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Criteria for evaluating the historical Jesus

Certain criteria have been developed to study the historical Jesus, Michael Daise says. For instance, anything that Jesus is alleged to have said or done is considered to be more historically credible if scholars have accounts from two or more independent sources.

Scholars agree on only a few aspects of the life of Jesus, Daise explained, such as his being a Jew. Another fact, which scholars agree upon universally, is Jesus’s death by crucifixion.

The canonical Gospels agree that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. The Jewish historian Flavius Josephus, who Daise points out had no known connection with the canonical Gospels, also attests to Jesus’s execution by Pilate. Finally, the Roman historian Tacitus also mentions that Jesus was executed under Pontius Pilate, which Daise says counts as a third attestation, independent of the first two.

Photo by Stephen Salpukas*

*Print made from an engraving by Claude Mellan. Le Sainte Face (Veronica's Veil) was purchased for the museum collection through the Ralph and Doris Piper Lamberson Memorial Endowment Fund.