Why are the Gospels written in THIRD Person?

Contradiction #6

Well this is not much of a scriptural contradiction; it’s more of a logical contradiction. When going through the Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, I noticed that they are all written in third person. That was interesting, cause I always thought that the gospels were written by the disciples and first hand eyewitnesses from their own personal perspective. Traditional Christianity claim that the Gospels were written by two of Jesus’ twelve disciples (Matthew & John), a man who closely followed the memoirs of Peter the Apostle/Disciple (Mark), and a fourth who carefully interviewed eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life(Luke). So taking all this into consideration Matthew & John should have definitely been written in first person. And Luke & Mark probably should have shown some slight tendencies to both third and first person. Yeah, I know many of them were written decades after Christ Death. But the perspective of who it wrote should not change. Even if the Gospels were just copies of the disciple who wrote it, then they should still remain in first person. Either way we look at it, the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John are to be considered eyewitness and should have been written from a first-person perspective. After all, any story that is telling of oneself in it (even if it is a copy), should have accounts or traces of being written with first person tendencies scattered throughout the text.

If they[gospels] were written by the disciples, then their reliability, authenticity, and accuracy are better substantiated.” (C.A.R.M.)

Well this should be true, and easily verifiable, except for their authorship is neither easily verifiable nor substantiated. Now the more I think about the issue; the more I think of it as a common sense contradiction verse a biblical contradiction. Yes, it’s a contradiction of common sense for an eyewitness account of something to be written in third person.

I could not find any scholarly apologetic answers to this question. It’s odd that the Christian Apologist hasn’t even attempted to answer this question. But here are some answers I found on various blog posts and some yahoo Question/Answer. Which can really be categorized into Two sections: God inspired the Bible & Writing Style of the time.

God Inspired The Bible

  • It is God’s Word because He inspired the writers to write what He wanted written – not because He personally took a pen and physically wrote it.
  • Those who wrote the Bible were inspired by God. They wrote his thoughts, not their own.
  • This is a common question with two relatively easy answers. 1. God did not sit down at his desk, sharpen up a pencil and get to work. He used human authors to convey his message. It is similar to an architect building a structure, he may not lay a single brick with his own hands, but they are all where he intends them to be. 2. Using third person narrative, even switching between first and third, was a common writing style of the Hebrews of that time. A good example of this is Acts of the Apostles, the whole thing was written by one man (St. Luke) but the narrative changes from first to third.

Writing Style of the Time

  • They are narrating a story or event for the reader. Like a reporter would narrate or articulate for the public, the scene of a crime.
  • That was the writing style at the time.
  • The Bible isn’t an autobiography; much of it is history. If you were writing a history book, even about yourself, you would not write it in the first person; you would write it in the third person.

Now if the reason why the Gospels are written in third person is because God inspired them to write that way, that really does raises some eyebrows. Because there are no modern scholars who write that way or when people give testimony about the thing God has done for them, how come the average person doesn’t tell the story in third person? Even if this was true, how come the Gospels of Luke and John were inspired in third person; but God didn’t inspire Luke to write the Acts of Apostles fully in third person. -And how come God didn’t inspire John to write his three epistles in third person. Well if the answer to that is God designed it that way, then one can imply God inconsistent in his writing style. And the idea of writing in third person was the writing in ancient history is just straight absurd. We don’t need to look any farther than the bible to see that other parts of the bible are written in first person. Even the other works by Luke- Acts of the Apostles and John- 1, 2, & 3 John are all written in first person. So this can’t be it.

Now the two following points were the closest thing I could find to a scholarly answer. The first was posted on a Yahoo Question/Answer.

1. “According to professors of ancient literature, the Gospels are written just the way they should be for the time. We have a problem because we are used to everything RIGHT NOW!! It didn’t work that way back then. Plus, it speaks more in volume when you look at the changed lives of the Gospel writers. Jesus did not need to change. He was perfect. We have hope when we compare ourselves to the Apostles. Look what happened to them? We can and should expect the same when we place our lives in Jesus’ hands.” (Reference Yahoo Question) Now it’s hard to take this answer serious, because there are no citations to where this source comes from. The answer is very bland and lastly, it doesn’t provide the name or school of the professor.

2. Now according to other sources, the reason why the Gospels are written in third person is because they were never (originally) written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were just randomly assigned the names because so many Jesus stories were in circular; that early Christians randomly assigned these names to help distinguish each of the gospels apart. This explanation of why the Gospels are written in third person, -then one can only assume that NOBODY truly knows who wrote Gospels and that we have absolutely eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. http://www.facingthechallenge.org/gospels.php

So now the Question remains, Can the Gospels still be considered reliable and trustworthy if we know that they are not eyewitness accounts?

Mitch Jaeger Answers Yes, that we should still trust the Gospels even though they are written in the Third Person

or
A Hard case of why not to trust the gospels by Diogenes the Cynic with replies by John McClymont

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About M. Rodriguez

When I first received Christ salvation, I made it a priority to read the whole bible and I did. But it was the Bible that made me question my faith. For I found it flawed and lacking. Due to this I launched a personal inquiry/investigation into my faith, and ultimately realized that the Christian God of the Bible was indeed man-made. Now I Blog about those findings and life after Christ.
This entry was posted in apologist, biblical difficulties, deceived, deductive reasoning, doubt, scriptural difficulties and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

85 Responses to Why are the Gospels written in THIRD Person?

  1. unklee says:

    Biblereader, I am doubtless telling you what you already know, but we need to understand how scholars believe the gospels came to be written.

    Literacy was probably fairly low back then, and people transmitted a lot of what was important to them orally. Now there are still some oral cultures around today, and scholars have studied them, as well as learning what they can from ancient oral societies. A good book on this (though not fully accepted by other scholars) is Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the eyewitnesses. I have it, it is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.

    Those studying oral transmission of important stories have found that the stories quickly assume a familiar form, where the main facts and the message of the story are repeated very accurately, but story tellers are encouraged to be a little creative with how they present the peripherals of the story. And this is exactly what we see in the gospels.

    There is good evidence for the traditional authorships, and although they are commonly not accepted by scholars, there seems to be a move back in that direction. But the named author may not be the actual writer, but rather it seems likely that John was the origin of the stories in his gospel, but it was later compiled or edited by someone else, or perhaps even a community (as John 21:24 might suggest). Likewise Matthew may well have compiled, in written or oral form, sayings of Jesus that were later placed in a narrative context by someone else.

    It seems clear that the stories originated with eyewitnesses – how else would the stories have first been known? The reliability of the accounts is established by the four of them agreeing on so much.

