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January 12, 2016

Comments

The thing to point out is the amount of history really imbedded in the Gospel narratives. If restricted to Josephus' accounts, there is a fine meshing of events. Even if we ignore the Testimonium Flavium on Jesus, we have accounts of John the Baptist, James the brother of Jesus, Herod Agrippa I, the sects of the Pharisees and Sadducees etc.

>> not historians as we would define the term today.

So, we have to call them historians in the genre of their times. We do not make distinctions like this to discredit the veracity of Caesar in his War Commentaries or of Xenophon and his Anabasis (hey! what credible historian used the third person narrative when he was part of the narrative. Clumsy!! Inaccurate!!!. Such a statement is a paltry smokescreen that makes do better statement than "those guys did history different than us guys."

One of the strengths of the gospel accounts is the background of knowledge of the geography, times, and culture which declares that the writers knew what it was to live in early first century Palestine. Even an outsider as Luke could count on the eyewitness memories of people who had the necessary understanding of the ministry of Jesus.

>> smokescreen that makes do better statement

Ah, make that makes no better

Also, close parenthesis after Inaccurate!!!

It's a bit 'on the nose'.

The standard Christian argument is that the persons who wrote the gospels WERE eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry. And there WAS fact checking available in the form of hostile witnesses WHO WERE alive at the time who could testify that any given story was untrue.

What this argument does is simply claim that everyone knows that every word of that argument is false, and assert that, instead, educated storytellers wrote it all.

But, no, everyone does not know that every word of the argument is false. Everyone does not know that educated storytellers wrote it all.

Instead, we have modern Bible Scholars who claim to be able to read the texts and determine all sorts of facts about authorship. That's what "It is widely understood that..." really means.

Against this we have the early councils and historians who unanimously held that the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

There is a difference between these two authorities.

The modern scholars do not have any of the documents that they claim the Gospels came from. They have only their clever guesses about the texts we do have. Guesses that have led to about 1500 theories of authorship, none of them having a decisive argument in its favor.

In contrast, the early councils had all sorts of documents relevant to the authorship of the Gospels. If Q really did exist, for example, they would have had that. Of course, Q never did exist. What did really exist, unlike Q, was the Exposition of the Sayings of the Lord by Papias. Unfortunately it is lost right now, but it was not lost at the time of the early councils. They probably also had other writings that we do not even know the names of that spoke to the authorship of the texts.

Add to this the fact that the members of the early councils would have had a facility with the languages in which the Gospels were written that should wake up the green-eyed monster in any Biblical Scholar alive today.

This is not a close thing.

If you are trying to determine what color something is, go with the unanimous verdict of the crowd of sighted people in good lighting over the conflicted verdict the crowd of blind-people in the dark every time.

The councils consisted of a group of smart people who were in an excellent position to make a well-informed determination of authorship. And they came to a unanimous verdict on the authorship of the Gospels.

Contemporary Biblical Scholars are blind by comparison. However clever they might be, they are simply are not in a position to make a well-informed determination of authorship. And, unsurprisingly, they have 1500 conflicting theories of authorship.

Oh! Oh! I can do that, too!

It is widely understood that the persons who gave us the geologic time column and evolution were not geologists and biologists as we would define the word today. Rather they were educated storytellers with an axe to grind against Christianity who used wild speculation, flawed analogy, with some amateur finch watching in the Galapagos it invent a just-so narrative about the history of life. There was no fact checking available (no one has a TARDIS or Flux Capacitor equipped Delorian to go back 65 million years and see what really killed off the dinosaurs or watch fish develop lungs and legs and evolve into amphibians) and no one alive can say which just-so stories are untrue.

My Lit profs used to mark my papers down because I was a little fond of the "It is widely understood" argument from authority. "You need to footnote your multiple sources" appeared in red ink on more than one of my essays.

It is widely understood that skeptics of the historical reliability of the to Gospel CLAIM the gospel is a late invention of Christians. But there are a great many scholars and historians who cite numerous aspects of the Gospels, and fragments recovered archeologically that date Matthew, Mark, and Luke's writing to 60-70 AD. They appear to be widely circulating by 70-80 AD. No the Gospels are not "History" or even "Biography" as we would understand them today. They are in a unique genre. But that doesn't mean they weren't historical or biographical. And the gospel writers and the early Church leaders were very concerned about their reliability, veracity, and verifiability. Paul attests to this in his letters (most of which even those skeptics agree were written between 55 and 64 AD). Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, many of whom were still alive, Paul claims.

On the other hand, there is no known copy of Julius Caesar's Gallic Wars that can be dated to earlier than 800 AD. No serious scholar doubts that Caesar wrote it (or had his scribes write it for him). The same is true for the books by the classic philosophers.

For many years now I assumed that the New Testament is the written record of those having the Charismatic Gifts of "tongues" "Interpretation of Tongues" and "Prophecy". And that as Jesus said, that the Comforter, also called the Holy Spirit would bring all that he said to their memory.

While at the same time I believe these revelation gifts ceased along with the Signs of the Apostles along with the circulation of the written New Testament.
The New Testament Scriptures being the "perfect" or complete that Paul anticipated would replace the gifts.

So whether or not a writer had first hand knowledge does not determine Divine Inspiration.

Also Jesus said his sheep know his voice and many in uniform fashion recognize the Scriptures as the Comfort provided by the Holy Spirit.

FWIW:

T. Gilson expands on the inadequacy of the Jesus As Legend Theory. That article is then discussed along with other components of the uniqueness of Christ and the Jesus genre which stand out. A quick review of the long comment box following the second article is easily achieved by “searching” the text for “legend” and also for “GM”, GM being one of the commentators etc. Gilson adds a few more items with his OP about Too Great Not To Be True and then also more on why the Jesus story is true for some added context.

Let's take this one claim at a time:

"It is widely understood that the persons who wrote the gospels were not eyewitnesses to Jesus’ ministry"

i. This is false. Perhaps it is widely understood among modern liberal textual critics. But it is not widely understood among most Bible scholars, much less most Christians.

ii. Even if it were widely understood, simply being widely understood doesn't make it true.

"the persons who wrote the gospels... were not historians as we would define the term today"

This is true on its own, but it doesn't prove the point that the challenger thinks he is making. The persons who wrote the gospels were in fact eye witnesses. They compiled what they wrote, not to a historical precision that we expect today, but rather to provide meaning that a simple chronology could obscure.

