Sunday, August 09, 2009

Resurrection:Trnasmitted faithfully from the Begining

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The Gospel accounts of the resurrection were transmitted faithfully from the very beginning. How do we know this? The same way we know that any aspect of ancient world history is a probability: the documents are trustworthy. Now skepitics are probably spitting milk out their noses reading this, but its true.There are three areas of reliability, and two major misconceptions that have to be avoided. Let me start with the misconceptions:


(1) The idea that "reliable" means "realisitic."


I'm sure many skeptics reading this are saying, How can they be reliable when they speak of miracles?. But reliable doesn't' necessarily mean "realistic." This doesn't mean they aren't hard to believe, or that they don't require an assumption about metaphysics; reliable doesn't' mean true. What it does mean I'll get to in a minute.

big misconception number two:

(2) Faithful transmission of history would have to mean that we can prove that eye witnesses wrote the documents. Or worse, that the name sakes wrote the documents (John wrote John, Matthew wrote Matthew). None of that has to be the case.


faithful transmission means the content has been passed down from source to antoher for generations without significant alteration. Trustworthy doesn't mean "we can prove its true," it means we can trust, within a reasonable estimation, that what we have recorded today is what we would find being transmitted in the earilest times. Here is how we know:


I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) and the stories themselves.

II. Early date of the Resurrection narrative.

III. Reliability of the Community.


I. The evidence of the Manuscripts (Ms) themselves.



I wont belabor the point about the documents, since that has been talked to death on message boards for years. See my pages on Bible: canonical Gospels for a lot of good info on this point. But, the often quoted statistic is that the NT MS are generally 98% reliable. What that means is, that to within 98% all the thousands of MS that we possess (24,000 of all types including fragments) say the same things. we don't find passages with wildly different events. There is no one secret passage somwhere that offers some totally different account of what happened. Such a Ms just doesnt' exist and there is no evidence that such a thing ever did exist. The closest we come to that is Secret Mark the fragment found by Martin Smith at Mar Saba; but even Secret Mark assumes the world of the Gospels, it assumes a particular event recorded in Mark, it doesn't' change the basic facts of the story at all.

Now skeptics have been known to argue, "but they are just copying the same story." That's the point! If those events didn't happen, or at least if they were not been taught from the beginning as "the truth," we should find other versions. NO program of eradication could take out all copies in the ancient world. Some fragment of a Gospel would have survived somewhere. If there was a version of the story in which Jesus didn't rise from the dead, or in which he rose on the 8th day, or whatever, we would have a copy of it. The fact that the manuscripts give a cooherent and unified testimony going all the way back as early as it can go (and not contradicted by 35 lost gospels we do possess) indicates that this is a good representation of what happened (see F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents,Are they Reliable?


Unified Narratival Framework


The Gospel of Luke is greatly substantiated by artifacts and history, what about the other Gospels, especially the first Gospel Mark? In the totality of the Synoptic tradition we have a unified framework which is kept intact. We do not see the growth and elabortaion of myth. As Stephen Neil points out, quoting Edwin Clement Hoskyns (1884-1937) in The Riddle of the New Testament (p.104) Neil begins by saying,

"We hold with some confidence that Mark is the earliest of the Gospels and that both Matthew and Luke use him in the Composition of their Gospels, if there is any tendency to heighten the drama...we shall certainly find it in those points at which Matthew and Luke differ from Mark. Do we in fact find that this is the process which has taken place? After a careful survey of the evidence Hoskyns answers in the negative. Matthew and Luke have far more material than Mark...but essentially the presentation of Jesus is the same, and if there is any tendency it is not toward heightening the majesty and mystery of Christ it is rather in the opposite direction--Jesus is a little tamed, a little softened and brought a little nearer to ordienary categories of human existence" (p. 216). He then quotes Hoskyns himself: "In this process of editing they nowhere heighten Marks tremendous picture of Jesus. No deifying of a prophet, or of a mere preacher of righteousness can be detected. They do not introduce Hellenistic superstition or submerge in the light of later Christian faith the lineaments of Mark's picture of Jesus.They attempt to simplify Mark, he is more difficult to understand than they are...."



