RESPONDblogs: Who Wrote the New Testament Gospels?

conspiracy

You will often hear the claim that the New Testament Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – are not actually written by those people at all. Rather, they were written anonymously at some point late in the history of the early Church. And to give the books an air of authenticity and authority, they were given the names of central figures (like Matthew, for example) to pass them off as true. In other words – the Gospels are claimed to be forgeries.

 

Is this a reasonable claim?

I don’t think so. I think the New Testament Gospels were written by the people who they have traditionally been attributed to (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). Let’s look at some of my evidence.

 

MARK:

There is compelling evidence from outside of the Bible that John Mark, who we meet in Acts, penned this Gospel.

Let’s look at what some of the early Church Fathers said of this account.

  • Justin Martyr (AD 150) described Mark’s Gospel as the “memoirs of Peter” (Peter was one of Jesus’ original inner circle and an Apostle). It is suggested that it was written while in Italy to encourage the Roman Christians.
  • Iraneus (AD 185) referred to John Mark as the Disciple and interpreter of Peter. This is in fact the relationship that we see playing out in the Acts account (although as we read it was quite a contentious and rocky relationship at times!)
  • Papias (AD 70 to AD 155) said “Mark wrote down accurately whatsoever [Peter] remembered. …he took special care not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.”

And here’s a thought to ponder. If Mark’s Gospel was a forgery, why wasn’t it ascribed to Peter or one of the other Apostles? Surely if the aim was to pass it off as genuine…the scribe who falsely named the author would have chosen a top notch source. Instead – we see the author is John Mark – a well known but frankly minor character in the history of the Church.

 

LUKE:

Again, here we have a book claimed to be authored by an arguably minor character in church history. Luke the physician is not one of the direct eye witnesses to Jesus life and resurrection. He is a minor companion. He is certainly involved in the early Church, and we can see that from Paul’s letters (check Colossians 4:14, for example). But it would not make sense to ascribe a forgery to a minor individual.

Scholars compare the style of Luke’s writing and confirm that – just as both books claim –Lukes Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles were both written by the same person.

What we see in Luke’s writing is a mixture of eye witness reporting and direct personal testimony. For example, in Acts 16 we see a shift in the language being used. It stops talking about “they and them” and begins to use the terms “we and us”. In other words, Luke is saying…and I remember this part because I was part of this! Certainly much of the detail we read in these later chapters must have come from someone who was there and witnessed it themselves.

In summary, both Luke and Acts show evidence of early eye witness reporting and personal testimony from someone known to be in the right place and time to record both.

 

JOHN:

The disciple John is mentioned over 20 times by the other Gospels, and judging by some of the jealousy that went on, John was a central figure in the group of Jesus’ first disciples. But John’s Gospel never refers to the individual John directly. Instead it continually uses the term, “the disciple Jesus loved” to refer to that person. Why would the author do that? Well – perhaps he assumed that the audience he was writing to would know who he was. Perhaps he had learned some modesty in his old age?

Further – at the end of the Gospel, in chapter 21, we read “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down.”

 

MATTHEW:

Matthew, like John, was one of Jesus original inner circle. Mark and Luke might have been minor characters in the events that unfolded. But John and Matthew were not.

Going outside of the Bible again to the church fathers, Origen (AD 185 to 254) says

“Among the four Gospels, which are the only indisputable ones in the Church of God under heaven, I have learned the tradition that the first was written by Matthew, who was once a publican, but afterwards an Apostle of Jesus Christ, and it was prepared for the converts from Judaism.”

 

 

I’ve briefly laid out some of the internal and external evidence supporting the authorship of the New Testament Gospels. But really I think the question comes down to this. Who are you going to believe? Are you going to believe the conspiracy theorists? Or are you going to trust the testimony of the early leaders of the Church who lived a few decades after the Gospels were written?

I for one – am going to trust the early church leaders. Surely that makes sense?

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stuartgrayuk

I live in the UK, I'm married to Janet and I'm passionate about proposing a case for the historic Christian faith. You can find me on Twitter at @stuhgray.

10 thoughts on “RESPONDblogs: Who Wrote the New Testament Gospels?”

  1. I think you’re doing a disservice to yourself and to your readers by dismissing the majority opinion of New Testament scholars as being simply a “conspiracy theory.” You’ve herein listed all the reasons why the traditional authorship of the NT was first ascribed, but you’ve listed none of the reasons that this authorship has been doubted by scholars and you certainly haven’t refuted such arguments. Furthermore, the idea that the gospels were forgeries is a Straw Man– scholars claim that they are pseudonymous (falsely named by later readers), not that they are pseudepigraphical (forged in another’s name).

