Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus – Part 13

I am examining the implications of the following supposition:

JAW = Jesus was alive and walking around on the first Easter Sunday.
This supposition is asserted by most Christian apologists as a key claim in support of the resurrection of Jesus. Another key claim made by Christian apologists concerns the alleged crucifixion of Jesus:

JWC = Jesus was crucified on Friday of Passover week, just before the first Easter Sunday.
All four Gospels agree that Jesus of Nazareth was crucified in Jerusalem on Friday of Passover week by order of Pontius Pilate (Mark 14:12-15:47, Luke 22:7-23:56, Matthew 26:17-27:62, John 13:1-13:30 and 18:1-19:42).
Since none of the Gospels was composed by an eyewitness to the trial, crucifixion, or burial of Jesus, and since the Gospels were apparently not based directly on eyewitness testimony, but were based on oral and written traditions of unknown origins (unknown to us), and since the Gospels were composed about four to six decades after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, and since the primary motivation of the authors was to promote Christian faith (which includes the belief that Jesus was crucified), we cannot be certain that (JWC) is true. At best, we can conclude that it is very probable that (JWC) is true.
Perhaps Jesus was crucified, but not on Friday of Passover week, or perhaps Jesus was killed on Friday of Passover week, but was not killed by being crucified (e.g. he died as a result of scourging and so was not hung up on a cross), or perhaps Jesus was not killed on Friday of Passover week because he was never crucified – the crucifixion being a legend or a mistaken inference of Jesus’s original followers.

Nevertheless, since we have no evidence of any alternative to the crucifixion story found in all four Gospels, the most likely scenario is that (JWC) is true. I think it is reasonable to assign (JWC) a probabilty of .9 (nine chances in ten of being true, given that Jesus was an historical person–which follows from the supposition of (JAW) ), and thus the probability of (Not JWC) would be .1 (one chance in ten that one of the other alternatives is true).

In proposing a probability of .9 for the truth of (JWC), I am taking into account not just the NT evidence, but also the non-Christian historical evidence (see The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, p.49) from Josephus (Antiquities 18:63), Tacitus (Annals 15:44), Lucian of Samosata, (The Death of Peregrine, 11-13), and the letter of Mara Bar-Serapion.

Antiquities by JosephusJosephus does not claim to have witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, nor does he claim to have interviewed any eyewitnesses of the crucifixion of Jesus. We simply don’t know what his source was for this information, but it was probably third- or fourth-hand hearsay:

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day. (Flavius Josephus. The Works of Flavius Josephus. Translated by. William Whiston, A.M. Auburn and Buffalo. John E. Beardsley. 1895. Antiquities 18:63)
Josephus completed Antiquities in the early 90s, about six decades after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, and it was composed in Rome, not in Palestine. Since the Gospel of Mark was composed about 70 CE, and Matthew and Luke were composed in the 80s CE, the synoptic Gospels were already in circulation among Christians before Josephus composed Antiquities, so he may simply be echoing stories about Jesus that circulated among Christian believers in Rome.
Furthermore, scholars have concluded that the text of the passage from Josephus was altered by Christian copyists, so it is uncertain exactly what the passage said about Jesus in the original version written by Josephus, although it is likely that Josephus mentioned the crucifixion of Jesus in the original version (see The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas, p.192-196).

Finally, Josephus does not specify the time and place of the crucifixion.

Annals by TacitusTacitus does not claim to have witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus, and since he was born in 56 CE and the alleged crucifixion would have happened about 30 CE (if it did happen), Tacitus could not have been an eyewintess. Nor does he claim to have interviewed any eyewitnesses of the crucifixion of Jesus (and given the date of composition of Annals, it is very unlikely that he would have had access to any eyewintesses–people rarely lived to 60 years old, let alone 100 years old). We simply don’t know what his source was for this information.