Rather than seeing a myth spreading and growing and moving toward a deified Christ what we actually see is a stable framework of assumed and testified fact and a relatively stable explanation of what the facts mean. This is in sharp contrast to the skeptic's idea that the simple facts grew out of proportion with re-telling until they culminated in the fantastical notion that Jesus rose from the dead!


II. Early Date of Resurrection Narrative.



A.Myth Takes Centuries to Develop


The importance of early claims is this. Myth takes time to develop. Legends might spring up over night, but they take time to assume a consistent form. William Lane Craig quotes prof. Sherwin-White ("Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95)

"For in order for these stories to be in the main legendary, a very considerable length of time must be available for the evolution and development of the traditions until the historical elements have been supplanted by unhistorical. This factor is typically neglected in New Testament scholarship, as A. N. Sherwin-White points out in Roman Law and Roman Society tn the New Testament. Professor Sherwin-White is not a theologian; he is an eminent historian of Roman and Greek times, roughly contemporaneous with the NT. According to Professor Sherwin-White, the sources for Roman history are usually biased and removed at least one or two generations or even centuries from the events they record. Yet, he says, historians reconstruct with confidence what really happened. He chastises NT critics for not realizing what invaluable sources they have in the gospels. The writings of Herodotus furnish a test case for the rate of legendary accumulation, and the tests show that even two generations is too short a time span to allow legendary tendencies to wipe out the hard core of historical facts. When Professor Sherwin-White turns to the gospels, he states for these to be legends, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be 'unbelievable'; more generations are needed. All NT scholars agree that the gospels were written down and circulated within the first generation, during the lifetime of the eyewitnesses."



B.Resurrection Claims Made Early



(1) Markon Account Very Early


The early date of the transmissions are borne out by the Texts themselves. They are clean and free of myth. The Markon version is especially pure. Consider the use of the phrase "on the third day" which we find in Paul's statement above about the 500 witnesses. Throughout the NT that phrase is used of the Resurrection. Even in Gospels latter than Mark's it is used. But not in Mark. In Mark we are receiving something from the purest strata of the early days. William Lane Craig, (The History of the empty Tomb of Jesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)


Gerd Theissen in The Gospels in Context, (pp. 166-167):

In my opinion, in Mark we can discern behind the text as we now have it a connected narrative that presupposes a certain chronology. According to Mark, Jesus died on the day of Passover, but the tradition supposes it was the preparation day before Passover: in 14:1-2 the Sanhedrin decided to kill Jesus before the feast in order to prevent unrest among the people on the day of the feast. This fits with the circumstance that in 15:21 Simon of Cyrene is coming in from the fields, which can be understood to mean he was coming from his work. It would be hard to imagine any author's using a formulation so subject to misunderstanding in an account that describes events on the day of Passover, since no work was done on that day. Moreover, in 15:42 Jesus' burial is said to be on the "preparation day," but a relative clause is added to make it the preparation day for the Sabbath. Originally, it was probably the preparation day for the Passover (cf. Jn 19:42). The motive for removing Jesus from the cross and burying him before sundown would probably have been to have this work done before the beginning of the feast day, which would not make sense if it were already the day of Passover. Finally, the "trial" before the Sanhedrin presupposes that this was not a feast day, since no judicial proceedings could be held on that day. It would have been a breach of the legal code that the narrator could scarcely have ignored, because the point of the narrative is to represent the proceeding against Jesus as an unfair trial with contradictory witnesses and a verdict decided in advance by the high priests.