    Additionally, there are several problems with the points which you have listed. For example, Justin Martyr does not use the phrase “memoirs of Peter.” You are here referring to Justin’s Dialogue 106, where the phrase is “memoirs of him” (Gk., ἐν τοῖς ἀπομνημονεύμασιν αὐτοῦ) and it is unclear whether “him” refers to Peter or to Jesus.

    Acts only clearly mentions John Mark a handful of times, and only once in connection with Peter (Acts 12:12). The rest of the time, Acts associates John Mark with Paul and Barnabas. At no point in Acts is John Mark shown to be a secretary or an interpreter of anyone, let alone of Peter.

    As for John 21:24, you’ve conveniently omitted half of the verse and all of the context. Verses 20-23 describe an apparently false rumor that was started which claimed one of the disciples would not die until Jesus returned. Verse 24 then clarifies that the rumor was talking about “the disciple who is testifying to these things and has written them.” It does not say that the disciple in question wrote that gospel, and indeed the author continues by saying, “and we know that his testimony is true,” indicating that the author of the gospel is, indeed, not the testifying disciple.

    Finally, in your summary, you ask, “are you going to trust the testimony of the early leaders of the Church who lived a few decades after the Gospels were written?” However, only one of the early leaders whom you have mentioned lived only a few decades after the gospels were written (that is, Papias). Justin Martyr was the next closest, but his writing comes around 60 years after the Gospel of John was put in circulation. Irenaeus wrote nearly a century after the last gospel had been published, and Origen was writing well over a century removed from the gospels.

    1. Hello sir – great to hear from you again! I’m happy go deeper on fhe topics you mention if you would like to?

      By the way – the point I was making at the end of the blog was – i am more inclined to trust the ancient corroborative sources than I am inclined to give credance to theories that arose hundreds or thousands of years after the events.

      cheers for now!

      Stu

      1. Hello sir – great to hear from you again! I’m happy go deeper on fhe topics you mention if you would like to?

        I always enjoy engaging in discussion! I’m game if you are!

        i am more inclined to trust the ancient corroborative sources than I am inclined to give credance to theories that arose hundreds or thousands of years after the events.

        The problem is that these sources aren’t corroborating an earlier claim; rather, these sources are the claim. There is no evidence that the gospels were ascribed to their traditional authors until about a century after they had all been in circulation. The simple fact of the matter is that these gospels were written anonymously and the first known claims about their authorship are 100 years removed from their writing, and tend to be based on fairly poor reasoning.

      2. Hello there – sorry for taking so long to respond…life got in the way last week.

        In one sense – you are right. The authors of the Gospels don’t identify themselves directly within the text. We only get a name attributed to them. So yes – it is possible that the Gospels were not written by the individuals who they are attributed to. But evidentially…I don’t think it is reasonable to claim this. Where is your evidence that the Gospels are written by some anonymous (and therefore not under the authority of the first century Christian community) source?

        First – we don’t have any copies or fragments in existence that are attributed to anyone else. We don’t have the autographs. So how can you be so sure that they were written by someone else…someone unknown and so anonymous? There is no evidence that anyone in antiquity claimed different authorship. But – the fledgling Christian community were very hot on spotting inauthentic gospels from the second century and later.

        Second – you cannot separate the eye witness testimony and the eventual written documents from the early Christian community. The early church had an understanding of Jesus identity (we can deduce this from Paul’s letters…particularly the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 that summarises the Gospel) – they based their understanding on the oral testimony from the early Apostles. Oral tradition in this culture was such that – to remain part of the community – you stuck to the established stories. And oral testimony was attached to people – it wasn’t anonymous. Later in the second century Papias would gather oral testimony himself…and he would often ask people…do you have any direct teaching from one of the Apostles? Now if he was doing that in the second century…then that’s a model for what Luke was doing as he was writing Luke and Acts many decades earlier. What i am saying here is – if you try to understand the history of the New Testament text in isolation from the Christian community in the first century (and i personally think many skeptical viewpoints do this) – then you are missing the point of the texts themselves and the people we find recorded within them.

        Third – the Gospels fit the form of ancient Biography. They are comparable to other Biographies written at the time. And as such, the original intended audience would have expected them to record eye witness testimony.

        Fourth – the internal evidence in the texts themselves suggests that the texts were written early in the context of a community of people who were together in the early church. Paul quotes Luke, and he indicates that he met Peter and James around AD40. Luke (not an eyewitness but a historian) quotes Mark and Matthew extensively. There is a sense that – the quoting points to a community of believers who knew who these people were and were aware of their written works.

