Are the gospels genuine?

by ackack 79 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Leolaia

    Forscher...."Matthew", "Luke", "Mark"....these are names in gospel stories, Acts (or rather "John Mark"), and the Pauline and Petrine epistles. But the gospels that have been attributed to them make no claims of authorship...the link is made only in the titles which are secondary to the rest of the text and based on second-century tradition. Moreover, Luke acknowledges the existence of earlier gospels and notes that the present gospel was written after "carefully investigating everything from the beginning" (1:1-4), i.e. after examining and deciding upon what sources he thought to be reliable.

  • Forscher

    Ok Ackack,

    First, before anybody accuses me of just lifting this information from the watchtower literature, I want you to know that while I was a student at a university I verified the sources I am going to mention. I reckon I was already leary of the way the WTBTS cites material and wanted to prove to myself the veracity of their citations.

    Josephus in his "The Jewish Antiquities" mentions both Jesus and his half-brother James in book twenty, section 200. I am aware that the Jesus Seminar types charge that the passage was added by a later Christian copyist. However, they have no proof of their assertion since all ancient copies of the work contain the passage.
    Tacitus, the ancient Roman historian mentions him in his "Annals" @ book 15 par. 44.
    Seutonias, in his work, "The Deified Claudias", explaining the expulsion of the Jews from Rome under Claudias' reign, mentions one "Chrestus", which may well be a reference to the Christians, as instigating of problems and riots among the Jews. I realize this is a weak reference, but many hold it to be among the sources.
    Justin Martyr Mentions that Jesus' existence was documented in the official Roman records of his day. Since he challenged his readers to check it for themselves, then the documentation was there and we can take his writing as independent verification of Jesus' existence. Remember that Justin Matryr gave up his life for preaching about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
    That does not include other ancient sources that were primarily Christian in nature. So, there you have it. One Jewish historian, who was no friend
    to the Christian faith, two Roman historians, also no friends of the Christians, and one very early Christian convert who'd checked out the Roman records himself and verified what he wrote about. All of them extra-Biblical.


  • Forscher

    Greetings Leolaia,

    You make a good case for Luke being the last of the the three closely related Gospels written and based on the earlier two. Their is nothing in my earlier post which would contradict that case since I do agree with it. The likely scenario is that Matt. wrote his first, mark a little later incorporating material from Matt. in his along with his own recollections. Then Luke Wrote his for, Theophilus, incorporating material either from Mark's Gospel (being a coworker with him he likely had a copy of or access to Mark's), or both.
    That the names are ascribed by tradition I do not dispute. However, other ancient works, such as some of Plato's writings, are accepted as authored by them on the basis of tradition as well.

    sorry, I have to run!


  • peacefulpete

    Forscher, your research stopped short. When I was 11 I bought a copy of Josephus' Works and impressed my elders with my "research", which amounted to looking up the controvertial passages and exclaiming that theywere indeed there. In time I bothered to wonder why the passages are controvertial and disputed. The weight of evidence is overwhelmingly in support of the position that the passages were forged or at best interpolated. The "ancient" copies of Josephus are in fact only 8th-11th century copies. There are many variations in the controvertial passages and the words were/are absent in others. Tacitus was also probably interpolated to add credibilty to the historization of the Jesus story but even if not Tacitus was likely merely sourcing Christian tradition that was well established by that late date. There are many problems with the passage as it reads and most critical scholars regard it as irrelevent to the question of an historical Jesus. Seutonius mentions a Chestus not Jesus. Chrestus was a Latin word not equivalent to Christ. The story is about insurrection not religious differences. I do not understand why the quote keeps comming up as evidence for an historical Jesus. Justin martyr is responding in part to the charge that the Christian Christ was a fictional character. 'Trypho' was a literary foil being used to voice common objections to the Christian faith. Therefore in the work he has Trypho doubt the existance of Jesus and yet assume it. Justin never quotes a Roman document that would refute this charge but assumes that such must exist. He was wrong. A forged 5th century report was later concocted to fill the void.

    I'm shooting from the hip here but hopfully it will stimulate some interest in the issues.