(2)Gospel Phraseology implies early telling

"The use of 'the first day of the week' instead of 'on the third day' points to the primitiveness of the tradition. The tradition of the discovery of the empty tomb must be very old and very primitive because it lacks altogether the third day motif prominent in the kerygma, which is itself extremely old, as evident by its appearance in I Cor 15. 4. If the empty tomb narrative were a late and legendary account, then it could hardly have avoided being cast in the prominent, ancient, and accepted third day motif.{81} This can only mean that the empty tomb tradition ante-dates the third day motif itself. Again, the proximity of the tradition to the events themselves makes it idle to regard the empty tomb as a legend. It makes it highly probable that on the first day of the week the tomb was indeed found empty." (Caraig)



(3) Pauline Tesimony Earlier than written Gospels


Paul's statement about the 500 and the credal confession were written prior to any of the Gospels. This places the teaching about 20 years after the fact. That pushes the pre-Markon material in Mark back even further, to near the date of the events (because it took time to form into a credal statement).

"Undoubtedly the major impetus for the reassessment of the appearance tradition was the demonstration by Joachim Jeremias that in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-5 Paul is quoting an old Christian formula which he received and in turn passed on to his converts According to Galatians 1:18 Paul was in Jerusalem three years after his conversion on a fact-finding mission, during which he conferred with Peter and James over a two week period, and he probably received the formula at this time, if not before. Since Paul was converted in AD 33, this means that the list of witnesses goes back to within the first five years after Jesus' death. Thus, it is idle to dismiss these appearances as legendary. We can try to explain them away as hallucinations if we wish, but we cannot deny they occurred. Paul's information makes it certain that on separate occasions various individuals and groups saw Jesus alive from the dead. According to Norman Perrin, the late NT critic of the University of Chicago: "The more we study the tradition with regard to the appearances, the firmer the rock begins to appear upon which they are based." This conclusion is virtually indisputable."




[William Lane Craig,

Leadership University (Webstie) original "Contemporary Scholarship and the Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ," Truth 1 (1985): 89-95]


We can also include in along with this Pauline testimony Hebrews and 1 Peter. Accounts of points that correspond to Gospels circulating by AD 70 (see Luke Timothy Johnson quotation under point I).


C. Pre Markan Redaction Pushes Date of original Writting to mid Century>

However the material upon which the Gospels are based dates back to an earlier period, and in a form which is essentially the same as that which is found in the Synopitics. This actually pushes the date of the Gospel story, including the death, burial and resurrection (including the empty tomb) to A.D. 50.

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that the Gospel accounts are dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this accounted ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." Hemut Koster Ancient Christian Gospels p. 231



(1) Diatessaron

The Diatessaron ..of Titian is the oldest known attempted harmony of the Gospels. It probably dates to about 172 AD and contains almost the entire text of the four canonicals plus other material, probably from other Gospels and perhaps oral traditions. It is attested to in many works and is probably the first presentation of the Gospel in syriac.

In an article published in the Back of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, William L. Petersen states:

"Sometimes we stumble across readings which are arguably earlier than the present canonical text. One is Matthew 8:4 (and Parallels) where the canonical text runs "go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift which Moses commanded as a testimony to them" No fewer than 6 Diatessaronic witnesses...give the following (with minor variants) "Go show yourself to the priests and fulfill the law." With eastern and western support and no other known sources from which these Diatessaranic witnesses might have acquired the reading we must conclude that it is the reading of Tatian...The Diatessaronic reading is certainly more congielian to Judaic Christianity than than to the group which latter came to dominate the church and which edited its texts, Gentile Christians. We must hold open the possible the possibility that the present canonical reading might be a revision of an earlier, stricter , more explicit and more Judeo-Christian text, here preserved only in the Diatessaron. [From "Titian's Diatessaron" by William L. Petersen, in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424]



While textual critics find it more significant that the early implications are for Jewish Christianity, I find it significant that the pre-Markan material in the Diatesseran includes a miracle story. Those miracles just never really fall out of the story. They are in there from the beginning. But for our purposes the most important point to make is that here we have traces of pre-Markan material. That is, Mark as we know Mark was not the earliest Christian Gospel written, it is merely the earliest of which we have a full copy. The date assigned to the composition of Mark is not the date assigned to the sources used to redact that composition. This pushes the written record of the Jesus story before A.D. 60 and makes it at least contemporaneous with Paul's writings. In other words it is clear that written Gospels with Jesus in an historical setting, and with Mary and Joseph the Cross and the empty tomb existed and circulated before the version of Mark that we know, and at the same time or before Paul was writing his first epistle (150'sAD).



