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6. The utter uniqueness of Jesus’ teachings. Some critics accept as authentic only those sayings of Jesus that are unique and not paralleled in contemporary Judaism. In some ways, this is wrongheaded, making Jesus an eccentric with no roots in the tradition. However, if we, for the sake of argument, accept this criteria, it is amazing to note how much of the Gospels is unique.
For instance, Jesus often addressed God as “Father” or even “Abba,” a more familiar address used by children for their dad. The title Father is occasionally used of God in the Old Testament. But there is no Jewish parallel to addressing God as “Father” in prayer before, during, or after Jesus’ time. The first recorded instance of a Jew addressing God as Father in prayer (after Jesus) is in Italy in AD 974.
Another example is Jesus’ use of amen. In the Gospels every time we see “Truly, I say to you” or “Truly, truly I say to you” (or, in the King James, “verily” or “verily, verily”), the Greek text uses the Hebrew word amen. Now amen means “it is true, reliable, solid, or without dispute.” All Jews were required to say “amen” when they heard God being praised or thanked. In some churches today people shout “amen” to indicate their agreement with the preacher. It was used that way in Jesus’ day as a congregational response to a prayer or message.
However, note that Jesus precedes His words with an “amen.” Imagine your preacher standing up on Sunday morning and saying, “amen,” or, “amen, amen” to preface the sermon. What would that mean? It would mean, “I am not waiting for you as noble Bereans to search the Scriptures and see if you agree with me (adding your amen). I am claiming absolute truthfulness and authority up front.” Scripture says that Jesus spoke “with authority” and not as the scribes. I think He spoke authoritatively, and one of the marks of His authority was prefacing His words with “amen.” I’m sure this infuriated the scribes and Pharisees. He was not looking for their stamp of approval or endorsement of His message. With one exception, there is no recorded parallel to this use of “amen” to preface a sentence. (The exception is one letter in 700 BC.)
We might ask how Jesus was able to say the “amen” before He spoke. It was because He was the Amen. Revelation 3:14 calls Jesus the “Amen”—the faithful and true witness. He was able to speak the “amen” because He was the Amen—the One who is true, reliable, and solid.
7. The utter uniqueness of Jesus’ parables. There are stories, metaphors, and similes in rabbinic teaching. But there is no parallel to Jesus’ parables (stories about everyday life used to teach theological points) in the intertestamental period (400 BC–AD 30), during Jesus’ life, or immediately afterward. Yet there are some forty-one parables in the Gospels (depending on how you count them). Jesus also used His parables as a weapon to confront spiritually blind people to let them see themselves as if in a mirror (e.g., the Good Samaritan, Prodigal Son).
We could also add other unique features of Jesus’ teaching (such as His characteristic forms of speech)—enough to say that we can accumulate a considerable amount of material by using the criteria of uniqueness.
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