Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Exegesis on Psalm 97:1-6.



Subject : Psalms in Hebrew

Topic : Exegesis on Psalm 97:1-6.

Submitted to : Mrs Laila L.Vijayan

Submitted by : Mr.Sanda Aung

Submitted on : 5th August, 2008.

PSALMS 97:1-6.



This Psalm has a hymnal form[1] and it belongs to the form-critical category of hymns of descriptive praise of Yahweh. Since the work of Gunkel and Mowinkel, this type of psalms have commonly been called the enthronement psalms, celeberating the kingship of Yahweh and frequently associated with the proposed enthronement ceremonies in the pre-exilic Temple in Jerusalem. According to Westernman these Psalms are hymns celebrating Yahweh’s kingship and belongs to the category of descriptive praise psalms[2]

1.2. Structure

Howard proposes that there seems to be a temporal distinction between the continued description of Yahweh in vv.1-3 and the theophany described in vv.4-6.[3] And according to Frank E.Gaebelein, this section of Psalm focuses on the exalted position of Yahweh above the earth and all the other gods and contains many allusion tom other parts of OT, all of which have been shaped into a magnificent hymn. So the structure of this psalm is as follows:

The revelation of Yahweh’s glory (vv.1-6)

a. The coming of the Lord is described (1-3).

b. Its effect upon the earth is declared (4-6)[4].

1.3. Setting

The setting of this psalm is worship for the kingship of Yahweh. This psalm is made of almost entirely of phrases borrowed from other psalms, but put together with great skill and also has hymnist form, setting forth descriptive praise of Yahweh and belong to a group of psalms (Ps 93-100) united in genre and motif[5].

2. Authorship and Date.

Scholars believe that David is not the sole author of the Book of psalms. As in the first book of Samuel hymns are ascribed to David so also at the close of Deuteronomy two psalms are ascribed to Moses. It was this and the occurrence of the name of Moses near the end of Psalm 99 which led to ascription of Psalms 90-99,which have also certain literary kinship with the psalms in Deuteronomy, to Moses. So the author of psalm 97:1-6 was probably Moses.[6]

Howard said that Psalm 97 is likely pre-Exilic, but not too early. So he thought again, it best work with the flowing hypotheses: (1)the dates of origin for psalms 95 and 96-99 as individual Psalms are possibly pre-Exilic, but more probably post-Exilic in their present form; (2)the cult situation of Psalms 93-99 in the Psalter are mostly post-Exilic, so this psalm was composed in pre-Exilic period.[7]

3.Comment/Interpretation and Explanation

3. The revelation of Yahweh’s glory (vv.1-6).

3. A. The coming of the Lord is described (1-3)
Verse 1
The Lord reigneth”: This is the watchword of the psalm. It is also the essence of the Gospel’s proclamationand the foundation of the Gospel’s kingdom. Jesus has come, and all power is given unto Him in heaven and earth, therefore men are bidden to yield him their obedient faith, saint draw comfort from these words, and only rebel evil at them.

“Let the earth rejoice”: Other reigns have produced injustice, oppression, bloodshed, terror but the reign of infinitely gracious Jehovah is the hope of humankind, and when they all yield to it the race will have its paradise restored. The very globe itself may well be glad that its maker and liege Lord has come to his own, and the whole race of human beings may also be glad[8].

Let the Multitude of isle glad thereof”: To the ancient Israelites all places beyond the sea were isle, and the phrase is equivalent to the lands which are reached by ship. It is remarkable, however, that upon actual islands some of the greatest victories of the cross have been achieved. Many a land owes its peace to the sea; if it had not been isolated it would have been desolated, and therefore the inhabitants should praise the lord who has given them a defense more available than bars of brass. Jesus deserves to be Lord of isles, and to have his praises sounded along every sea-beaten shore[9].
Verse 2.
“Clouds and darkness are round about him”: When the Lord revealed himself at Sinai, his essential deity was being surrounded by clouds when he showed himself to sons of men less his excessive glory would destroy them. Every revelation of God must also be an obviation; there must be veiling of his infinite splendor if anything is to be seen by finite beings.

Righteousness and judgment are the habitations of his throne”: God’s righteousness, immutable attributes and judgment mark his every act. Whatever he does, though we cannot see or understand, we are sure that he will do no wrong to us. We are always saved in the hands of him who cannot do error or act of unrighteousness.[10]

Verse 3.
A fire goeth before him”: Fire is the very being of God’s power consuming all opposition. Omnipotence is a devouring flame “which burnt up his enemies around about”. Lord is long suffering, but when he comes forth to judgment he will make short work with the unrighteous, they will be like chaff before the flame. Reading this verse in reference to the coming of Jesus, and the descent of the Holy Spirit, we are reminded of the tongues of fire, and of the power which attended the gospel preached in faith, and in the power of the Spirit, which burns it own way, irrestibly destroying falsehood, superstition, unbelief, sin, indifference, and hardness of the heart.[11]

