Are the gospels genuine?

by ackack 79 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • Abaddon


    When comparing ancient documents you have to compare like-for-like.

    I think the Iliad would have considerably less chance of being forged than the Bible, for example. It's a quasi-historical story that makes no claims as to being the book by which one should lead one's life. It doesn't point to a partcular person in the narrative and say to the reader "This person is your saviour!"

    One can seemingly make a defence of the authenticity and 'accuracy' (as accounts of real events) of Biblical manuscripts by making an implied conspiracy claim of sorts;

    "Hey, it's no fair the Bible gets examined so critically, the Iliad isn't, what gives?"

    ... but it is like comparing apples and oranges. There are a host of reasons why the manuscripts in the NT may have been mixed, matched, warmed-over and ammended until the cows came home. The Bible was being used to found a religion, give it authority, relevence and structure.

    To complain that other ancient manuscripts that world relgions were NOT being built around (and which thus had far less pressure for fabrication or flim-flamery in the "copying" process) are not subjected to the saem scrutiny is to ignore you're making an invalid comparison.

    The lead character of the Iliad could have had his name changed by a 'zealous scribe' to Homer Simpson and given the power to leap over small temples with a single bound and light fires with his eye lasers, and we'd be none the wiser, but WHY would someone do that? They'd have no real motive to do so.

    In comparison alteration or wholesale fabrication of Bibliocal passages that were meant to solve doctrinal disputes or give authenticity to claims of Messaihship had a lot of potential benefits for those making such changes.

  • Narkissos


    You are mixing up two completely distinct issues, namely (1) the textual transmission of the Gospels and (2) their historicity. A fictional narrative may be accurately transmitted, that doesn't make it historical.

    And all later discoveries of manuscripts, eg, the Dead Sea Scrolls, confirm rather than refute the accuracy of previously existing manuscripts.

    Despite some unwarranted claims to the contrary, there is no evidence of any Christian writing among the DSS.

    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.

    This cuts both ways: what if there were no eyewitnesses of any real Jesus? Or what if the eyewitnesses of some real Jesus were not in touch with, or not interested in the Christ myth? By mainstream datation, the older texts in the NT (i.e. Paul) are about the Christ myth, not the "historical Jesus".

    And no competent scholar denies the first century dating of virtually all of the NT.

    I disagree. There are good arguments for dating Luke-Acts, the Pastorals or 2 Peter well into the 2nd century for instance.

    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.

    Again, this is perhaps the strongest argument against a historical Jesus (or at least a historical Jesus with any significant connection with the NT).

    (I'll try to respond to the rest of your interesting post later as I have to go now...)

  • peacefulpete

    Besides who says that the Illiad was not modified or corrupted from it's original form? It likely was, especially early on before it rose in status and circulation.

  • Narkissos

    OK, I'm back.

    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).

    Circular reasoning. The basic Markan plot perfectly suits the scheme of a god or demi-god pretending to walk incognito among humans, yet recognised by the spirits; the revelation to the chosen few also bears the distinct mark of legend: voice from heaven, walking on the sea, quieting the storm, transfiguration, etc. The added features of virginal birth (Matthew-Luke) or general resurrection of the saints (Matthew 27) attest to diverse legendary developments... Only when you choose to take all those as historical against the rest of objectively similar literature can you "see" such a difference.

    Let me add that the whole sequence "apostolic church then apostasy" is exactly what 2nd-century NT literature would have us believe... circular reasoning again.

    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.

    Some details are correct, others are not (for instance, the whole presentation of Pharisees and synagogues in Galilee points to a post-70 AD situation). Pseudepigraphal and pseudo-historical literature are full of this kind of details which are designed to look genuine, always overdoing it (see Leolaia's post on 2 Peter). Btw I fail to see how John 12:3 (and parallels) points to a 1st-century Israelite context -- otoh, it is one of the closest parallels with the Isis-Osiris myth.

    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?)

    The problem is that the four Gospels are not independent from each other, as has been discussed earlier. Cross-checking points to the development, merging and separation of traditions. Inconsistencies are narrative too. For instance, the Matthew and Luke nativity stories are completely different, incompatible with each other (in Matthew, Joseph and Mary live in Judea and then move to Galilee; in Luke they live in Galilee and move to Judea). Luke carefully avoids the Markan reference to an apparition of the resurrected Jesus in Galilee because he wants the church to start in Jerusalem...

