Are the Gospel stories are often “dissimilar” to the AD 31-90 church?

  • Our question

    a bible is open with a crowd walking left and jesus walking right

    In the Gospels, are various Jesus-stories narrated which include features symptomatic of specifically non-Christian or pre-Christian thinking? Did the Gospels display behavior and language which was discontinuous with post-Jesus beliefs, styles, preferred vocabulary, authorial intent, background, understand, and so forth? Does a lot of Gospel content satisfy what some scholars call the “criterion of dissimilarity”?

  • What historians are saying

    • Eugene Lemcio: “With a consistency that can be charted on virtually every page of text, the thought and idiom of his era are not reproduced in theirs. Or, more correctly, they do not retroject theirs into his.” [The Past of Jesus in the Gospels (1991), 108-109.]
“Yes, after all…
  • Gospels characters think-talk as pre-Christians

    The language and emphases observed in the Gospel reports accurately fit an AD 30 pre-church context and environment.

    A full page at /gospel-stories/church-dissimilar/language-emphases will analyze 9 arguments:

    • Gospels don’t say disciples “receive” Jesus.
    • Gospels don’t have people faithing “in” Jesus full-stop.
    • Gospels don’t have people theo-confess Jesus as Lord.
    • Gospels don’t depict God-like worship of Jesus.
    • Gospels don’t depict apostles as authorities.
    • Gospels don’t depict apostles as ethical templates.
    • Gospels don’t have Jesus claiming to fulfill prophecy.
    • Gospel’s don’t have Jesus’ preaching penal substitionary atonment.
    • Gospels don’t have Jesus claiming to be messiah.
  • Gospel Jesus-sayings repeat consistent quirks

    Among the Gospel stories, consistent but unique and quirky tendencies repeatedly appear in Jesus’s sayings.

    • Gospels record Jesus prefacing with “amen” 59 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus self-identifying as Son of Man 58 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using parables 37 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using antithetical parallelism ~138 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using antithetical parallelism ~138 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using rhetorical questions ~50 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using the Divine passive 96 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using hyperbole ~16 times.
    • Gospels record Jesus using aphoristic formulations 148 times
    • Gospels record Jesus using paradox ~12 times.
    • Gospels record many “I have come” statements.

    This is relevant because, in virtue of being unique, they were not the kinds of ways early Christians tended to speak, nor did they have any reason to expect (e.g. from prophecy) that Jesus would speak in these ways.

  • Gospel stories spew church-hated content

    A christian stands in front of a book holding his nose, the book is open and has smelly garbage on it.

    The Gospel traditions abounds in material unpalatable to Christians.

    This page analyzes 4 kinds of evidence:

    • Gospel traditions church-embarrassing things.
    • Gospel traditions oft didn’t protect Christians.
    • Gospel traditions spew suboptimal content.
    • Virtuous-acts of Christian enemies weren’t censored.

    This is relevant because the church is more inclined to think of Jesus, the apostles, and themselves in positive ways (while thinking of their enemies in negative ways).