February 16, 2006

Historical Criteria

I enjoy discussions of historical criteria, in Text Criticism, Synoptic Problem Studies, and in Historical Jesus Studies. I'm good at grasping and applying the critera. Mark Goodacre posted Historical Jesus Forgotten Criteria I: Accidental Information, and I'm anxiously awaiting the implied "II".
The accidental criterion has never been forgotten by me, at least, though I've never heard it called that. I recall it as named "Indirect Information," which are tidbits that come when one considers the assumptions an author makes. It is extremely valuable to comb through a gospel narrative and pull out all the information that fits "What is the author presumptively implying as he makes another point?" However, using the criterion of "Accidental Information" is dangerous. What, for instance, of the segues we find in gospel pericopae? Often we get temporal and geographical information that would qualify as quite accidental, but also arguably quite historically inaccurate.

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