3. B. Its effect upon the earth is declared (4-6)
“His lightning unlighted the world”
. In time of tempest the whole of nature is lighted up with a lurid glare, even the light of the sun itself seems dim compared with the blaze of lightening. When God draws aside the curtain for a moment, the nation astonished, the light compels them to cover their eyes and bow their heads in solemn awe. Jesus in the gospels lights up the earth with such a blaze of truth and grace as was never seen or even imagined before.[12]

The earth saw, and trembled”. In God’s presence the solid earth quarks, astonished by his glory and convulsed with fear. To the advent of our lord and the setting up of his kingdom among human beings these words are also most applicable; nothing ever caused such a shaking and the commotion as the proclamation of the Gospels, nothing was more majestic than its course, it turned the world upside down, leveled the mountains and filled up the velleys.When the Holy Ghost rested upon his servants their course was like that of a mighty storm, the truth, flashed with the force and speed of thunderbolt, and philosophers and priests, princes and people were utterly confounded, too powerless to withstand it.[13]

Verse 5.
The hill melted like wax at the presence of the lord”: States and kingdoms stand out upon the world like mountains utterly dissolved when God decrees their end. Systems as ancient and firmly-rooted as the hills pass away when he does but looks upon them. The mountains, which are a symbol of stability (cf M.T. 30: 8), melt before the presence of the lord[14].

“At the presence of the lord of the whole earth”: God’s dominion is universal, and his power is everywhere felt. Human beings cannot move the hill, with difficulty do they climb them, with incredible toil do they pierce their way through their fastness, but it is not so with the Lord: his presence makes a clear pathway, obstacles disappear, a highway is made, and that not by his hand as though it cost him pains, but by his mere presence, for power goes forth from him with a word or a glance. Sometimes we doubt the presence of the Lord within, for he is concealed with clouds, but we are again assured that he is within us when his light shines in and fills us with holy fear, while at the same time the warmth of grace often calls us to penitence, resignation and obedience, as wax becomes soft in the presence of fire.[15]

Verse 6.
“The heavens declare his righteousness”: It is the manner of the inspired poets to picture the whole creation as in sympathy with the glory of God, and indeed it is not mere poetry, for a great truth underlines it. The whole creation has been made to groan through human’s sin, and it is yet to share in the joy of his restoration. His righteousness (Ps 33:5) is, apparently, parallel with glory (Ps.19:1), and both may refer to Yahweh’s work of salvation (cf Ps 50:6). [16]

And all the people see his glory”. The glorious Gospel became so well known and widely promulgated, that it seem to be proclaimed by very star, and published by the very skies themselves, therefore all race of human beings became acquainted with it, and were made to see the exceeding glory of the grace of God which is resplendent there in.[17] Yahweh victory will be made manifested not only to the people of Israel, but also to the whole world (Ps66:8).[18]

4. Theological theme

The Lord is represented as a king who has authority to control all the creatures and universal as well as there would be peace, justice among the nations during his reign.

5. Implications for today context

The Lord was presented as a king and the ruler with mighty power. The prince of the world has been cast out by the same Lord. In the scripture the word “earth” probably denotes the land of Israel, unless it is changed in meaning by qualification. For it was to them alone that Christ was promised and to whom He came. Therefore Jews saw these wonders and were struck in their hearts according to Acts 2.[19]

Every saving advent of God in the past and future is summed up in this stylized picture of divine intervention, in which God proves Himself victorious king over evil.[20]So this psalm reminds us that Israel’s hope was God’ reign, who could make peace and justice reign among the nations as well as in our time.


Anderson, A.A.The New Century Bible Commentary Psalm(73-150),vol.II.London:Marshall,Morgan& Scolt Publication.Ltd.,1970

Gaebelein,Frank E.Eds The Expositor’s Bible Comemtary,vol.5, .Machigcan:Zondervan Publish House nd,1991.

Peter,John P. The psalms as Liturgies Being the Paddock Lectures for 1920.New York: Ferris Printing company, 1920.

Ricker ,George Berry.An American Commentary on the Old Testament ;The book of Psalms.Boston:The American Baptist Publication Socity,1934.

Spurgeon, C.H. The treasury of David ,Vol.II.Virginiaa:Thomas Nelson Pusblisher,1993.


Luther works, vol.II. First Lectures on the Psalms II.,Edited by Hiton C.Oswld.Missuri:Concordia Publication House,1976.

The “Psalm”. The International Bible commentary.Edited by F.F.Bruce.Michigan:Zondervan Publishing House,1987.

[1] A.A Anderson,The New Century Bible Commentary Psalm(73-150),vol.II(London:Marshall,Morgan& Scolt Publication.Ltd.,1970),687-688.

[2] Frank E.Gaebelein,edsThe expositor’s Bible Comemtary,vol.5, (Machigcan:Zondervan Publish House nd,1991)623.

[3] A.A.Anderson,op.cit.,687.

[4] Frank E.Gaebelein,op.,cit.,623.

[5] .Ibid.,624.

[6] .John P.peter .The psalms as Liturgies Being the Paddock Lectures for 1920(New York: Ferris Printing company, 1920), 11.