        So…it seems to me that the Gospels were written early (altho ive not laid out the internal evidence case here…the case exists)…and they were written in the context of a community of believers who gathered their lives around the established teaching from the Apostles (who themselves were direct eye witnesses of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus). The people in the christian community were aware who wrote them…which is why the quoting of them was powerful. And there is no tangible evidence that the Gospels were written by anyone else.

      3. Hello there – sorry for taking so long to respond…life got in the way last week

        No worries! I certainly understand how that goes! Thanks for taking the time to respond.

        Where is your evidence that the Gospels are written by some anonymous (and therefore not under the authority of the first century Christian community) source?

        The earliest manuscripts for the gospels are untitled, as is completely normal for texts of this type from that period in history. Additionally, not a single one of the early Church writers prior to Irenaeus linked the gospels directly to Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John, despite the fact that they quoted from those gospels profusely. Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, and others certainly quoted from the canonical gospels, and yet none of them showed any knowledge of these gospels having known authors.

        Furthermore, at least three of the traditional authors– Matthew, Mark, and John– were lower-class, Aramaic-speaking Jews from Galilee who were quite likely illiterate; but the gospels attributed to them were almost certainly written by people who had extensive and expensive schooling in the Greek language and rhetoric. The texts are not written in the rough, poor Greek one would expect of someone who had learned the language later in life (as, for example, one finds in Revelation), nor do the texts bear the hallmarks of having been translated from Aramaic or Hebrew into Greek (as one finds in the Septuagint texts, for example).

        you cannot separate the eye witness testimony and the eventual written documents from the early Christian community. The early church had an understanding of Jesus identity (we can deduce this from Paul’s letters…particularly the early creed in 1 Corinthians 15 that summarises the Gospel)

        Paul is actually overwhelmingly strong evidence that this claim isn’t true. Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ earthly ministry, nor were Paul’s teachings dependent upon the testimony of eyewitnesses– as he vehemently insists in Galatians 1. And yet, Paul was the single most influential writer in the entirety of Christian history. Paul was considered to be highly authoritative despite the fact that he had not received the gospel from eyewitnesses.

        …the Gospels fit the form of ancient Biography. They are comparable to other Biographies written at the time. And as such, the original intended audience would have expected them to record eye witness testimony.

        Yes, the gospels are in the genre of Bios literature, and as such are comparable to other Bios literature of the time. However, the claim that “as such, the original intended audience would have expected them to record eye witness testimony” is entirely false. The vast majority of Bios literature was not written by eyewitnesses, and was not claimed to be written by eyewitnesses. Suetonius was not an eyewitness to the Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Iamblichus and Porphyry were certainly not eyewitnesses to the life of Pythagoras. When Plutarch wrote that Cleopatra had been smuggled past Ptolemy’s guards in a rolled-up carpet, none of his readers expected that he had either witnessed this himself or else received it from eyewitnesses. When a writer has had the extraordinary opportunity to record an event directly from eyewitnesses, they are usually quite explicit in noting it– for example, when Tacitus records that Vespasian supernaturally healed the blind and the lame in Alexandria, he is quick to note that he received the story from eyewitnesses who had no reason to lie about such things.

        Paul quotes Luke, and he indicates that he met Peter and James around AD40.

        To claim that Paul quotes Luke rather reverses the consensus view of the dating of these texts, and makes an assumption over against the more likely scenario that Luke and Paul were both quoting from a pre-Pauline tradition concerning the Eucharist.

        While Paul does indicate that he met Peter and James, he does so in order to explicitly state that he did not receive the gospel from these men. He is intentionally and deliberately disassociating his theology from these men, despite the fact that they had been eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry.

        Luke (not an eyewitness but a historian) quotes Mark and Matthew extensively.

        Luke is not quoting from other texts. He is plagiarizing from other texts. Now, to be sure, this need not have carried the same negative stigma in that time as it does today, but it is a significant distinction. Luke doesn’t say, “In this other gospel, it says…” Rather, Luke copies whole pericopes nearly verbatim from his other sources without attribution, modifying them to fit his own narrative.

        Incidentally, Matthew does precisely the same thing, according to the consensus view of scholarship. Mark was written first, then Matthew and Luke were each penned independently of one another based on Mark, Q, and other sources. This is precisely what we would expect to see from authors who were not eyewitnesses to the events, but were attempting to reconstruct the events from other sources– as is explicitly stated in Luke 1.