Tacitus composed his Annals in about 115 CE., about eight decades after the alleged crucifixion, and almost five decades after the composition of the Gospel of Mark. Tacitus writes about the presence of Christian believers in Rome, so it is entirely possible that his information comes from Christians or from Romans who were familiar with Christian beliefs.

Furthermore, Tacitus gets two things wrong is his one sentence about Jesus:
But all human efforts, all the lavish gifts of the emperor, and the propitiations of the gods, did not banish the sinister belief that the conflagration was the result of an order. 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 Judæa, 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. (Complete Works of Tacitus. Tacitus. Alfred John Church. William Jackson Brodribb. Sara Bryant. edited for Perseus. New York. : Random House, Inc. Random House, Inc. reprinted 1942. Annals 15:44)

Jesus’s name was not ‘Christus’. The word ‘Christ’ is a title– meaning ‘Messiah’ – which was bestowed upon Jesus by his followers. Also, Pilate was a prefect not a procurator (Jesus, The Final Days by Craig Evans and N.T. Wright, p.3-4). Also, Tacitus does not say that Jesus was crucified, nor does he give a specific time and place for the execution of Jesus, although he does suggest ‘Judea’ as the general location.

The Death of Peregrine by Lucian of SamosataThis passage is from a speech about the life and death of a Cynic philosopher Peregrinus Proteus made by an unnamed person/character:

“It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He interpreted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world. (The Passing of Peregrinus, 11, by Lucian of Samosata. Translated and notes by A.M. Harmon, 1936, Published in Loeb Classical Library, 9 volumes, Greek texts and facing English translation: Harvard University Press.)
Since Peregrinus committed suicide at the Olympic Games in 165 CE, this satire written by Lucian must have been composed between 165 CE and the death of Lucian (sometime after 180 CE). Suppose this satire was written about 170 CE, in that case this passage was composed about fourteen decades after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. Since Lucian was born around 125 CE, he obviously could not have been an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus.

By the time Lucian was 10 years old, the year was about 135 CE, so any eyewitnesses of the crucifixion of Jesus would have been dead by then. Thus, Lucian never interviewed an eyewitness of the crucifixion. Nor does Lucian provide any indication of where he got this information, other than that he heard it in a speech about Peregrinus (but the speech may well be purely a rhetorical device, and not an actual speech given by an actual person).


By the time that this satire was composed (around 170 CE), the synoptic gospels had been in circulation for about one century. So, it is entirely possible that this speech in a satire about the philosopher Peregrinus simply draws on the widely held Christian belief that Jesus had been crucified.

Furthermore, the speech does not specify the time and place of the crucifixion of Jesus, other than giving the general location of ‘Palestine’.

A letter by Mara Bar-SerapionA Syrian named Mara Bar-Serapion wrote a letter from prison to his son “sometime between the late first and third centuries A.D.” (The Historical Jesus, p. 207):

What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that that their kingdom was abolished…the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. (Christian Origins by F.F. Bruce, p. 31, quoted in The Historical Jesus, p.207-208).

Since this letter might date to the second or third century CE, it might well have been composed one or two centuries after the alleged crucifixion, in which case the author could not have been an eyewitness and could not have interviewed an eyewitness of the crucifixion.

The author does not claim to be an eyewitness to the crucifixion, nor to have spoken to an eyewitness of the crucifixion. Nor does the writer indicate how or where he obtained this information. Once again, this might well be third- or fourth-hand hearsay, even if the letter was written at the end of the first century.

There are other problems with this passage. First, Jesus was not a King, and the writer does not name ‘Jesus’ or mention ‘Christ’ or ‘Christians’, nor is there any specification of the time and place of the execution of the ‘wise King’. Thus, it is unclear whether it is really Jesus of Nazareth that is in view here.

Furthermore, there is no mention of crucifixion, only execution.