(2) Papyrus Egerton 2

The Unknown Gospel (Egerton 2) preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Koster says:

"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....[Koester , 3.2 p.215]


Koseter shows that the Gospels are based upon pre-markan material which dates from A.D. 50 and ends witht he empty tomb, the resurrection appearnces of Jesus he believes were added from other sources. In this theory is partially in agreement with Crossen who also believes that the pre-Markan material can be traced to A.D. 50 and includes the empty tomb. Koester also uses the Gospel of Thomas and Gospel of Peter and several other works to demonstrate the same point.[please see Jesus Puzzell 2 for more on this point] This puts the actual writing of the Gospel tradition just 20 years after the original events. There still many eye-witnesses living, the communities which had witnessed the events of Jesus' ministry would have still basically been intact. The events would be somewhat fresh, and plenty of oportunity for witnesses to correct mistakes.

Thus the basic historical validity for the Gospels can be upheld, since they are based upon material which actually goes back to within a mere 20 years of the original events. This means that many of he eye witnesses would have been in the community and able to correct any mistakes or fabrications which were put into the text.



Almost all NT scholars put the writing of the Synoptic Gospels within the plausable life span of eye witnesses, Mark around 65, Matt. around 70 and Luke 80. In Ancient Christian Gospels, (1991) Helmutt Koster identifies a proto-Gospel which underlies the synoptic and John, and which has traces in the Gospel of Peter. (Koster is a major textual critic and is certainly placed in the Liberal camp).


(c) Peter not copy of Matt.


"The Gospel of Peter is dependent upon the traditions of interpriting old testament materials, for the description of Jesus' suffering and death; it shares such traditions wtih the canonical Gospels, but is not dependent upon the canonical writtings....[Dominic Crosson] argues that this activity [interpretation of scritpure as nuleous of passion narrative]...resulted in the composition of a litterary document at a very early date, i.e. in the middle of the first century." (Koster, 218).

"The Gospel of Peter as a whole is not dependent upon any of the canonical Gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospels of Mark and John. All three writtings, independently of each other use an older passion narrative which is based upon a exigetical tradition that was still alive when these Gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access...However, framgements of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised from the Tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." (Koster, 240).

(b) Passion account developed early


"The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite early becasue it is one and the same account used by Mark (and subsequently by Matthew and Luke) and John, and as will be argued below, by the Gospel of Peter. However, except for the story of the discovery of the empty tomb the different stories of the appearence of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from one single source....each of the authors of the extant Gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories form their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Ibid. 220).

(c) empty tomb part of original story


"Stories of the passion narrative were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering Crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb....for the story of Jesus' burial and the discovery of the empty tomb the Gospel of Peter used the source that also that underlys Mark and John, which ended with the discovery of the empty tomb." (ibid.231).

William Laine Craig tells us:

" The presence of the empty tomb pericope in the pre-Markan passion story supports its historicity. The empty tomb story was part of, perhaps the close of, the pre-Markan passion story. According to Pesch,{79} geographical references, personal names, and the use of Galilee as a horizon all point to Jerusalem as the fount of the pre-Markan passion story. As to its age, Paul's Last Supper tradition (I Cor 11. 23-25) presupposes the pre-Markan passion account; therefore, the latter must have originated in the first years of existence of the Jerusalem Urgemeinde. Confirmation of this is found in the fact that the pre-Markan passion story speaks of the 'high priest' without using his name (14. 53, 54, 60, 61, 63). This implies (nearly necessitates, according to Pesch) that Caiaphas was still the high priest when the pre-Markan passion story was being told, since then there would be no need to mention his name. Since Caiaphas was high priest from A.D. 18-37, the terminus ante quem for the origin of the tradition is A.D. 37. Now if this is the case, then any attempt to construe the empty tomb account as an unhistorical legend is doomed to failure." (The History of the empty Tomb of Jesus" New Testament Studies 21 (1985):39-67)

