Monday, January 2, 2017

The Limits Of Authenticity Criteria And "Recurrent Attestation" (Part 3)

Part 1 is available here, and Part 2 is here.

AP: In the article by Fernando Bermejo, there are several examples––from passages in the Gospels–– where the researcher is perplexed when attempting to apply the criteria of authenticity. Why the perplexity? Well, because the researcher cannot reach a reliable conclusion. When reading other scholars and their commentaries on such texts, evaluating the arguments for and against a text, it seems that opinions are tied: (1) Authentic and able to be traced back to Jesus? (2) Not authentic? One can't be sure. Let's take one example and see what we can show. We'll look at two parallel passages, namely Mark 15:34 // Matt. 27:46. Here they are:
"At the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice,'Eloi, Eloi! Lama sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Mark 15:34)
"About the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, 'Eli, Eli! Lama sabachthani?' which means, 'My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?'" (Matt. 27:46)
This is the final saying of Jesus from the cross. It is also the only one that has what we call "multiple attestation." In principle, it should be considered authentic, right? Well, wait a minute. We can't really call this multiple attestation since what Matthew wrote is clearly inspired by what Mark wrote. Therefore, what appears at first glance to be multiple attestation is actually single attestation.

In favor of authenticity we have the following points:
1. The result of the application of the criterion of difficulty: It seems unthinkable that the primitive community would have invented this phrase, because it presents a desperate Jesus, who has lost confidence in his Father, a failed Jesus and, according to some, his abandonment by the God in whom he had fully trusted. His whole idea of ​​the kingdom of God seems to evaporate with this saying.
2. The result of the criteria of the Aramaic background: The sentences reproduced in Aramaic/Hebrew (here very similar) attest to a firm and solid tradition, which leads one to think that it goes back to a true memory of Jesus.
3. The result of the criterion of plausibility: That phrase corresponds well with what could be expected from a condemned person given the severe torment of the cross.
4. That Jesus––an expert in the Scriptures––was able to recall the text of Psalm 22 is extremely likely.
But against authenticity we have the following points:
1. There really is only a single source. Matthew used Mark, therefore, it's not really multiple attestation.
2. Quotations and allusions to the Scriptures are very numerous in the Passion discourse, so many (it is estimated there are around eighty) that it can be thought that wherever an allusion appears or an explicit quotation, historical reality has been "changed" in order to conform with what has been "predicted" by the Scriptures.
3. The criterion of the Aramaic background is not entirely convincing, because the history of passion is probably the most important pre-Gospel source or fragment composed when there were many Judeo-Christians whose mother tongue was Aramaic. If it was a question of presenting Jesus as a godly righteous person who died in the Scriptures, it is not difficult to add––or simply to pretend––a sacred text was uttered in that language.
4. A quote from Psalm 22 does not have to be a proof of a state of despair of Jesus. It is well known that in his time a single verse of a passage could be cited with the intention that the listener or the speaker would complete it on his own. It is thus that Psalm 22 ends with exclamations of hope and trust in God (see: "You who fear the Lord, praise him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify him, and stand in awe of him, all you descendants of Israel. For he has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has he hidden his face from him, but when he cried to him for help, he heard" [Ps. 22:23–24]). Therefore, the Christian prophet attributed these words to Jesus, or in whose name he spoke, I may think it was not a cry of desperation, but of hope, and if so, the problem raised by the criterion of difficulty disappears.
5. Finally, if the authors of the other Gospels, Luke and John, ascribe to the last moment of Jesus different sentences ("Jesus, giving a loud cry, said: "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit . . .'" [Luke 23:46]; "When Jesus took the vinegar, he said: 'Everything is fulfilled.' . . ." [John 19:30]), then why are we going to lend more credit to Mark?
In conclusion, the interpreter cannot make a satisfactory decision on whether this last sentence of Jesus attributed to him by Mark and Matthew is historically accurate or not.

And we can find the same difficulty in other examples if, by taking paper and pen, we go through the specialized comments and we compare the arguments for and against the authenticity of many sayings of Jesus.

This will open the way, at the very least, for us to construct a historical framework of various situations of Jesus (or a general framework of interpretation of Jesus, from which the possibility of a concrete sentence can be possibly historical) by means of recurrent attestation, which we have already defined and of which we must give some example. To that we shall return in the following post.

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