I’ve been meaning to read Dale Allison’s The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus, for which Craig Blomberg has written a fine review. This book completes a trilogy of sorts, the theological outworking of Millenarian Prophet and Resurrecting Jesus — and thus more geared toward the Christian believer than the previous two, though I’m sure I’ll enjoy it just as much. Anyone can profit from a believer like Allison, who embraces the Nazarene in all his shortcomings and apocalyptic delusions with little embarrassment.
Of particular interest is Allison’s skewering of the classic criteria of authenticity, evidently taking the opposite approach of someone like John Meier. According to Blomberg, Allison claims that
“The criteria for evaluating the probable historicity of individual sayings or deeds of Christ will never be developed to deliver the goods they advertise. Instead, we should look to the broad contours of what the Synoptic Gospels most pervasively stress. This fits the way memory works in general; we may unwittingly get details wrong, but we remember big pictures.”
But as a commenter notes, this sounds like a variant of the criterion of multiple attestation. In any case, I’m sure Mark Goodacre would agree with Allison on this point, but my view (at least for now) remains more middle-of-the-road: I think many of the criteria remain useful in some cases; the question is whether or not they are being used properly.
Allison apparently urges that Christians need to eschew Christologies which are either too high or too low, and (as I’ve said myself in the past), if we can’t trust the general contours of the synoptic gospels, and an eschatalogical framework, then “neither the Gnostic gospel writers, nor the modern skeptics are in any position to propose a better alternative; sheer agnosticism remains the only option”. It all looks sound and sane, as Allison always is, and I’ll post a full review when I get around to reading the book.