Finally, the writer is wrong about the death of Pythagorus and other facts: “…some of Mara Bar-Serapion’s material concerning Athens and Samos is quite inaccurate.” (The Historical Jesus, p. 208). So, the writer of the letter is not a reliable source of historical information.
This letter may well date one or two centuries after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus, makes a vague claim about the execution, not crucifixion, of a ‘wise King’ of the Jews, which may or may not be a reference to Jesus of Nazareth, occurring at an unspecified time and place, along with other historical claims about major figures which are innacurate. This is pathetic as historical evidence for (JWC).

To be continued…

INDEX of Argument Against the Resurrection of Jesus posts:

About Bradley Bowen
  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Brad: On what grounds do you assume that "none of the Gospels was composed by an eyewitness to the trial, crucifixion, or burial of Jesus?"

    Probably Mark was an eyewitness to some of that, as was John. No one knows who wrote Matthew; one can only guess whether he was there.

    "and since the Gospels were apparently not based directly on eyewitness testimony, but were based on oral and written traditions of unknown origins (unknown to us) . . . "

    This is not at all apparent. Aside from Mark and John, we know with fair certainty who Luke was, and we know he had intimate, first-hand association with some who had met Jesus.

    "and since the Gospels were composed about four to six decades after the alleged crucifixion of Jesus . . . "

    Two to six.

    Note what this means. The first disciples would have been young, as is always the case with mobile, revolutionary movements. Some would have been in their teens. If I want to hear an eyewitness account of the bombing of Nagasaki, and he wants to tell it, all I need to do is give my father-in-law a phone call. That was 66 years ago, now, and he's in good health.

    "and since the primary motivation of the authors was to promote Christian faith (which includes the belief that Jesus was crucified). . . "

    That's a little glib and anachronistic.

    "we cannot be certain that (JWC) is true. At best, we can conclude that it is very probable that (JWC) is true."

    That's the best we can do with ANY claim. But words like "certain" and "probable" are too imprecise here to be much use.

    "I think it is reasonable to assign (JWC) a probabilty of .9 (nine chances in ten of being true, given that Jesus was an historical person–which follows from the supposition of (JAW) ), and thus the probability of (Not JWC) would be .1 (one chance in ten that one of the other alternatives is true)."

    I'd put it more like .999999999.

    That's based on the NT evidence (did you forget Paul et al, BTW?); the "secular" evidence adds only a little, IMO.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    "Probably Mark was an eyewitness to some of that, as was John. No one knows who wrote Matthew; one can only guess whether he was there."

    What is your basis for saying Mark and John were probably eyewitnesses?

    This taken alongside your statement about the probability we should assign the resurrection lead me to believe you overestimate your probabilities. I can't imagine what would support such claims, especially the latter.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    I'm sorry. When I said resurrection, I meant JWC.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Mike: Many scholars see the story of the "young man" at the end of Mark as being the author's signature. As a writer myself, I can identify — this is the sort of clue I could see myself leaving. Tradition seems to agree. It may be wrong, but it's too much to positively state that the gospel was not written by an eyewitness. It may well have been.

    John's signature is, I think, a little more obvious, in 21:24. That does, at least, indicate that an eyewitness was involved in putting together most of the gospel.

    That Jesus was not crucified, I do think is something like a one in a billion shot. But I'll admit here that, having read much NT scholarship, this one is more a subjective sense of history, than anything I have nailed down via strict probability calculations. Bare in mind, though, that one skeptical philosopher calculated that there's a 1 in 3 chance that the external universe does not actually exist. If that be the case, of course, all bets are off.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    David B Marshall said…

    Brad: On what grounds do you assume that "none of the Gospels was composed by an eyewitness to the trial, crucifixion, or burial of Jesus?"

