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January 23, 2016


"Literary device" is used as a euphemism here for "culturally accepted lie."

Licona believes that John, for instance, changed the day of the crucifixion to "make a theological point."

God, in essence, accommodated himself to human sinfulness when authoring Scripture.

This is not apologetics for Christianity but for higher criticism.

>> compositional devices

Tim McGrew made a point of this in his concept of telescoping, expanding or contracting the gospel narrative as the author felt best to make the lesson. This is in line with Licona's mention of the centurion's servant compared to the defense of his friend Plancus in light of two different historians (personal presence vs. presence via a representative.

Thus, Matthew can be expansive in added detail; Mark tends to contract the episodes to speed the reader along to the crucifixion. But this does not occur in the relating of the raising of Jairus' daughter (Mt. 9: 18-26; Mk. 5: 21-43). Matthew has the girl dead from the start, Mark has the report of the girl given in transit. Matthew down plays the interceding episode of the woman healed from her blood issue (three verses) while Mark chats on about this incident for eleven verses, a proper set up for the delay which brings on the announcement of a dead girl to the slow moving Christ. But, in the end, the girl is restored to life. this was the point both writers strove for, Jesus' mastery over death.

But the point is, why in this one case where loquacious Matthew goes concise and concise Mark gives the fuller treatment I would attribute not so much to compositional devices as to what I would call IRI, individual reminiscence impact. Why do some gospel writers go on in their details than the others (yes, what is up with Mark noting that young man in a linen wrap which no other evangelist mentions? (Mk. 14: 51,52) It is most likely the notice of one who saw, experienced, or met the experiencer (much like one reporter getting the "scoop" on a story well ahead of the rest).

The beauty of the Gospel accounts is their consistency. Take four other narratives of the Gnostic tradition (Gospel of Thomas, Judas, Phillip, Nicodemus) and see if there is such a unity. You'll find none.

Seeing the Gospels as eye-witness accounts with the tendency of reports not being exact word for word retellings is the best solution. Remember Art Linkletter (yes, I know this dates me terribly). He had moments on his show when he gathered children together and had some odd incident play out before them. then he would interview each child individually. While they got the story out accurately, each of those little spunkies added a touch of their personality in the telling.

This explains to a degree what we blatantly call a Gospel contradiction. It's the individual author-eye-witness/interviewer of the eye-witness take on what Jesus had done in His three-year ministry.

While there are many reasons why the majority of scholars who study the New Testament don't believe the historical Jesus taught or did everything attributed him in the 4 canonical gospel accounts, there is one very simple and compelling argument I have never seen adequately addressed by a fundamentalist/evangelical apologist.

Only in the 4th gospel (known commonly as the Gospel of John) does Jesus explicitly state that he is God. Statements like "I and the Father are one", "He who has seen me has seen the Father", "Before Abraham was born, I AM" etc.

To claim equality with God or to be a divine being is an extraordinary and heretical claim to make in the monotheistic Jewish culture of Palestine at the time Jesus is purported to have lived in taught.

The 4th Gospel of John is regarded as the latest of all the 4 canonical gospels and was not completed and circulated until either the end of the 1st century or perhaps even the 2nd century. All the other 3 gospel accounts came before it, and none of them mention Jesus making these remarkable statements about himself.

If you apply very common sense historical criticism, it becomes both implausible and absurd that purported eye witnesses of his teachings who were also supposedly his disciples would not mention such a central and groundbreaking teaching that is mentioned in John. It's also a theology (the divinity of Jesus) that is absolutely crucial to the Christian faith. So to say that this teaching was left out due to lack of importance appears unthinkable.

This seems really common sense and how we would view any other historical document or claim. Think about it; wouldn't it be a bizarre situation to read a biography about Martin Luther King Junior written in 2010 that makes the claim that MLK believed he was God incarnate and taught this to his followers in the civil rights movement? It's completely implausible that all the people alive at the same time and who knew him well never mentioned such a remarkable and memorial point and it is not until 50 years after his death later an account shows up claiming he taught such a radical thing. No one would believe that's what he really taught during his life.

How would that be any different than the claims made about Jesus in the Gospel of John? If anyone has a compelling rebuttal I would love to hear it.

AmazingJ, as it happens, I was just reading through Matthew and thinking how remarkable it is how many times He claims deity—remarkable because people often express the concern you've stated here. (All of the Gospels contain this claim, but I've been focusing on Matthew for the past month, so that's why I mention it.) I've been planning to write a post about it, which I'll do as soon as I get a chance.

And I'm not even able to see what the people, steeped in Judaism at the time, were able to see. I learned more about that when I read this book by a Jewish rabbi who studied Matthew. He said he would have rejected Jesus because Jesus was clearly claiming to be a greater authority than the Torah—that He was the new Torah. That, in itself, is a claim to divinity.

Thanks for your response, Amy.

"I was just reading through Matthew and thinking how remarkable it is how many times He claims deity"

Really? Can you provide some examples?

"He said he would have rejected Jesus because Jesus was clearly claiming to be a greater authority than the Torah—that He was the new Torah. That, in itself, is a claim to divinity."

How is refuting the Torah or making changes/additions a claim to divinity? Muhammad and Joseph Smith also claimed to be prophets of later revelation that overturned earlier ones, but neither claimed to be divine or possess oneness with God.

Like I said, I'll be doing a post on the examples as soon as I get a chance. I recommend you read that book for more on the issue of the Torah and how Jews would have heard Jesus' claims.

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