Question about Eyewitnesses and the Gospels

Editor’s Note: New Testament scholar and Clergy Project member, Bart Ehrman, shares another of his public blog posts with us here at the Rational Doubt blog. This one originally appeared on May 14, 2012. He addresses a very human failing – ability to keep the facts straight. We have a problem with it, even when we’re not actively trying to purvey fake news. Read on as Bart tries to set us straight. I suppose many readers here already accept that there were no eyewitnesses to the biblical accounts of Jesus. This will provide facts and scholarly analysis to pass on to others.  /Linda LaScola, editor

====================================

By Bart Ehrman

Please Note: Normally I will be addressing questions that I receive in the members-only site (“Bart Answers His Readers”). But occasionally I will post a question and answer here, in the Public Forum, to give a sense to everyone what sorts of things are available for anyone willing to give a bit to charity and to join the [Ehrman] site.

QUESTION

One of the major points of your work (if I understand correctly) is that the contents of the New Testament are at a vast remove in time, place, and source from any eyewitness account of Jesus’ life. But when I consider this point in my ignorance, and simply from the perspective of chronology (from the time of Jesus to the accounts in the earliest gospels), it seems to me that at least one very old eyewitness of Jesus’ life might have been able to report a significant amount of information about Jesus and his teachings directly to, say, Mark. In view of this, I wonder how scholars know that no New Testament account of Jesus could have been received directly from any eyewitness.

RESPONSE

It’s a very good question, and one that I get asked, in a variety of ways, a lot. My view is this: when Mark was writing his Gospel (the first to be written) in say 65 or 70 CE, there probably were indeed people still living who were familiar with Jesus. At least I would assume that Mark himself thought so. Otherwise it is hard to explain why he included what is now Mark 9:1, where Jesus tells his disciples:

“Truly I tell you, some of you standing here will not taste death before they see that the Kingdom of God has come in power.”

If everyone from the first generation had already died, then it seems implausible that Mark would leave a saying of Jesus indicating that the End would come before they all died. (I do not, by the way, think that Mark’s Jesus was referring to the day of Pentecost, to the coming of the church, or even to his own Transfiguration, as some interpreters claim, in order to get around the fact that Jesus declared that the end would come before all the disciples died when, in fact, it did not).

But onto my point. Even though there may well have been eyewitnesses alive some 35-40 years after Jesus’ death, there is no guarantee – or, I would argue, no reason to think – that any of them were consulted by the authors of the Gospels when writing their accounts. The eyewitnesses would have been Aramaic speaking peasants almost entirely from rural Galilee. Mark was a highly educated, Greek speaking Christian living in an urban area outside of Palestine (Rome?), who never traveled, probably, to Galilee. So the existence of eyewitnesses would not have much if any effect on his Gospel.

Jesus the Consolator

The same is true, even more so, with the later Gospels. Luke begins his Gospel by saying that eyewitnesses started passing along the oral traditions he had heard (Luke 1:1-4), but he never indicates that he had ever talked to one. He has simply heard stories that had been around from the days of the eyewitnesses. And if the standard dating of his Gospel – and Matthew’s – is correct, they were writing about 50 years or more after Jesus’ death. John’s Gospel was even later.

My sense is that most of the eyewitnesses (and who knows how many there were?! Hundreds? Probably not. Dozens?) had died before the Gospels were written; those that survived were carrying on their lives in rural Galilee or Jerusalem. And the Gospel writers, who never say they consulted any of them, probably never did consult with any of them. The Gospels are based on oral traditions that had been in circulation – and changed as a result – for decades before the Gospel writers had even heard them.

And as anyone knows who has been subject to oral traditions – this would include all of us – the stories told about a person can change absolutely overnight! It happens all the time. What happens, then, to stories in circulation for 40 or 50 years, in different countries, told in different languages, among people who never laid an eye on an eyewitness or on anyone else who had? My sense is that the stories get changed, often a lot; and many of the stories simply get made up. It’s just the way it happens. And it can be shown to have happened with the Gospels, since the same story is often told in very different ways. Every historian will tell you: evidence matters!