      4. Hello sir – how are you doing today? Hope you are well! Your comments have certainly got me thinking.

        You know – it seems that we have a very different understanding of the transmission of the data that went into making up the canonical Gospels! As I’ve considered this…I’m wondering whether Form Criticism has contributed to this supposition that anonymous facts were presented to anonymous authors who produced anonymous Gospels – that were named in such a way as to lend weight to their contents among the contemporary Christian believers?

        But it seems to me that this perspective on the transmission of “the Gospel” or the eyewitness testimony – is difficult to reconcile with the honest and down to earth reality of church and community. Christianity has always been personal – but never private – it works out in the context of community. And we can see in the New Testament documents that this community was active and vibrant from the birth of the Church. Just look at the description of the early church in Acts, look at the closing of Paul’s letters where well known leaders in the growing Christian Church are named by first names only…because the community knew who these prominent leaders were. Do you get my meaning here?

        One scholar said of form critics…”if they are right, the disciples must have been translated to heaven immediately after the Resurrection.” A cheeky statement! What I think he’s getting at is that the early disciples WERE the original eye witnesses. And of course they didn’t disappear…they were on the scene for years…so wouldn’t they be clearly very active in the life of the church for decades? Tradition puts Peter’s death in the AD 60’s…which means he is an active carrier of his eyewitness account of the teaching of Jesus for around 30 years after the events of the crucifixion and the resurrection. James the brother of Jesus too was apparently martyred in the AD 60s. These men owned their testimony – they were the experts at presenting it. And so their teaching was known to be specifically theirs. It was not anonymous at all. It was part of the community’s overall witness. Can you see how this might work?

        Turning to Papias…I wonder if the implication from Papias is that…earlier in his life…he had gathered testimony about Jesus and his teaching…particularly from the elderly direct eye witnesses who survived. He valued the sound of a “living and surviving voice”. John the Elder and Aristion. And their testimony was known as particularly theirs. That was exactly why it had weight and significance to Papias. Because the source was a direct, independent eye witness to the events of Christ’s life and teaching.

        I am reading modern scholars who challenge the form criticism of the past…who question the presupposition of a mass of anonymous hearsay…and instead see this model of direct eye witness testimony being gathered by the Evangelists as they write their texts…as you say… Mark was first in the AD 60s…Mathew, Luke and John later…some put these closer to the 80s…but still in the lifespan of some of the direct eye witnesses (John the Elder, for example). And the Q source? Yes indeed – but there is a big difference between Oral Tradition (passed on down thru the generations) and Oral History (passed directly from the eyewitnesses or directly via their close associates). The eyewitnesses were active for decades in the church…their Oral History would surely have become very well known and formed a large part of the source that the Evangelists had access to.

        You disagreed with me about the nature of ancient history and biography. Well…I am taking my cues from history scholars Samuel Byrskog and Richard Bauckham here…
        “The ancient historians – such as Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus and Tacitus – were convinced that true history could be written only while events were still within living memory, and they valued as their sources the oral reports of direct experience of the events by involved participants in them. Ideally, the historian himself should have been a participant in the events he narrates – as, for example, Xenophon, Thucydides, and Josephus were…..Autopsy [eyewitness testimony] was the essential means to reach back into the past.” – Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Bauckham, p. 8+9
        The point they are making is that the canonical Gospels bear the hallmarks of such an approach.

        Authors of the Canonical Gospels:
        By the way…on the question of authorship…many thanks. You have helped me by challenging me to dig deeper. And I completely agree with you – it is implausible to name the Evangelists as uneducated Galileans.

        Yes – I can see the scholarly difference in opinion over the authorship of Matthew’s Gospel…it is unlikely to have been Levi, the Tax Collector…who would himself have been well educated…although his identity as author is open for discussion.
        Mark, however, is mentioned throughout the New Testament and very often referred to by his first name…as if the audience knew which Mark was being referred to (colossians 4:10, philemon 24, 2 timothy 4:11, 1 peter 5:13) – John Mark, the one who was at the center of the early church (Acts 12:12, 25) who Paul + Barnabas parted ways over…the one who worked closely with peter and recorded his eyewitness accounts before he died….This case is not hinging on a report from the second century. Rather a robust case can be made from the internal evidence in the document itself. Mark was not one of the apostles…but there is evidence that he came from a Diaspora Jewish family + was presumably educated in Jerusalem.
        Luke – again – wasn’t one of the apostles. But he was a doctor and a historian – well educated.
        A robust case from the textual evidence can be made that the identity of the author of John’s Gospel is the same John that wrote the letters and Revelation – John the Elder. He was one of the disciples, one of the inner circle. His Gospel would have been written with the benefit of this perspective.