    Finally, note that there is much better textual evidence for the gospels than virtually any other comparable events (see Are the gospels historical?) – the only reason why we know about textual variants is that we have so many copies, something generally not available for other writings of comparable age.

    None of this implies there are no problems, only that if we are going to ask the questions, we need to understand the historical context. Best wishes.

  2. Brenda says:

    I remember wondering about Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. If he was alone, then how did we come to have his exact words? Once I saw that, then I noticed it in other instances as well. How were certain events written with such detail when the people were apparently alone at the time? Did Jesus then go and tell someone his prayer word for word? I think what shook me about that particular prayer was that it had never occurred to me to wonder about it before! I just took it at face value that he said that prayer with those words. I never questioned how a private prayer somehow made it into a Bible written decades later.

    I wish I had more time to spend on this topic today but I’m heading out of town. Look forward to the discussion though!

    • IgnorantiaNescia says:

      Though none of the gospels actually say he was alone, it is indeed inconsistent if the disciples were asleep. There are some more inconsistencies among the synoptics (Mk. 14:32-42, Mt. 26:36-46, Lk. 22:40-46) while John omits the prayer but does share some words (Jh. 18:2-12). And there are of course similar episodes as you said.

    • I never thought too much of that, cause if the Gospels are considered INSPIRED, then couldn’t God have inspired the author to put it in even if they were not an eyewitness. Could this be probable? Could this be reasonable?

      • Brenda says:

        So eyewitnesses no longer have to be eyewitnesses? It seems that you’re jumping from caring about whether the gospels are historically accurate or not to saying that they can write anything they want as long as they say it was from god. How can they give an accurate account of things if it doesn’t even matter if they have any basis for what they are writing?

        I’m seriously not trying to be argumentative – but it seems like people want to talk about how historically accurate the gospels are until they run into problems and then all of a sudden that doesn’t matter anymore because they were inspired by god. Does it matter if they were accurate and based on some kind of reliable evidence or doesn’t it?

      • And thats the million dollar question. “Does it matter if they were accurate and based on some kind of reliable evidence or doesn’t it?” Can the gospels be trusted as a reliable historical source for the biblical/historical Jesus?

        I actually watched a debate about this topic today. It was between bart ehrman vs. craig evans. Evans admits to discrepancies in the bible, but it can still be considered a reliable source for the biblical/historical jesus. Ehrman is the exact opposite, because of the discrepancies he says the gospels can be considered useful, but reliable or accurate for the historical jesus.

    • Rubye says:

      Hi Brenda: We know that Jesus’ ministry and His Words, i.e., Garden of Gethsemane, His prayer for Himself, the prayer for His Disciples and His prayer for all Believers were all done in private, but what we must remember is that the work of the Holy Spirit reveals much, and that JESUS did come back to be with the Apostles after His crucifixion. It could have been at that time that the Apostles asked questions of JESUS, in their time with Him, they may have asked “what did you pray for” — just as HE asked the THREE to not reveal the Mount Transfiguration scenario while He was ministering with them. We don’t know, there are certain variables that could have happened, we were NOT privy to it. They had the privilege of spending time with the LORD and asking questions just like we are. But the Holy Spirit does reveal, just as John was taken up in Revelation to “see”– He writes unto the churches as the Lord commanded. Just how the Spirit has led me to answer you, hope it helps! Praise the Lord!

  3. unklee says:

    “I remember wondering about Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane. If he was alone, then how did we come to have his exact words?”

    There are several answers to these sorts of questions.

    1. Mark says “He went a little further on”. Luke says he went a stone’s throw away. Is that too far to hear? I don’t know.

    2. Maybe we don’t have his exact words but a precis.

    3. The prayers recorded are (in English) about 25 words long, and hardly enough to be complete prayers. Perhaps they heard a little before they fell asleep.

    4. Perhaps they knew the general tenor and made the exact words up.

    5. It isn’t unreasonable to think that the Holy Spirit inspired them to write truth even though they didn’t know it themselves. Historians generally can’t use this explanation, but believers can.

    I think I would feel comfortable with any of them.

  4. portal001 says:

    well if the Bible is inspired the writers were writing the accounts through God. This could mean that its not through their own perspective but it is a account from God.

    • granted that does explain, why they are written in third person, but that leaves alot to be desired.

      How do we know it was inspired? And not just four crazy people conspiring together for whatever reason?
      Then in that case, can the gospels still be considered eyewitness accounts?
      Can the Gospels still be considered trustworthy and reliable?

  5. New to the blog, but you are asking many of the questions that I tried to answer in my former Christian Life.

    Here’s some of my thoughts, none of the gospels claim to be written by eyewitnesses and no Gospel identifies it’s author by name. It is church tradition that has ascribed the titles to the 4 cannoical gospels. But if you study that history, it is not a tidy and clear cut tradition.

    If you dig into the church history written in the early church, even they were not sure who wrote the gospels. Esebius reports that Papias claims a gospel written by Mark. But Papias claims he was writing down things he heard the Apostle Peter say-in other words, it is a hearsay account and not a first hand testimony.

    I like Richard Carrier’s summary on the formation of the Christian Canon.

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/NTcanon.html

  6. BJ Swearer says:

    Let me first start off by saying that I don’t quite understand what the alleged “contradiction” is. Are skeptics trying to argue that the Gospels claim to be written as “eyewitness testimony” and thus HAVE to be written from the 1st person? This really isn’t an example of fallacy at all…..maybe an interesting thing to think about, but in no way contradiction since it is not a case an assertion or implication of both truth and falsity of something.

    The four Gospels are written as in the form of historical narrative documenting the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ so it would only be fitting that they were written from the 3rd person perspective. I would actually be more skeptical about a text claiming to be historical record and being written in the 1st person. Just think about history in general…..the only documents that I can think of written in the 1st person would be autobiographies. Did Christ have to write a story about His own life? Of course not. Speaking as a historian by nature and education, nearly all historical works follow a “reporting” style and would thus use 3rd person narrative. More importantly, the purpose of the Gospels is not for the writers to talk about their lives, but the life of Jesus Christ. Writing from 3rd person places even more emphasis on this goal as opposed to the writers (unnecessarily) talking about themselves.