======================

Bart Ehrman, Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Bio: Bart Ehrman is the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He came to UNC in 1988, after four years of teaching at Rutgers University. At UNC he has served as both the Director of Graduate Studies and the Chair of the Department of Religious Studies. A graduate of Wheaton College (Illinois), Bart received both his Masters of Divinity and Ph.D. from Princeton Theological Seminary, where his 1985 doctoral dissertation was awarded magna cum laude. Since then he has published extensively in the fields of New Testament and Early Christianity, having written or edited twenty-six books, numerous scholarly articles, and dozens of book reviews. For more detail, read here. Bart is also an original member of The Clergy Project. He has given The Rational Doubt Blog permission to repost public blogs from The Bart Ehrman Blog

>>>Photo Credits: By Dan Sears – Dan Sears UNC-Chapel Hill, CC BY 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=41276400 ; “Christ The Consolator” by Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834-1890) – Private Collection. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_The_Consolator.jpg#

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  • Raging Bee

    And the Gospel writers, who never say they consulted any of them, probably never did consult with any of them. The Gospels are based on oral traditions that had been in circulation – and changed as a result – for decades before the Gospel writers had even heard them.

    Yeah, if I loved, revered and respected a spiritual leader, and thought he was the Son of God, and wanted EVERYONE to know what I knew about him, I’d be scouring the known world looking to make contact with at least one person who’d met my Messiah face-to-face, peppering him with questions about said Messiah, and then explicitly bragging about who I’d met and how this FIRST-HAND EYEWITNESS was my source for my DEFINITIVE ACCOUNT THAT YOU ALL GOTTA READ IF YOU WANT TO GET RIGHT WITH GOD!!! The Gospel-writers’ failure even to pretend to do this, pretty much sinks their credibility.

    • Linda_LaScola

      Unless they weren’t writing to convince anyone, but instead were writing a nice story.

      • mason

        “nice?” Yeah, I guess with a lot of serious pruning and cherry picking there are a few select nice parts.

    • Kevin K

      Late to this party, but that’s why I think gJohn has a credibility problem. Because at the end, it says that Jesus did so many wonderful things that it would fill all the libraries in all the world.

      Really? That’s it? You’re making a pretty bold claim there, and you’re talking about the one-and-only appearance of the creator of the universe on Earth…and that’s the best you can do? Is put in a bid to write a sequel? Not even a teaser?

      • Raging Bee

        Look on the bright side: that last bit of Acts is pretty much an admission that the Bible is NOT the whole picture, nor the repository of all truth.

  • mason

    I’ve read Bart’s book. I have the highest regard for Bart’s exhausting academic tenacity for delving into the Jesus folklore looking for any kernel of valid historical evidence of an actual human upon which the supernatural tales were sprouted. After careful consideration I think Thor is the kernel. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/c80199a539d8c08878dc5f25d7d48ff054bab12a7827b09c3e926f4ea6c97df1.jpg

    • mason
    • ElizabetB.

      Thanks, Mason! I’d be interested in further sourcing for these Horus descriptions. So far I’m not finding these in online Egyptian mythology sources (I’m surprised to realize that my standard mythology handbooks are only Greek & Roman!). I surely agree that the mythology of the time influenced what people said about a Jesus character, but these items differ substantially from wiki and the Ancient History Encyclopedia, which sees the influence more along these lines:

      “There is no doubt the worship of Isis influenced early Christianity through the concepts of the Dying and Reviving God who returns from the dead to bring life to the people, eternal life through dedication to that god, the image of the virgin mother and child, and even the red-hue and characteristics of the Christian devil.”
      https://www.ancient.eu/Horus/
      https://www.ancient.eu/Egyptian_Mythology/

      Interesting to know what’s out there!

      • ElizabetB.

        p.s. now we have to watch out for fake *myths*?? arrrgh

        • Linda_LaScola

          Life is tough!

        • mason

          LOL … that’s a good one Eliz!

        • mason

          Eliz … Oy vey iz mir! … I think you’ll love the twisted irony of the Pope using the Adam and Eve myth to talk about fake news myth being delivered by the talking snake!!! Today I feel there is no hope for humanity to ever shed itself of the nonsensical superstitions. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pope-says-fake-news-dates-adam-eve-says-truth-will-n840516

          • ElizabetB.

            Good use of a myth! I hope the implications might resonate with some of the f.n. enthusiasts at Fox!!! But you’re right, it is funny strictly on the face of it : )

      • mason

        One thing certain … all these myths are myths, and were influenced and inbred along the lines of myths old and new spun by the scientifically ignorant, superstitiously motivated, and politically covetous humans of each ancient era.