        So no – I’m not making the unlikely claim that the gospels were written by uneducated Galileans. Not at all. But I am claiming that they either were eyewitnesses (John the Elder) or they had direct access to the eyewitnesses (Mark, Luke, Matthew, John).

        The Apostle Paul:
        You have a perspective on the Apostle Paul that I find quite surprising! You say that, “Paul was considered to be highly authoritative despite the fact that he had not received the gospel from eyewitnesses.” I simply do not see that in the New Testament – the text points to the very opposite.

        It seems that he visited Jerusalem very soon after his spectacular conversion and met with the eyewitnesses…Peter and James the brother of Jesus are mentioned on the first trip

        Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas [Peter], and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother” (Galatians 1:18-19).

        But he made at least one subsequent trip to meet with people of reputation to ensure he was preaching the Gospel correctly,,,

        Then after an interval of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along also. It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. (Galatians 2:1-5)

        Further – he mentions a time during one of his visits where he has a disagreement with Peter when he visited Antioch (Galatians 2:11-14). The disagreement wasn’t about the central tenants of the Christian Gospel. Rather – the disagreement was about Peter’s fear of the Jewish believers when it came to welcoming in the Gentiles into the church…and confusion around the issue of circumcision. A secondary issue – although critical when understanding God’s love and his grace towards all mankind. A point that Peter too faces during his incident with the sheet full of animals…and the arrival of Cornelius…and the welcoming of the Gentiles into the Christian community in Acts 10.

        But I think the most significant piece of evidence that Paul learned from the direct eyewitnesses comes in 1 Corinthians 15…where he quotes what scholars believe is the earliest Christian creed which may date to a matter of months following the events of Jesus death and resurrection…Paul did not come up with this creed himself. He received it. It was passed on to him…and the most reasonable assumption…is that it came from the direct eyewitnesses themselves.

        I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. 4 He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. 5 He was seen by Peter[c] and then by the Twelve. 6 After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers[d] at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. 7 Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. 9 For I am the least of all the apostles. In fact, I’m not even worthy to be called an apostle after the way I persecuted God’s church. 1 Corinthians 15:3-9

        Paul is very bold here pointing to 500 living eyewitnesses at the time of his writing…his boldness surely points to his relationship with those eyewitnesses…or at least some of them… (like peter and james). He received this creed from this group.

        Further Peter also refers to Paul’s own writing as “scripture” in 2 Peter 3:16 as he is warning his readers of the errors of wicked people…Peter is holding Paul’s teaching up as the Gospel.

        It seems to me that the case for separating the work of the evangelists…the ministry of Jesus Apostles…and the work of the Apostle Paul…is pretty weak. And I would ask – why do it? When the evidence in the New Testament points so strongly towards a single, consistent Gospel – the good news of Jesus Christ?

        Summing Up on Eyewitness Testimony:
        You and I clearly have different presuppositions when approaching the texts. But I do think that the model of Gospel as eyewitness testimony makes a lot of sense given the circumstances of their writing…and the context of the Christian church itself. Don’t you think?
        Christianity then and now is all about relationship – our relationship with God, but also our part and our place in God’s family, the church. Having been part of the church for the vast majority of my life – with all its ups and downs – I can confidently say that relationship is where it’s at. We can see it in the pages of the New Testament…we can see it in the life of many healthy Christian churches operating today…I can recommend it!

      5. Hello sir – how are you doing today? Hope you are well! Your comments have certainly got me thinking.

        I can receive no greater compliment! Thank you!

        I’m wondering whether Form Criticism has contributed to this supposition that anonymous facts were presented to anonymous authors who produced anonymous Gospels

        Not so much Form Criticism, specifically, but hermeneutics and historiography, in general. The simple fact that Irenaeus felt it was necessary to attempt to ascribe authorship to the gospels is more than enough to tell us that these documents had been written anonymously. If the Gospel of Mark, for example, had been titled ΚΑΤΑ ΜΑΡΚΟΝ in the autograph, there would have been no need for Irenaeus to guess that it had been written by Mark.

        look at the closing of Paul’s letters where well known leaders in the growing Christian Church are named by first names only…because the community knew who these prominent leaders were

        Paul referred to these people by first name only for the bare reason that they only had first names. People such as the ones Paul had cause to discuss would not have had a noble cognomen, as one might find on Tiberius Claudius Nero or Flavius Josephus. And they certainly would not have had surnames, which are a far more modern concept. But, yes, the Christian sect was small enough that it would have been likely that Paul’s audiences understood who he meant when naming certain leaders.