    Something of note is that Luke begins his Gospel in the 1st person clearly stating the purpose of the work: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” – Luke 1:1-4

    Luke essentially says that he is writing a history book chronicling the life of Christ. Though not explicitly indicated by the other 3 Gospel writers, this same historical narrative style can be seen in the other 3 accounts. Their claim isn’t that “hey, we saw this stuff happen” (even if the writers were firsthand witnesses), but more formally documenting history events. Granted each author maintains their own “perspective” and unique “voice” in that they focus and write about some different things, mainly to appeal to the audience they are trying to reach….Matthew to the Jews, Luke to the Gentiles etc…

    This is what’s really interesting about the New Testament, and really the entire Bible all together. Scripture contains books of history (1/2 Samuel, 1/2 Kings, 1/2 Chronicles), books of poetry (Psalms, Proverbs), books primarily devoted to metaphors and prophecy (Revelation, Daniel) and the majority, books that contain a little bit of everything. When reading each book, context and style should be highly emphasized. For example, when reading the Creation account in Genesis, if people fail to realize that the style is historical narrative, then we get all sorts of things like the “gap” theory, theistic evolution, “it was all just a metaphor” etc…

    Anywho, this “contradiction” just appears to be another (weak) attempt by those who are just looking for a reason to not accept the truth and reliability of Scripture. I wouldn’t crack open a history book and claim that the American Civil War is a myth because the book was written in the 3rd person narrative…..

    Hope this might help provide some insight about the question. I could delve into it more but I’ve already said quite a lot…also, it’s kind of late and my eyes (and brain) is getting tired. lol

    Nice question! Even at first glance, I have a feeling I will frequent this blog….I love good discussion. :)

    • BJ Swearer says:

      Oh, and I forgot to note….just because something is written as historical narrative (from 3rd person), I fail to see how that would question whether or not the writer was “inspired by the Holy Spirit”. If we accept that the Holy Spirit inspired the writers/prophets to document Truth, then it should apply to all books regardless of writing styles and perspectives.

      • so what about acts of the apostes and the epistles 1,2,3 John, they all have a first person text

      • BJ Swearer says:

        “so what about acts of the apostes and the epistles 1,2,3 John, they all have a first person text”

        Later sections of Acts is written in the first person….some scholars provide the explanation that the beginning of Acts is recorded in 3rd person because Luke is essentially continuing the narrative style of his Gospel, but when he later joins Paul, he goes into 1st person since he is directly involved. All of the epistles would be expected to appear in 1st person since they are personal letters written from an author (Paul, James, Peter, John etc…) to another individual (Philemon, Titus, etc…) or group (Galatians, Philippians, Colossians etc…).

    • Bravo! BJ for your most excellent replies.

      Thou art truly of a learnedness that is rare to find in a world over-blessed with experts.

      Thy wisdom and understanding seems to have been bestowed upon you without measure.

      Well done and God Bless, Christopher John Petersen.

  7. unklee says:

    Brenda said:

    “So eyewitnesses no longer have to be eyewitnesses?”
    I think you are being a little binary. It doesn’t have to be the case that it is all or nothing. Most of it could be eyewitness based, but not necessarily all, surely?

    “it seems like people want to talk about how historically accurate the gospels are until they run into problems and then all of a sudden that doesn’t matter anymore because they were inspired by god.”
    But isn’t that exactly what you’d expect from a document like this? Most of it comes from eyewitnesses (how else could anyone know?) in the normal way, but that doesn’t prevent God from giving extra information (it’s called revelation). The historians only deal with the historical, but on the basis of the historical, it is quite reasonable to say that the other bits were revelation, I think.

    “Does it matter if they were accurate and based on some kind of reliable evidence or doesn’t it?”
    Again, I think you’re being too binary. The historians tell us these are good historical documents, but with some issues. So we can accept them like we accept other documents of the time. But if, on the basis of what they tell us, we believe the stories are true and Jesus is true, then that opens up a whole new perspective, and we can believe the bits the historians can’t endorse. So it is fact first and faith second and it all hangs together I think.

  8. BJ….I think our blog host posed the question, not some “atheist” author. I actually never thought about the whole 3rd person issue, but it’s an interesting question none the less.

    And where is the name Luke, in the Gospel of Luke?
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+1&version=NIV

    • yeah I actually posted this question not some other author,

      I never thought about this until I saw a video, saying the Gospels are not eyewitness accounts, and the claim Matthew, Mark, Luke, John are not the actual writers of the gospels. if the gospels are eyewitness accounts then they should have been written in first person. to me that is only common sense. I tried to find scholarly answers to this queston. But there was a real lack in answers on this topic. The only reasonable answer I could find is that they are not eyewitness accounts – and that is why they written in third person.

      however I do have another theory .w……which i will comment in another section

    • BJ Swearer says:

      I understand that the blog host posed the question, but (apparently) correctly assumed that the question had been posed previously. I made the assumption that whatever the original source for the question being posed was atheist/skeptic based….that would seem more logical if it was being used as a way to question the legitimacy of the Gospels.

      Just because the Gospel of Luke doesn’t mention the attributed author’s name in it, doesn’t indicate that he wasn’t the author. That would be like saying “A Tale of Two Cities” does not mention the name Charles Dickens in its text (thus Charles Dickens wasn’t the author), that I wrote a letter to my Grandmother but didn’t leave a salutation at the end or provide a return address on the envelope (thus I’m not the author), or that Abraham Lincoln didn’t sign his name at the end of the Gettysburg Address (thus he was not the author). We have to remember that like many ancient historical narrativesthe Gospels were not composed like pieces of literature with authors desiring recognition or profit from sales (as the focus is supposed to be on Christ) . There’s really no reason why Luke should have to include in his manuscript the line “The Gospel of Luke, by Luke”….plus that doesn’t really have a great ring to it does it? lol

      Evidence has confirmed beyond a reasonable doubt that the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were written by the same author. Both are written to the same recipient (Theophilus) and the preface of Acts references the author’s “former book” about the life of Jesus….”In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach” (Acts 1:1). Luke is mentioned elsewhere in the New Testament (for example, Colossians 4:14). Though it may not be a watertight argument that Luke wrote both the Gospel and Acts, there really isn’t sufficient enough evidence to prove anyone else to be the author. :)

  9. And do the Gospels need to be eyewitness accounts for them to be legitimate? really the way i think about there is no way; One can prove that the gospels are or are not inspired. there is no way to prove or disprove that. (However if they were considered inspired, one would expect consistency and inerrancy as a reasonable expectation.)

    And does an eyewitness account need to be prerequiste for an inspired gospel?

    • I don’t think the Gospels would have to be a first hand account in order for them to be historically accurate. Much of our history is not written by first hand accounts….but there should be evidence for the claims an author makes.

      Did the author consult first hand accounts? How did they confirm the details of these accounts? Do others from the same time period corroborate the key details to the author’s claims? Etc…

      The problem for the gospels, is that the church has claimed apostolic authorship/inspiration for the Gospels, and most have claimed them to be worthy of eye witness testimony. I just don’t see how these claims can be verified….