        I find the situation that one myth is used regarding another myth quite comical. What if those who have advanced the vast areas of medical science had spent their life work on such nonsense as we are instead of something real and of value to humanity? We should be ashamed of ourselves. 🙂
        http://anthropology.msu.edu/anp264-ss13/2013/02/26/jesus-vs-horus/

        • ElizabetB.

          Yes, I had read this student’s post but the source he links to does not work for me. Wiki and the Ancient History Encyclopedia paint a very different picture of Horus — his mother and he were both gods, no angels or baptism in Egyptian myths or practice, Horus did not raise anyone from the dead, no crucifixion, no disciples, etc. The Encyclopedia says none of the authors popularizing the Jesus/Horus identification are scholars or Egyptologists. I had to smile at the student — he seemed to think it a coincidence that Jesus’s birth was around the time B.C. ended : )

          I think legit myths describe how people think the universe works — maybe someday the Big Bang will be considered a myth. The problems arise when we refuse to let an idea go when better-attested understandings are discovered.

          Do let me know if you run across Horus/Jesus theory beyond this student — at present, this particular one looks pretty wild beyond the Dying and Reviving god, and Virgin Mother and Child : )

          • carolyntclark

            Elizabeth, are you familiar with Barbara Walker’s work, and what do you think ?
            https://www.truthcontrol.com/barbara-g-walker

          • ElizabetB.

            Wow, Carolyn! No, I hadn’t heard of her, but I think I should have! About her “The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets” I see —

            “Honored by the London Times Educational Supplement as 1986 ‘Book of the Year’

            “Awesomely researched. . . . Walker has distilled 20 years of research into an absorbing treasure house. This is a feminist-scholar’s gold mine and a browsers
            delight.” Los Angeles Times

            “Whoever ventures into this . . . book runs the risk of being totally absorbed.” Shirley Horner, The New York Times

            “A mountain of scholarship, a vast mass of supremely documented material . . . demonstrating] the dominant role women have played in the cultural evolution of our
            species.” San Francisco Chronicle

            etc etc

            I love her spirit, working with myths — when she says
            “Basically, I am a scholar. I like doing research. I am always annoyed by people who are too intellectually lazy to do any serious study of subjects in which they claim to be interested. That’s one reason why I wrote my book on minerals, to debunk some a [sic] the foolishness that passes for ‘mineral lore’ these days. Nature’s wonders deserve more respect. The scientific facts about minerals are so infinitely more complex and fascinating than any of the simplistic notions invented by human imaginations.”
            http://skepchick.org/2009/01/barbara-g-walker-the-skeptical-feminist/

            Just because I’m hopelessly ocd, I’m going to reply to myself with some of what she says about Horus & Jesus Christ in her encyclopedia [much amazingly available on line tho I think the translation into bits and bytes poses some difficulties]. I think if there really were any Horus links beyond “dying/rising” and “virgin mother/child,” she would have been on it. And, according to the encyclopedia I quoted earlier, one of the Horus/Jesus theorists maintains that all religions originated from the lost city of Atlantis : ) which doesn’t lend a lot to his cred

            A million thanks for the introduction!!

          • ElizabetB.

            Sources and influences regarding the canonical gospel stories cited by Walker:
            https://archive.org/stream/womansencycloped00walkrich/womansencycloped00walkrich_djvu.txt
            [scroll down the alphabet to “Jesus Christ”] :

            “The details were accumulated through later adoption of the myths
            attached to every savior-god throughout the Roman empire. Like
            Adonis, Jesus was born of a consecrated temple maiden in the sacred
            cave of Bethlehem, ‘The House of Bread.’ 12 He was eaten in the
            form of bread, as were Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus, and others; he called
            himself the bread of God (John 6:33). Like worshippers of Osiris,
            those of Jesus made him part of themselves by eating him, so as to
            participate in his resurrection….

            “Like Attis, Jesus was sacrificed at the spring equinox and rose again
            from the dead on the third day, when he became God and ascended
            to heaven. Like Orpheus and Heracles, he ‘harrowed hell’ and brought
            a secret of eternal life, promising to draw all men with him up to glory
            (John 12:32). Like Mithra and all the other solar gods, he celebrated a
            birthday nine months later at the winter solstice, because the day of
            his death was also the day of his cyclic re-conception. See Attis.