[7] George Berry,, Ricker,An American Commentary on the Old Testament ;The book of Psalms(Boston:The American Baptist Publication Socity,1934),634.

[8] C.H.Spurgeon,The treasury of David ,Vol.II(Virginiaa:Thomas Nelson Pusblisher,1993),193.

[9] Ibid.,194.

[10] Ibid., 195.

[11] Ibid., 194.

[12] Ibid.,195.

[13] .Ibid.,195.

[14] A.A Anderson.op.cit,687.

[15]C.H.Spurgeon, op.cit, 196.

[16] A.A Anderson.op.cit, 687.

[17] C.H.Spurgeon, op.cit, 197.

[18] A.A Anderson.op.cit, 687.

[19] Luther works,vol.II, First Lectures on the Psalms II,edited by Hiton C.Oswld(Missuri:Concordia Publication House,1976),265.

[20] .The “Psalms”,The International Bible commentary, edited by F.F.Bruce(Michigan:Zondervan Publishing House,1987),623.

Council of Trent (AD1545-1563)



Subject; Ecumenical Movement

Topic; Council of Trent (AD.1545-1563).

Submitted to; Rev. Pratap Digal

Submitted by; Mr.M.Jose Kumar &Mr.Sanda Aung

Submitted on; 6th September, 2008.


The Council of Trent, the 19th ecumenical council of the Roman Catholic Church, was held at Trent in northern Italy between 1545 and 1563. It marked a major turning point in the efforts of the Catholic Church to respond to the challenge of the Protestant Reformation and formed a key part of the Counter-Reformation. The need for such a council had long been perceived by certain church leaders, but initial attempts to organize it were opposed by Francis I of France, who feared it would strengthen Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, and by the popes themselves, who feared a revival of Conciliarism

1. Council of Trent.

It is also known as the nineteenth general council of the Roman Catholic Church, this council opened on 13 Dec 1545 and closed on 4 Dec 1563,after twenty-five formal sessions.[1]

In the year 1530s Pope Paul III made several a abortive attempts to call one. Finally in 1542, after the failure of Rgensburg, he called the Council of Trent. The choice of venue was subtle-within the territories of the German Emperor, yet near enough to Rome ensures Papal control of the council.[2]

In 1547 the Italian members obtained its transfer to Bologna, farther from the North .In May ,1551,it was once more at Trent .Less than a year later, in May,1552,it adjorned,and did not again cover for nearly a decade, in January,1562.It finally completed its works in December ,1563.The Roman Catholic count it as December,ninethenth Ecumenical council.[3]

1.1. III phrases of Council of Trent

The Council of Trent met in three phrases 1545-47, 1551-52, 1562-63.,under the leadership of three different popes (Paul III, Julius III, Pius IV). All of its decrees were formally confirmed by Pope Pius IV in 1563[4].It is the nineteenth of the general or ecumenical councils recognized by the Roman Catholic Church. But while it was called ecumenical or world-wide, more than two-thirds of the Bishops who attended were Italian. Thus the council was not representative of even the Roman Catholic world and it was certainly not free of Papal control.[5]

1.2. Geographical Location of Trent

Trent owed its choice as the theatre of the council both to its geographical situation and its juridical status. Situated at the gate of Italy and even then predominantly Italia city, it nevertheless belonged to the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and was subject to the territorial over lordship of its Bishop, so that answered both the express wish of the curia that the council should be held in an Italian city and the demand of the German Estates for a council in ‘German land’.[6]

Trent was a small Italianized town in northwest of Venice that was nevertheless an imperial free city and thus druidical “in German land” the road to Trent, long and tortuous passed through Constance, Basel, and Pisa

1.3. Causes for the council of Trent From 1545 to 1541 there were a number of colloquies in Germany at which leading protestant and Roman Catholic theologians sought to reach an understanding[7] The spread of Protestantism renewed the demand for general council, both to return and reunite Christendom.

The emperor Charles V,in his anxiety to restore religious unity among the Germans, pressed for a council on German soil that was prepared to offer the maximum concession consistent with the essentials of Oxthodoxy.This policy was not agreeable to Rome, where dangers to Catholicism, together with an overstreghtening of the Emperor’s power, both ecclesiastical and political, were feared.[8]

The pope’s chronic misuse of their dispensing power, particularly with regard to the appointment to benefices, was the root cause of these abuses.

The demand for a council became the standard rhetoric not only of churchmen but also of princes and statesmen.[9]

1.4. Agenda for the council of Trent.The work of the council was twofold- the definition of Roman Catholic doctrine in opposition to Protestantism and the introduction of disciplinary reforms within the Roman Catholic Church. There were definitions of doctrine override range of areas- scripture and tradition; original sin; justification; the sacraments; purgatory; relics and images; indulgences.[10]

1.5. Procedure for conducting the Council.In tits procedure Trent was more akin to the Papal councils of the high Middle Ages than to Constance or Basel. Franchise belonged only to the “father” of the council, that is, to the Bishops present –not their proctors-and to the generals of the mendicant order. The presiding officers were the legates appointed by the Pope. They were empowered to set the agenda. The work schedule followed a consistent pattern. It began with a “particular congregational which theologians and canonists would discuss the draft of a particular decree. The fathers formed the audience for these technical expositions

