Friday, March 03, 2006

Accidental & Incidental

Mark Goodacre draws our attention to what he calls the “Forgotten Criterion in the Quest for the Historical Jesus” and "Forgotten Criteria in the Jesus Quest II: View Common to Friend and Foe." A similar form of this criterion is used by Paul Barnett in his book: Jesus and the Logic of History. Barnett makes the claim that:
Because [the letters of] Paul are innocent of any attempt to convey new information about the historical Jesus, such information as they do contain, being incidental, is the more valuable and must be taken carefully into account.[1]
Thus, it should be argued that not only accidental information in the gospels [as Mark points out with regards to the possibility of Jesus owning a home.] but also incidental information that may unknowingly fill us in on some juicy details of what the historical Jesus was like and possibly, what he was up to. Of course, now there will another massive discussion on whether or not the information is actually accidental or incidental but at least this may serve to enlighten us in some areas. As Mark is currently suggesting... Interesting discussion which could have some fruit for our studies... Yes? No? [1] Barnett, Jesus and the Logic of History, pg. 25. Italics mine.

1 comment:

eddie said...

Could not these 'incidental' details be just as mistaken as intentional details? Or is the point that because they do not form a link in a chain of argumentation (in the case of Paul), they are less likely to have been fabricated simply to support an argument?

And in the gospels, because they are on the periphery of what is being said about Jesus (and supposedly unimportant to the the portraits the gospel authors are drawing), they are less likely to be made up?

It seems to me that even if the latter two points are correct, the details may still be mistaken. We thus rely on a default stance of: without good reason to doubt what the author is saying, we will trust that it is accurate.