            “From the elder gods, Jesus acquired not only his title of Christos
            but all his other titles as well. Osiris and Tammuz were called Good
            Shepherd. Sarapis was Lord of Death and King of Glory. Mithra and
            Heracles were Light of the World, Sun of Righteousness, Helios the
            Rising Sun. Dionysus was King of Kings, God of Gods. Hermes was
            the Enlightened One and the Logos. Vishnu and Mithra were Son of
            Man and Messiah. Adonis was the Lord and the Bridegroom. Mot-
            Aleyin was the Lamb of God. “Savior” (Soter) was applied to all of
            them.
            ….

            “Persian eschatology passing through a Jewish-Essenic filter predicted “the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 9:27, 21:27). Even these miracles were derivative. Turning water into wine at Cana was copied from a Dionysian ritual practiced at Sidon and other places. 16 In Alexandria the same Dionysian miracle was regularly shown before crowds of the faithful, assisted by an ingenious system of vessels and siphons, invented by a clever engineer named Heron. 17 Many centuries earlier, priestesses at Nineveh cured the blind with spittle, and the story was repeated of many different gods and their incarnations. 18 Demeter of Eleusis multiplied loaves and fishes in her role of Mistress of Earth and Sea. Healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, handling poisonous serpents (Mark 16:18), etc., were so commonplace that Celsus scorned these “Christian” miracles as ‘nothing more than the common works of those enchanters who, for a few oboli, will perform greater deeds in the midst of the Forum. . . . The magicians of Egypt cast out evil spirits, cure diseases by a breath, and so influence some uncultured men, that they produce in them whatever sights and sounds they please. But because they do such things shall we consider them the sons of God?’ ” 19

            As I’ve said before, I respect some myths as telling stories that are true to life, as Aesop’s fables are “true.” But for some reason, I like people who are writing about myths to keep them straight!

          • mason

            My goodness Eliz! … looks like Barbara is the real “Queen of Myth Researchers.” After just a cursory review of the link Linda provided I’d think Barbara’s work could keep you very busy for several hundred years. 🙂

            The Jews, and it was the Jews that devised the Jesus myths, had such of rich ancient treasury of mythology from which to devise their messiah tale. Just reading some of the cites from Barbara’s work sure explains to me where these guys got their wild ideas.

            “Old Testament Jews worshipped many baalim as past or present consorts of the Goddess Zion (Hosea 2:2-8). Yahweh shared these other gods’ temples for a long time, until his priesthood managed to isolate his cult and suppress the others. Some of the baalim revered in Israel were: Sin, the moon god of Sinai; Molech (Melek), the “king” and sun god of Tyre; Horus, the Egyptian Golden Calf whose image was made by Aaron; Baal-Peor, a phallic “Lord of the Cleft” (or yoni); Nehushtan, the “fiery flying serpent” of lightning, made by Moses (2 Kings 18:4); Chemosh, the Babylonian sun god Shamash, incarnate in Samson (or Shams-on, the sun); Melchizedek, the god of Salem; Etana, or Ethan, the Canaanite Eytan who “went up to heaven”; Baal-Rimmon, the Lord of the Pomegranate impersonated by Solomon; Baal-Berith, the Canaanites’ “God of the Covenant”; El, or Elias, the sun god Helios to whom Jesus called from the cross; Joseph, Jacob, and Israel, who were not men but tribal gods.

            Barbara G. Walker / The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets”

          • ElizabetB.

            Yes, a great resource! I’d add to the Jesus myth-makers the Gentiles, since they were being included in The Way… speculating, they might have been especially familiar with the dominant myths of the Roman Empire and liable to weave familiar themes in to the stories.

            One question I have in this entry is the background of Jesus’ cry “Eloi.” I would doubt it’s the sun god since in ‘Mark’s’ gospel it’s a quotation from Psalm 22. Still, the Hebrew “Elohim” itself is an interesting term, since as I understand it, it’s the plural form “gods.” Yes, several hundred years minimum to try to figure out how everything has developed! Neat to have Mz Walker to check out along the way!!

          • ElizabetB.