      Historical inquiry leads you to contradictory testimony, both within the Gospels themselves and from what is known from other historical, archeological, and textual evidence.

  10. This is my Question to the board, if anybody wants to answer it—-So now the Question remains, Can the Gospels still be considered reliable and trustworthy if we know that they are not eyewitness accounts? And does the fact they are not eyewitness accounts, does it take away from the legitimacy of them being inspired?

    • BJ Swearer says:

      My answers as simple as I can put them, is that Yes the Gospels can and should be considered reliable even if written by authors who might not have been a first-hand witness to every single event they recorded, and No this should not take away from the legitimacy of them being inspired.

      The writers do not always explicitly state that “I saw this happen or heard Jesus say this” (hence 3rd person narrative). What they do state (explicitly or obviously implied), however, is that they are inspired by God and that what they write is truth. Since truth is either true or it isn’t, the only way anyone could prove that what is written in the Gospels is not trustworthy is if there are true contradictions between the 4 books or if there are true errors that have been proven by external evidence.

      I also found this blog post from a Christian Apologist that makes some good points http://mitchjaegerministry.blogspot.com/2011/01/why-are-gospels-written-in-third-person.html

      Very interesting question and discussion. ;)

  11. unklee says:

    christianagnostic said: “none of the gospels claim to be written by eyewitnesses and no Gospel identifies it’s author by name”

    This is not completely accurate. John’s gospel says it was written by “the disciple Jesus loved” and he was clearly present at many of the events, so he was an eyewitness. So one out of four makes the explicit claim. The author is also identified, though not named, but presumably those reading it knew.

    This is interesting, because recent archaeological studies (see Archaeology and John’s Gospel) show that John was familiar with a number of aspects of Jerusalem geography, some of which had changed within a decade of Jesus’ death, and others changed in 70CE when Jerusalem was sacked by the Romans. It can therefore be safely concluded that though John is generally considered to have been written (or perhaps compiled or edited) about 90CE, John’s memory goes right back to before 40CE, supporting the claim that he was an eyewitness.

    Luke specifically says that he interviewed eyewitnesses, which is pretty close.

    • Luke does not claim to have interviewed eyewitnesses….first off, the author of this Gospel does not identify himself. How do you know it is Luke writing this Gospel?

      Secondly, he claims that he is making an orderly account of the testimony handed down from eyewitness accounts, but we have no way of knowing whether his claim is true or not. The author claims careful investigation, but does not say that this included talking to eyewitnesses. You are assuming this was his method, but is not stated, so we can not know for sure.

  12. unklee says:

    thebiblereader said: “However if they were considered inspired, one would expect consistency and inerrancy as a reasonable expectation.”

    I think we need to clarify what is meant by “inspired”. In everyday life, inspiration is a fairly tenuous link – “this song was inspired by the moon landing” simply means that the writer used the landing as a starting point for his ideas. So what does it mean in the NT?

    The word used in 2 Tim 3:16 literally means ‘God-breathed’, but the exact meaning of this isn’t clear. It could mean God breathed it out, it is his words, and therefore it should be inerrant. Or it could mean he breathed into it, he inspired the authors and guided their ideas, but didn’t over-ride them, and therefore we have no reason to conclude it is inerrant.

    So which is it? Well, when we look at it, we find that all the authors have their own styles, which suggest the latter. And it certainly appears not to be inerrant, which also suggests the latter.

    So I suggest just as God made a world that allowed sin and suffering to occur, even though it is “good”, just as christians are reborn but still are not perfect, just as God’s church is his agent for change in the world but is far from perfect, so it is safest to assume that “inspired” takes the latter meaning. God ensured the Bible served his purposes, it is broadly reliable and accurate if understood rightly, but he didn’t over-ride the authors to such an extent that he made it inerrant.

    And if that is so, then your problem fades significantly.

    • to Unklee…U say, “I think we need to clarify what is meant by “inspired”. In everyday life, inspiration is a fairly tenuous link – “this song was inspired by the moon landing” simply means that the writer used the landing as a starting point for his ideas. So what does it mean in the NT?

      The word used in 2 Tim 3:16 literally means ‘God-breathed’, but the exact meaning of this isn’t clear. It could mean God breathed it out, it is his words, and therefore it should be inerrant. Or it could mean he breathed into it, he inspired the authors and guided their ideas, but didn’t over-ride them, and therefore we have no reason to conclude it is inerrant.”

      So now I understand why you believe the bible infallible and inspired but no inerrant, because when looking at 2 timothy inspired means God Breathed. not technically inerrant. Am I catching you right?

  13. unklee says:

    “Can the Gospels still be considered reliable and trustworthy if we know that they are not eyewitness accounts? And does the fact they are not eyewitness accounts, does it take away from the legitimacy of them being inspired?”

    But we do not know they are not eyewitness accounts or based on them – we just don’t know for sure that they are. There is good evidence from the first few centuries that they are indeed based on eyewitness accounts, and while that evidence isn’t strong enough to convince most scholars, they have no better options, some have always held to the traditional authorships, and there seems to be a move back in that direction – John is now known to have enough local knowledge to suggest he was an eyewitness, and Richard Bauckham has argued strongly for eyewitness sources.

    I suggest there are two levels to these questions – (1) what the secular historians can say confidently, and (2) what believers may reasonably believe.

    (1) The secular historians say the gospels are good sources, though with their difficulties, and we can know a lot about Jesus. They can show that the stories are not later legends, and many of the important matters go right back to the time after Jesus’ death. Those should be ‘facts’ accepted by believers and unbeliever alike. The closeness to the eyewitnesses is debated.

    (2) Inspiration is something that cannot be proved, historically or any other way. It is a matter of faith or trust. But if we accept the historians’ views above, it is quite reasonable to believe that the God who sent Jesus ensured the important aspects of his life were remembered and preserved.

    Evidence + faith allows us to believe the Bible even though we see the problems.

  14. unklee says:

    christianagnostic said: “How do you know it is Luke writing this Gospel?”
    I didn’t say we could know it was Luke. I think there are reasonable arguments for that, but regarding Luke, I was only making a brief comment on your statement: “none of the gospels claim to be written by eyewitnesses “

    “Luke does not claim to have interviewed eyewitnesses”
    Yes, fair enough, that was my interpretation. I should have said “based on eyewitnesses”, though I think he probably did speak to some.

    “we have no way of knowing whether his claim is true or not”
    We have no way of “knowing” for certain almost anything in history, but we have reasonable evidence in this case. But I wasn’t asserting we could know, only pointing out that your statement was not fully accurate. My comment on Luke was one sentence, yet you have focused on it – I presume you agree then that John’s gospel does indeed make such a claim quite clearly?