But the challenger provides additional unfounded assertions to mischaracterize the writing Apostles:

"Rather, they were educated storytellers..."

The implication seems to be that they were making it all up. Rather, the evidence is that they came from different walks of life with different levels of education, and none of them were professional storytellers.

...[they] used material from both mostly oral and some written sources while at the same time adding in some embellishments and myths at their own discretion."

No support is given for these assertions. Perhaps the "oral" reference is to the severely flawed claims that Christianity has its roots in a variety of more ancient Near East religions. Perhaps the reference to "written sources" refer to the hypothetical 'Q' source. If these kinds of things were assumed to be true as well the assumption that the Apostles were not actually eyewitnesses, then the material in the gospels that are unaccounted for must be assumed to be embellishments. It's a speculation based on speculations.

"There was no fact checking available (i.e. no contradicting information sources) and no one alive who could testify that any given story was untrue."

Actually, there was plenty of fact-checking available. That's why there are appeals to eyewitness verification throughout the New Testament. That's evidence that a) the Apostles were some of those eyewitnesses, and b) there was fact-checking available. In fact, there was contradiction to the accounts actually mentioned in the accounts themselves. So honest was the recording that these were mentioned and the reasons for these false accounts recorded as well. The only reason to do that is because the immediate audience of the gospels would have heard of these contrary accounts.

What's interesting to me is that the writers, who all provide manifold corroborating testimony, are discounted. Additionally, there is non-Apostolic, and even non-Christian, corroboration as well, particularly in historians such as Jerome, who lived at that time. The assertion that the Apostles were not eye-witnesses and that their audience didn't have access to other eye-witnesses is utterly ludicrous.

The only reason I can think of for the challenger to make these claims is to intentionally mislead people who haven't studied the issue and are looking for reasons not to believe.

First of all, regarding their status as historians, it is clear from passages like Lk 1:4 and Jn 20:31 that the principal aim of the authors was to shore up the Christian faith. They may have also been interested in history, but this was not their *principal* aim. Anyone who has read actual ancient history can tell a marked difference in tone and theme between that and the gospels. The only possible exception is Luke, who does seem somewhat attuned to historical accuracy in his second volume, Acts. His first volume is not as impressive, and the other gospels certainly aren't.

But WL is somewhat correct when he says that a lot of modern scholarship is guesswork. The reason is, we have very little in the way of reliable evidence, and so we really just have to make our best guesses based on careful study. WL claims that the ancients were in a better position than us, and in some respects that is true, but in other respects it is not. For example, one of our earliest sources, Papias, relates obviously false information about Judas and the daughters of Philip. Myths sprang up to fill in the gaps of the early Church's knowledge, and were often swallowed whole by those who heard them (e.g. the stories in the Gospel of James).

It is also worth remembering that forgery and false attribution were the rule, not the exception. There are many more inauthentic apostolic writings than authentic ones, even if you count the 27 NT books. So purely on a basis of frequency probability, we have reason to doubt authorship.

We hear surprisingly little from the early Church about *why* it accepted some books and rejected others, but when we do, what they tell us is not encouraging. For instance, the gospel of Peter was rejected by Serapion not due to its inauthenticity but rather due to its docetic overtones. Irenaeus tells us that we should accept four and only four Gospels because there are four winds and four corners of the earth. And this makes sense, as, again, we should expect a religious group to be more concerned about religious matters than historical accuracy.

Moreover, it really isn't true that the early Church was unanimous in accepting the 27 books that they did. In fact, it took a long time for the canon to develop, with certain books being accepted or rejected much more slowly than others. The four gospels were fairly quick in being canonized, but even then the Church was not unanimous. The Gospel of Peter, for instance, was still being read in the sixth century, and probably in the eighth. Other Christian groups had their own Gospels, such as that of the Hebrews or the Ebionites. Certainly the heretics had theirs, the Gospel of Truth, of Marcion, of Judas, and so forth. It's hard to believe that all these dissenters would have agreed that the four canonical Gospels were authentic. And we know with certainty that the Gospel of John had disputed authorship, being attributed at one point to Papias (with John dictating) and at another to the gnostic Cerinthus (with John having no involvement whatsoever).

This is just the tip of the iceberg of the problems associated with authenticity and historicity, but my post is running long. Long story short, one should not be impressed by cherry-picked and unscrutinized ancient testimony. Scholars aren't just running amok with their imaginations. They have very good reasons for doubting the early Church, and for positing their own hypotheses.

Ben: Why cite Luke 1:4 and skip verses 1-3?

My claim about unanimity, Ben, was about the four Gospels. Yes, there are a few books near the end of the NT that some rejected but the majority accepted.

There is noise in all data...so I'm not that concerned about the fact that some of the Fathers said false things. Not any more than I'm concerned about discrepancies in the manuscripts. The point is that the early councils had a lot more data than we have. And the data was probably better understood by them than us. And it was probably of significantly higher quality.

And no, forgery was not the rule, that's a ridiculous remark. If forgery were the rule, no one would write or believe anything. That's Kant 101. Forgery may have occurred more often than today. Though I'm not sure how that would be established. I suspect that the 'forgery is the rule' trope comes from a prior commitment to the idea that we can actually determine authorship just by reading the texts. Which we just can't.

WL,

The Gospel of John was not unanimously accepted, as explained above. Some attributed it to the gnostic Cerinthus. The other canonical gospels were unanimously accepted by extant Christian writings but very probably not by other Christian groups whose writings do not survive. If, for instance, Marcion really thought that the eyewitnesses Matthew and John had penned their own gospels, don't you think he would have accepted them into his canon? Or the Ebionites into theirs? Etc.

And yes, in early Christian communities, false attribution (not necessarily forgery) was certainly more common then authentic attribution. Do you really need me to list off all the falsely-attributed Christian books from antiquity? But here are a few, to get you started: gospel of James, of Thomas (two), of Peter, of Nicodemus. Probably the gospels of Judas and Bartholomew were attributed to them by their readers. Who knows how many other gospels have been lost, which were falsely attributed? And these are just gospels. There are all manner of other early Christian writings, including falsely-attributed epistles, Acts-of-the-Apostles-like narratives, apocalypses, etc. These easily outnumber the authentic apostolic writings.

Please don't misunderstand. When I say that false attribution was the "rule," I'm not saying it was an accepted ancient practice. It wasn't! I'm just saying that, in the case of apostolic writings, and in particular gospel writings, it was more common than authentic attribution.