            About Egyptian influence:
            https://archive.org/stream/womansencycloped00walkrich/womansencycloped00walkrich_djvu.txt
            [scroll thru alphabet to “Jesus Christ”]

            “Isis’s cult came to Rome about 80 B.C., attained great popularity in
            the reign of Vespasian, and flourished throughout the empire until it
            was ousted by Christianity four centuries later. The Goddess herself was
            not so much ousted as absorbed. Her identification with the virgin
            Mary was part of the syncretic development of the Madonna cult. Some
            early Christians in Rome called themselves Pastophori, a title of
            ‘shepherds’ or ‘servants of Isis, which evolved into pastors. 19

            “The story of Mary’s Egyptian journey with her child seems to have
            been devised not only to fulfill the scripture, “Out of Egypt have I
            called my son” (Matthew 2:1 5), but also to justify the extensive
            identifications between Isis and Mary. One legend said Mary and
            Jesus took refuge in the holy tree at Mataria, the sycamore of Isis-
            Hathor, Goddess of Dendera, the Shrine of the Tree. 20 Isis was
            ‘Destiny,’ and so was Mary the triple Moerae. ‘The tree is a symbol
            of destiny because it is rooted in the depths. But what is more
            important is that it grows into time, ramifies its branches like a family
            tree.’ 21 Mataria was long known as an Egyptian name of the
            Goddess who was also Mata-Meri, or Mari. 22

            “Pictures and sculptures wherein [Isis] is represented in the act of suckling
            her child Horus formed the foundation for the Christian figures and
            paintings of the Madonna and Child. Several of the incidents oHhe [sic]
            wanderings of the Virgin with the Child in Egypt as recorded in the
            Apocryphal Gospels reflect scenes in the life of Isis as described in the
            texts found on the Metternich Stele, and many of the attributes of Isis,
            the God-mother, the mother of Horus, and of Neith, the goddess of Sais,
            are identical with those of Mary the Mother of Christ.”

          • ElizabetB.

            Interesting reflection on the “lost gospels” — and, I’d say, on myth in general —
            https://archive.org/stream/womansencycloped00walkrich/womansencycloped00walkrich_djvu.txt
            [scroll thru alphabet to “Jesus Christ”]

            “Even St. Augustine, finding the hypothesis of the devil’s inventions hard to swallow,
            admitted that ‘the true religion’ was known to the ancients, and had
            existed from the beginning of time, but it began to be called Christian
            after ‘Christ came in the flesh.’ [26]

            “Nevertheless, adherents of the true religion violently disagreed
            as to the circumstances of its foundation. In the first few centuries a.d.
            there were many mutually hostile Christian sects, and many mutually
            contradictory Gospels. As late as 450, Bishop Theodore of Cyrrhus said
            there were at least 200 different Gospels revered by the churches of
            his own diocese, until he destroyed all but the canonical four. [27] The
            other Gospels were lost as stronger sects overwhelmed the weaker,
            wrecked their churches, and burned their books. “

          • carolyntclark

            Elizabeth, You might find Barbara Walkers, “Man Made God” a good read…a studied collection of essays covering the
            gamut from ancient god myths through the evolution of our contemporary god. She’s an easy to read scholarly author,
            well researched, tons of resource footnotes and bibliography.

  • Geoff Benson

    ‘Oral traditions’. A polite way of referring to an illiterate society.

  • Keulan

    It’s interesting that Bart Ehrman has pretty much admitted multiple times in books and in blog posts that there are no eyewitness accounts and no historical evidence for Jesus at all, and yet he still somehow thinks a historical Jesus existed.

    • Geoff Benson

      There’s a difference between the types of evidence relating to Jesus. It’s pretty well accepted that the gospel accounts are probably entirely mythical, with the kind of events portrayed being entirely based on eyewitness testimony which, as you say is lacking. On the other hand, general historicity simply as to did someone exist, can be based on other types of evidence. For example, eyewitnesses to my own birth no longer exist, but there is a birth certificate that proves I was born. There seems to be just enough evidence that Jesus did exist, but that’s about it.

    • mason

      As I understand Bart, he’s and atheist and doesn’t believe in any of the magical and preposterous supernatural tales about the Jesus character. I read his book and I’m not a professional historian, but IMHO the bible historians give way too much credit for anything in the so called “bible.” When archaeologists find tiny pieces of pottery etc., they actually have found something real. When bible scholars find something it’s just a tiny piece of the larger myth. Was there a historical Jesus? Of course, it was a popular name of the era.
      https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ad2c4bf0acfe3ba7bce6df423867926d4ada68a98e9a09b6184f4b587e98f228.jpg

    • mason

      But then, that isn’t really saying much is it? It’s the magical-supernatural Jesus, a celestial King who will one day come rule Heaven and Earth, that the fanatical believers want to believe in?

