me that this is the central approach to Jesus research undergirding Allison's book. Indeed, he says as much:
Recurrent attestation yields much more than [Tom] Holmén imagines, for not all the regularly attested themes and motifs are nonspecific and cursory. I offer this book as the proof. Nevertheless, I agree with Holmén to the extent that recurrent attestation is not sufficient unto itself. It supplies as I hope to show, much more than a minimalist foundation. It is not, however, everything. As I stated earlier, although we may well begin by asking, "What are our general impressions?" we need not end there. (20; my emphasis)

If the number of pages is any indication (nearly 600), Constructing Jesus amply demonstrates at the very least that recurrent attestation is a first word in a very long conversation.

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