"Like the burial story, the account of the discovery of the empty tomb is remarkably restrained. Bultmann states, '. . . Mark's presentation is extremely reserved, in so far as the resurrection and the appearance of the risen Lord are not recounted.' {55} Nauck observes that many theological motifs that might be expected are lacking in the story: (1) the proof from prophecy, (2) the in-breaking of the new eon, (3) the ascension of Jesus' Spirit or his descent into hell, (4) the nature of the risen body, and (5) the use of Christological titles.{56} Although kerygmatic speech appears in the mouth of the angel, the fact of the discovery of the empty tomb is not kerygmatically colored. All these factors point to a very old tradition concerning the discovery of the empty tomb."



III. Community as Author


We do not have to know the exact identity of the authors, because the original material comes from the community itself


A.Oral tradition was not uncontroled.

Oral tradition in first-century Judaism was not uncontrolled as was/is often assumed, based on comparisons with non-Jewish models. From pg. 53-55 in B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), "Authenticating the Activities of Jesus" (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998):


"...[T]he early form criticism tied the theory of oral transmission to the conjecture that Gospel traditions were mediated like folk traditions, being freely altered and even created ad hoc by various and sundry wandering charismatic jackleg preachers. This view, however, was rooted more in the eighteenth century romanticism of J. G. Herder than in an understanding of the handling of religious tradition in first-century Judaism. As O. Cullmann, B. Gerhardsson, H. Riesenfeld and R. Riesner have demonstrated, [22] the Judaism of the period treated such traditions very carefully, and the New Testament writers in numerous passages applied to apostolic traditions the same technical terminology found elsewhere in Judaism for 'delivering', 'receiving', 'learning', 'holding', 'keeping', and 'guarding', the traditioned 'teaching'. [23] In this way they both identified their traditions as 'holy word' and showed their concern for a careful and ordered transmission of it. The word and work of Jesus were an important albeit distinct part of these apostolic traditions.

"Luke used one of the same technical terms, speaking of eyewitnesses who 'delivered to us' the things contained in his Gospel and about which his patron Theophilus had been instructed. Similarly, the amanuenses or co-worker-secretaries who composed the Gospel of John speak of the Evangelist, the beloved disciple, 'who is witnessing concerning these things and who wrote these things', as an eyewitness and a member of the inner circle of Jesus' disciples.[24] In the same connection it is not insignificant that those to whom Jesus entrusted his teachings are not called 'preachers' but 'pupils' and 'apostles', semi-technical terms for those who represent and mediate the teachings and instructions of their mentor or principal.(25)


(22. O. Cullmann, "The Tradition," in Cullmann, The Early Church (London: SCM Press; Philadelphia: Westminster, 1956) 55-99; B. Gerhardsson The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); H. Riesenfeld The Gospel Tradition (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1970) 1-29; Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer.

23. Rom 6:17; 16:17; 1 Cor 11:2, 23; 15:3; Phil 4:9; Col 2:6-7; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6; 2 Tim 3:14; Titus 1:9; 2 John 9-10; Jude 3: Rev 2:13, 24. Cf. Abot 1:1; Philo, The Worse Attacks the Better 65-68. 24. John 19:35; 21:24-25; cf. 13:23; 18:15-16; 19:26-27; 20:1-10; 21:7, 21-23. Cf. J. A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976) 298-311. 25. On parallels with other rabbis and their disciples and other Jewish usage cf. Mark 2:18 = Luke 5:33; K.H. Rengstorf TDNT 1 (1964) 412-43;.TDNT 4 (1967) 431-55.

