What is the criterion of embarrassment, and what are some examples of it?
The criterion of embarrassment is just one of the historical criteria used to select the parts of a piece of ancient literature that are 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 liberal historians and conservative historians, although some historians weight one criteria more than others when trying to evaluate the historicity of different New Testament parts…