Thursday, January 05, 2017

How do we know who wrote the gospels?

Timothy Paul Jones writes an article exploring this question posted here.

According to Bart Ehrman, [The New Testament Gospels] were written thirty-five to sixty-five years after Jesus’ death, … not by people who were eyewitnesses, but by people living later. …

Where did these people get their information from? … After the days of Jesus, people started telling stories about him in order to convert others to the faith. … When … Christians recognized the need for apostolic authorities, they attributed these books to apostles (Matthew and John) and close companions of apostles (Mark, the secretary of Peter; and Luke the traveling companion of Paul). …

Because our surviving Greek manuscripts provide such a wide variety of (different) titles for the Gospels, textual scholars have long realized that their familiar names (e.g., “The Gospel According to Matthew”) do not go back to a single “original” title, but were added later by scribes.

B. Ehrman, Jesus, Apocalyptic Prophet of a New Millennium (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), 248-249; B. Ehrman, Lost Christianities (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 235; B. Ehrman and W. Craig, “Is There Historical Evidence for the Resurrection of Jesus?: A Debate between William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman” (March 28, 2006).

These comments raise a few questions:
1) Does this absence of titles provide evidence that the Gospels circulated anonymously?
2) Why do skeptical scholars continue to claim that the New Testament Gospels were originally anonymous?
3) What type of “wide variety” of titles is actually present in Gospel manuscripts from the first few centuries of Christian faith?
4) What would have happened if the names had been fabricated later?
5) Given the wide geographic distribution of the Gospels in the second century, what do you suppose would have happened if second-century Christians had suddenly decided to start fabricating names for the Gospels to make them seem authoritative?
6) In a world where communication was far from instant and the church was decentralized, how could the same authors’ names possibly have been linked to the same Gospels with such uniform consistency?

The answers to these questions can lead us to the following reasonable conclusions:
1) There is virtually no evidence to suggest that the New Testament Gospels ever circulated anonymously.
2) Before the end of the second century, the New Testament Gospels were already a settled set of four books, with a clear tradition traceable through eyewitness testimonies to four particular first-century authors. 

But don't take my word for it, read the article, don't wait for the movie.
Have a little hope on me, Roger

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