  15. To be clear, no , I don’t think John’s gospel claims to be written by John. You are inferring that the disciple whom he loved is John, but again, it is not clear. Early church history is fuzzy on this matter as well. Many early Fathers referred to John the Elder, as the author of this Gospel and not the Disciple John. And the Gospel of John has clearly been tampered with on many occasions, how do we even know that what we read is what was originally written?

    My question is this? Why couldn’t God have been more clear? Why wouldn’t he inspire and preserve eyewitness testimony that could be reasonably verified? As it is, even his followers are admitting best guess scenario. Hardly ideal for a text that is being hailed as the very Word of God, in my opinion.

    I don’t mean to be rude…these are my honest obstacles to putting any reliance in the Bible as God’s word.

    • IgnorantiaNescia says:

      “And the Gospel of John has clearly been tampered with on many occasions, how do we even know that what we read is what was originally written?”

      I am not sure what you mean. Do you mean interpolations in various manuscripts at some points make the entire text suspect?

      • yes…The whole woman caught in adultery does not appear in manuscripts until the 10th century. Much of Chapter One is in dispute. There are 2 complete manuscripts of John from the Late 4th century, even they disagree significantly (over 3,000 differences between our 2 oldest copies) and they are also about 300 years removed from the original manuscript.

        I think the documented discrepancies clearly point to a text that was revised, edited, or added to over time. How would you know if a verse was actually in the original manuscript or had been added or edited?

      • ignorantianescia says:

        “I think the documented discrepancies clearly point to a text that was revised, edited, or added to over time.”

        I would not dispute this.

        “How would you know if a verse was actually in the original manuscript or had been added or edited?”

        Well, we don’t “know” what was in the original manuscript but I think a good approximation is certainly possible. If there are no differences between versions of a text in early witnesses nor internal reason to doubt the authenticity, then I think scepticism is misplaced. Without any reason to question a verse, it should be given the benefit of doubt.

    • Donald Miller says:

      “The whole woman caught in adultery does not appear in manuscripts until the 10th century. Much of Chapter One is in dispute. There are 2 complete manuscripts of John from the Late 4th century, even they disagree significantly (over 3,000 differences between our 2 oldest copies) and they are also about 300 years removed from the original manuscript.”

      I don’t want to come across as flippant, but really what difference does it make? (I mean to people who enjoy having their faith.) People work with what they have.

      That might seem like a strange comment coming from someone who like yourself is studying the bible, but I’m doing it because I enjoy the archaeology and history study involved. Have you read Ehrman’s book on the New Testament? It’s an interesting read. So are his lectures.

      • yes…I’ve read a lot of Ehrman. But I’ve come to enjoy Richard Carrier as well.

        you said
        “I don’t want to come across as flippant, but really what difference does it make? (I mean to people who enjoy having their faith.) People work with what they have. ”

        I guess it make a difference to me, because I have so many friends and loved ones that are literally risking their lives because they believe the Bible is the key to Eternal life. If it isn’t really God’s word, but just an interesting book from antiquity, I’m fine with that. But if you believe God is calling you to share this book in a war zone (as one friend thought he was) and are asking for tens of thousands of other people’s money to do so….well, I think you should be sure that what you believe is actually true.

      • Donald Miller says:

        Yes. It certainly does matter in instances like that.

      • Sophia says:

        You and others may be ENJOYING your faith..like it is some fun thing to do….but for those like myself…I find it destroyed my life and everything in it because I believed it too much..now I suffer everyday over that and left the Christian faith forever ! am still suffering for believing in it so much. The damage is permanent for me ! So while you guys are ok with it because you are just simply enjoying your faith fun…others are losing there lives over it ! Not enjoyable and not innocent enjoyment at the cost of others lives !
        It better be extremely accurate considering the cost of truly following it ! I am guessing while you are “ENJOYING” your faith..you haven’t really lost much or have been damaged over it have you ?

  16. unklee says:

    christianagnostic, I don’t doubt you see honest obstacles. But i wasn’t asking you about them. Your comment that I focused on was this: “none of the gospels claim to be written by eyewitnesses”, whereas in fact John’s gospel does. That is the matter I am trying to draw your attention to. Do you agree that John says this, and that your comment was mistaken?

  17. Let me re-read the last chapter and I’ll get back to you….thanks for the conversation.

  18. Ok….here’s the statement from the last chapter of John

    “24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
    25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written. ”

    The Gospel of John is claiming to pass on the testimony of the disciple who saw these things (described earlier). But this passage is in the third person and seems to imply that someone else is recording “the disciple’s” testimony and that they know his testimony is true. It is still second hand and it does not claim to be written by an apostle. It does not identify who this beloved disciple is….why?

  19. unklee says:

    “24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. “

    The claim is that the eyewitness wrote his stories down, the community is now endorsing it. That is the point I have been pointing out from the beginning. So its not “second hand”, though it might perhaps be edited, as any writing might perhaps be.

    As for not identifying him by name, we can all guess. Obviously the community knew, but we don’t. But as the memories go back to Jesus’ life, the book has always been associated with John, and he lived a long time, it still seems a reasonable conclusion – though whether it was John son of Zebedee, John the Elder or John Mark may be argued. But that wasn’t my main point, just your statement that none of the gospels claimed to have been written by an eyewitness, when John clearly does.

    • I found this on Christiandoubt.com1. The Gospel makes reference to its authorship toward the end of the Gospel (John 21:20-24)

      20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

      The Greek phrase “has written these things” can mean “has caused them to be written”, which would identify the disciple as the source but not the actually author of this gospel.

  20. I won’t argue it further, you are right. The Gospel called John, claims that a beloved disciple wrote the Gospel or wrote his testimony down and was being relayed through the Gospel.

    It still seems tenuous to me for a couple reasons, first off, the earliest complete manuscripts of this gospel are from the late 4th century. They have over 3,000 differences and/ or ommmissions from each other. Including the final verses of the chapter we are discussing. The final sentence of John is absent in our oldest manuscripts.

    There is no way to know, whether the original Gospel claimed to be written by a beloved disciple, or whether those verses were added to try and give this gospel the weight of apostolic authority. It seems very vague to offer it as eyewitness testimony, but to never actually name the witness. Again, what would be God’s reason for being so vague about the greatest story ever told?

    But I agree, that John is the only Gospel that claims some connection to eyewitness testimony. Whether it’s claiming to be the Apostle John is still up for debate…

    • IgnorantiaNescia says:

      Hello Christian Agnostic,
      I checked it in NA 27, but the only listed textual witness that omits John 21 verse 25 is the original reading of Sinaiticus. A very important textual witness, but not authoritative when it stands alone. But since the verse reads “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written.” I do not understand how it is relevant to the author of gJohn? No omissions of the relevant verse 24 are mentioned in NA 27.