A “session” was a public meeting of voted upon, and promulgated at the councils’ decree.Between 1545 and 1563 the council of Trent held twenty-five session, of which seventeen were substantive in the sense that they were occasion for the proclamation of doctrinal definitions and reform legistation,while the rest were ceremonial affairs[11]

2.Popes’ Intervention in the Council of Trent

2.1.Pope Paul III (1534–49) when he proposed the idea of the Council to his cardinals, it was unanimously opposed. Nonetheless, he sent nuncios throughout Europe to propose the idea. Paul III issued a decree for a general council to be held in Mantua, Italy, to begin May 23, 1537. However, the council was delayed until 1545, and convened right before Luther's death. Unable, however, to resist the urging of Charles V, the pope, after proposing Mantua as the place of meeting, convened the council at Trent .On December 13, 1545; the Pope's decision to transfer it to Bologna in March, 1547 on the pretext of avoiding a plague failed to take effect and the Council was indefinitely prorogued on 17 September 1549.[12]

2.2.Pope Julius III (1550-1555) The new pope faced many of the same political problems as his predecessor, and it was in the teeth princes and the new king of France, Henry II,that the council reopened at Trent on May 1551.Julius III,at heart an indolent and self-indulgent man, made no effort through the rest of this pontificate to receive it.[13]

2.3Pope Pius IV(1559–65)The council was reconvened by Pope Pius IV (1559–65) for the last time, meeting from 18 January 1562, and continued until its final adjournment on 4 December 1563. It closed with a series of ritual acclamations honouring the reigning Pope, the Popes who had convoked the Council, the emperor and the kings who had supported it, the papal legates, the cardinals, the ambassadors present, and the bishops, followed by acclamations of acceptance of the faith of the Council and its decrees, and of anathema for all heretics.

During the second period, the Protestants present asked for renewed discussion on points already defined and for bishops to be released from their oaths of allegiance to the Pope. When the last period began, all hope of conciliating the Protestants was gone and the Jesuits had become a strong force.

The number of attending members in the three periods varied considerably. The council was small to begin with..3The decrees were signed by 255 members, including four papal legates, two cardinals, three patriarchs, twenty-five archbishops, and 168 bishops, two-thirds of whom were Italians. The Italian and Spanish prelates were vastly preponderant in power and numbers. At the passage of the most important decrees not more than sixty prelates were present[14].

3. Discussions in the Council of Trent

3.1. Scripture and tradition

The first particular congregations met on 20February, 1546 to examine Luther’s assertion of solar scriptura on April, at the fourth session, the Council declared that apostolic tradition, “which have come form the mouth of Christ or by the direction of the Holy spirit and have been passed down to our own times” deserve to be accepted by believers “with as much reverence (pari pietatis ac reverential) as scripture itself.[15]

Trent cut off all possibility of reconciliation with prtestants,sftartin Catholic dogma in a manner that defined protestant doctrines as heretical authority in the church was defined as tradition plus the scriptures ( including tradition the Apocraha(,but it was clear that no one could interpret the Bible contrary to the church.[16]

3.2. Decree concerning canonical scripture (1546)

This decree came in due course to be misunderstood. As Latin words subtly changed their meaning, it was thought to concern the issue of unwritten doctrinal traditions. But in fact the traditions in mind at Trent were ceremonies and practices, such as infant baptism or Sunday worship.[17]

3.3. Decree concerning Justification (1547)

This decree was intended to define the doctrine of justification in an anti-protestant direction. The main thrust of the decree is about the justification of adult convert. Taking into account different meanings given to key words such as ‘justification’ and ‘faith’ by the two sides, their positions are not that starkly opposed. But moving on to other questions covered in the decree-the effects of sin committed after baptism, the meriting of eternal life at the last judgment-the difference becomes pronounced. It needs to be remembered that the justification of the adult convert is largely theoretical issue-the majority of Roman Catholics are baptized as infants. For them, the reality which they face is sin committed after baptism. If they repent and confess their sin to priest, the eternal punishment due to sin (hell) is remitted, according to Trent.[18]

4. Resolutions

The council of Trent (1545-1563), which ensured clear definition of the Catholic faith, encouraged spiritual reform in the life of the church and mission and by aggressive procedure of suppressing heresies appeared to have cut off any aspiration for holding a general council for reunion.

The introduction of systematic measures like the setting up of the office of Inquisition, the publication of a list of prohibited books, the burning down of non-Catholic published writings, the establishment of academic and theological institutions for the training of priests and support of the clergy to quell the growing influence of Protestantism, bore testimonies to intended plans shutting off reconciling negotiations.[19]

In the area of religious doctrine, the council refused any concessions to the Protestants. It also crystallized and codified Catholic dogma for more than before.

It also opposed Protestantism by reaffirming the existence of 7 sacraments, substantiation purgatory, the necessity of priesthood, and justification by work as well as by faith .The council also maintained clerical celibacy and monasticism.