        Turning to Papias…I wonder if the implication from Papias is that…earlier in his life…he had gathered testimony about Jesus and his teaching…particularly from the elderly direct eye witnesses who survived

        I think you misunderstand my point, as regards Papias. Even if Papias actually received his information from eyewitnesses, even if Papias was entirely correct in asserted that Matthew and John Mark had written accounts of Jesus, there is nothing in Papias’ surviving writings which links these claims with the documents we now know as Matthew and Mark. Papias doesn’t quote from the first gospel when he asserts that a book was written by Matthew, nor from the second gospel when he talks about an account written by John Mark. He does not list any pericopes mentioned by either book. In fact, Papias’ description of the account written by Matthew doesn’t match the gospel which we currently have, at all– Papias claimed that Matthew wrote down a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus in Hebrew, which was later translated into Greek. The Gospel now-called Matthew is not simply a collection of sayings, and bears none of the hallmarks of having been originally written in Hebrew and then translated into Greek.

        but there is a big difference between Oral Tradition (passed on down thru the generations) and Oral History (passed directly from the eyewitnesses or directly via their close associates)

        What difference would there be? Surely you’re not trying to assert that every Christian in the first century received the Gospel directly from the eyewitnesses or their close associates! Granted, Christianity remained fairly small in those first decades, but it had certainly spread far and wide enough that it would have been fairly impossible for the handful of eyewitnesses of Jesus’ ministry to have taught everyone who became a Christian. There were no printing presses, radios, televisions, or any other form of mass media, at the time, to disseminate the eyewitnesses’ testimonies. The only way for people to hear it directly from them would be to have done so in person, or by direct correspondence. The vast majority of Christians would never have had any direct influence from the eyewitnesses.

        You disagreed with me about the nature of ancient history and biography. Well…I am taking my cues from history scholars Samuel Byrskog and Richard Bauckham here.

        “The ancient historians – such as Thucydides, Polybius, Josephus and Tacitus – were convinced that true history could be written only while events were still within living memory”

        While I don’t know the full context of the quote you provided, it seems fairly demonstrably false, on the face of it. Polybius’ first work was a biography of a man to whom he was certainly not an eyewitness, and was written well after Philopoemon’s death; and Polybius’ Histories certainly recount events written long after the living memory of those events had died out. The same could most certainly be said of the histories written by both Josephus and Tacitus. Even Thucydides, who wrote an account of the war in which he took part, cannot be shown to have dealt solely in the facts which he had witnessed, himself, or which had been directly related to him by another eyewitness.

        This case is not hinging on a report from the second century. Rather a robust case can be made from the internal evidence in the document itself.

        What internal evidence can you point to which demonstrates that John Mark authored the second gospel?

        Paul did not come up with this creed himself. He received it. It was passed on to him…and the most reasonable assumption…is that it came from the direct eyewitnesses themselves

        The fact that Paul quotes an earlier creed in 1 Cor 15 does not imply that he received that creed directly from eyewitnesses, nor even that the creed originated with eyewitnesses.

        Paul is very bold here pointing to 500 living eyewitnesses at the time of his writing…his boldness surely points to his relationship with those eyewitnesses…or at least some of them… (like peter and james). He received this creed from this group.

        Paul is not pointing to 500 living eyewitnesses. He’s making a nebulous reference to 500 unnamed persons which the creed claims were witnesses to the risen Jesus. Paul never again mentions any of these 500 eyewitnesses. He never names a single one of them, nor discusses what it is that they witnessed. None of the other New Testament corroborates this claim, either– especially notable being Matthew, Luke/Acts, and John, all of which could be reasonably expected to include such a Resurrection appearance pericope if they had been aware that it had occurred. There is no good reason to assume that Paul knew any of these 500 supposed witnesses.

        Further Peter also refers to Paul’s own writing as “scripture” in 2 Peter 3:16 as he is warning his readers of the errors of wicked people…Peter is holding Paul’s teaching up as the Gospel.

        Even if this statement could be taken completely at face value, it would only seem to support my earlier claim that Paul was seen as authoritative by the early church despite the fact that he was not an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry or teachings.

        However, I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that the vast majority of scholars are quite convinced that 2 Peter is a pseudepigraphical text, and that it is quite unlikely that it had been written by the apostle Peter.

        When the evidence in the New Testament points so strongly towards a single, consistent Gospel?

        Obviously, I would disagree with the claim that the New Testament does strongly point towards a single, consistent gospel.