Finally, I'm not talking about "noise" in the data. An example of "noise" is this: some early Christians thought Mark wrote after Peter died, others before. That's not really an important error, though, and that's why I didn't mention it. Instead, I was referring to two problems with the early Church fathers: first, they were far too credible, accepting obviously-false stories without any kind of critical eye. Second, what little they told us about the canonization process indicates that their primary concerns were theological, not historical. So, even if they were in some respects in a better position to tell whether these books were authentic, they seem not to have utilized that privileged position, instead squandering it for the sake of their own religious predilections.

Michael J. Kruger has researched the historical formation of the NT canon quite extensively.
What he has to say, Ben, basically blows away your arguments.

http://michaeljkruger.com/

Ben
Where is your documentation that the Church fathers were so naive? In fact, they were not, since all of those false attributions, heterodox writings, did not make it into the NT canon.
Goodness, even the Epistle of Barnabas and The Shepherd of Hermes, both of which are quite orthodox, were not included in the canon because the Church fathers knew that they were not written by or authorized by the first century apostles.
Why do none of the false attribution documents appear in our NT canon? Because the Church fathers knew they had no apostolic authority behind them.
Why do none of the heretical writings, like the Gnostics, appear in the NT? Because the Church fathers, as well as the rank and file Christians, knew that these writings' contents did not match up with authentic orthodox Christian teaching.

I suggest you (and other readers) get a copy of Kruger's book, as well as Bruce Metzger's, and F.F. Bruce's

>> Marcion really thought that the eyewitnesses Matthew and John had penned their own gospels, don't you think he would have accepted them into his canon?

Not if his viewpoints on gospel narratives rejected all "Jewish" tendencies that only the work of the Gentile Luke was acceptable to him. His cult was a basic response to Ebionite trends that accepted the tenets of the Judaizer school which opposed Paul in Galatia.

The insistence of Tatian's Diatessaron, penned at the time of Marcion, that the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were the only legitimate collections of Jesus' life and ministry. All other assumed gospel narratives as the Gospels of Thomas and Peter were jonnie-come-latelies which no one accepted as valid portrayals of the Christ.

Victoria,

Yes, Canon Fodder is a gold mine of careful investigation of the early church. Thank you for mentioning it.

Victoria,

If you *assume* that the 27 NT books are authentic then it would be quite compelling to note that the early Church got it right. But what you assume is the very thing in doubt!

In fact, many in the early Church did in fact include the Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas. Both of these are included in a fourth-century edition of the New Testament (Sinaiticus) and also in a sixth-century canon list (Claromontanus). So, obviously, at least some people in the early Church considered these canonical. As I noted above, other early Christian groups used other writings, and there was often no consensus as to which should be accepted and which rejected. Eusebius summarizes some of these disputes within orthodoxy in his Ecclesiastical History.

But surely, even you yourself do not think that all 27 books are authentic, do you? For instance, do you think that Paul wrote Hebrews, or that Peter wrote 2 Peter, or that the apostle John was the same as the elder author of 2-3 John? And even if tradition is correct, Luke and Paul were no contemporary disciples of Jesus, but later Christian converts. So, it does not seem that the early Church had any particular criteria for accepting books into their canon. Rather, it was evidently a chaotic process fueled principally by theological concerns. You said it yourself: They rejected books because they viewed them as heretical. Authenticity vs. inauthenticity was a secondary concern, at best.

I should add, while authenticity did not be to be a principal concern to the early Church, they *did* appear to be concerned about antiquity. For example, according to one anonymous early Christian author (of the Muratorian fragment), Hermas was not to be counted as canonical because it dated after the time of the Apostles. But he does not complain that it was not written by Apostles---only that it *dated* to a later time.

And yes, in early Christian communities, false attribution (not necessarily forgery) was certainly more common then authentic attribution.
That isn't what you said at first.

And even that needs some clarification. Is false attribution really more common, not just for the gospels but as a general rule? That'd be tough to determine.

Granted, false attribution was common. Then again, false attribution is pretty common even today. You think Franklin Dixon wrote the Hardy Boys mysteries? But the thing is, almost everybody knows it's false attribution when it is. As I'm sure they did back then.

As for the Gospel of John, it is homologoumena.

What about this?

And we know with certainty that the Gospel of John had disputed authorship, being attributed at one point to Papias (with John dictating) and at another to the gnostic Cerinthus (with John having no involvement whatsoever).
The proper way to describe the Papias case is as follows:
John was the author of the Gospel of John
As for Cerinthus, he was a known opponent of John and those who attempted to attribute authorship to him (a heretical sect called the Alogians...those who oppose the idea of Christ as the Word-made-flesh) were simply trying to undermine the Gospel. It could not possibly have been a good faith attribution, since the entire Gospel was written to counter Cerinthus' gnosticism. It's a ham-fisted and foolish attempt, but then they were kind of a stupid bunch of heretics. It's like trying to undermine Communism by attributing Kapital to Adam Smith.

So how about this...there was no serious dispute about the four Gospels.

One more, on the Gospel of Peter, that probably was a serious forgery...an effort to deceive. It is flatly incompatible with the four Gospels, and has gnostic teachings. The deception may have worked with some people...thus its use into the 6th century. At least one person, Serapion, rejected it at least in part, because of the logical and doctrinal problems in posed. Others probably rejected it for other reasons. In the end, few accepted this gospel, the majority rejected it, and probably for very good reasons.

It's not clear that Cerinthus himself claimed to have written the fourth Gospel. It was, as you say, a later claim by the Alogi group.

But anyway, no, it is not agreeable to say that there was no serious dispute about the four gospels. All we can say is that none but this one dispute is documented. Which disputes went undocumented, we have no idea. This should be no surprise, as the early Church is not well-documented prior to the late second century. But as various Christian groups rejected the canonical Gospels, it's a pretty darn good bet that these disputes raged on, documented or not.

As for false attribution (which includes forgery, obviously), I am not just saying that it was common in early Christian communities, but that it was more common than authentic attribution. That is what I meant when I said that it was the rule rather than the exception. And that is why I said that, based purely on frequency probability, we have reason to doubt the authenticity of the canonical gospels. So, the question is, do we have good enough reason to overcome that doubt (and all the other reasons we have to doubt authenticity)? It seems to me that no, we don't. And apparently, the vast majority of non-Christian scholars agree with me.