  • Leolaia

    Forscher....The Griesbach view of Matthean priority is imho just not credible; Matthew reproduces about 90% of the text of Mark (600 out of 661 verses), while Luke reproduces only 53% (350 out of 661 verses), and since Matthew also adds almost double the amount of content of Mark (much of it also shared by Luke, often against Mark), and since Luke also follows Markan order closer than Matthew (which has the pericopes in a different order), the best explanation is that Matthew and Luke used Mark and either Luke used Matthew as well or both Luke and Matthew used an additional common source.

    Here is some discussion of some of these and other lines of evidence:

    PP...There are other parallels in Hippolytus' description of the Naassenes to the Gospel of Thomas as well. He says that the Naassenes referred to the soul as a "corpse" (as being buried in the flesh, 5.8.22), which recalls Thomas 56 ("Whoever has become acquainted with the world has found a corpse"). Immediately after quoting their saying about "devouring the dead and make them living", he also quotes them as referring to "pearls of that unportrayable one cast before the creature below" (5.8.33), which reflects the saying in Thomas 93. The Naassenes also theologized about the "stone which the builders rejected" (5.7.35), again corresponding to the logion in Thomas 66. Notice that in both these examples the specifically Naassene interpretation is missing in the Thomas text. Hippolytus also mentions that the Naassenes viewed their traditions as partly coming from "James the brother of the Lord" and "Mariamne" (5.7.1), which reflects the prominence of James and Mariham (= Mary) in the Gospel of Thomas (cf. 12, 21, 112). Elsewhere, Hippolytus mentions their teaching that those achieving gnosis "cast off their clothing and all become bridegrooms, having been made male through the virgin spirit" (5.8.44), and such language again closely parallels the material in Thomas 21, 37 (which also mentions the "little children" paralleled by Thomas 4 cited by Hippolytus), 22 and 114. Hippolytus also records several "kingdom of heaven" notions of the Naassenes reminiscent of Thomas. He states that they say that "the kingdom of heaven is to be sought for within a man" (5.7.20-21) and "the kingdom of heaven that reposes within us as a treasure, as leaven hid in the three measures of meal" (5.8.8), and this reflects Thomas 3, 113 (and Luke 17:20-21), and especially 96. There are a few other interesting similarities as well.

  • Leolaia

    Hey, I just found an awesome interlinear of the Gospel of Thomas:

    Very helpful to those of us (myself included) who don't know Coptic. It also has a link to an interlinear of the Greek fragments.

  • peacefulpete

    I realize it is obvious but the great differences suggest to me that what Hippolytus was quoting was another work with a strong relationship with the later datable work also named G.Thomas that we have. The question then becomes whether the G.Thomas was altererd by the Naasenes (which is presumed often, I believe prejudicially) or the G.Thomas we have was a 3rd century revision of the earlier Naasene, or other unattested form. Thomas was a popular cat in the 2nd/3rd century.

  • Leolaia

    I agree that the text was in flux, as can be seen by comparing the Oxyrhynchus text with the Coptic text (which merges two of the Coptic sayings from different parts of Thomas into a single saying), and I agree that the Naassene gospel lies somewhere in the stream of textual transmission of Thomas, which the other versions of Thomas may attest different offshoots of the gospel's history. I still feel however that Hippolytus did not necessarily have the gospel in front of him and quoted it from memory, leading him to conflate or garble distinct sayings (as other apostolic fathers and others did from quoting from memory), and he also at times alluded mainly to the Naassene interpretation rather than the saying itself (tho the logion can be seen lurking behind the statements).

  • Undecided

    Since the book of Revelation is part of this supposedly word from God, could someone please expain it to me? What good is it if it can't be understood?

    If what the Jesus character said was true, why hasn't something happened, since it was 2000 years ago and there seemed to be some urgency in his words? This sacrifice doesn't seem to be working since we all die like we did before it was given. How long does it take for God to forgive humanity?

    Ken P.

  • yaddayadda

    I honestly think they are genuine.

