Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
“Many examples of the principle of embarrassment can be found in the Gospels. The strong unbelief of James, Jesus’ own brother, prior to the crucifixion (Mark3:20–25; John7:5), for instance, begs an adequate cause for exposing such a report about this apostle and pious leader in the early church. This is why the majority of recent critical scholars believe that these are authentic reports. Another example is Jesus’ saying in Mark13:32, where in the very same context in which He indicates that He is the Son of the Father, He also declares that He does not know the time of His coming. The report does not explain why the Son of God would not know something about the future”
– Professor Gary Habermas
“Although some scholars regard this saying as a Jewish Apocalyptic creation, or as a community product, it is impossible to suppose that a saying so Christologically embarrassing should have been invented. There is no strong reason to question its authenticity.”
– Dr. Donald Guthrie, using the criterion of embarrassment, or the principle of embarrassment to help authenticate Mark 13:32, where Jesus states that He, while on the earth, did not know the date of His return.
Peter is rebuked as Satan by Jesus. The disciples are bumblers, who almost never understand a parable or significant teaching of Jesus at first hearing. Peter denies Jesus. Thomas doubts. Other disciples doubt. James and John argue about whom is the best of the disciples, and then their mommy (!) comes and asks Jesus if both of them could sit with Him on His throne in Heaven. The bumbling male disciples that wrote most of the New Testament rarely understand what Jesus is saying and doing, but women like the Syro-Phoenician woman and Mary of Bethany immediately grasp important teachings. Paul was an executioner and tremendous enemy of Christians, until he encountered Jesus. The disciples gripe when Jesus’ is anointed before His crucifixion, but Jesus praises the woman doing the anointing and tells them to leave her alone. Peter temporarily becomes a racist, and gets rebuked by Paul for not eating with Gentiles when his Jewish friends are around. (Galatians 2:11-13) Paul and Barnabas have such a sharp disagreement that they can’t even go out and share the good news of Jesus together! (Acts 15:36-41) What a bunch of chowder-heads, and I’m worse, not better than they!
There are lots of little details in the New Testament accounts that are hard to explain if you accept the theory that the disciples made up the ministry of Jesus – or exaggerated it. If you read through one or more of the Gospels in one sitting, it is conceivable that your neck might become tired from shaking your head at all the foolish antics of the disciples both before AND after the resurrection. Believe it or not, when historians encounter these kinds of situations in historical books it increases their level of trust in the integrity of the author. Embarrassing things included in biographies, especially embarrassing things to the compiler of that biography, are authenticating in the eyes of many historians, who refer to this as the ‘principle of embarrassment.’
Think of it this way: If I one day write an autobiography, and it is all about what an incredibly awesome person I am, and it recounts the story of how I one time beat up Connor McGregor in a street fight, and then caught a 30-pound bass, and later swindled Donald Trump out of a Las Vegas casino, and while at the casino, I destroyed Wesley So in 12 straight chess matches while blindfolded, then nobody would believe my autobiography had even a shred of truth in it….
 Donald Guthrie, New Testament Theology (Guthrie New Testament Reference Set) (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2013),
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Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)