The Historical Jesus According to John Dominic Crossan’s First Strata Sources: A Critical Comment -- By: Dennis Ingolfsland

Journal: Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society
Volume: JETS 45:3 (Sep 2002)
Article: The Historical Jesus According to John Dominic Crossan’s First Strata Sources: A Critical Comment
Author: Dennis Ingolfsland


The Historical Jesus According to
John Dominic Crossan’s First Strata Sources:
A Critical Comment

Dennis Ingolfsland*

* Dennis Ingolfsland is Director of Library Services and associate professor of Bible at Crown College, 6425 County Road 30, St. Bonifacius, MN 55375.

I. Introduction

When John Dominic Crossan wrote The Historical Jesus ten years ago, there were undoubtedly many who thought that his idiosyncratic view of Jesus was just another fad. In the last ten years, however, Crossan has written no less than nine additional books1 and has contributed to several others.2 He has also written at least nine articles3 and has appeared in

numerous videos,4 debates,5 teleconferences,6 and television programs.7 Most of these have been to promote his view of Jesus as a peasant Jewish Cynic.8 Since Crossan continues to be so influential in American Jesus studies, it may be good to take another look at the basis for his view of Jesus.

II. Background

In The Historical Jesus, Crossan established a method by which to separate the core of what can be known about Jesus from the decades of tradition that allegedly accumulated after his death. Crossan’s method consists of classifying biblical and non-biblical sources for the life of Jesus into “complexes” of texts with similar topics. For example, all texts related to Jesus’ crucifixion were combined in one complex, all texts relating to Jesus’ teaching on divorce are in another complex, etc.

Crossan then listed these complexes by “strata,” depending on the dates he assigned to his sources.9 First strata sources are those written from ad 30–60, second strata sources date from ad 60–80, third strata sources from ad 80–120, and fourth strata sources date from ad 120–150.

Finally, within each stratum the complexes were grouped by the number of times each saying was attested, once, twice, three times or more. In Crossan’s methodology, the data that was most often attested in the earliest strata was generally considered to be the most historically reliable. Data had to be attested at least twice in order to be considered...

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