Monday, January 09, 2012

Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity

Jesus, Criteria and the Demise of Authenticity is edited by Chris Keith and Anthony Le Donne and it will be out this summer, published by T & T Clark.   I have contributed an article the volume entitled "Criticizing the Criterion of Multiple Attestation: The Historical Jesus and the Question of Sources".  The book also features essays by Morna Hooker, Dale Allison, Scot McKnight, Loren Stuckenbruck, Jens Schroeter, Dagmar Winter, Rafael Rodriguez and the editors.

Here's how T & T Clark are blurbing the book:
Criteria of authenticity, whose roots go back to before the pioneering work of Albert Schweitzer, have become a unifying feature of the so-called Third Quest for the Historical Jesus, finding a prominent and common place in the research of otherwise differing scholars. More recently, however, scholars from different methodological frameworks have expressed discontent with this approach to the historical Jesus. In the past five years, these expressions of discontent have reached a fever pitch.

The internationally renowned authors of this book examine the nature of this new debate and present the findings in a cohesive way aimed directly at making the coalface of Historical Jesus research accessible to undergraduates and seminary students. The book’s larger ramifications as a thorough end to the Third Quest will provide a pressure valve for thousands of scholars who view historical Jesus studies as outmoded and misguided. This book has the potential to guide Jesus studies beyond the Third Quest and demand to be consulted by any scholar who discards, adopts, or adapts historical criteria.
Sounds interesting, doesn't it? There is a conference associated with the book and I'll be blogging about that tomorrow.


Alex Dalton said...

I think this book and the work of a few scholars is being overhyped here.

Mark Goodacre said...

Quite possibly, but that's the price for reading my blog!

Alex Dalton said...

I'm going to buy the book, and I'm sure it will be interesting; I just think I'm hearing too much about how the criteria of authenticity are coming under "heavy fire", and scholars are "discontent" with them, etc., when there really are only a few voices here. I think its moreso been a lack of philosophical analysis and critical discussion of the criteria that's been the problem. Now that NT scholars finally get around to thinking about them, and discussing them critically, we hear about their "demise". I think this is both too late, and too hasty, all at once.

Mike K said...

This book looks like a very useful contribution to the debate, Mark, and interesting timing for me as I have just prior put up 3 different posts looking at the criteria which may be all wrong :) Anyways, I would appreciate your input on my response over at

Steven Carr said...

It should be easy to demonstrate how the criteria work by citing examples of how they are used in other fields of history.

I imagine that work was done by New Testament scholars as part of the basic groundwork put in when developing these critieria.

Unless New Testament study of the historical Jesus is sui generis, using methods not on the radar of other historians?

Anthony Le Donne said...

Thanks for promoting this Mark. We are happy to be hosting this event. At the risk of over-promoting, I'll reiterate a point that I make in my Historiographical Jesus (Baylor Press, 2009): Modern historiography begins with (or from) Jesus research. Beginning with Spinoza, Hume, et al, philosophers of history tried their hand at the topic of "the historical Jesus" very early in the game. "Jesus historians" developed field-specific criteria as Form Criticism emerged (Chris Keith's recent ZNW essay points this out).

As for the claim that this topic is both "too hasty" and "too late", I think that I'd be happy to split the difference.