Difference criterion

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The difference criterion also dissimilarity criterion ( Latin differentia "difference, difference" and gr. Κριτήριον "court of law; legal matter; standard") is a method of the historical-critical method , which is mainly used in biblical and New Testament exegesis .

The term “criterion” used in this context would, according to Theißen, indicate a discriminating, judging act, thus the criterion would indicate the characteristic for the selection of the original textual material, the difference said in which this characteristic consisted.

The aim of the method is not only to understand and interpret a (biblical) text in its historical context at the time, but also to reconstruct the ' words of Jesus ' as such. In researching the 'words of Jesus', the criterion of difference is the most important criterion for distinguishing between authentic and inauthentic Jesus narration. Only the narration is supposed to be certainly Jesuan, which cannot be derived from Judaism but cannot be ascribed to early Christianity either; therefore double difference criterion.

Concept history

To some extent had Hermann Samuel Reimarus already developed the way for the Unähnlichkeitskriterium. Reimarus tried to differentiate between the real, historical preaching of Jesus and the faith of the apostles in Christ and assumed that Jesus' preaching should only be understood in the context of Judaism and the time of that time.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the historical-critical methods were differentiated and expanded. After 1945 Rudolf Bultmann's turn of the “ demythologizing ” of New Testament research came to the fore. Rudolf Bultmann (1921) addressed a question comparable to the “difference criterion”. The term “difference criterion” was finally introduced into scientific discourse by Ernst Käsemann in 1954. Käsemann's starting point was the theological legitimacy questioned by Bultmann after the inquiry into the historical Jesus.

Käsemann also applied a 'double criterion of difference' to the synoptic tradition, according to which a Jesus logion is only authentic if it can be explained neither from the Jewish environment nor from the life and teaching of early Christianity. Added to this were the criteria of agreement (coherence criterion) and multiple attestation. For a long time, in the theological discourse about the authentic words of Jesus, the “double criterion of difference” coined by Käsemann was the yardstick. This procedure is now countered by Gerd Theißen's historical plausibility criterion , according to which what can be considered historically authentic is what can be understood as the effect of Jesus and that can only have arisen in a Jewish context at the same time.


For Becker (1996), too , the reconstructed passages in the text, which are original to both early Judaism and early Christianity , are probably due to the historical Jesus.

The reconstruction of the presumed previous and genesis of the text and its integration into the events of the time play a special role.

In order to find a guaranteed minimum of genuine Jesus tradition, everything that is either derived from Judaism or that can be ascribed to early Christianity is methodically used as a criterion for difference; the reconstructed statements of Jesus are methodically separated from Judaism.

It is intended to form a basis for the reconstruction of the words of Jesus. However, it cannot serve as an exclusion criterion; on the other hand, it cannot be used to exclude certain traditions as not being Jesuan, because they are in accordance with Judaism and / or early Christianity.

In the theological scientific language, the following distinctions have been conceptually mapped out:

  • Difference criterion against Judaism ( acronym DKJ); refers to the difference between on the other hand to Judaism and the Jewish environment of Jesus.
  • Difference criterion against Christianity (DKC); relates to Jesus and post-Easter Christian history.

Example: Using the Gospel according to Mark

In the debate about the Sabbath and the religious law ( Mk 2.23–28  EU ), observance of the Sabbath command is up for discussion . Three answers are given to the Pharisees' question :

The third answer reveals itself as an answer from a (later) Christian community, which means that it could not have been the answer of Jesus. On the other hand, the second answer shows a Jesuan one, because the Sabbath is there for man's sake and not man for the Sabbath's sake. The Sabbath commandments can be suspended so that people are free to decide for themselves how to act on the Sabbath. The first answer falls out of the scope, as it were, because acting on the Sabbath or the behavior of David has nothing to do with the Sabbath dispute (compare the Sabbath commandment and the New Testament ). Consequently, the possible Jesuan statement was reconstructed using the method of the difference criterion.