    If the same objective, scientific approach is applied to the NT texts that is used on all other ancient documents, the NT bear up remarkable well. For instance, there are about 500 different copies of the NT earlier than 500AD, many of which are in amazingly good condition. The next most reliable ancient text we have is the Iliad, for which there are only fifty copies that date from 500 years or less after its origin. There is only one very late manuscript of Tacitus's Annals, but no one is reluctant to treat that as authentic history. If the books of the NT did not contain accounts of miracles or make radical, uncomfortable claims on our lives, they would be accepted by every scholar in the world. In other words, it is not objective, neutral science but subjective prejudice or ideology that fuels skeptical scripture scholarship.

    The manuscripts we have are not only very old but mutually reinforcing and consistent. There are no real important discrepancies. And all later discoveries of manuscripts, eg, the Dead Sea Scrolls, confirm rather than refute the accuracy of previously existing manuscripts.

    Also, it takes about 2 or 3 generations for a myth to evolve, otherwise there would be eyewitnesses of the real Jesus that would refute the myth. Both disciples and enemies would have had reasons to oppose the new myth. Yet we find no evidence at all of anyone ever opposing the so-called myth of Jesus as the miracle working Son of God. And no competent scholar denies the first century dating of virtually all of the NT.

    If a mythic 'layer' had ben added later onto an originally merely human Jesus, we should find some evidence, at least indirectly and secondhand, of this earlier layer. We find instead an absolute and total absence of any such evidence anywhere, either internal (in the NT texts themselves) or external, anywhere else, in Christian, anti-Christian or non-Christian sources.

    The inventiveness alleged by modern critics is not found in the Christian Greek Scriptures. Rather, it appears in documents of the second century C.E. So certain unscriptural narratives about Christ were produced when an apostasy from true Christianity was developing among communities alienated from the apostolic congregation. The style of the Gospels is not the style of myths but that of real, though unscientific, eyewitness description. Anyone sensitive to literary styles can compare the Gospels to any of the mythic religious literature of the time, and the difference will appear remarkable and unmistakable: for instance, the intertestamental apocalyptic literature of both Jews and Gentiles, or pagan mythic fantasies like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Flavius Philostratus's sotry of the wonder-worker Apollonius of Tyana (AD 220).

    If the events recorded in the Gospels did not really happen, then these authors invented modern realistic fantasy nineteen centuries ago. The Gospels are full of little details that are found only in eyewitness descriptions or modern realistic fiction. they also include dozens of details of life in first-century Israel that could not have been known by someone not living in that time and place (see John 12:3, for instance). And there are no second-century anachronisms, either in language or content.

    There are four Gospels, not just one. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were written by four different writers, at four different times, probably for four different audiences and with four somewhat different purposes and emphases. So a lot of cross-checking is possible. By a textual trigonometry or triangulation, we can fix the facts with far greater assurance here than with any other ancient personage or series of events. The only inconsistencies are in chronology (only Luke's Gospel claims to be in exact order) and accidentals like numbers (eg, did the women see one angel or two at the empty tomb?)

    If the divine Jesus of the Gospels is a myth, who invented it? Whether it was his first disciples or some later generation, no possible motive can account for this invention. For until the Edict of Milan in AD 313, Christians were subject to persecution, often tortured and martyred, and hated and oppressed for their beliefs. No one invents an elaborate practical joke in order to be crucified, stoned or beheaded.

    First century Jews and Christians were not prone to belief in myths. They were already more 'demythologized' than any other people. The orthodox were adamantly, even cantankerously and intolerantly, opposed to the polytheistic mths or paganismand to any ecumenical syncretism. Nor would anyone be less likely to confuse myth and fact than a Jew. Peter explicitly makes the point that the Gospel story is historical fact, not "cleverly devised myths" (2 Pet 1:16)

    The accusation that the Gospels are legends also stumbles on the strict rabbinic method of teaching that was in fashion during the time of the writing of the Gospels. That method adhered closely to learning by rote—a memorizing process using routine or repetition. This favors the accurate and careful rendering of Jesus' sayings and works as opposed to the creation of an embellished version.

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