Are the gospels genuine?

by ackack 79 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Narkissos
    If the gospels are not genuine if they are fake then the whole christian religion of 2000 years is totally pointless and a deception, I don't feel it is that way as after all the admonitions and overall message of the gospel is very sound and beneficial for mankind as long as the whole of society embraced it.

    What a strange argument.

    A lot of fictions (perhaps most of them) are morally, or spiritually, "sound and beneficial".

  • Leolaia
    I am not convinced by the logic used to arrive at the early date for the Greek fragments of G. Thomas. Nearly aways are they based upon the premise of 'sayings' preceding narratives and the alledged similarity with the imaginary Q.

    The Greek fragments are dated on paleographic grounds, and there is also the early witness of Hippolytus (c. 210-220) on the existence of the Gospel of Thomas. Since there is claimed early priority for Mark and the reconstructed Semeia Gospel, I don't think it is necessarily claimed that narratives per se are necessarily later than "sayings", but there is much evidence that the sayings material is indeed early and often applied freely to different narrative contexts, and that individual sayings may cluster into dialogues, obtain interpretive accretions and applications, and become embedded within secondary discourses, etc. It is also the literary form of the sayings in Thomas (i.e. lacking the secondary applications and interpretations of the canonical parallels, having a more oral form, etc.) that argues for an early date, as well as their less developed gnostic theology. None of this involves anything having to do with Q, and Q anyway is not a good parallel to Thomas since it would have a narrative arc missing in Thomas. Rather, Thomas has a parenetic structure like other collections of wisdom sayings (such as in Epictetus in the secular literature, or Sirach in Judaism), testimonia, or didactic parenesis as in the "Epistle of Enoch" in 1 Enoch or Jude. Nor does an early second century date have to involve any historical Jesus per se anyway; we are talking about a corpus of sayings used by a community at a given time.

  • katydid

    I'm reading "Jesus and Yahweh - The Names Divine" by Harold Bloom and it asks a lot of these same questions. Some may never be answered. We might be stuck with a New Testament with a nameless author(s). It's an interesting study, to be sure, to try to find out where the material came from and investigate clues to determine who, what, where, why. But only if there's no hockey game on and in 20 minutes there will be.

    Seriously, I believe there was a source "gospel", call it Q or whatever. And synoptic authors borrowed from each other. But in 100 years I'm pretty sure fundy beliefs will be gone, and if the human race is still here it might be on its way out too. We live in a precious time in history. Let's not blow it by worrying too much about some fictional "be good go to paradise" book. Of course the Bible isn't alone in that category. Just see it for what it is -- myth designed (?) to teach some lessons and yes, it's perfectly okay to pick and choose what you want, like Navigator here, or like AA and his complete disbelief.

  • peacefulpete

    Leolaia, I don't want to match wits with you, I know I'd loose. First I slightly mispoke, I meant that the Greek fragments are used as part of the argument that the Book was very early, some say as early as 50 CE. I was once excited by this possibility but no longer. The quote by Hippolytus (235?) is from a writing called The Gospel according to Thomas but this is not certain this is the same work. In my opinion the one quote we have suggests otherwise. below is the quote and the closest G.Thomas parallel.

    Hippolytus from a 'Gospel according to Thomas' used by the Naassenes: "He who seeks me will find me in children from seven years old; for there in the fourteenth age, having been hidden, I shall become manifest."

    G.Thomas: Jesus said: The man aged in days will not hesitate to ask a little child of seven days about the place of life, and he shall live; for there are many first who shall be last, and they will become a single one.

    Cyril insisted that the G.Thomas was written by a disciple of Mani (post 245ce).

    I would like to know more about the paleographic grounds and just what they consist of. Is is really possible to date a text so precisely on a graphical evidence alone?

    Sorry if this derailed the topic.

  • peacefulpete

    BTW I also feel the supposed Semeia Gospel is also a phantom. The writer of G.John numbered the signs, so what. Why is it all the rage to conjure 'sources' for unique features of each book? I am of the opinion it is rooted in the search for an historical Jesus. The earlier hypothesiszed sources can be made the more grist for the 'historical reconstruction' mill. When we just let the writers have some writing talent most all of these 'sources' evaporate.