Also, there wasn't an necessarily a long period of solely oral transmission as has been assumed:


"Under the influence of R. Bultmann and M. Dibelius the classical form criticism raised many doubts about the historicity of the Synoptic Gospels, but it was shaped by a number of literary and historical assumptions which themselves are increasingly seen to have a doubtful historical basis. It assumed, first of all, that the Gospel traditions were transmitted for decades exclusively in oral form and began to be fixed in writing only when the early Christian anticipation of a soon end of the world faded. This theory foundered with the discovery in 1947 of the library of the Qumran sect, a group contemporaneous with the ministry of Jesus and the early church which combined intense expectation of the End with prolific writing. Qumran shows that such expectations did not inhibit writing but actually were a spur to it. Also, the widespread literacy in first-century Palestinian Judaism [18], together with the different language backgrounds of Jesus' followers--some Greek, some Aramaic, some bilingual--would have facilitated the rapid written formulations and transmission of at least some of Jesus' teaching.[19]" (p. 53-54)



------------------ 18. Cf. Josephus, Against Apion 2.25 204: The Law "orders that (children) should be taught to read."; cf. idem, Ant. 12.4.9 209; Philo, Embassy to Gaius 115, 210, Further, see R. Riesner, Jesus als Lehrer (WUNT 2.7; Tubingen: Mohr [Siebeck], 1981; 4th ed., 1998) 112-15. 19. Jesus had hearers and doubtless some converts from Syria (Matt 4:25), the Decapolis (Matt 4:25; Mark 3:8; 5:20; 7:31), Tyre and Sidon (Mark 3:8; 7:24, 31; Matt 15:21).

N. T. Wright, critiquing the Jesus Seminar's view of oral tradition as uncontrolled and informal based on some irrelevant research done in modern Western non-oral societies writes:

"Against this whole line of thought we must set the serious study of genuinely oral traditions that has gone on in various quarters recently. [65] (p. 112-113)

--------------- 65. For example, see H. Wansbrough (ed.), Jesus and the Oral Gospel Tradition (JSNTSup 64; Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1991), referring to a large amount of earlier work; Bailey, "Informal Controlled Oral Tradition," 34-54. The following discussion depends on these and similar studies, and builds on Wright, The New Testament and the People of God, 418-43; and idem, Jesus and the Victory of God, 133-37.)


"Communities that live in an oral culture tend to be story-telling communities. They sit around in long evenings telling and listening to stories--the same stories, over and over again. Such stories, especially when they are involved with memorable happenings that have determined in some way the existence and life of the particular group in question, acquire a fairly fixed form, down to precise phraseology (in narrative as well as in recorded speech), extremely early in their life--often within a day or so of the original incident taking place. They retain that form, and phraseology, as long as they are told. Each village and community has its recognized storytellers, the accredited bearers of its traditions; but the whole community knows the stories by heart, and if the teller varies them even slightly they will let him know in no uncertain terms. This matters quite a lot in cultures where, to this day, the desire to avoid 'shame' is a powerful motivation. "Such cultures do also repeat, and hence transmit, proverbs, and pithy sayings. Indeed, they tend to know far more proverbs than the orally starved modern Western world. But the circulation of such individual sayings is only the tip of the iceberg; the rest is narrative, narrative with embedded dialogue, heard, repeated again and again within minutes, hours and days of the original incident, and fixed in memories the like of which few in the modern Western world can imagine. The storyteller in such a culture has no license to invent or adapt at will. The less important the story, the more the entire community, in a process that is informal but very effective, will keep a close watch on the precise form and wording with which the story is told. "And the stories about Jesus were nothing if not important. Even the Jesus Seminar admits that Jesus was an itinerant wonder-worker. Very well. Supposing a woman in a village is suddenly healed after a lengthy illness. Even today, even in a non-oral culture, the story of such an event would quickly spread among friends, neighbors and relatives, acquiring a fixed form within the first two or three retellings and retaining it, other things being equal, thereafter. In a culture where storytelling was and is an art-form, a memorable event such as this, especially if it were also seen as a sign that Israel's God was now at last at work to do what he had always promised, would be told at once in specific ways, told so as to be not just a celebration of a healing but also a celebration of the Kingdom of God. Events and stories of this order are community-forming, and the stories which form communities do not get freely or loosely adapted. One does not disturb the foundations of the house in which one is living."[B.D. Chilton and C.A. Evans (eds.), Authenticating the Activities of Jesus (NTTS, 28.2; Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1998) p. 113-115.]

