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.Sanders was (and is) something of a hero of mine, and this article is Sanders at his best.
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.