Note. My point about our inability to establish authorship simply by reading a book is to say that you cannot read a text and determine that one author wrote one bit and another wrote another and work out who wrote first or that two bits in the two different books come from a common source (excepting quotation and the like) and all the other rot that Biblical scholars try to do.

Obviously, I can tell that it is highly unlikely that Adam Smith wrote Kapital simply because it broadly contradicts all of Smith's other writings.

Likewise, Serapion's rejection of the Gospel of Peter is legitimate. Gnostic books may be rejected on the sole ground of their gnosticism, because it was well known that the Apostles weren't gnostics.

Of course, I'd rather see a reason like "it doesn't show up in any of the early lists of Peter's books" or "there are no early quotations from the book attributing it to Peter", or some such.

And apparently, the vast majority of non-Christian scholars agree with me.
No doubt this is true. Though whether it's because of your frequency analysis thesis or not is doubtful.

I don't think the thesis is very compelling. Your sample is far too small for that sort of argument to work.

I suspect that non-Christian scholars are glad to reject the integrity of the Bible and that the specious arguments of the Biblical scholars is their reason for doing so.

But as various Christian groups rejected the canonical Gospels
Heretics rejected the canonical Gospels...so did pagans. This strikes me as irrelevant.

Well, let me be clear, my frequency analysis as you call it is just one of many reasons to doubt authenticity. But you do raise a good point: why has no scholar raised this particular concern? Even if you disagree that it is a *strong* argument, surely it has some weight. But I have never seen this argument explicitly raised by any scholar. Perhaps it is simply out of obviousness, as, to me, it seems an obvious consideration.

It seems more to me like you found out that six out of ten statements were false, and concluded that all ten statements are, therefore, probably false.

That is not the argument. It is more like this. Suppose Jim tells me ten things, and after investigating them I discover that six of them are wrong, while I can neither confirm nor disconfirm the remaining four. Now, in absence of other evidence, what should we think?

Of course, we *do* have other evidence in the case of the gospels. But a simple frequency analysis can disabuse us of any notion that we should treat the attributions as innocent until proven guilty.

Ben
I consider the NT books as authentic in the sense that
they were all written under the auspices of the inspiration of the Spirit of God, as both Paul and Peter refer to the concept. I consider them authentic in that that the early Church membership came to recognize that these books, and no others, had the stamp of apostolic authority behind them, and that they were and are consistent with the teachings of the original apostles, including Paul.

Nobody now knows who wrote Hebrews: Paul, or one of his group may have done so - the 1st century Christians who received the letter and circulated it probably knew who it was from, but somehow that information was lost. It has such a high Christology and its use of the Old Testament is so wonderful that every time I read it I can almost hear the Holy Spirit whispering in my ear, "Pretty good, eh?"
I get that same feeling when I read Psalm 19 and Anton Zee's textbook "Einstein Gravity in a Nutshell" :)

If you have never read Kruger's book, you should do so. As a professional NT scholar, he is well-qualified to discuss the matter of the NT canon. Me, I'm a Biblical scholar self-taught, well-read. I'm actually a physicist.

Cool, I'm a mathematician : )

But I think it's fair to say that Hebrews would not have made it into the canon was it not widely mistaken by the early Church for Paul's.

Note also that in the disputes over the authorship of Hebrews, no early Christian ever appealed to some kind of privileged knowledge now lost. They were in almost exactly the same situation as us---disturbed by its anonymity and it stylistic differences. But they kept it anyway, because it was orthodox in teaching and had been traditionally accepted.

So, if the early Church had no privileged knowledge about Hebrews, why think they had it about the other books? This is more a question for WL than for Victoria, but any are welcome to answer.

Ben-

There isn't one guy, Jim, who made ten claims about the Gospels and false gospels. Each document makes an independent claim of apostolic authorship. So I think it is more like the way I characterized your argument.

Apart from clever reading of the text, Ben, do you have any real evidence for this claim that Hebrews was

widely mistaken by the early Church for Paul's.
I think the early church thought it was Paul's because it was Paul's.

I think it was originally written in Hebrew and translated later into Greek (as Clement says). And that's enough to account for any supposed difference in writing styles.

But even if it were written first in Greek, anyone can carry off the feat of writing in two different styles.

Either way, be aware that I am supremely unimpressed by any argument that says that it could not have been written by Paul because its style varies from the style of other Pauline writings.

One more remark on the frequency analysis.

Let's say that tomorrow the 'Gospel' of James the Lesser is discovered. It's an obvious fake. Maybe in the cache of documents where we find James the Lesser, we find extensive early documentation that rejects it as the fake it is.

Does that decrease our confidence in the authorship of the Gospel of Mark?

A simple thought on the idea that the Gospel of John was written by a gnostic:
The Gospel of John and the three Epistle of John seem to have been written expressedly to deny the claims of Gnosticism(that the flesh is evil and only the spirit is good, whereas the Gospel of John asserts in the very first verses that "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." John 1:14). Therefore it would have been self defeating for a gnostic to write it.

The historicity of several layers within the Jesus and NT arena is looked at through an appeal to the hostile witnesses of history from outside of the NT in Part One and in Part Two and in Part Three. Not sure if future installments on the way or not.

"Therefore it would have been self defeating for a gnostic to write it."

Yes, that's exactly it. That's why any attribution of the Gospel of John to the gnostic Cerinthus cannot be taken seriously.

Again, there was no serious debate on the status of any of the four Gospels. No council ever had a dissenting vote on the subject. Those in the best position to make a judgment on this matter have spoken. We're essentially blind by comparison, so it's really kind of silly to question their verdict now.

Speaking of the Christian Apologetic Alliance links that scbrownlhrm kindly provided, there is also a series by journalist ( and former atheist ) Mark McGee, on Archaeology and the Bible (see here for the latest installment and back-links to the series).
He hasn't reached the NT era yet, but I'm hoping he will continue the series that far.

From my own readings and studies of the the issues, I would say that there are no compelling reasons to not accept the Biblical documents at face value, as reliable historical sources, despite the dubious speculations and claims of the skeptical scholars. Sure, there are some unresolved issues, but there are also plenty of cases where historians have concluded that 'the Bible got it right after all' (see Mark's series, for example).