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

But you will agree the gospel writers were liars, right?

I have in mind all those "quotations" they pretend to give. Besides Jesuses's the gospels also record words of the disciples, Herod, angels, demons, satan, tax collectors, and crowds of people all saying the same words all together. The gospels even record long speeches spoken in dreams, and verbatim accounts of inner thoughts that were never spoken, but that Jesus knew because He could read minds.

Here's our historical accuracy question: How'd they do that? How did the gospel writers know, all those decades later, exactly—word for word—what the angel said in Joseph's dream, or Herod said in his secret meeting, or the Pharisees thought in their private thoughts but never spoke? What possible method could our gospel writers have used to come up with the verbatim quotations they claim to give?

The answer is, they couldn't do that. I couldn't do it. You can't do it. No one can. Yet the gospel writers pretend they could. What they claim happened could not possibly be true. The gospel writers are all liars.

The gospels are not credible sources of history.


Bino Bolumai

/ In Bino Veritas >

J.L. Hinman said...

well I really can't blame you for that kind of thinking because the fundies really illicit it by insisting upon the literal and inerrant nature of text.

The problem is of course its poetic license because the authors are writing a narratival account, not filming a documentary. We could talk about how certain modes of expression evolved and how the redaction process caused standardized formulae in setting up quotations and assumptions about quoting.


The real issue is understanding how inspiration works. The fundies have solid it as verbatim word for word as though a documentary process is being mimicked and every word is transmitted by God. But in reality it's the writers writing. that doesn't make it a lie, it doesn't make it false. It just makes it a narrative account.

There are certain conventions in telling a story that any time and culture will develop. like Jesus' prayer int he garden. The Apostles are supposed to be asleep, so who told the author the words Jesus prayed to the father?

The inerrentist assumption would have us believe God put it in the author's head word for word exactly as it was said. There's that, or else as they were carting Jesus away he was shouting "hey don't forget to include the bit 'let this cup pass from me!'"

Of course it's poetic license and the author made up the content. that doesn't make it a lie, that's silly. People write novelized account of real events and use poetic license that doesn't mean they are lying. What matters is that the overall teaching is true and that the events are correct.

The tomb was empty. The women saw him alive. that's what really matters, not whether or not he said "let this cup pass from me" while no one was listening.

Anonymous said...

> Of course it's poetic license and the
> author made up the content. that
> doesn't make it a lie, that's silly. People
> write novelized account of real events
> and use poetic license that doesn't
> mean they are lying. What matters is
> that the overall teaching is true and
> that the events are correct.

But the events certainly are NOT correct. The stories involve accounts of events – speech – that certainly did not happen. In that place, on that day, Jesus did NOT say the things the gospel claims He said. It is not true the gospels are historical, not in the sense that the sayings and events we read about in them actually happened.


> The tomb was empty. The women saw
> him alive. that's what really matters,
> not whether or not he said "let this cup
> pass from me" while no one was
> listening.

I wonder how you know the tomb was empty, rather than that a serial liar said it was empty.

The person who wrote about the empty tomb is the same person who wrote that He said "let this cup pass from me" – and hundreds of other similar inventions. When the author claimed He said "Let this cup pass from me," the author was claiming things that did not happen. He was making stuff up. The gospel authors made stuff up. Over and over and over, they made stuff up.

