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December 14, 2012


Mr. Wallace, would the red flags go up for you if the witnesses all said the exact same thing? For me, that would be something of significance. Thanks for sharing. Thanks also for your hard work in defending the truth of Christianity.

But the eyewitness testimonies given in the NT are not mere eyewitness testimonies. They are also inspired by God. As such if, in the end, the way they were verbalized contains an error, God has only Himself to blame.

Unless there is a good reason for God to deceive us even as He is revealing Himself to us, we have to proceed on the assumption that what He revealed is inerrant. Not merely reliable.

We do not need to assume that all the hand-copies made through the long years were all perfect copies, because there is no claim of inspiration on the copy process.

Having said that, I don't expect the eyewitnesses to all say the same thing or to answer every question. So the first two points seem correct.

J., do you think the gospels were written by eye witnesses, or do you think the authors relied on eye witness testimony? Because it looks like Matthew and Luke both relied heavily on Mark's gospel (and I suspect Luke used Matthew). If Matthew and Luke were both fresh gospels based on interviewing eye witnesses, it would be surprising that so much of the wording is exactly the same. I think a better explanation is literary dependence.

Historians closest to the events place the historical order just as they are included in the NT...with Matthew first.

Markan priority is based on how cleverly academics read the texts (so-called 'internal' evidence). It usually is with an eye toward making Jesus less divine.

Augustine first introduced the idea that there was a dependence of one on the other, and He saw it as Mark being dependent on Matthew and Luke on Matthew and Mark.

Literary dependence may explain part of what you see in the Gospels, but it is probably a much smaller part than even Augustine imagined.

It's obvious, isn't it, that in some cases, Jesus would have repeated many of the things he said many times, so on reports of such events, you'd expect to get pretty strong agreement even on the assumption of total independence.

The lion's share of the so-called 'triple-tradition' that agrees on all details consists of Jesus' parables and teachings. So does a lot of the 'double-tradition' (found in the academic fever-dream known as the 'Q gospel'). These are the very things you expect Jesus to repeat a lot.

These repeated teachings are things that Matthew and Peter heard so much that they could probably say them in their sleep. Mark also heard these things plenty...the apostles weren't the only eyewitnesses. Mark was also there (assuming that he was the follower of Christ that fled naked when Jesus was arrested). And he had Peter to help him besides. Luke was not an eyewitness, but he spoke to many. And he had Paul who probably was among the Pharisees constantly hounding Jesus, and who, in any case, had a later miraculous interview with Christ to which Peter said he could add nothing.

I'm guessing that a very big part of the dependence argument turns on the data of greatly repeated teachings. Data which is no data, since you would expect strong agreement by all eyewitnesses even on the assumption of independence.

And clearly there were other aspects of the Gospels that truly were independent. Some sections are only included in a single Gospel.

And some sections tell of the same thing, but the details differ.

Luke and Matthew tell completely different (though not incompatible) stories of Jesus' earliest years and lineage, for example. Luke tells of his birth and biological lineage from Mary. Matthew tells of the days before his flight to Egypt and his legal lineage from Joseph.

There are also differences in details in many of the miracles that are described. For example, Jesus healed three blind men near Jericho for example--one on the way in and two on the way out--but no account tells of all three. Luke tells of the one on the way in. Matthew tells of two on the way out. While Mark tells only of the one whose name he knew: Bartimaeus...healed on the way out. What's more, apart from all the blind men saying "Son of David, have mercy on me" (which everyone said...not just blind men near Jericho) the summaries of Jesus' conversations with the blind men were quite different.

Because the details are different critics point to them as 'Bible contradictions' when the mood seizes them. But even though the details are different we are often asked often by the same critics to still count them as 'evidence' of literary dependence. It obviously can't ever be both. It can't even ever be the latter. And it is probably never either.

Of course, Mark and Peter may have sometimes used Matthew to jog their memories, and Luke and Paul may have used both. But much more is made of the synoptic 'problem' than it probably deserves.

But the eyewitness testimonies given in the NT are not mere eyewitness testimonies.

They are not eyewitness testimonies at all.

You cannot have an eyewitness testimony without an eyewitness.

An eyewitness can be cross-examined.

NT writers cannot be cross-examined.

Yet, the eyewitness apologetic persists.




The scope RonH uses here is simply limited to court cases, not the broader definition of what constitutes an eyewitness. The essential component of an eyewitness of a court case is that he must actually be available for cross-examination and present what he saw there. RonH is actually correct that there is a difference between an eyewitness of ancient times and that of our time where we have more direct access to the individual in question. But at the same time, he assumes that this difference invalidates written eyewitness accounts as valid on that difference alone. I think this is the misstep he makes. That someone of our time cannot have a heart-to-heart conversation with the individual, does not automatically erase the facts of the individual having witnessed the events he reported on or the scrupulous efforts at accurately recording them for posterity, nor the evidence of their faithful transmission throughout the ages. Though I could be wrong, it seems to do that in the mind of RonH.


That the writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, etc, were not eyewitnesses does not imply to me that these documents get anything wrong.


Ebenezer Hinkley is said to have given eyewitness testimony regarding the Boston Massacre.

Ebenezer Hinkley is dead.

Ebenezer Hinkley cannot be cross-examined.

So Ebenezer Hinkley was not actually an eyewitness to the Boston Massacre.

In fact, none of the so-called eyewitnesses to the Boston Massacre can be cross-examined, since all of them are dead.

Therefore, there were no eyewitnesses to the Boston Massacre.


One 'correction' on the synoptic problem. You can argue that the triple-tradition includes more narrative than teachings. But to do so, you have to include some things that it might be surprising to consider part of a 'tradition'.

For example, early on, Jesus goes into Galilee after John has been arrested. This event is described in Matthew 4:12-16, Mark 1:14 and Luke 3:20 and 4:14-15.

I think you can see just by the verse counts that there is quite a bit of difference between these three passages. And it turns out that the claim of triple-tradition boils down, I kid you not, to the fact that all three use the phrase "into Galilee".

"But the eyewitness testimonies given in the NT are not mere eyewitness testimonies.

They are not eyewitness testimonies at all.

You cannot have an eyewitness testimony without an eyewitness.

An eyewitness can be cross-examined.

NT writers cannot be cross-examined.

Yet, the eyewitness apologetic persists.



By your logic you cannot believe anything that has happened prior to your lifetime, or maybe 50-75 years before that as there will not be any eyewitnesses alive to be cross-examined regarding whatever events are being investigated.

Darth Dutch

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