Frank Turek on the criterion of embarrassment

Here’s the video. (H/T Chris S.)

The criterion of embarrassment is just one of the historical criteria used to select the parts of a piece of ancient literature that is likely to be historical. Other things in the source may have happened, but we can’t know them as history. If significant parts of a text are historical, it is possible to accept it as historical until there are specific reasons to say that some part of it is NOT historical.

Here is William Lane Craig’s list of criteria for a saying or event to be historical:

  1. Historical congruence: S fits in with known historical facts concerning the context in which S is said to have occurred.
  2. Independent, early attestation: S appears in multiple sources which are near to the time at which S is alleged to have occurred and which depend neither upon each other nor a common source.
  3. Embarrassment: S is awkward or counter-productive for the persons who serve as the source of information for S.
  4. Dissimilarity: S is unlike antecedent Jewish thought-forms and/or unlike subsequent Christian thought-forms.
  5. Semitisms: traces in the narrative of Aramaic or Hebrew linguistic forms.
  6. Coherence: S is consistent with already established facts about Jesus.

The criteria is the same for liberals and conservatives although some weight one criteria more than others. E.g. – moderate liberal E.P. Sanders likes embarrassment and multiple attestation, liberals John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg like multiple attestation and early attestation, moderate Dale Allison likes embarrassment and dissimilarity, conservative N.T. Wright likes dissimilarity. Craig likes all of them and uses them all.

If you want to see these criteria used in a debate, watch this debate between William Lane Craig and James Crossley.

This is the best debate on the historical Jesus that I have ever seen.

If someone is asking you whether they should accept the Bible in all by making a faith commitment, then you tell them about the historical criteria, and you show them a debate. Show them a list of sayings or events that are considered to be indisputable. (That list is by the naturalist E. P. Sanders). And show them a fact that even William Lane Craig hesitates to defend. That way, you are not asking them to swallow a camel of inerrancy before they can read the Bible. Give them the criteria and show them how to use it. Talk about the dating of the sources. Be a scholar. Let them read the text as an interested skeptic.

2 thoughts on “Frank Turek on the criterion of embarrassment”

  1. This is one of those debates where Craig’s opponent starts off disrespecting and making snide remarks about Christianity then realizes they have to try to make arguments during their rebuttal. They’d probably perform a lot better if they start out with that attitude.


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