Authenticating the Words of Jesus

Authenticating the Words of Jesus

Authenticating the Words of Jesus

Authenticating the Words of Jesus


This volume reviews the criteria, assumptions, and methods involved in critical Jesus research. Its purpose is to clarify the procedures necessary to distinguish tradition that stems from Jesus from tradition and interpretation that stem from later tradents and evangelists. This publication has also been published in paperback, please click here for details."


Craig Evans

Jesus research is no easy task. This is so, among other things, because of the number and complexities of the primary source materials. These complexities involve problems that arise from imperfect preservation of sources, uncertain literary relationships among the documents themselves, and even less certain knowledge of their respective provenances. In short, we know little about the individuals and communities (the latter often no more than an assumption) which generated and transmitted them.

Jesus research is not difficult because we lack sufficient quantity of source material. On the contrary, we have a fair amount of material. Within the Christian canon of Scripture we have four Gospels. The first three, the Synoptic Gospels, are clearly interdependent, but the Fourth Gospel, which has been traditionally known as the Gospel of John, is probably independent of the Synoptics. From the Synoptics we are able to infer Q, the source common to Matthew and Luke. We have, therefore, as many as three independent sources. Outside of the Christian canon we have several other Gospels, fragments, and sayings attributed to Jesus. Among these are the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas, the Egerton Papyrus 2, and the Secret Gospel of

* Portions of this introduction have appeared in C. A. Evans, "Images of
Christ in the Canonical and Apocryphal Gospels," in S. E. Porter et al. (eds.),
Images of Christ: Ancient and Modern (RILP 2; Sheffield: Sheffield Academic
Press, 1997) 34-72.

Some of the problems are reviewed in C. A. Evans, "Recent Developments
in Jesus Research: Presupposition, Criteria, and Sources," in Evans, Jesus and His
Contemporaries: Comparative Studies
(AGJU 25; Leiden: Brill, 1995) 1-49; idem,
"The Life of Jesus," in S. E. Porter (ed.), Handbook to Exegesis of the New
(NTTS 25; Leiden: Brill, 1997) 427-75.

See C. H. Dodd, Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1963). Since Dodd's influential study most Gospel
scholars have assumed or argued for Johannine independence of the Synoptic
Gospels. However, a goodly number have argued that the fourth evangelist knew
of and perhaps had even read one or more of the Synoptics, but did not use them as

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