Do We Have Jesus’ Actual Words?

By Peter J. Williams

Arguably, we have greater knowledge of what Jesus said than of sayings from any other ancient person who did not write a book. Often ancient writers present us with a single source for an ancient speech—Pericles’s “Funeral Oration,” in Thucydides; or Eleazar’s pre-suicide speeches, in Josephus. Occasionally we are fortunate to have more than one source of what someone said. For instance, with Socrates (d. 399 BC) we have two main sources, Plato and Xenophon, and scholars debate how much of what is attributed to Socrates actually goes back to him. But for Jesus, the Gospels give us an unusual combination of speeches and sayings of varying lengths, as well as numerous interactive scenes. Since all four Gospels record speech extensively and in a variety of complex interrelationships, reports of Jesus’s speech can be examined for signs of authenticity…
 

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Do We Have Jesus’ Actual Words?