Criticism of the difference criterion

Theißen advocated the reformulation of the difference criterion as early as 1986 and replaced it in 1996 with the historical plausibility criterion his thesis was that what could have arisen plausibly in the Jewish context and what, as an effect of Jesus, make the emergence of early Christianity understandable could be viewed as historically valid. A historical authenticity is referred to as plausibility . Facts are considered authentic if they can be explained as individual phenomena from the context of the Jewish origin and which can then plausibly explain the later Christian history of Jesus' influence. In addition to such a “context” and “effect plausibility”, the overall plausibility of the results of the reconstructed image of Jesus would be added.


  • Gerd Theißen , Dagmar Winter : The Criteria Question in Jesus Research. From the difference criterion to the plausibility criterion. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-7278-1129-3 .
  • Stephanie von Dobbeler: The assembly 'in my name' (Mt 18:20) as a criterion for identity and difference. Novum Testamentum Vol. 44, Fasc. 3 (Jul., 2002), pp. 209-230
  • Dagmar Winter: The Difference Criterion in Jesus Research. Dissertation, University of Heidelberg 1996
  • Gerd Häfner : From the Synoptic Gospels From the Synoptic Gospels to the historical Jesus to the historical Jesus. Revision course for student teachers Basic knowledge of the New Testament, summer semester 2013 at the Catholic Theological Faculty of the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich [6] , here p. 4 f.

Web links

  • Peter Pilhofer , Julia Hager, Eva Schöniger, Andrea Reutter, Daniela Müller , Rebecca Weidinger: New Testament revision course. § Methodological considerations [7]
  • The criteria for inquiring about the historical Jesus [8]
  • Ursula Ulrike Kaiser : Introduction to New Testament Exegesis. Overview - Instructions - Examples - Literature. January 2014 [9] on theologie.uni-hamburg.de, here p. 45

See also

Individual evidence

  1. ↑ also sometimes referred to as the "criterion of inevitability", the "critical principle of elimination of the dual non-derivability"
  2. Gerd Theißen : The question of criteria in Jesus research. From the difference criterion to the plausibility criterion. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 978-3-525-53936-1 , pp. 28–174, here p. 28
  3. Hermann Samuel Reimarus : Apology or protective text for the reasonable worshipers of God. (Written 1735–1767 / 68, known as a complete work since 1814, first printed completely posthumously in 1972 and edited by Gerhard Alexander. In Insel-Verlag (Frankfurt).)
  4. ^ Rudolf Bultmann : The history of the synoptic tradition . FRLANT 29. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1921. (2nd revised edition 1931 digitized version , 10th edition 1995). (Founded the history of form together with KL Schmidt and M. Dibelius .)
  5. Review by Armin Baum in Yearbook for Evangelical Theology 12 (1998) 206-209 [1]
  6. Ernst Käsemann : The problem of the historical Jesus. Journal of Theology and Church Vol. 51, No. 2 (1954), pp. 125-153
  7. Ernst Käsemann : The problem of the historical Jesus. In: Ernst Käsemann: Exegetical attempts and reflections. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 1965, pp. 187–214, here p. 205
  8. Angelika Strotmann : The historical Jesus: an introduction. (= UTB 3553), Ferdinand Schöningh, Paderborn 2015, ISBN 978-3-8252-4160-5 , p. 29 ( [2] on books.google.de)
  9. Gerd Theißen , Annette Merz : The historical Jesus. A textbook. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2001, ISBN 978-3-525-52198-4 , pp. 117-120
  10. Jürgen Becker : Jesus of Nazareth. De Gruyter, Berlin 1996, ISBN 3-11-014882-X
  11. Gerd Häfner : From the synoptic Gospels to the historical Jesus. Revision course for student teachers Basic knowledge New Testament, summer semester 2013 [3]
  12. Peter Pilhofer , Julia Hager, Eva Schöniger, Andrea Reutter, Daniela Müller , Rebecca Weidinger: New Testament Repetitorium. § Methodological considerations [4] , p. 30
  13. Gerd Theißen: The shadow of the Galilean. Historical research on Jesus in narrative form. Chr. Kaiser Verlag, Munich 1986, vISBN 3-459-01656-6, p. 199.
  14. ^ Walter Gerwing : The Lordship Movement of Jesus. LIT Verlag, Münster 2002, ISBN 978-3-8258-6299-2 , pp. 16-17. ( [5] on books.google.de)