It seems to me that the only reason for rejecting the essential historicity and reliability of the Biblical documents is a commitment to scientism and metaphysical naturalism, coupled with an addiction to unverifiable and unreasonable speculation. At least, that's the impression I get from reading the skeptical scholars. And this should come as no surprise, since if one can dismiss the documents as historically unreliable fables, then one does not have to take seriously the claims of Jesus of Nazareth, and the implications that follow if He is indeed the Risen Saviour, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, before whom one day we will all bow down. Those who trust Him and believe Him now, as adopted children into God's eternal family, will do so gladly, in celebration, whereas those who reject Him will do so as defeated enemies.
In an article at Biologos, an author wrote (here) that In this essay DH will mean the claim that our public evidence is strong enough to make Christian faith reasonable, but not strong enough to make it compelling [1]. In a similar vein, I came across a quote that said "There are two types of people: Those who seek to find God, and those who seek to avoid God; both will be successful".
This challenge is another example of that

The problem with citing the sayings of Papias in a fashion to discredit the Apostolic father is weak for a simple reason. Take the example of the third century father Origen, and his work Against Celsus. This apologetical work was in response to Ambrose's request that the attacks of the atheist Celsus be responded to. We have not a word of Celsus' document, only what we can surmise from Origen's careful quoting of Celsus' book. It would be ridiculous for an atheist to propose that Origen skipped the chapters of Celsus' work that held truly devastating arguments. the words simply don't exist. To prove that Origen was not comprehensive against Celsus' arguments lacks the necessary proof. Such notions are conjectural and contrived.

Thus it is with Papias. Whatever is left of his works must be viewed with care. We don't know the contents of his overall work, only from citations of other fathers as Irenaeus and Eusebius. Irenaeus stated this father had a literary corpus of five book. Only ten fragmentary citations remain. Thus Papias' allusion to the demise of Judas:

Judas walked about in this world a sad example of impiety; for his body having swollen to such an extent that he could not pass where a chariot could pass easily, he was crushed by the chariot, so that his bowels gushed out. (Portion three)

This is the whole of the quote, lacking context. Is Papias mentioning an odd tale, a suggested solution for the nature of Judas' suicide?

The mention of the daughters of Phillip speak of the miraculous preservation of Justus Barsabas in an attempted poisoning. The event is para-Scriptural, and is only the mention of the life of the early church. Acts well did not mention all the miracles of the Apostles; still, the preservation of Justus is a matter to take with an acceptance of possibilities in the opening years of the church in the first years after Pentecost. If you discount the miraculous, of course this tidbit is ludicrous; if you are open to the supernatural founding of the Church, this tale has possibilities, but better to remain neutral to what occurred in the life of a minor personage of the Acts.

As to Papias as a Johannine author, some early accounts note Papias as a hearer of John, and perhaps an amanuensis to the Apostle. But even Papias credits the gospel to John.

Victoria stated,

"It seems to me that the only reason for rejecting the essential historicity and reliability of the Biblical documents is a commitment to scientism and metaphysical naturalism, coupled with an addiction to unverifiable and unreasonable speculation."

That is part of it to be sure, and, we can add that another component has to do with MIRACLES in the arena of the SUPERNATURAL. Indeed, both the Modern Skeptic and the Ancient Savage come to the same conclusions where the MIRACULOUS is concerned.

For example, something as basic and as simple as the syntax of "X brought Y back to life" is coherent “out of hand”. Physicians do not violate the laws of nature as they morph – inside of Time and Knowledge – the very definition of the word "death". Infusing molecules and energy, or what have you, into dead bodies violates no "laws" (whatever laws of nature means) – but only serves to morph the definition of “death” to that which carries a definitional contingency upon the physician(s) / person(s) ability(s) rather than something that carries a definitional contingency upon the body proper.

The definition of Death is non-static – ever in flux vis-à-vis the Mind(s) which surround the Body in question.

It happens every day.

And the definition keeps changing. Fluxing. The reach(s) of said Person(s) around said body ever reaching farther.

How odd that death itself should turn out to be such a contingent state of affairs where Persons/Minds/Physicians are concerned.

The Skeptic is left without observational reality, without science, and even without the definition of death in his favor – rather – the only item he has left *IF* he means to reject the syntax of "X brought Y back to life” in any sort of “out of hand” fashion turns out to be his own a priori of what sort(s) of Person(s) exist / what sort(s) of technical ability(s) said Person(s) bring to the table.

Period.

Given that the definition of death is clearly, obviously, *not* housed in the body proper, but in the sort(s) of Person(s) surrounding said body, their capability(s) to infuse molecules, energy – and so on – well then of course it is all very simplified.

The only key variable left is the sorts of persons involved, as observational reality, science, the ever changing definition of death, and no need to mess with the “laws of nature” (whatever they are supposed to “be”) all affirm the coherence “out of hand” in syntax of the form “X brought Y back to life” in the real world as we actually find it. Given the nature of reality the Christian rationally predicted and predicts that said syntax easily obtains inside of nature all the while never doing “violence” to “nature”, never summing to the Skeptic’s straw man definition of “un”-natural.

Supernatural? Again – The Modern Skeptic and the Ancient Savage both suffer the same sort of disjointed logic as they both expect to be able to measure a kind of material ripple atop the water should God dip His toe into the pond that is the natural (created) order. The Ancient Savage does this from his ignorance of Science, while the Modern Skeptic does this from his ignorance of Theism’s actual truth predicates fallaciously fueling his own straw-man “supernatural” semantics.

How revealing it is that the Modern Skeptic and the Ancient Savage tend to come to the same sort of conclusions about the nature of what they are “seeing” in the peculiar and repeatable syntax of “X brought Y back to life” here in the real world. But the Savage and the Skeptic are each certain that such must be – somehow – doing “violence” to “nature”, each must be somehow “un”-natural and thus you each misread reality.

It is unfortunate that the Skeptic rejects metaphysical necessities in favor of Scientism or else he might have a clue as to just why it is his definition of “supernatural” sums to the classic case of the Skeptic’s Straw Man void of any *real* metaphysical coherence.

Science and Theism have left the ancient Savage – and hence the Skeptic’s own definitions – behind long, long ago.

Science affirms what the Christian has always known – that the syntax of X brought Y back to life is all very natural and does not do any violence against the “laws of nature” – and hence the Christian’s definitions of mind, of body, of life, of death’s definitional contingency upon that which is something other than the body proper (and so on) have easily granted him from day one the ability to predict and even expect such occurrences to obtain inside of the created order.

