If the letters of Saint Paul (the earliest surviving Christian texts, by general consensus) and the synoptic gospels (the second-earliest) didn’t make such extraordinary claims about Jesus’s resurrection, his divinity, and so forth, no credible historian would waste much time parsing second-century apocrypha for clues about the “real” Jesus. They’d thank their lucky stars that the first-century Christians were such talented narrative writers, and spend most of their time trying to reconcile the discrepancies and resolve the contradictions in Matthew, Mark and Luke, while arguing amongst themselves about how much historical weight to give to the events and sayings recorded in John’s gospel. The gospel of Thomas would attract some modest attention; the later “lost gospels,” very little, save as evidence of how intra-Christian debates developed long after Jesus’s death. For the most part, the argument over how the Nazarene lived and died would revolve around competing interpretations of the existing Christian canon, and the rough accuracy of the synoptic narrative would be accepted by the vast majority of scholars.Maybe it would go like that, and maybe it wouldn't. But it surely should! Miracles included and "lucky stars" excluded, of course. ;-)
May 29, 2010
QOTD: on HJ sources
From some guy in the New Yorker (HT, B&I):
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"If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient observation than to any other reason."
-- Isaac Newton
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