      Best wishes

      • Sorry…I wasn’t clear, our oldest copy does have verse 24. My point was that the final Chapter has documented discrepancies and raises the question of reliability. Sorry for the confusion.

      • IgnorantiaNescia says:

        Point taken, ChristianAgnostic. Now I haven’t checked every page in NA but I’d be surprised if there would be any entire chapter without discrepancies (it actually shouldn’t take more than an hour to check though so I’m really just lazy ;) ). But I don’t think that is even remotely troubling for the overall reliability of the chapter itself, since it inclusion is well attested. Verses can contain spurious elements, but this has to be argued on a verse-by-verse basis based on the evidence. Verse 24 is not disputed by external evidence.

  21. unklee says:

    IN, what is NA 27?

    • ignorantianescia says:

      Nestle-Aland’s New Testament in Greek 27th edition, the most common critical version of the New Testament and the most recent edition.

  22. unklee says:

    “They have over 3,000 differences and/or omissions from each other.”
    This is something I want to research more, but we need to ask what this means exactly. There are 879 verses in John, so that would be almost 4 differences per verse. I think that is only possible because there is generally a clear text of a verse (i.e. in the majority of copies) and several variations around that. In some people’s counts, the same variation in 100 copies would count as 100, not 1. So we need to be sure what the statistics mean. Do you know in this case?

    It is worth noting that the more texts we have, the more variations we will have – if there was only one copy, we’d have no errors. So many errors is ‘bad”, but many copies is ‘good’.

    “Again, what would be God’s reason for being so vague about the greatest story ever told?”
    Please note, this is a question, not an argument. : )

    • 2twins4me says:

      I must weigh in on this question if I may; I do not believe that God was vague in any way of the greatest story every told. There is a possibility that God did not want us to know all, because when we live eternally with Him, all questions will be answered. But for right now, the WORD was made flesh and dwelt among us. The apostles were men just like us, some women included in the mix. God has given to us a “roadmap,” an illustration of how we are to live and love each other. As far as the Gnostic Gospels, some differ in style and narrative, but if we read with our eyes and listen for interpretation as we pray, we can find out more than what we have read. I truly believe that God, through His Son, JESUS, has given us a beautiful book for Eternal Life and we have to stay open to receive from the Holy Spirit His manifested Word of Knowledge. Let’s just keep on praying and asking God to REVEAL unto us what the WORD is saying to us and yes, there are great mysteries that we as humans cannot comprehend because we are limited, but God is limitless, and with Him, there are boundaries. Just a thought!

  23. Its odd that the Gospel of John makes a claim of being from someone who was a witness and none of the synoptic Gospels do. Because most NT Scholars (Christian and Secular)actually consider the Gospel of John the least Reliable Historically in the aspect of Jesus.

    • unklee says:

      Each gospel has its own history, and we don’t know all of that. Luke makes his process I Each gospel has its own history, and we only know parts.

      Luke makes his process quite clear, and he claims to have reported what eyewitnesses said and wrote.

      Mark & Matthew say nothing, and I would guess that’s because they weren’t compiled quite so deliberately. My guess is that Matthew wrote down sayings of Jesus and someone else added the narrative (there is some ancient suggestion of this and Matthew has all the sayings grouped into discrete sections). I would imagine Mark wrote down Peter’s memories and someone else compiled that also. So there probably wasn’t a single author/editor.

      The scholars consider John less reliable because it is considered to be very late, because it contains so much more developed theology, and because the picture of Jesus in it is so different from the synoptic gospels. But John is slowly making a comeback, and there are some scholars who consider it to have the most reliable chronology (e.g. many visits to Jerusalem, vs only one in the synoptics). And archaeology now confirms that John knew things about Jerusalem that changed within a decade of Jesus’ death or in the Roman sacking of Jerusalem in 70CE (see Archaeology and John’s gospel) so the author probably was an eyewitness. I think there was certainly a slow development of understanding of Jesus’ divine status (which was a difficult concept for a monotheistic Jew), and John’s christology is more developed than the others’, and this is because he was an eyewitness, he did live to be very old, and his gospel has both eyewitness reporting and mature reflection.

      I think you would really enjoy reading Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the eyewitnesses – it’s quite long and not all scholars agree with him, but I found it fascinating and helpful.

      In the end, I believe our view of the gospels must rest on both history and faith. The scholarship on the NT shows us that the stories have a reasonable basis, and that is sufficient (for me) to believe in Jesus. I can then believe in faith that God kept the stories accurate enough for us to find the truth, though not necessarily without any error.

      Hope that helps.

  24. unklee says:

    “So now I understand why you believe the bible infallible and inspired but no inerrant, because when looking at 2 timothy inspired means God Breathed. not technically inerrant. Am I catching you right?”
    Yes, you’re onto it. I’m not a great fan of “infallible” because its meaning isn’t all that clear and neither it nor “inerrant” are Biblical words. But it is often used to mean “accomplishing God’s purposes”, and I agree with that.

    So yes, I believe the Bible is inspired by God (= God-breathed) and the Holy Spirit uses it to accomplish his purposes, but I see no evidence that this makes it inerrant.

    • okay, i’m going to research and read more about this aspect of the bible being inspired, cause I never read, heard or been taught the aspect of being inspired as you just stated. But it is very interesting. Thanks for your input.

  25. Freedom says:

    Very cool discussion! I posted a bit about my thoughts in an earlier area of the blog, but just to add in, historical study has shown that the Gospels were not written by eye witnesses. The names were given to give the Gospels more authority. There is a reason that Matthew, Mark and Luke are so similar, they most likely were written from the same main source, with each author pulling from other sources as well. Whether or not they actually got eyewitness accounts is unknown but it is possible, but highly unlikely given the fact that they were written many years after Jesus’ death and the vast majority of the eye witnesses where dead by that time.

    As John was the last of the Gospels written, there is no way that it was Jesus’ disciple John as he would have already been dead. Whether or not someone took an actual eyewitness account of John or recanted versions from others later is unknown. If it is the actual eyewitness account of John, the author didn’t write it down until years later

    While not the actual work of eyewitnesses to Jesus’s life, the Gospels pulled together the written and oral history of Jesus’ life, sayings and resurrection into one written narrative.

    And you also have a good answer as to why the Gospels are written in the third person and not first person, as the authors were not the actual eyewitnesses.

    • ignorantianescia says:

      Actually, it is within the realms of plausibility that John was written by an eyewitness. First of all the dating isn’t as certain as it’s often made out to be, some dependence on the Synoptics is often assumed which is why it’s dated late but that identification really is not that solid.