That is why both the Hebrew and the Christian (and now Science) got it right – all those millennia ago.

Sadly, the Naturalist reminds us of another commentator elsewhere who asserted, wrongly, that "miracle" equates to "un"-natural, that dead people are never raised back to life, that everyone only dies once, and that should any of those be violated then such would be a “insult” against “nature” and that, given science, they are not possible. Of course, his basis for asserting such was the same conceptual poverty comprising all of the Naturalist’s own premises seen here thus far.

Ultimately he was verifiably wrong about the word nature, about the word violation, about the prefix "un" in un-natural, about the word raised, about the word miracle, about the word science, about the word – and definition of – death, and about the word possible.

Here we have verifiable evidence that scientism – which sums to a rejection of metaphysics – caused him, and is causing the Skeptic here – to misinterpret the nature of reality, to define things based on false premises and ultimately to badmouth the progress of science.

Whereas, the Christian’s metaphysics successfully predicted that such events “did” and “can” and “do” and “will” occur given the nature of reality.

Exactly as the Hebrew and the Christian (and now Science) have always affirmed.

I was never arguing that we should take seriously the claim of Cerinthus' authorship. The point is, you had said that the testimony was unanimous when it was not. That's all.

However, now that the Cerinthus issue has been raised, let us observe that this group, the Alogi, had no problem claiming Cerinthus' authorship when it suited their purposes. Why wouldn't the proto-orthodox group claim Johannine authorship when it suited their purposes? So, I really don't take the claims of Johannine authorship much more seriously than the Cerinthus claims.

Anyway, the more I think about it, the more doubtful I am that the Christians of the second and third century were in any good or particularly privileged position to adjudicate on the authorship of the gospels, or any other NT book. They had access to Papias, but I am not aware of anything else they had going for them. And as we know, Papias was not a reliable resource.

Victoria,

Aren't you bothered by the fact that there were all sorts of wild claims floating around in the early Church, and all manner of forgery and false attribution of apostolic writings? Doesn't that make you doubt the so-called traditional authorship of the NT books?

In fact, no responsible historian takes ancient documents at face value, whether secular or religious. Now, the authorship of some texts from the period is pretty-well assured, such as Frontinus' De aquaeductu or Tacitus' Annals and Histories. Other texts are quite dubious. Even some classics, like Xenophon's Anabasis (one of my very favorite ancient books, by the way---totally exciting!), historians have limited confidence in their authenticity (although in the case of Anabasis, although it might not be authentic to Xenophon, it is still historically reliable).

Ben
No

What I said was, after studying the topic extensively, I find no compelling reasons to not trust the Bible as a reliable set of documents; my trust in its reliability is a reasonable one, given all of the evidence.
Given that I have reasonable cause to trust the documents, I have reasonable cause to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified, buried, and later seen by His disciples, alive and well. I can find no reasonable 'natural' explanation for this. I find that what Jesus of Nazareth offers meets my deepest needs; therefore I trust Him and believe that He is in fact my Risen Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, and the 2nd Person of the Trinity. Because of that, I am an adopted daughter of the Most High God, and am connected to Him and my fellow Christians through the indwelling presence of His Spirit.
Scoff and mock all you like, I really don't care.
I can read those fake gospels and letters, and compare them against the genuine articles, and know on a deep level that you do not as yet have (my hope and prayer is that you discover Jesus as Lord and Saviour for yourself) which ones are true and which ones are false.

crucified, and certified as dead, I might add

and why would you think that scholars living almost 2000 years later would be in a better position to decide on who did or did not write what?

From the comment in this thread time stamped "Posted by: scbrownlhrm | January 14, 2016 at 03:37 AM” here’s an excerpt from the linked “Part One” to add context:

Quote:

In this first article, we begin by appealing to Cornelius Tacitus (AD 55-117), who serves as one of the better historical sources from the ancient world. In fact Van Voorst states that Tacitus is “generally considered the greatest Roman historian.” In book 15 and chapter 44 of his Annals, he recounts Emperor Nero’s persecution of Christians in Rome (AD 64).


“Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judea, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city as of hatred against mankind. Mockery of every sort was added to their deaths. Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination when daylight had expired. Nero offered his gardens for the spectacle, and was exhibiting a show in the circus while he mingled with the people in the dress of a charioteer or stood aloft on a car. Hence, even for criminals who deserved extreme and exemplary punishment, there arose a feeling of compassion; for it was not, as it seemed, for the public good but rather to glut the cruelty of one man that they were being destroyed.”
.

Could this be a Christian interpolation or forgery? Van Voorst states that “the vast majority of scholars [agree] that this passage is fundamentally sound.” He gives four reasons why: (1) the style is the same as the rest of Tacitus’ writing; (2) it fits with the burning of Rome mentioned earlier in the chapter; (3) a Christian interpolator wouldn’t have been so negative toward Christians (“hated for their abominations” “mischievous superstition” “hideous and shameful” “hatred against mankind”); (4) a Christian interpolator wouldn’t have been so terse and succinct in describing Christ. Habermas and Licona concur, “Most scholars accept this passage in Tacitus as authentic,” and even critical scholar John Meier writes, “Despite some feeble attempts to show that this text is a Christian interpolation in Tacitus, the passage is obviously genuine. Not only is it witnessed in all the manuscripts of the Annals, the very anti-Christian tone of the text makes Christian origin almost impossible.”

Why does Tacitus call him Christ? Why not call him Jesus? In the context of chapter 44, Tacitus was trying to explain where “Christians” came from. It makes more sense for him to call their founder “Christ,” rather than “Jesus.” Moreover, at this stage in history, Jesus’ personal name was largely replaced by his title, Christ.

Why does Tacitus call Pilate “procurator” instead of “prefect”? Most scholars believe that the NT title (“prefect”) was correct, and Tacitus had this title wrong. Van Voorst writes, “Most scholars believe that Tacitus’ use of ‘procurator’ was anachronistic, because this title changed from prefect to procurator after AD 41.”

Archaeology later vindicated Pontius Pilate. Archaeologist James Hoffmeier writes, “In 1961 a partial inscription bearing his name was discovered there [Palestine] which reads: PONTIUS PILATUS PREFECTUS IUDAEAE, ‘Pontius Pilate, Prefect [governor] of Judea.” This inscription dates to AD 31.