It also issued decrees in favor of efficacy of relics, indulgences, and the veneration of the Virgin Mary and saints.

It also declared tradition coequals to scripture as a source of spiritual knowledge, and further declared that the sole right to interpret the Bible rests with the church.

Of all the church councils, the council of Trent lasted longest, and issued the longest number of dogmas and reformatory decrees.[20]

There was a degree of moral and administrative reform, the authority of the Pope was strengthened, corruption decreased greatly and better training of the clergy and more preaching were required. The inquisition was strengthened, especialloy in Spain, and was used against anyone suspected of heaving protestant ideas as well as against Jews.[21]

Evaluation and Conclusion

Trent was attacked by leading protestant theologians. One of the first responses came from Calvin, who in 1547 published the Acts of the synod of Trent with an Antidote. He was so sure of his case that he published the text of Trent in full before attacking it! A fuller and more considered responses came from the Lutheran theologian Martin Chemnitz who from 1565to 1573 published an Inversitcatio9n of the council of Trent in which he answered the council at great length.

Trent became not just a but the council of the Roman Catholic Church. It became the normative statement of anti-protestant counter-reformation Roman Catholicism. Earlier councils were read in the light of Trent and interpreted in accord with it. In this way, Trent dominated the Roman Catholic Church for some 400 years, the period of ‘Tridentine Catholicism’. This was brought to a close by the second Vatican Council, with produced even more documents than Trent and which breathed a very different spirit. Trent has now become just one of the council of the past.


Lane, Toney .The lion book of Christian Thought .Truvalla: Suvartha Bhavan, 1999.

Encyclopedia Britannica, 1972, ed., Vol, s.v; “Council of Trent”.

Marvin R.O’Connell, “Council of Trent”, The Encyclopedia of Religion,ed., Mircea Eliade ,vol.15.New York: Macmillan Publishing Company,1987.

. LaTourette, Kenneth Scott.A History of Christianity. Yale; Yale University

Snaitang, O.L.A History of Ecumenical Movement: An Introduction. Bangalore: BTESSC/SATHRI, 2004.

George, K.M. Development of Christianity Through the Centuries.Tiruvalla:Christava Sahitya Samithi,2005.

A history of The Council of Trent, Vol.I. Translated by Dom Ernest Graff O.S.B .London:Thomas Nelson And Sons Ltd,1957.

Pierson, Paul E. “the counter-reformation”, Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions. Edited by A. Scotts Moreau.Michigan: Baker Books, 2000.




[1] Marvin R.O’Connell, “Council of Trent”,The Encyclopedia of Religion,ed., Mircea Eliade ,vol.15(New York:Macmillan Publishing Company,1987),33.

[2] Toney Lane, The lion book of Christain Thouhgt (Truvalla:Suvartha Bhavan,1999),115.

[3].Kenneth Scott Latourette,A History of Christianity.(Yale; Yale University,--),866.

[4] //www.mb-soft.com/believe/txs/trent.htm

[5] Toney Lane.op.cit.115.

[6] A history of The Council of Trent,Vol.I, translated by Dom Ernest Graff O.S.B(London:Thomas Nelson And Sons Ltd,1957),545.

[7] Toney Lane.op.cit.,115.

[8] Encyclopedia Britannical, 1972, ed., Vol, s.v; “Council of Trent”, 639.

[9]Marvin R.O’Connell, op.cit.,33.

[10] Ibid.,155.

[11] Marvin R.O’Connell,op.cit.,36.

[13] Marvin R.O’Connell.op.cit.,37.

[15] Marvin R.O’Connell.op.cit., 37..

[16] Paul E.Pierson “the counter-reformation”, Evangelical Dictionary of World Missions, edited by A. Scotts Moreau(Michigan:Baker Books,200),238.

[17] . Toney Lane.op.cit.115.

[18] .Ibid.,115-116.

[19] O.L.Snaitang,A History of Ecumenical Movement: Introduction(Bangalore:BTESSC/SATHRI,2004),28.

[20] K.M George, Development of Christianity Through the Centuries (Tiruvalla: Christava Sahitya Samithi, 2005), 92-93.

[21]Paul E.Pierson., op.cit. 238.

Friday, June 20, 2008



In evevery 50 years thebamboo becomes fruit in the khumi land in paletwa in chin state myanmar in Asia.As result the many rats come out and use to destroy the paddy field and other cultivated area so 2007 year is the year of 50 year and many rats came and destroyed the paddy feilds in paletwa area where the people depend on cultivation Now those who stay in that area people are facing for their survival food,many people are having insuficient rice so some go to forest and find out the wild yam and dig out which they cook and eat instead of rice so this this is hotribble situation in that area.I personally knew that one boy (14 yrs old) went forest to find out wild yam but unfortunately he was beaten by snake and died.this is my short experince when I arrived in paletwa area so how do you want to suggest fot this matter and Do you want to know detail please contact with me:khumiaung7@gmail.com

Friday, February 1, 2008

Athenticity of the saying of Jesus

Serampore College: Theology Department

Authenticity of the Sayings of Jesus
By Mr.sanda aung
26th November 2007

INTRODUCTON: In contrast to the more traditional way of definding”authentic”as being actually and exactly what the thing in question is said to be, so that an authentic saying of Jesus would mean an actual saying of the historical Jesus in synoptic Gospel but A.T Roberson said,” some of the more important reported saying of Jesus are given which are not found in the gospels or acts; whether true words of the master or not, it is not known”. It is evident from even a cursory reading of literature that scholarly attitudes toward the historicity of the gospel materials very drastically. On the one side we have those scholars who possess positive attitude toward gospels materials and on the other side we have possess an equally negative toward the materials.