Which is more likely do you think: that magic happened, or that a serial maker-upper-of-facts-that-didn't-really-happen claimed magic happened?


Bino Bolumai

/ In Bino Veritas >

J.L. Hinman said...

Of course it's poetic license and the
> author made up the content. that
> doesn't make it a lie, that's silly. People
> write novelized account of real events
> and use poetic license that doesn't
> mean they are lying. What matters is
> that the overall teaching is true and
> that the events are correct.

But the events certainly are NOT correct. The stories involve accounts of events – speech – that certainly did not happen.


you don't really offer any reason for believing that. The events are corroborated in many way

extra biblical texts
Pauline Corpus
other epistels
secular history
the testimony within the Gospel communities

it doesn't matter that we don't have a literal word for word account.




In that place, on that day, Jesus did NOT say the things the gospel claims He said. It is not true the gospels are historical, not in the sense that the sayings and events we read about in them actually happened.


that is what we call "legalistic." so what? You can't use poetic license as an argument against veracity that's what it means to have "license."

we can be reasonably sure the teachings were really handed down from Jesus and that the events happens basically as recorded, given a reasonable divergence. But there's not need to understand each every speech word for word as literally historical.



> The tomb was empty. The women saw
> him alive. that's what really matters,
> not whether or not he said "let this cup
> pass from me" while no one was
> listening.

I wonder how you know the tomb was empty, rather than that a serial liar said it was empty.

The whole community witnessed it. The whole town of Bethany saw him risen from the dead, they passed it on in communal testimony and that's what became the Gospels. what reason do I have for doubting it?

The person who wrote about the empty tomb is the same person who wrote that He said "let this cup pass from me" – and hundreds of other similar inventions.


Not necessarily. Scholars no longer understand the Gospels as just he works of indidviduals. they are the works of the whole community. They were written in stages as collections of individual accounts called "pericopes" (per-ric-a-pees) and readaceted by various editors having been passed on orally in front of the community.

the point is the have the control check of communal telling, eye witnesses present and the memory devices of oral tradition.




When the author claimed He said "Let this cup pass from me," the author was claiming things that did not happen.

but that's trivial. So what? That's like all the pictures of Queen Elisabeth I were made by an official template so she really didn't look that way. but the template was made to look baiscaly like her.

that is not the same as just making up the evients whole hog.

If you did not have the fundies to tell you it all has to be perfect you would jot even care about this. the only reason you are on this tangent is because the fundies have told it has to be literal and perfect.



He was making stuff up. The gospel authors made stuff up. Over and over and over, they made stuff up.

you are being petty and silly.


Which is more likely do you think: that magic happened, or that a serial maker-upper-of-facts-that-didn't-really-happen claimed magic happened?


that's a totally naive and unsophisticated understanding. you need to learn something about textual criticism instead of just believing the bs sand lies of fudnies and atheists.

you should try to think critically. This is not critical thinking this is picky bull shit.

Kristen said...

Anonymous, you are imposing the standards of 20th-21st-century reporter journalism on ancient writers of 2000 years ago. No one in the original community was expecting exact, word-for-word quotes, as if the writers had tape recorders and had recorded what was said. The general gist of what was said, as best the person who was there could remember it, was written down.

As for what Jesus said in the Garden-- the disciples were accustomed to Jesus speaking of his task in terms of a "cup": "Are you able to drink the cup I drink from?" They would also have seen at the point Jesus woke them up that he had been very upset and had gone through a great trial of soul-- it would have been plain on his face. They also knew that he prayed to "Abba, Father" because they'd heard him do it.

So their inference of what he prayed while they were asleep was not unreasonable at all. This does not make them "liars" -- it is simply that the standards of 21st-century newspaper-style reporting were a completely foreign concept which should not now be imposed upon them.