Many criteria were used, building on what scholars like Bultmann and Norman Perrin (Rediscovering the Teachings of Jesus, 1967) had been doing for decades. (Bob always dreamed of updating Bultmann's great work shown here. Perrin shown right.) The scholars who did this work all would like to see it done again, by many more scholars. (All Biblical scholars, except the most extreme literalists, have their own opinions on what Jesus said and didn’t say. Most of them are too cowardly to give their opinions in public. Perrin avoided this problem by identifying themes such as "Kingdom of God" and then analyzing particular texts related to the theme.)
All of the sayings of Jesus voted “red” are given here -- the top 15 aphorisms and parables most likely to have been said by him:
Turn the other cheek Matthew 5:39
Give your coat and shirt Matthew 5:40
Congratulations to the poor Luke 6:20
Go a second mile Matthew 6:20
Love your enemies Luke 6:27b
Leaven Luke 13:20-21
Emperor and God Thomas 100:2b
Give to beggars Matthew 5:42a
The Samaritan Luke 10:30-35
Congratulations to those who hunger Luke 6:21a
Congratulations to those who are sad Luke 6:21b
The shrewd manager Luke 16:1-8a
The vineyard laborers Matthew 20:1-15
“Abba,” father Luke ll:2b or Matthew 6:9b
The mustard seed Thomas 20:2-4
Sometimes the version in one gospel can be shown to be older than the saying in the others. The text of Thomas, not in our usual Bibles, is found on line. To understand the parables, one needs to strip them of the often moral or pious conclusions added later by others.
The original teachings were simple, and the references would be easily understood by first century Palestinian peasants. Turning the other cheek put a Roman soldier in a position to break a rule. Giving your shirt as well as your coat would leave you naked. Roman soldiers could not command anyone to carry something more than one mile. Leaven was disgusting and impure according to Jewish ritual law. The world obviously does not bless the poor, the hungry, or the sad. These teachings tend to turn upside down conventional thinking.
So what is a Christian? How would we recognize one? Are there any? Are there any churches worthy of his name? Next: What is missing from these teachings, and why?