1. THE PROCESS BY WHICH THE GOSPELS WERE WRITTEN: To understand and appreciate the criteria that scholars use to determine the authenticity of various sayings in the Gospel tradition, we must remind ourselves of the process whereby the Gospels came to be written. As far as we know, Jesus himself did not put down any of his teachings in writing. Also, there is no evidence that any attempt was made during his lifetime to record what he said and did. Indeed, all the evidence suggests that it is only in the light of Resurrection, Ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit at the Pentecost, that the early church began to put together the various pieces that eventually contributed to its understanding of who Jesus was.
These individual “pieces”, or “pericopae”, or “units of tradition” were originally used in the preaching and teaching of the early church. This is the period, reckoned to be around 30 years that scholars refer to as the “Oral tradition” period. Gradually, however, it appears that collections of these units were made, linking together teaching on the same topic, or incidents that had something in common, for example the healing narratives[1].
Various arguments are frequently raised in support of the authenticity of the Gospel accounts. Some of these are as follows:
(1) The existence of the eyewitnesses during this period would have had the effect of seeing that those traditions would be faithfully preserved and that non-historical traditions would not be added.[2]
(2) The existence of a centre of leadership (the Church at Jerusalem) would have caused the traditions to be passed down carefully and accurately.
(3) The high view of traditions. In several texts in the New Testament- for example, Rom. 6: 17, I Cor. 7:10, 12- we find a very high regard for the tradition of Jesus. This is particularly true in Paul’s arguments in I Cor. 7 where he carefully distinguishes between points that he makes that have the support of a dominical saying and other points that do not have such support.[3]
(4) The view that much of the Gospel; material was simply created by the early Church to meet its religious needs and solve various religious problems is difficult to accept in the light of the fact that several of the major problems that the early church encountered never show up in the Gospel materials. Since the first and the most important issue that the early church faced was the question of whether the Gentile Christians had to be circumcised, one would expect to find some saying of Jesus that dealt with this issue, if the church were creating material to solve certain problems.[4]

(5) The faithfulness of the early church in preserving difficult sayings of Jesus. Another line of evidence that generates confidence in the reliability of the tradition is the presence of difficult sayings in the Gospels. In the light of the Gentile mission, Jesus deliberate restriction of himself and his disciples to ministering to Israel could very easily have become an embarrassment to the early church. The presence of a saying, therefore, as that in Matt. 10: 5-6 supports the position that the tradition was not altered to avoid inconvenience or embarrassment. Similarly the preservation of a saying like that contained in Mk. 9:1, which can be misunderstood as implying that Jesus was not infallible in his predictions, points in the same direction of reliability of the tradition[5].
(6) We must also not forget that the ability to remember the traditions and pass them on faithfully is not limited by our present day inability to do this or to conceive of this. The introduction of cheap writing materials into the world has had a negative impact in that it has paralyzed our abilities to memorize and to use the mind, rather than notebooks and files, as a data bank.[6]

3. CRITERIA USED TO DETERMINE THE AUTHENTICITY OF JESUS’ SAYINGS: In spite of all that has been said, many scholars would begin from a position of skepticism and assume that all we have in the Gospels are creations of the early church unless there are strong indications towards authenticity. In determining the authenticity of Jesus’ sayings, the scholars have used different criteria. Some of the commonly used are:

