What happened between Jesus death & the gospels being written?

by yaddayadda 52 Replies latest watchtower bible

  • yaddayadda

    Hi, I'm interested in researching this subject. Can anyone recommend any good books that offer critical theories on the origins of early Christianity, specifically the content and creation of the gospels. For instance, how much of the gospels is underlying historical truth and how much might be exaggerations that crept in through, say 'chinese whispers' in the time between Jesus death and the writing of the gospels ?

    I've researched the claims that the story of Jesus contains a lot of elements borrowed from earlier pre-Christians pagan elements (Horus, Dionysius, etc) but have also read convincing rebuttals to that theory.

    I'm satisfied that the overall accurate textual transmission of the scriptures is adequately proven.

    Aren't looking for anything on the gnostic gospels particularly, having satisfied myself on those. Just the NT gospels.

    Just constructive posts please.

  • Leolaia

    There is literally a TON of material on this. For a novice, a few books come to mind. The Five Gospels (Funk, et al.) and The Acts of Jesus assess the material in each of the gospels to determine how likely any particular verse represents what the "historical Jesus" did or said, and can provide one a general picture of some of the major pieces of evidence and approach. However, the determination usually follows a fairly particular modern understanding of the "historical Jesus" (i.e. one that privileges moral-wisdom instruction over eschatology), and thus can be misleading if you put too much stock in their judgments. A more advanced but awesome analysis of how the gospels came to be written is Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, which shows quite well how the gospels went through various literary stages and editions and expanded and interpreted earlier material.

  • Elsewhere

    For about 40 to 70 years, everyone forgot about Jesus... then all of the sudden everyone remembered.

    Imagine if the Apollo moon missions happened, but everyone on earth forgot about them until this year and then all of the sudden everyone started talking about it again. I find this very hard to believe and because of this I find it very hard to believe that a Jesus every really existed.

  • yaddayadda

    LOL That doesn't add up Elswhere. Just because there was a gap between when Jesus purportedly died and when the gospels were written doesn't mean everyone 'forgot' about him. There is evidence of a strong, memorized oral tradition. They didn't forget about him they just talked about him and didn't write it down for a while. It is stated that the gospels were written to capture Jesus essential sayings and deeds before the ageing earliest disciples and eyewitnesses died off from old age, to prevent the 'chinese whispers' effect.

    Thanks Leolaia.

  • Elsewhere
    There is evidence of a strong, memorized oral tradition. They didn't forget about him they just talked about him and didn't write it down for a while.

    If nothing was written down about the Apollo moon landings and only word-of-mouth information was passed on, just how accurate do you thing the information would be? I suspect it would be extremely distorted and inaccurate... just as in the little "Rumor Game" kids like to play. By the time the message reaches the last person it is nothing like the original... and this happens in just a few minutes. Imagine what would happen over 40 years.

  • Satanus

    Paul was the motive power behind the writing commencement. Some say that he was not just a roman ctizen, but also a govt agent, sent to plant disinformation in order to disrupt the jewish nation from the inside


  • yaddayadda

    Elsewhere, I can understand the scepticism but it seems unreasonable to just dismiss the historicity of Jesus. From what I've read, nearly all scholars and biblical historians accept that there must have been a person called Jesus and that there is a layer of truth underneath it all. The only question is how deep that layer is.

    I'm not trying to defend the orthodox Christian view. I want to get to the bottom of this, or at least give all the various theories a fair trials. From what I have researched so far it seems to me that the new testament writings meet the hallmarks of genuine historical documents. Any objective historian would give them the thumbs up, except for 1 big thing: the miracles! If it weren't for the miracles in the gospels then evidently no one would doubt their historicity.

    Re the Chinese whispers that you feel is the cause of it all, in response to your Apollo moon landings analogy, here is another analogy I've read:

    # During the period when the Gospel writers wrote their accounts many eyewitnesses would still have been alive and would have objected if the Gospels were exaggerated in some way. This would be something like a group of people trying to fictionalise a whole series of events that happened during World War II. There are too many people still living who would be able to challenge inaccuracies.

    # Similarly, as with the second world war the events that occurred were striking and significant, making long lasting impressions upon the minds of the people who went through the experience. This is even more so with the Gospels. The things that Jesus said and did would have had powerful impact and long lasting impression upon the memories of those who witnessed the events. The culture of Jesus' day held to `oral tradition'. People spent much time and effort in memorizing texts. Michael Green observes that many Jews memorized the whole Pentateuch and that there were Greeks who could recite large portions of Homer's Iliad (The Truth of God Incarnate, p. 124).

    I'd like to find out more about the claim by this author Michael Green that there was a strong Jewish tradition of memorization. If this is correct then it would seem to run against the theory that so many mythological embellishments and supernatural fables could have been added to the Jesus story in such a short time through a 'chinese whispers' effect. Can anyone refer me to any sources?

  • peacefulpete

    What research have you already done to arrive at the conclusions you have? In my opinion until you rethink some of these your present question will lead only to worthless reconstructions of imagined historical Jesuses. There have been many threads on this forum that demonstrate the complex redaction history of the Gospels and the preGospel sources of many of the "sayings". We also have discussed the influences on the formative Jesus stories which include the wider religious mythos and Jewish metaphor. Something we have also touched upon is the very attractive hypothesis that the Jesus stories are a composite of already fully developed John the Baptist and Simon Magnus legends, who were themselves revered as messiahs in their respective camps. Also contributing was the anticipation of a returning Joshua/Jesus savior. In a number of NT texts the name "Jesus" is a title bestowed upon the Christ figure in fullfillment of this anticipation. If there is something within this comment you would want to dealve into, just ask, but be specific as its a huge topic.

  • peacefulpete
  • Terry
    I'm satisfied that the overall accurate textual transmission of the scriptures is adequately proven.



    There were stories circulating about Jesus and his followers. That's all; just stories. Word of mouth telling and retelling with embellishments.

    We don't have any original writings or even copies of original writings.

    How is it you are so easily convinced that there is accurate textual transmission?

    Have you read Bart Ehrman's MISQUOTING JESUS?

    Many of the accounts concerning Jesus could not even have been witnessed by those claiming to know.

    It is stuff and nonsense.

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