      6. Hello sir – how are you today?

        > I’m wondering whether Form Criticism has contributed to this supposition that anonymous facts were
        > presented to anonymous authors who produced anonymous Gospels

        >>Not so much Form Criticism, specifically, but hermeneutics and historiography, in general. The simple
        >>fact that Irenaeus felt it was necessary to attempt to ascribe authorship to the gospels is more than
        >>enough to tell us that these documents had been written anonymously.

        But this is precisely my point. The original intended meaning of the New Testament Gospels requires us to view them as products of a community of believers. Key leaders in this community are referred to constantly by an unmodified name (I’ll come back to this in a moment). The Gospel authors were known in the fledgling Christian community – the individuals who wrote them were known. It was only as the members of this community began to die out…and the realization set in that actually it looked like Jesus wasn’t coming back just yet…that it became necessary to record the names of the authors for us in the distant future. Why do you think that Irenaeus is guessing the author of Mark’s gospel?

        This is such a critical aspect of our discussion. COMMUNITY. There’s nothing like it. Jesus fostered it…the church is built on it…the New Testament witnesses to it. And when it is done right it is such an incredible healing thing for us. The oxygen of Christianity is healing community.

        > Paul referred to these people by first name only for the bare reason that they only had first names.
        > People such as the ones Paul had cause to discuss would not have had a noble cognomen, as one
        > might find on Tiberius Claudius Nero or Flavius Josephus. And they certainly would not have had
        > surnames, which are a far more modern concept.

        There has been some fascinating research done on 1st century Palestinian names. You can catch this in Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” We can work out that in 1st century Palestine that there were a very small number of incredibly common names…and then lots of random unusual ones. The interesting thing is that – the names we find referred to in the Gospels and the letters…are the very ones that research shows are common at that time. This is important circumstantial evidence helping to credibly date the Gospel accounts…
        What you notice is that there are various different approaches …patronymics…taken by the people to differentiate between two people called Simon (for example)…they had many different approaches to this. It was important because so many people shared the same common name. I wont list the techniques they used…but approaches like using nicknames, appending place of birth or residence, father’s name, etc. You know what I mean.
        Now – when it comes to naming the Disciples in Mark and Matthew’s gospel…a lot of care is taken to identify precisely who is being referred to (e.g. James son of Zebedee vs James son of Alphaeus. (BTW – there is an argument to suggest that these carefully prepared lists are part of the qualification of the document…in other words…here are the respected eye witnesses who these accounts come from…the leaders of the Christian community)

        Now – when we look at how various characters are referred to (I’m thinking about Mark specifically) this is significant. Mark was an incredibly common Latin and Greek name at the time. There were lots of them. Yet when he is referred to in the New Testament…he is referred to just as Mark. With no modification or clarification. This suggests that when Christian writers refer to some called Mark without any modification and expect him to be identifiable (he’s not some random bloke…but someone the audience is expected to identify)…then there must have only been one Mark who was a very well known leader in the growing Christian community.

        > What internal evidence can you point to which demonstrates that John Mark authored the second
        > gospel?

        I’ve pointed to some of it already. But I would suggest
        First – you point to the internal evidence that exists in Mark’s text that points to this being primarily (or possibly exclusively) the memoirs of Peter the Apostle
        (e.g. “…Gospel (is designed) in a way that it incorporates and conveys theis Petrine perspective. Several literary features combine to give readers/hearers Peters point of view….” – Richard Baukham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, p.179)
        Second – you point to the internal New Testament evidence that Peter and the well-known leader Mark were close co-workers in the early church (e.g. 1 Peter 5:13)
        Third – you recognize that it is unlikely that Peter could have learned Greek sufficiently to write this gospel himself. But tradition surrounding Mark suggests he was sufficiently educated to do so. Peter needed a translator. Scholars note that this practice was common then – e.g. josephus used secretaries himself.

        When it comes to our discussion about Paul and his reception of the early creed…it seems you have decided that Paul did not receive the creed from the eye witnesses. But I’m not hearing any justification for this position from you. Some feedback from me, sir?…it seems that you are imposing this on the text rather than gleaning it from the text. Certainly the perspective I have proposed…Paul’s history with the early Apostles following his conversion…is very credible given the context and the claims of the New Testament.

        BTW – December is in full swing…I hope the run up to Christmas is being kind to you this year!

