The problem, according to Evans is that
Modern scholars and writers, in their never-ending quest to find something new and to advance daring theories that run beyond the evidence, have either distorted or neglected the New Testament Gospels, resulting in the fabrication of an array of pseudo-Jesuses. (16)
In order to address these problems, Evans “inquires into the thinking and methods of scholars and popular writers.” (16)
Chapter 1-Misplaced Faith and Misguided Suspicion: Old and New School Skeptics
Evans looks at two ways people lose confidence in the historical authority of the New Testament: misplaced faith and misguided suspicion. Misplaced faith is “placing one’s faith in the wrong thing, such as believing that the Scriptures must be inerrant according to rather strict idiosyncratic standards and that we must be able to harmonize the four Gospels. If our faith depends on these ideas, especially in rigid terms, then scholarly study may well lead to a collapse of faith.” (21) Misguided suspicions are “the unreasonable assumptions that Jesus’ contemporaries (that is, the first generation of his movement) were either incapable of remembering or uninterested in recalling accurately what Jesus said and did, and in passing it on.” (21)
Evans then turns and looks at two old school skeptics (Robert Funk and James Robinson) and two new school skeptics (Robert Price and Bart Ehrman) to show how misplaced faith and misguided suspicion lead to that loss of confidence.
Chapter 2-Cramped Starting Points and Overly Strict Critical Methods: The Question of Authenticity
Evans begins by looking at the Jesus Seminar and their minimalist conclusions. But their minimalist conclusions are a result of “cramped starting points and overly strict critical methods.” (34) I’m not going to go into too much detail about what Evans says. There are currently many different assumptions surrounding Jesus (he was illiterate, he had no interest in scripture, etc). The problem, as Evans identifies it, is that groups like the Jesus Seminar use these assumptions as their starting point. Even before a claim is made, these groups are making unfounded conclusions and building off of them.
Next, Evans looks at the criteria of authenticity. Evans stats “Not only are the starting points of some scholars cramped and unjustified, their methods are often quite severe and skeptical.” (46) He continues by stating that “[s]ome of this skepticism is due to improperly formulated criteria used in determining what is authentic and what is not.” (47) The criteria are: historical coherence, multiple attestation, embarrassment, dissimilarity, Semitisms and Palestinian background, and coherence. (48-51)
In the next post, I’ll be discussing chapters 3-5.