Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 18, The Jesus of Testimony." Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 472-508.
Bauckham concludes that the issue of eyewitness testimony, especially in the Fourth Gospel, which makes more significant theological claims than the Synoptics, possibly based on the credibility of its claims to having firsthand knowledge of events, remains essential (Bauckham 2006, 472). He goes on to assert that the element of testimony in the Gospels puts us into direct contact with the Jesus of history who is also the Christ in whom the early Chrsitians placed their faith (Bauckham 2006, 473).
Our notions of testimony may tend to view it all as if it would be used in a legal setting. However, Bauckham demonstrates that this is not the case. We routinely accept information based on formal or informal types of testimony (Bauckham 2006, 474). He also observes that modern views of epistmology have caused us to question testimony in ways which may be inappropriate. Current trends in philosophy lead to an individualistic interpretation, placing the recipient of the testimony as the sole arbiter of its reliability (Bauckham 2006, 476). We are not uncritical, but we must exercise some trust in the testimony presented.
The Gospels, according to Bauckham, are best considered broadly as a form of historiography (Bauckham 2006, 479). In that regard, they naturally rely on the integrity of the known eyewitness or eyewitnesses who provide the accounts. The reliability of witnesses was routinely taken into consideration by responsible authors (Bauckham 2006, 480). This is in contrast to a view of historiography found among many modern scholars, who consider authors in antiquity to be a rather credulous group of people. Bauckham criticizes this chronlogical snobbery in no uncertain terms (Bauckham 2006, 483). He goes so far as to point out the philosophical change fueled by these attitudes toward history. "As in other fields, Enlightenment individualism has led to postmodern skepticism" (Bauckham 2006, 486).
Bauckham re-visits Ricoeur's view of memory and its use in recording history (Bauckham 2006, 487). In this model, historical representations of events emerge after initial accounts and periods of reflection. The original testimony remains central to our conception of the events (Bauckham 2006, 488). At the same time, it is clear to Bauckham that historians do use sources selectively. They attempt to portray one version of events rather than all possible versions (Bauckham 2006, 490).
The way in which testimony is received remains a critical issue to Bauckham. He considers the ancient attachment of importance to "participant eyewitness testimony" to be a healthy balance to much of modern historians' dependence on non-witness sources (Bauckham 2006, 491). Bauckham considers the recent scholarly work with oral histories to be illustrative of the power of the eyewitness. Participants are able to engage with elements of events in ways which the historian and reader cannot (Bauckham 2006, 492). The testimonies of survivors of the Holocaust are a prime example of this powerful engagement. Bauckham transcribes one, observing that it shows aglimpse of a world which we could normally not imagine (Bauckham 2006, 494). The oral testimonies often show signs of very careful thought and even rehearsal. Yet they generally contain very few literary elements. Bauckham sees this as part of the source of their power (Bauckham 2006, 496).
In Bauckham's view, the events surrounding the history of Jesus are deeply and strikingly unique events. Though they are very different in nature from the Holocaust, they would provoke memories and eyewitness accounts which were similarly vivid (Bauckham 2006, 499). By their very nature, accounts of incredible events seem incredible. Primary eyewitness accounts, then, will be the mostreliable sources of information, even and especially when the events defy our understanding (Bauckham 2006, 501). The nature of the Gospels is to reflect just this type of eyewitness narratives.
Bauckham concludes, then, that the Gospels are best considered in the category of authoritative eyewitness testimony. This is what gives them their power and legitimates their claim to describe events which can be expected to seem unbelievable (Bauckham 2006, 505).