        Stu

      7. The Gospel authors were known in the fledgling Christian community – the individuals who wrote them were known.

        This seems to simply be begging the question. What evidence do you have to suggest that the fledgling Christian community knew the authors of the gospels? The simple fact that there was a believing community does not imply that the community was fully aware of every author within their midst. Honestly, we don’t even have evidence that the majority of the fledgling Christians were even aware of all of the canonical gospels, let alone those books’ authors.

        Why do you think that Irenaeus is guessing the author of Mark’s gospel?

        Irenaeus was attempting to ascribe apostolic authority to the books which he utilized over against those utilized by people who he considered to be heretics. If Irenaeus had a book which said one thing, but Valentinus used a book which stated something contrary, Irenaeus had a vested interest in showing that his book carried greater authority.

        This is such a critical aspect of our discussion. COMMUNITY. There’s nothing like it. Jesus fostered it…the church is built on it…the New Testament witnesses to it

        Community is hardly unique to Christianity. The Pythagoreans were an incredibly tight-knit brotherhood six centuries before there were any Christians, and yet many Pythagorean works were anonymous or forged in the name of someone authoritative. Even within the fledgling Christian community, we know for a fact that quite a number of widely used books were anonymous or forgeries– for example, the Didache (anonymous) or the Apocalypse of Peter (forged). The fact that community was integral to early Christianity implies nothing at all about the authorship of the gospels.

        Yet when he is referred to in the New Testament…he is referred to just as Mark. With no modification or clarification.

        This is simply not true, in the slightest. Acts 12:12 and 12:25 both refer to “John whose other name was Mark,” and Acts 15:37 refers to “John called Mark,” both of which are certainly ‘modifications or clarifications’ as to the particular person being discussed. Acts 13:5 and Acts 13:13 refer to him simply as “John,” excluding the “Mark” name entirely. The only refers to John Mark in Acts which refers to him as “Mark,” alone, is in 15:40– however, this comes only a few sentences after it had already been clarified that “John called Mark” was being discussed.

        you point to the internal evidence that exists in Mark’s text that points to this being primarily (or possibly exclusively) the memoirs of Peter the Apostle
        (e.g. “…Gospel (is designed) in a way that it incorporates and conveys theis Petrine perspective. Several literary features combine to give readers/hearers Peters point of view….” – Richard Baukham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, p.179)

        This only repeats the claim and says that there is evidence. It doesn’t actually list any evidence. What internal evidence is there to indicate that the Gospel of Mark was actually written by John Mark? Or even simply by someone who had access to Peter’s eyewitness testimony?

        you point to the internal New Testament evidence that Peter and the well-known leader Mark were close co-workers in the early church (e.g. 1 Peter 5:13)

        I asked for the internal evidence that Mark was written by John Mark. The First Epistle of Peter is, obviously, external to the Gospel of Mark. Even ignoring that fact, however, why would you think that a reference to “[Peter’s] son Mark” is referring to the same John Mark discussed in Acts? John Mark is never referred to as being Peter’s son, in Acts; and we both agree that Mark was a fairly common name, at the time. There is nothing to indicate that the Mark of 1 Peter 5:13 has anything to do with either the John Mark of Acts or the writing of the Gospel of Mark.

        But tradition surrounding Mark suggests he was sufficiently educated to do so. Peter needed a translator. Scholars note that this practice was common then – e.g. josephus used secretaries himself.

        Yes, later traditions assert that John Mark was Peter’s translator– particularly Papias. These are the very traditions I am rejecting as being late and not supported by any evidence.

        Furthermore, there are fairly large differences between secretaries, translators, and biographers. Josephus may have utilized secretaries in writing final copies of his works, but he performed the translation of all of his material himself, at great personal expense of both time and money. This tells us nothing at all about whether or not Peter ever employed a secretary, let alone that his secretary was John Mark and that John Mark had an extensive Greek education and that John Mark went on to write a biography of Jesus based on recollections received from Peter.

        it seems you have decided that Paul did not receive the creed from the eye witnesses. But I’m not hearing any justification for this position from you.

        I’m not saying that it is impossible for Paul to have received the creed from eyewitnesses. I am saying that there is no justification to the claim that he did received the creed from eyewitnesses, nor to the claim that the creed originated with eyewitnesses.

        Furthermore, Paul is quite explicit in his letter to the Galatians (1:12, especially) that he received the gospel directly from Jesus as revelation, and that no human being had taught it to him. Paul was very clearly founding churches as an authority before he had ever had any contact with those who had been eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry.

        BTW – December is in full swing…I hope the run up to Christmas is being kind to you this year!

        The Yule has been a bit busy, thus far, but quite elevating! Thanks, and I wish the same to you in return!

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