    • I’m glad you have enjoyed the post

  26. unklee says:

    Freedom, I think you have summarised what many scholars believe may be the case, but it isn’t as certain as you say, but is more complex.

    “historical study has shown that the Gospels were not written by eye witnesses”
    Well, as IN says, there is good evidence that John is based on an eyewitness, and some evidence that Matthew’s individual input is also. After all, unless the stories are totally invented (which few historians believe) then they had to come from somewhere.

    “The names were given to give the Gospels more authority.”
    It’s not that simple – why would you give the names of Mark & Luke, who were not apostles? There is good internal evidence for Luke (the connection with Acts and the “we” passages there), and ancient evidence (disputed but still useful) for John, Matthew as eyewitnesses and Mark as recording Peter’s memories.

    ” Whether or not they actually got eyewitness accounts is unknown but it is possible, but highly unlikely given the fact that they were written many years after Jesus’ death and the vast majority of the eye witnesses where dead by that time.”
    But you haven’t accounted for oral; (and written) transmission of stories and sayings, which scholars have shown can be very accurate.

    “As John was the last of the Gospels written, there is no way that it was Jesus’ disciple John as he would have already been dead.”
    There is good evidence that John was young during Jesus’ life, that he lived to be a very old man and that others compiled the gospel from his stories, and that his recollections o places at least was accurate.

    “While not the actual work of eyewitnesses to Jesus’s life, the Gospels pulled together the written and oral history of Jesus’ life, sayings and resurrection into one written narrative.”
    And we can believe that the ‘written and oral history of Jesus’ life, sayings and resurrection’ were from eyewitnesses, as Luke says.

  27. Freedom says:

    Unklee – thanks for your response! I believe the historians have a better grasp on what Evangelical Christians use as a quick response to questions about who wrote the Bible and when it was written. Most historians will agree that John was not an eye witness. As far as the synoptic Gospels, they were pulled from the same source. That source may or may not have been written by an eye witness. At any rate, they writings are at least a 2nd hand account of the events that transpired with the authors adding in their own take. Does that mean that Jesus didn’t live, minister and die on a cross? No, it doesn’t. What it does mean is that it is a narrative account of Jesus’ life.

    The whole idea that The Bible is inerrant and taking The Bible literally is something that came about over 1600 years after the death of Christ. Sounds like we agree that The Bible is not inerrant.

  28. Hey just wanted to add some more to the general conversation. I found this source while working & researching on a different post topic. But on Christiandoubt.com they have a post on the Gospel authorship, and they have some things that are very interesting. http://www.christiandoubt.com/gospel-authorship/

    Here are some things mentioned in the article:
    A. Irenaeus (~180 A.D.):
    “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.” (c.185. Against Heresies, 3.1.1)

    AND

    1. The Gospel makes reference to its authorship toward the end of the Gospel (John 21:20-24)

    20 Peter turned and saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them, the one who had been reclining at table close to him and had said, “Lord, who is it that is going to betray you?” 21 When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?” 22 Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!” 23 So the saying spread abroad among the brothers that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” 24 This is the disciple who is bearing witness about these things, and who has written these things, and we know that his testimony is true.

    The Greek phrase “has written these things” can mean “has caused them to be written”, which would identify the disciple as the source but not the actually author of this gospel.

    I thought the latter part was important considering there has been some discussion on the board on the Gospel of John and it’s claim authorship.

    *This I have not attempted to verify if it is true yet. But still interesting.

  29. unklee says:

    christianagnostic said: “I’ve read a lot of Ehrman. But I’ve come to enjoy Richard Carrier as well.”
    Then you may be interested in this disagreement between Carrier and Ehrman. Background: Ehrman wrote the book “Did Jesus exist?” and answers yes. Carrier reviewed the book and called it and Ehrman all sorts of nasty names. So Ehrman replied, twice, here and here. My impression is that Carrier is doing himself no favours these days, and is losing any reputation he had among scholars.

    • This sounds interesting cause I myself have read up alot on ehrman lately but not so much on carrier, so learning about carriers review of ehrmans sounds interesting

      • ignorantianescia says:

        To be honest, I think it would be better to read honest apologists replying to Carrier than reading a lot by Carrier himself, as Carrier often lets his agenda get the better of him.

    • ignorantianescia says:

      “My impression is that Carrier is doing himself no favours these days, and is losing any reputation he had among scholars.”

      Sort of, yes. It has mostly gone from “Who now?” to “Oh that crank.” but it looks like professor James McGrath previously did have some respect for him. Though professor Hoffman, who has worked with Carrier in the past, has lost his respect for Carrier long since.

    • yes, I’d agree that Carrier can be Junior Highish in some of his blog posts and lectures. But I will say this in his defense, his willingness to search out a claim to it’s original source document is impressive. I agree with Ehrman that Carrier’s personal attacks distract from his scholarship, which is genuine and something that Ehrman affirms while defending the criticisms made by Carrier.

      Thanks for the links…

      • Wow…just finishing the links, Carrier really comes off as a jerk. I wonder if he’s jealous of Ehrman? I thought Ehrman comes off as the adult in his reply.

      • ignorantianescia says:

        “But I will say this in his defense, his willingness to search out a claim to it’s original source document is impressive.”

        I’ll hand you that one. He’s a master with primary sources. It’s a shame he spends his efforts on mere activism, though.

    • I’ve never heard of Richard Carrier, prior to this discussion. It will be interesting to read up about him.

  30. unklee says:

    G’day Freedom,

    It is nive we agree on something important, but I feel I must disagree on some other matters (sorry!)_.

    “As far as the synoptic Gospels, they were pulled from the same source”
    There is believed to be several common sources behind the synoptic gospels, and several that were not in common. So most scholars believe Mark was first, Luke and Matthew used some of his material, some of another common source (designated ‘Q’) and each also had their own separate source or sources. And that is consistent with how Luke described what he did.

    “The whole idea that The Bible is inerrant and taking The Bible literally is something that came about over 1600 years after the death of Christ.”
    I’m not sure if this is accurate. Certainly there were allegorical interpretations in the early days of christianity, but there were a range of interpretations, including literal. My reading suggests some passages were often interpreted literally, others often interpreted allegorically, etc. I’m not sure when inerrancy became an established doctrine, and I think it may have gradually come into vogue, fairly late as you say.

    Best wishes.

    • ignorantianescia says:

      I believe the doctrine of inerrancy was formulated in conservative Presbyterian circles in the nineteenth century, by theologians like B.B. Warfield. This did not mean back then that everything was literally inerrant, though. It basically meant the same as “infallible” in those days.

