Tuesday, December 19, 2006

E. P. Sanders on the Uniqueness of Jesus' Teaching

Rob Bradshaw continues his fantastic work on BiblicalStudies.org.uk of making available a huge range of on-line articles and lectures. The latest is my favourite so far:

E. P. Sanders, "The Question of Uniqueness in the Teaching of Jesus" (London: University of London, 1990)
The Ethel M. Wood Lecture 15 February 1990

Just to whet your appetite, here is one excerpt:
Selective reading combines with confessional interest to produce claims of uniqueness.

People who read more widely than others, such as Davies, make fewer claims of uniqueness and put them more appropriately: this would have struck the hearers as fresh. Occasionally, however, he too claims uniqueness (for example, by ignoring Lev. 19.34), and it will always turn out that he should have read one more passage.

If we removed confessional interest entirely, we would find people making no stronger claims than ‘unparalleled as far as I know’. After all, what percentage of the total wisdom of the world is available to even the most diligent reader? The pronouncement that something is ‘unique’, as I said at the outset, is among other things a claim to omniscience: I know everything, and there are no parallels. This is an extremely unscholarly attitude. The more one studies, the less one should hold it.
Sanders was (and is) something of a hero of mine, and this article is Sanders at his best.

5 comments:

Chris Petersen said...

Thanks for this, Dr. Goodacre.

Jim Deardorff said...

I would disagree with Sanders on this: "The pronouncement that something is ‘unique’, as I said at the outset, is among other things a claim to omniscience: I know everything, and there are no parallels."

How about 'unique' as applied here meaning 'far ahead of all others (as far as is known) in various attributes'? But nowhere near omniscience.

Whit said...

Thanks Mark. I downloaded the pdf and look forward to reading this. Thanks for the post.

Loren Rosson III said...

Mark, somehow I missed the fact that this was an older post. It appeared in my feed reader today, and I posted some on the uniqueness of messiahs. But I agree that Sanders' essay is excellent.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Loren. It showed up again, I imagine, because I added a new label to it. As I mention older posts, I am adding fresh labels.