    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.

    Persecution, especially from the Roman authorities, came long after the construction and settling of the essential Christ myth.

    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)

    And he did so about the Transfiguration story... Well, have a look at the pseudepigrapha section in to get a fuller perspective about the 1st-century Jewish mindset(s).

    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.
    Again, this is all about transmission, not historicity. And the variants in the stories shows how transmission works, always involving both continuity and difference.
  • hillbilly

    The versions I own are printed on 'real' paper....................


  • Leolaia
    The Gospels are full of little details that are found only in eyewitness descriptions or modern realistic fiction.

    I encourage you to read the third century Pseudo-Clementine Homilies or the Acts of Pilate for some perspective on this.

  • Forscher

    I wasn't ignoring your post Leolaia, This is a busy time for me where I have to pop in and out. You said:

    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.

    As you know, Griesbach's view is based on historical tradition found in the early church fathers. The theories you consider credible are based on speculations which make certain assumptions as to origins. First, the assumption is made that all of Jesus' followers were basically illiterate and had no great understanding of the Greek of their day. Therefore the Gospel that is both short and has relatively crude Geek must be the oldest of the gospels. It also assumes that the first writings would be like the Koran, a collection of sayings with little else.

    Matthew was a tax collector, which implies that he was literate and posessed a much better comprehension of the greek lingua franca than his compatriots in order to communicate effectively with his Roman overlords. He would also be literate in order to keep good records and communicate by writing with those same Romans. Thus, a Gospel attributed to that apostle should be expected to show a little bit more sophistication than, say, Peter, who was a fisherman, a peasant. So, the sophistication of the Gospel of Matthew is not an effective argument against it being first in order IMHO.

    The argument as to which came next, Luke or Mark, that gets a little muddied and I think the argument can go either way. Could Mark have written his before Luke with Luke basing his, in part on Mark? Of course it is possible.

    I find the lack of backbone on the part of some scholars not confronting the secular speculation and trying to find a schema which both rejects "Q' and affirms a primacy for Mark astounding. I reckon it just goes to show how far secular scholarship has infected religious departments who should know better. And how afraid even theologians are to be thought of as "supersticious", or "fanatical".


  • Nate Merit
    Nate Merit

    Dear Ackack

    It has come to my attention, through various and sundry means and channels, not all of which are entirely legal and/or legitimate, that you do, in fact, entertain and possibly endorse the wild and ungrounded theory that a hypothetical document (the existence of which was first posited by demon-possessed liberal commie bastards) designated "Q" does in fact exist.

    Now, before I dispel the ignorance and delusional thinking that always accompanies this grave and patholgical error, let me lift the veil, so to speak, and reveal the repellant, repugnant, and downright ugly truth concerning this here bold and fanciful heresy, to wit: That I am now so stoned that I am no longer quite sure of what the hell it is that I'm going on about. See? That's precisely what the demon-possessed liberal commie bastards that dreamed up this here lunatic assertion would have you believe, given the general state of ignorance and superstition prevalent in our day and age

    "Q" does not in fact stand for or represent the German (Otherwise known as Kraut) word "Quelle" which those of us who speak God's own King James English call "Source." (You new agers just back off nice and slow and there won't be no trouble) On the contrary, and to the eternal detriment of not just American society and planet Earth, but perforce the entire known universe and it's environs, the designation "Q" in fact represents the the Unholy Trinity of liberal bias, to wit: Quazy Quacks Quacking.

    That's precisely what the demon-possessed liberal commie bastards that dreamed up this here lunatic assertion would have you believe, again, given the general state of ignorance and superstition prevalent in our day and age. Furthermore, and in conclusion, it is my considered and scholarly opinion as a card carrying certified member of the intellectual elite, that this matter is beneath further notice unless or until we are notified otherwise by the duly appointed or elected officials to whom our mental and spiritual health, safety, well-being and happiness has been legally and rightfully delegated.

    Gentleman, I stand upon my conclusions.

    "Just a good ol boy"

  • Narkissos

    May I add, as a footnote to Nate's contribution, that "Q" in French sounds like "ass" -- not the donkey -- which often leads to delightful double entendre in otherwise very serious theological conferences.

  • ackack

    Nate Merit, was that like some kinda form letter? :)

    Narkissos, I'm all for degenerating the dialogue with some toilet humor. :)


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