    • from my own study and research of the bible and textual criticism. the idea of the “HOLY” bible didn’t even come about until about the 1200

  31. wonderwoman2 says:

    I’ll make this short and sweet , my bible is the most important thing in my life since I was a young girl. I don’t read cover to covet because I don’t believe it is reliable simply because man has had his hand in it for to long. I am a fan of the revelations of Christ cause I believe we are here if God needs me in other parts he will put it in my path without doubt.
    Also your post was packed full of usable knowledge thank you

  32. the gospels could not have been written by the guys, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with their names on the covers. There are several reasons for this:

    the earliest gospel manuscripts don’t have names on the covers; the evidence is, the names were added later.
    Matthew and Luke clearly copy from Mark. Not just ideas and paraphrases, but idiosyncratic word for word phrasing that no two, or three, people could have come up with each on their own. These facts force even the most arch conservative believing scholars to admit this “literary dependence.” And literary dependence shoots the hell out of the theory that the gospels are first hand histories.
    It was early Christian custom to write books like the ones in our New Testament, and after the book was finished, to go back and put some famous apostles name on the cover. Early Christianity had lots of Gospels, lots of epistles, lots of acts. Ours fit perfectly with that tradition.Now, we don’t believe the Gospel of Thomas—in which Jesus brings salvation not by dying on the cross, but by teaching secret wisdom—was actually written by the apostle Thomas. So according to what evidence and what reasons can we believe our gospels were written by our apostles?
    It turns out, there are no non-circular criteria you can apply to both our gospels and their gospels and come up with the answer our gospels as unique and true, and the other early Christian gospels as phony.

    This comes off the post…http://mormonismscam.com/2012/06/17/jesus-christ-what-we-think-we-know-about-jesus-christ/

  33. unkleE says:

    “the gospels could not have been written by the guys, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, with their names on the covers.”

    Richard Bauckham’s excellent book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” is worth reading on this. It is true that many scholars (not sure if it is most) don’t believe the traditional authorship, but many do, and Bauckham puts a strong case of at least some aspects. He says Mark wrote the gospels based on Peter’s memories – there is good internal evidence that this is so – and he seems to take seriously the claim in Papias that Matthew wrote Jesus’ sayings down and these formed a basis for the later writing of the gospel. There is excellent archaeological evidence that John’s narrative is from an eyewitness, and Bauckham notes that many scholars believe the author was John son of Zebedee, while he (and many others) argue for it being another apostle named John. And there’s pretty good evidence for Luke too, though obviously he wasn’t an eyewitness himself.

    So “could not” is way too strong – “may not” is about as far as we can safely go.

    “literary dependence shoots the hell out of the theory that the gospels are first hand histories.”

    How does this work? Luke says quite definitely that he gathered the stories of several eyewitnesses. Papias infers the same about Matthew. There is good evidence, as I said, that John was based on eyewitness memories. You need to understand how the stories were handed on (as much as we are able to understand this) and Bauckham’s book is excellent on this.

    “It was early Christian custom to write books like the ones in our New Testament, and after the book was finished, to go back and put some famous apostles name on the cover. …. So according to what evidence and what reasons can we believe our gospels were written by our apostles?”

    Yes people sometimes did that, but the scholars think that the names were on the outside of the scrolls from very early on, to distinguish them. The early christians self-selected. What they “knew” had apostolic authority they selected, what didn’t they didn’t. You may not accept their judgment, but it is certainly a non-circular criterion. (And Mark and the other John are hardly famous names, and Luke wasn’t an eyewitness, so who’d use them in a fake?) I really think you should read Bauckham, and I’ll buy you a copy from Amazon if you want to read it (but be warned, it’s 500 pages of fascinating reading by an eminent scholar).

    It is true that these things are not certain, but that means they are not certain in the way you have presented them. The source you quote is hardly unbiased, and appears not to be based on much good scholarship. I’m not sure why you quote its conclusions so definitely.

    • hello unklee,

      Bauckham’s Book seems like a interesting read, I actually took a quick look at on Amazon, and it surprisly has very good reviews and ratings. So i think i’ll check it out later. (The first review, was actually somewhat very informative)

      I appreciate the offer unklee, I should be able to manage to get it myself.

      Thanks, I’ll let u know what I think after I get a chance to read it

      • unkleE says:

        OK. Bauckham’s conclusions are not, of course, accepted by all scholars, but they are at least one well-based opinion among the experts, and much of what he says would be widely accepted. I think we tend to judge the NT by 21st century standards, and Bauckham helps us see it from a more 1st century viewpoint. Best wishes.

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  36. keith says:

    Sadly most of the readers and comments have already decided that the writings are inspired. Therefore, whether the scrolls were written by a scribe from dictation or by the apostle author himself is moot. (Too bad you don’t recall that God let his own writings be destroyed.)
    What we do know is that only one of the apostles may have been literate, making most if not all of the scrolls a dictation; the date of when the scrolls have been proposed as not written during the life and times of the original apostles (but this depends on the source/scholar), if so, the issue is one of recall of a third or fourth person account. Then, we are not considering to add to the discussion what other documents were found within the same cache of artifacts when we attempt to date the writings.
    We do know that the early believers were agressive in their eradication of any “heretic” works/writings so quite possibly the question becomes what has been lost?
    This is not a simple answer.
    However, never fear…no evidence or answer would be sufficient to change most peoples opinions/beliefs.
    Examples: didn’t Time mag present a good debunk of Scientology? But they haven’t gone anywhere. Look at the Moonies…he died in Sept 2012 and they still have their believers. What would it take for any of the zealot readers to change their minds? Nothing.

    • M. Rodriguez says:

      Considering what I know know. Luke is the apostle with the capabilites and skill to write a gospel. All the others are just too circumstancual to be taken serious as a first hand experience /account

  37. Sophia says:

    Anyone can write a book and say it was inspired by the Holy Spirit…it can also have some accuracies regarding historical places and events…but that doesn’t mean all the stories in it are accurate of even truthful ! it is like writing a fantasy fictional book and using real places as a backdrop ! It the Gospels are written 3rd party they most likely are not accurate of truthful but biased ! As a story passes down from one person to another…over tike it becomes changed and more exaggerated. Kind of like a rumor or a person telling a story of something in their life.. when it gets spread around over time the tale gets bigger and more grand ! Even the OT God was not the same in anyway similar to Jesus in the NT One is peaceful, gentle and caring and the other is a killer, murderous and blood thirsty and quite bi polar in his behavior ! I wondered if that is why the NT was written..maybe because no one wanted to worship or even liked the OT God..not popular…so Jesus was invented to smooth things over and win converts !

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