3.1. The Criterion of Dissimilarity or Discontinuity: This criterion states that any teaching or action of Jesus which distinguishes him both from the Judaism of his day and from the early Christian Church may be accepted as authentic.[7] For example, according to this criterion the Sabbath controversies ( Mk. 2:28), can be considered as authentic since, as far as we know, there were no disputes neither in Judaism nor in the early Palestinian Church regarding Sabbath observance.[8]. Another example is the use of the word “Abba” by Jesus in addressing God. “Abba was a family word, the tender address of the father -a secular word. Jews never dare to address God in this manner.[9]
According to Robert H. Stein, the criterion of dissimilarity is sufficiently functional as to place a heavy burden of proof upon anyone denying the authenticity of any saying which meets its standard.[10]
i) The dissimilarity criterion can demonstrate only what is distinctive about Jesus; what he shared with his contemporaries will by definition fail the test.[11] It is quite possible that men and women in the early church were influenced by the teachings of Jesus and repeated it and adapted it to fresh situations. Similarly it may be possible that Jesus did not differ from his contemporaries.
ii) Another objection is that this criterion eliminates the great majority of gospel materials because most of these materials do not conflict with both the Judaism of Jesus’ day and theology of the early church.
iii) A more substantial criticism of this criterion is that it presumes that we possess a sufficient knowledge of the Judaism of Jesus’ day and primitive Christian community to determine if a particular Gospel tradition could not have arisen out of this environment.[12]
3.2. The Criterion of Multiple Attestations: There are four independent lines of transmission of materials that have been identified behind the Synoptic Gospels tradition:
(i) The material that is found in Mark, Matthew and Luke (designated as Mk).
(ii) The material that is common to both Matthew and Luke (designated as Q).
(iii) The material that is peculiar to Matthew (designated as M).
(iv) The material that is peculiar to Luke (designated as L).
It means that the greater the number of independent lines of transmission a saying or incident is attested by, the greater the confidence we can have in its authenticity. For example, in Mark’s Gospel, we have three predictions of the coming sufferings of the Son of Man (8:31-33; 9:30-31; 10:32-34). However they all belong to this one line of transmission. By this criterion, however, the case for authenticity is strong because we have a prediction in Lk. 17: 25 as well, a passage which is certainly non Markan.
This criterion may be used most effectively to establish motifs rather than individual sayings or deeds of Jesus. And it is also useful when the motif is found in more than one form. For example, using this criterion we can safely conclude that the tradition that Jesus spent a lot of effort in reaching out to religious and social outcasts and often had table fellowship with them is authentic. This is because this tradition not only appears in several of the sources (cf. Mk. 2: 15, 17; Q: Mt. 11: 18-19; L: Lk. 15: 1-2; M: Mt. 21: 28-32), but also in several forms- sayings, pericopes, parables and so on.[13]
The criterion of multiple attestations does increase the confidence one can place in a tradition, but singly attested material may also prove equally genuine.[14]
3.3. The Criterion of Semetism: We are fairly certain that that the mother tongue of Jesus was Aramaic, and in particular a Galilean dialect of Aramaic. It follows that the presence of Aramaic linguistic characteristics in our Greek Gospel materials could be taken as a sound indication of a tradition that goes back right to Jesus. An obvious example is Jesus’ cry on the cross (Mk. 15: 34 and Mt. 27: 46).[15]This criterion was used by Joachim Jeremias, who points to traces of Aramaic vocabulary, grammar, syntax, rhythm, in the Greek version of saying of Jesus as signs of authentic sayings.[16]Another way in which this tool is used is to note the presence of certain puns which are only puns in Aramaic but not in Greek. An example of a pun which is a pun only in Aramaic is Matt. 23:23-24.[17] In the Greek New Testament, this does not appear as a pun but when retranslated back into Aramaic, the pun is evident because the term for gnat is galma and for camel is gamla. Thus we have this pun: ‘you blind guides, staining out a galma and swallowing a gamla.’ The possibility that this saying arose in a Greek environment and by chance is converted into a pun in Aramaic is minimal. It seems quite reasonable to conclude that Matt. 23:23-24 arose in an Aramaic-speaking environment.[18]
A number of criticisms have been raised, however, against this criterion. It has been objected that the presence of such Aramaic linguistic phenomena in a tradition establishes only that the tradition arose in an Aramaic- speaking context, but the context could be the Aramaic speaking church rather than the historical Jesus. Another criticism is that the presence of Aramaisms in the Gospel materials may be due to Septuagintal influence on the part of the Greek Church or the gospel writers.[19] Meier states that this criterion has serious problems because many of the Christian Jews also spoke and wrote in Aramaic.[20]
The intermingling of Semitic and Hellenistic (see Hellenism) cultures in the first century makes the third criterion very difficult to apply; it is hard to maintain that a Semitic form or style could not have been created in early Christianity or that Jesus could not have utilized Greco-Roman concepts and forms of speech.[21]
3.4. The Criterion of Divergent Tradition: When an author preserves traditions that do not especially serve his purpose, they may well be taken as testimony to the authenticity of that material.[22]The inclusion by the evangelist of material that does not fit his theological scheme serves as a non-intentional witness to the antiquity and authenticity of such material. A good example is found in Matt. 11:13 ‘For all the prophets and laws prophesied until John…’ This seems to contradict with Matthew’s heavy emphasis on the permanent validity of the Law found elsewhere in his Gospel (e.g. Mt. 3:15; 5:17-20; 7:12; 12:5).[23]So according to this criterion, Mt.11:13 are authentic.
3.5. The Criterion of Modification by Jewish Christianity: This particular criterion is frequently associated with the criterion of dissimilarity. One example frequently given of how Jewish Christianity allegedly modified the original teachings of Jesus in order to fit better with its own situation is the famous “Exception clause” found in Matthew 5:32 & 19: 9. in contrast to Markan parallel in Mark 10:11-12 which reads, whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her: and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery and the “Q” parallel in Luke 16:18 which reads, everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who maries a woman divorced from husband, commits adultery. Matthew had in both of these sayings the exception ‘except on the ground of unchastity’ (Matt. 5:32) or except for unchastity (Matt. 19:9). In the light of these two-fold agreement in Mark and “Q” as well as the parallel in I Cor. 7:10-11 which also lacks an exception clause, it seems reasonable to conclude that ipsissima verba (very own words) of Jesus lacked this exception.[24] According to Robert H. Stein, the criterion on one hand witnesses negatively to the authenticity of a material but on the other witnesses positively to its authenticity. The fact that the early church modified such a tradition witnesses to the possibility that the tradition had such an authority and ancient pedigree that the Church or the evangelists could not ignore the tradition but had to deal with it in the only possible way – by modifying it to suit the present context.[25]
Weakness: This criterion is not applicable to singly attested materials.