  • Leolaia

    There is adequate documentary evidence to show that the Manichaeans were indeed acquainted with the Gospel of Thomas and used it (cf. the many parallels in the Manichaean Psalm Book), but I highly doubt Cyril of Jerusalem knew anything about the book's actual authorship and was interested mainly in impugning its reputation to prevent others from reading it. As it is, the book does not look like a Manichaean composition per se and it lacks distinctive Manichaean ideas. On the other hand, Mani himself was influenced by the Mandaeans and the Elkasites and likely adopted literature current among them (as he reportedly did with a wide range of literature including Persian and Indian texts); in fact, the Acts of Thomas was also adopted by the sect, which has a different background than the Gospel of Thomas, suggesting that they accepted Thomasian literature in general as scripture (cf. Mani referring to The Twin as the source of his revelation).

    The Naassenes apparently had a more developed gnosticism than expressed in Thomas (as were the Manichaeans), if the Naassene Fragment is anything to go by, yet they too likely adopted a pre-existing proto-gnostic text as scripture, or possibly modified it in their own community. The two texts paraphrased by Hippolytus (5.7.20, 5.8.32) bear some striking resemblences to the Greek and Coptic recensions of Thomas. The first one appears to be a garbled conflation of Thomas 2, 4, and 77:

    Hippolytus: "One who seeks (ho zétón) will find me (eme heurései) in little children seven years old (en paidiois apo etón hepta), for there, hidden in the fourteenth age, I am revealed".
    Thomas 2: "Let one who seeks (ho zétón) to continue seeking until he finds (heuré)".
    Thomas 4: "A person old in days will not hesitate to ask a little child seven days old (paidion hepta hémerón) about the place of life, and that person will live."
    Thomas 77: "Lift up the stone, and you will find me (heuréseis me) there. Split the piece of wood, and I am there".

    The other text cited by Hippolytus is clearly Thomas 11:

    Hippolytus: "If you ate dead things (nekra ephagete) and made them living (zónta epoiésate), what will you do if you eat living things?"
    Thomas 11: "The dead are not alive, and the living will not die. During the days when you ate what is dead, you made it alive".

    The same thought is contained in Thomas 7, the logion about the lion becoming human when eaten by a man, as well as in Thomas 60 which warned against becoming eaten like a carcass. These parallels (unattested elsewhere concerning little children seven X old and making dead things living by eating them) are imho sufficient to show that the Gospel of Thomas known to Hippolytus was a version of the gospel attested at Oxyrhynchus and Nag Hammadi.

    BTW, shortly after Hippolytus wrote concerning the Gospel of Thomas used by the Naassenes, Origin (in AD 233) also noted a "Gospel according to Thomas" (alongside a Gospel of Matthias) was popular in Egypt, suggesting a wider circulation than the Naassenes or the later Manichaeans (Manichaenism did not reach Egypt until AD 244).

    All in all, a second-century date is most plausible to me, i.e. c. AD 150, tho a date shortly before AD 135 is quite attractive owing the proto-gnostic outlook and lack of distinctive Basilidian, Valentinian, Marcionite, or Sethite ideas (found virtually everywhere else in the Nag Hammadi corpus, aside from the secular tractates)...

  • peacefulpete

    Thanks for the additional food for thought.

  • Forscher

    Good grief folks,

    The Bible indicates that Mark and Luke knew each other and even worked together with Paul at times. Since Mark was apparently in the second tier of disciples around Jesus he probably knew Matthew and was probably familiar with Matthew's account. So the similarity is easily explained without having to invent "Q" as a mysterious source. So I vote for the historicity of the Gospels.

    Since the existance of Jesus is attested to in a few early sources outside the Bible, then I think the debate of whether he existed or not moot.


  • peacefulpete

    Good grief Forscher

  • ackack

    What are these external sources Forscher?


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