In subsequent articles, we will look at the other extra-biblical sources that refer to Jesus of Nazareth. For now, this excerpt from Tacitus gives us several important comments which corroborate with the NT historical record: (1) Christians took their name from their founder: Christ (c.f. Acts 11:26). (2) Jesus died under the reign of Pontius Pilate (AD 26-36), and Emperor Tiberius (AD 14-37), which concurs with the NT (Lk. 3:1). (3) Tacitus’ reference to the “extreme penalty” is surely an allusion to crucifixion. The Romans considered crucifixion to be the most shameful death imaginable. (4) An “immense multitude” of Christians had sprung up in Rome by AD 64 — even under intense persecution.

End quote.

The witnesses in question in the three linked essays were (as described etc.) hostile witnesses from outside of the NT.

Victoria,

Well I don't think we're in a great position either. But we do have some tools at our disposal which the ancients did not. We have electronic databases of texts to compare, translations of all manner of ancient documents into our own language, and information technology allowing us to compare notes, ideas, and hypotheses, etc. And---although I don't want to get too carried away with this, as people even in antiquity were often quite brilliant---we also have a culture of critical thinking which the ancients did not.

As a physicist, you should especially appreciate the technological tools we have. Surely, doing physics is a whole lot easier in the last decade or two, due to our incredible technology. In my case, all my research is done from my own home, and it is very uncommon that I have to physically go to the library to look at a paper. Even when I do, I just scan it and send it home, and then pick up where I left off. This allows me to move at an incredible pace, compared to sitting around looking at books and paper journals. I can't imagine what it would have been like to do math research 20 years ago, to say nothing of 50 or 100 years ago! The only real drawback is, when I'm sitting at home doing research, I sometimes get tempted to waste time arguing about God on the internet ; )

Of course, technology only goes so far. That's why I say that we're not in a *far* better position than the ancients. But, in certain respects, we are in a *somewhat* better position.

Another “hostile witness” quote comes from the linked “Part Two” from the comment in this thread time stamped "Posted by: scbrownlhrm | January 14, 2016 at 03:37 AM” to add context:

Quote:

Pliny the Younger (AD 62-113) served as the Roman governor of Bithynia, and he corresponded with his friend Tacitus in his letters. In his 10th book and 96th letter (AD 110), he wrote to the Roman Emperor Trajan, questioning him on how to handle the burgeoning Christian population.


“The whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.

Even this practice, however, they had abandoned after the publication of my edict, by which, according to your orders, I had forbidden political associations. I judged it so much the more necessary to extract the real truth, with the assistance of torture, from two female slaves, who were styled deaconesses: but I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition. I therefore adjourned the proceedings, and betook myself at once to your counsel. For the matter seemed to me well worth referring to you, especially considering the numbers endangered. Persons of all ranks and ages, and of both sexes are, and will be, involved in the prosecution. For this contagious superstition is not confined to the cities only, but has spread through the villages and rural districts; it seems possible, however, to check and cure it.”


Could this be a forgery? Van Voorst writes, “The text of these two letters is well-attested and stable, and their authenticity is not seriously disputed. Their style matches that of the other letters of Book 10, and they were known already by the time of Tertullian (fl. 196–212). Sherwin-White disposes of the few suggestions, none of which have gained credence, that the letters are whole-cloth forgeries or have key parts interpolated.” Moreover, a Christian forger wouldn’t call Christianity a “contagious superstition.”

What do we learn about Christianity from this passage? (1) The early Christians met under the cover of darkness. (2) They sang to Christ as if he was still alive. (3) They believed Jesus was God. (4) Even enemies of Christianity viewed them as morally distinct people. (5) They would regularly eat meals together. (6) Rome tortured some of the early Christians for their faith. (7) Christianity reached all classes of society, both sexes, and many territories in the Roman Empire (Gal. 3:28).

Suetonius (Roman historian)

Gaius Suetonius Tranquillas (AD 69-160) wrote under the Roman emperor Hadrian, and he was a friend of Pliny the Younger.

Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he [Emperor Claudius] expelled them from the city.

Could this be a forgery? This isn’t likely because elsewhere Suetonius refers to Christianity as “a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” Moreover, it isn’t likely that a Christian interpolator would misspell Christ’s name as “Chrestus.” Van Voorst writes, “We conclude with the overwhelming majority of modern scholarship that this sentence is genuine.”

Why does Suetonius call him “Chrestus” instead of “Christ”? The Latin spelling of “Christ” (Christus) is only one letter away from “Chrestus.” Most historians believe that this spelling variation was a common mistake to refer to Christ. Van Voorst writes of the “near-unanimous identification of him with Christ.” A.N. Wilson states, “Only the most perverse scholars have doubted that ‘Chrestus’ is Christ.” Even critic Bart Ehrman explains that “this kind of spelling mistake was common.” Van Voorst writes, “They were pronounced so similarly that they were often confused by the uneducated and educated alike, in speech and in writing.” He cites several NT manuscripts and church fathers that substitute “Chrestus” for “Christus.” By contrast, the name “‘Chrestus’ does not appear among the hundreds of names of Jews known to us from Roman catacomb inscriptions and other sources.” If another historical figure was causing upheaval in Rome, no other historical source mentions him.

What does this passage tell us? (1) A massive population Christians existed in Rome by AD 49 (Rom. 1:8; 1:13; 15:22-24). (2) Christ was such a popular figure that the Jewish population in Rome rioted over him. Van Voorst notes that the Jews were expelled twice from Rome for seeking non-Jewish converts (AD 19 and AD 139).

End quote.

Ben,

You make a good point.

[1] Technology has established the high degree of (tediously dissected) satisfaction of historicity which the NT comes to the table with.

[2] Technology has established that the Hebrew, the Christian, and the NT authors got it right on the science and metaphysics behind syntax of the form "X brought Y back to life".

Good work.

Eye witness accounts? Travel in the first century? People couldn’t fact-check?

The assertion that no one could talk and discuss X or X2 with any of the thousands upon thousands.... upon thousands.... upon thousands... of Jews and Gentiles from all walks of life who witnessed Jesus' three years of (painfully) public ministry, as well as such events post-resurrection, and all multiplied by 1st degree relatives in one's own household, and all inside of Roman territories soaked in "world" travel in every direction, is, obviously, an assertion soaked in ignorance.