    • Matthew Hullinger

      Not really all that surprising. I also accept that Muhammad existed and yet do not believe 90% of what has been written about him. The same can be said for Buddha and many other spiritual leaders throughout the years. I can accept that someone existed and yet not accept the stories written about them.

  • See Noevo

    Bart gets a mention in a comment on another PN blog today:

    @Scooter • 3 hours ago

    “Likewise, we see plenty of examples in the Bible that draw from prior traditions from
    civilizations in the region.”

    This is a common skeptical claim. Did Christianity really copy its core doctrines
    from Pagan myths? If I were to list comments from Biblical and Christian
    scholars refuting this claim no matter how solid their expertise, I would
    undoubtedly hear all about their bias. So I thought it would be fair to list a
    few comments by scholarly skeptics which refutes this idea.

    1.
    Mettinger, Tryggve N.D. The Riddle of Resurrection: “Dying and Rising God’s” in
    the Ancient Near East. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2001.
    217. “Dr. Tryggve Mettinger (a Swedish professor at Lund University) has
    written the most comprehensive account of the dying and rising god motif.

    He himself affirms the concept of “dying and rising gods.” Yet he concedes that
    he is in the strict minority: “There is now what amounts to a scholarly
    consensus against the appropriateness of the concept [of dying and rising
    gods]. Those who still think differently are looked upon as residual members of
    an almost extinct species…

    2.
    Major scholars in the fields of comparative religion and the Bible find the
    idea of dying and rising deities suspect or untenable.”

    For instance, Jonathan Z. Smith (historian from the University of Chicago)
    writes, “All the deities that have been identified as belonging to the class of
    dying and rising deities can be subsumed under the two larger classes of
    disappearing deities or dying deities. In the first case, the deities return
    but have not died; in the second case, the gods die but do not return.”

    3.
    In describing the German higher critical school which gave birth to this entire
    theory (Religiongeschichtliche Schule), critical scholar Maurice Casey writes
    that this is “now regarded as out of date” and “significantly mistaken.

    4.
    Regarding the Cross and Atonement, atheistic critical scholar Bart Ehrman
    writes, “Where do any of the ancient sources speak of a divine man who was
    crucified as an atonement for sin? So far as I know, there are no parallels to
    the central Christian claim. What has been invented here is not the Christian
    Jesus but the mythicist claims about Jesus… The majority of scholars agree…
    there is no unambiguous evidence that any pagans prior to Christianity believed
    in dying and rising gods.”[7] He adds, “None of this literature is written by
    scholars trained in the New Testament.” Ehrman, Bart D. Did Jesus Exist?: The
    Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. New York: HarperOne, 2012. 2.

    And from a former atheist who became a Christian -G.K. Chesterton had something to
    say about this. He deals with the critic’s argument that the Hebrew and
    Christian accounts of God are tribal, unsophisticated and much too attached to
    particular locations. Chesterton said that if the Old Testament accounts of God
    are down-to-earth and unsophisticated, might that very fact indicate their
    validity?

    Teaching pastor, Trevin Wax makes the following point:

    “Chesterton made the case that the Old Testament accounts of God’s
    revelation were credible precisely because they did not come to us as “cosmic
    philosophy.” The skeptics should turn their skepticism toward anachronistic
    notions of God being a cosmic force or energy.

    “If Moses had said God was an Infinite Energy, I should be certain he had seen
    nothing extraordinary. As he said He was a Burning Bush, I think it very likely
    that he did see something extraordinary…. When the learned skeptic says: ‘The
    visions of the Old Testament were local, and rustic, and grotesque,’ we shall
    answer: ‘Of course. They were genuine.’”

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2018/01/superman-and-jesus-more-similar-than-you-might-imagine-2/#disqus_thread

  • ThaneOfDrones

    … In view of this, I wonder how scholars know that no New Testament
    account of Jesus could have been received directly from any eyewitness.

    Note the inversion of the burden of proof.

    If any eyewitnesses had met the Gospel writers, perhaps they would have corrected some of the many historical errors, biographical lies and false or contradictory attributions of those works.