Till dissimilaritetskriteriets försvar

  • Tobias Hägerland


In Defence of the Criterion of Dissimilarity

In the face of recent criticisms, the article seeks to defend the continued use of the criterion of dissimilarity (CD) as a means of authentication in historical Jesus research. For a fair assessment of the criterion, it is imperative to make a distinction between Käsemann’s classic formulation of CD on the one hand, and some scholars’ subsequent (mis-)use of it on the other, but also to take into account how CD has been refined through more than fifty years of methodological discussion. The following points are made: (1) CD is a criterion for assessing the historicity of extant traditions, which cannot be used to generate a picture of Jesus simply by inverting known characteristics of primitive Christianity. (2) CD is a positive criterion, i.e., it can be employed only to verify the authenticity of a given tradition, and not to falsify it. (3) CD is only one of several positive criteria. The criterion can only identify what distinguishes Jesus from primitive Christianity. A broader and more balanced reconstruction can be attained by use of the additional criteria of multiple attestation and coherence. (4) CD deals with dissimilarity to primitive Christianity. Since those who transmitted the gospel tradition were Christians, only dissimilarity to Christianity indicates authenticity. Whether a tradition is dissimilar to Judaism or not is irrelevant. (5) CD presupposes discontinuity within a more far-reaching continuity. The points of dissimilarity between Jesus and primitive Christianity are usually restricted to differences in nuance, emphasis or phrasing.