T. Gilson’s “Atheists’ Skepticism as Better Explanation” comment section (thread) dives into an enthusiastic back-and-forth between Christians and Non-Christians about the whole idea of eye witness accounts being credible or dubious.

The thread is over 600 comments.

But…..

One only need search (control then F, etc.) the page (the thread) first for the word travel which gives 51 hits and helps cover ground, and, then, secondly, search the page for the word witness which gives 120 hits and covers even more ground. Like any thread the topic of travel and witness and eye witness (and so on) winds in and out but overall the conversation is helpful on several fronts. Clever-sounding and insightful sounding questions from critics are not always so clever or insightful when pushed on a bit.

“Yes, that’s what you said and just claiming that some people don’t accept the Gospels as eyewitness accounts isn’t an argument against that proposition. The case for that has been made quite convincingly. Richard Baulkham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” is the seminal work on that subject and is widely accepted. However, I did introduce a new argument after your #150 in my #152……”

Give and take. Unpack and expand.

And so on.

As for the insufficiency of the “Jesus As Legend Theory” there is link here not included in the earlier links which helps unpack some of the critic’s fallacious attempts as they merely get the facts wrong and miss the point. It’s about the Legend Theory and is called Is This A Powerful New Apologetic Argument. And, again, there’s the perspective found in the “Too Great” OP again by Gilson. In all three links the comment sections (threads) which follow the essays are, of course, interesting. Particularly with the find-on-page function.

Another “hostile witness” quote comes from the earlier linked “Part Three” in the comment in this thread time stamped "Posted by: scbrownlhrm | January 14, 2016 at 03:37 AM” to more context:

Quote:

Josephus (Jewish/Roman historian)

Flavius Josephus (AD 37-100) was a Jewish Pharisee and military commander who had been captured by the Romans before the fall of the Temple in AD 70. After being taken prisoner, he began working as the court historian for Emperor Vespasian and adopted a Roman name (“Flavius”). He gives us two important references to Christ:

The judges of the Sanhedrin… brought before them a man named James, the brother of Jesus who was called the Christ, and certain others. He accused them of having transgressed the law and delivered them up to be stoned. Those of the inhabitants of the city who were considered the most fair-minded and who were strict in observance of the law were offended at this.

Josephus demonstrates that James was the brother of Jesus (Gal. 1:19), and James went to his death for belief in his brother Jesus. Regarding this first passage, Van Voorst writes, “The overwhelming majority of scholars holds that the words ‘the brother of Jesus called Christ’ are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found.” Josephus offers us another earlier passage about Jesus as well.

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man. For he was one who wrought surprising feats… He was (the) Christ… he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him.

Origen (AD 250) wrote that Josephus was not a Christian. Yet in this passage, Josephus openly affirms the basic truths of Christianity. This is so bizarre that both Christian and critical historians believe that a later Christian scribe must have altered what Josephus originally wrote. Both Irenaeus and Tertullian (AD 200) knew of Josephus’ works, but they didn’t cite this passage. Eusebius (a 4th century Christian historian) quoted this passage from Josephus, so it must have been distorted before that time (AD 325).

Hebrew scholar Shlomo Pines showed an Arabic manuscript (from Agapius’s Universal History—a tenth-century Christian work) in 1971 that might remove the distorted portions of Josephus’ work.

At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus. His conduct was good and (he) was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. But those who had become his disciples did not abandon his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive; accordingly he was perhaps the Messiah, concerning whom the prophets have recounted wonders.

Because of this manuscript and literary criticism, most scholars (critical or Christian) believe that we can reconstruct the historical core of what Josephus originally wrote before the scribe distorted it.

Bart Ehrman (atheistic NT critic): “It is far more likely that the core of the passage actually does go back to Josephus himself.” He later continues, “There is absolutely nothing to suggest that the pagan Tacitus or the Jewish Josephus acquired their information about Jesus by reading the Gospels.”

Louis Feldman (a professor of Classics and Literature Emeritus at Yeshiva University and leading Josephus scholar) claimed that somewhere between 3:1 or 5:1 hold to a historical core that goes back to Josephus.

Gerd Theissen (critical scholar): “With reference to Jesus, we have the Testimonium Flavianum (18.63-64), the kernel of which probably goes back to Josephus.” Gerd Theissen writes that a revised, neutral version of Josephus is “most probable. Josephus reported on Jesus in as neutral and objective a way as he did on John the Baptist or James the brother of the Lord.”

Craig Evans (NT scholar): “Most today regard the passage as authentic but edited.”

Paul Meier (a Josephus scholar) states that most scholars do not hold that this passage is either completely authentic, nor a complete forgery. Instead, he writes that “a large majority of scholars today, however share the third position… particularly in view of the newly-discovered Agapian text which shows no signs of interpretation.”

John-Dominic Crossan (radical NT scholar): “Even if Christian editors delicately inserted those italicized phrases later to make the description more positive, the basic content of the passage is most likely original.”

There are several reasons why scholars believe that this core of Josephus is original and uncorrupted:

First, the Arabic version gives empirical evidence of a core version. The Arabic version fits with what we know about Josephus’ view of Christianity. This manuscript doesn’t affirm that these events actually happened. Instead, it states that Jesus’ disciples merely “reported” these things.

Second, the language fits with Josephus—not an interpolator. The NT authors never call Jesus a “wise man.” While the expression “amazing deeds” is similar to Luke 5:26, it is nowhere else attested in the NT. Furthermore, the term “tribe” is also “Josephan but not Christian.”

Third, the mention of Jesus in chapter 20 points to an earlier mention of Jesus. Josephus mentioned Jesus briefly in chapter 20, when he says, “Jesus who was called the Christ.” This off-the-cuff remark leads us to believe Josephus already referred to Jesus with this messianic title earlier in his book (in chapter 18).

What does this passage tell us? (1) Jesus was considered a man of virtue and wisdom. (2) Both Jews and Gentiles became his disciples. (3) Pilate sentenced him to death. (4) His disciples followed him after his death. (5) His disciples claimed that he appeared to them alive after three days. (6) Jesus’ disciples also claimed that these events fulfilled Old Testament predictive prophecy.

End quote.

Ben,

"...no responsible historian takes ancient documents at face value...."

Yes. It's a whole science. Historicity's arena and all that.

Odd that you think it is news.

Technology has helped the Christian's case there.

Lots in fact.

You know, now that fact-checking can finally take place.

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