3.6. The Criterion of Contradiction with Authentic Sayings: According to this criterion, a saying is unauthentic if it contradicts a recognized authentic saying.
Weaknesses: According to Calvert, this criterion is very limited in its application, for there are few instances when one can say with certainty that two sayings are contradictory. For instance, is the command “Judge not, that you be not judged (Mt. 7:1) in contradiction with “Do not give dog what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine…”(Mt. 7:6) which demands that one ‘judge” between “swine’ and “non-swine” and “dog” and “non-dogs?” We must therefore exercise extreme care before we conclude that a real contradiction exists between an authentic saying of Jesus and the saying that is being compared with it.[26] At the same time, can we assume with certainty that what we consider contradictory could not have been seen by Jesus as standing in a certain harmonious relationship?
3.7. The Criterion of Embarrassment or Contradiction: According to Meier those traditions that that would have created difficulty or embarrassment for the early Church can be considered as authentic. An example is the Baptism of a sinless and superior Jesus by John.[27]
3. 8. The Criterion of Coherence: According to Perrin, a material may be accepted as authentic if it can be shown to cohere or be fully consistent with materials established as authentic by means of other criteria. In other words, this criterion can not be used by itself, but together with the other criteria. It is the last tool that should be applied in the quest for authentic sayings of Jesus.[28]
Weakness: The criterion of coherence can not serve as an absolute proof of authenticity, for the early Church could have created materials that cohere with Jesus’ authentic teachings.

EVALUATION AND CONCLUSION: Although some criterions are stronger than others in establishing the probability of authenticity of a saying, it would appear that taken alone no single criterion can prove that a saying in the Gospels is authentic. A saying can be claimed with reasonable certainty to be authentic only if it meets most (or ideally all) of the positive criteria mentioned above.

Even if we can not be certain that a particular saying goes back to Jesus in the precise form in which we now have it, that does not necessarily make it inauthentic. There may well be a difference between what is “authentic” and what is “proved to be authentic”- that is, just because a method can not prove a report to be authentic does not mean that this does not in fact correspond to, or cohere with, what happened, for the criteria developed may not be effective enough to detect the truth about a saying uttered 2000 years back in a quite different context. The correctness of a criterion depends on the measure of validity of the presuppositions associated with it.

Wintle,Brian. Synoptic Studies: A Primer, vol. 1. Bangalore: Theological Book Trust, 1998.
Blomberg,C.L. “Form Criticism” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall .Leicester: Intervarsity Press, 1992.243-249

Stein,Robert H. “The ‘Criteria” for Authenticity” in Gospel Perspectives: Studies of History and Tradition in the Four Gospels. Vol. I Edited by R.T. France and David Wenham .Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983. 225-253

[1] Brian Wintle, Synoptic Studies: A Primer, vol. 1 (Bangalore: Theological Book Trust, 1998), 33.

[2] Robert H. Stein “The ‘Criteria” for Authenticity” in Gospel Perspectives: Studies of History and Tradition in the Four Gospels. Vol. I Edited by R.T. France and David Wenham (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), 225-253

[3] Brian Wintle,op.cit.,34.
[4] Robert H. Stein,op.cit.,
[6] Ibid.,226.
[7]C.L. Blomberg, “Form Criticism” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, edited by Joel B. Green, Scot McKnight and I. Howard Marshall (Leicester: Intervarsity Press, 1992) 243-249

[8] Brian Wintle.,op.cit.,35.
[9] Ibid.,36.
[10] Robert H. Stein.,op.cit.,252.
[11] C.L. Blomberg.,op.cit.,
[12] Robert H. Stein,op.cit.,243.
[13] Brian Wintle.,op.cit.,36.
[14] Robert H. Stein,op.cit.,
[15] Brian Wintle.,op.cit.,37.
[16] http://www.enerspace.com/jessays.htm,18/11/07.
[17] Robert H. Stein,op.cit.,233.
[18] Brian Wintle.,op.cit.,234.
[19] Ibid.,235.
[20] http://www.enerspace.com/jessays.htm,18/11/07.
[21] C.L. Blomberg.,op.cit.,
[22] Brian Wintle.,op.cit.,237.
[23] Robert H. Stein,op.cit., 247.
[24] Ibid.,246.
[25] Ibid.,247.
[26] Ibid.,250.
[27] http://www.enerspace.com/jessays.htm,18/11/07.
[28] Robert H. Stein,op.cit.,251.