    Probably Mark was an eyewitness to some of that, as was John.
    ===============
    Response:

    "For more than two hundred years most New Testament experts have concluded that the Evangelists did not know the historical Jesus; moreover, they wrote decades after his death.
    The Evangelists were not eyewitnesses of Jesus' life and thought." (An Essential Guide: The Historical Jesus by James Charlesworth, p.xiii-xiv)

    "I have already stated that I do not think of the evangelists themselves as eyewitnesses of the passion; nor do I think that eyewitness memories of Jesus came down to the evangelists without considerable reshaping and development." (The Death of the Messiah, Volume 1, by Raymond Brown, p.14)

    John the apostle might have been an eyewitness to the trial or crucifixion, and 'the beloved disciple' (whoever that was) might have been an eyewitness to the trial or crucifixion, but neither John nor the beloved disciple was the author of the Fourth gospel.

    In fact, although 'the beloved disciple' may have been a major source of material in the Fourth Gospel, most scholars believe this Gospel went through two or three significant revisions, made by different members of a Johannine school of Christians, and thus the Gospel is the product of multiple authors, none of whom were John the apostle or 'the beloved disciple'. (see Fortress Introduction to The Gospels, p.124-125):

    "AUTHOR DETECTABLE FROM THE CONTENTS: One who regards himself in the tradition of the disciple whom Jesus loved. If one posits a redactor, he too may have been in the same tradition. Plausibly, there was a school of Johannine writing disciples." (Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown, p.334)

    The author of the Gospel called 'Mark' may well have been named Mark, but everything we know about this author must be inferred from careful examination of the text of the Gospel, and scholars who carefully study this Gospel generally conclude that Mark was not an eyewitness to the ministry, trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus.

    "…the ancient tradition that this Gospel [Mark] was written by a first century Christian who was not a follower of Jesus appears to be correct…" (Fortress Introduction to the Gospels by Mark Allan Powell, p.46)

    "AUTHOR DETECTABLE FROM CONTENTS: A Greek-speaker, who was not an eyewitness of Jesus' ministry and made inexact statements about Palestinian geography. He drew on preshaped traditions about Jesus (oral and probably written)…"
    (An Introduction to the New Testament by Raymond Brown, p.127)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Another comment regarding the Gospel of Mark:

    "Papias, a bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor in the first part of the 2nd century who is quoted by Eusebiaus (HE 3.39.15), identifies Mark as 'Peter's interpreter': according to Papias, Mark was not himself an eyewitness of Jesus but a later Christian who made an arragngement of the Lord's oracles on the basis of Peter's preaching, presumably in Rome after Peters death." (Mark, Gospel of, by Joel Marcus, in Eerdman's Dictionary of the Bible, p.859)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    More on Mark:

    "In any case, the question of authorship [of the Gospel of Mark] need not have a bearing on one's reading of the Gospel. The author makes no pretense of giving either his own or another's eyewitness account of any events of the Gospel. Furthermore, his identity neither assists one's understanding nor guarantees the accuracy of the details. Consequently, his identity remains merely a historical curiosity which the author fostered by his decision to remain anonymous." ('Mark, Gospel of' by R.A. Guelich, in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p.514)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    A general comment on the authorship of the Gospels:

    "…the Gospels as we have them were not written by eyewitnesses on the basis of first-hand knowledge of Jesus." (The Historical Figure of Jesus by E.P. Sanders, p.63)

    "We do not know who wrote the Gospels….These men–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John–really lived, but we do not know that they wrote gospels. Present evidence indicates that the Gospels remained untitled until the second half of the second century." (The Historical Figure of Jesus, p.63-64)

    "Why was our [fourth] gospel not immediately attributed to John? The most probable answer is that the attribution was made quite late and was a guess rather than a well-established tradition.
    It is unlikely that Christians knew the names of the authors of the gospels for a period of a hundred years or so, but did not mention them in any of the surviving literature (which is quite substantial)." (The Historical Figure of Jesus, p.65)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/02108175024624509183 Domics

    We do not have first hands accounts about Hannibal or Alexander the Great.
    So?

    Anyway read:
    "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony" by Richard Bauckham

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11030669424412573308 Chris

    "We do not have first hands accounts about Hannibal or Alexander the Great. So?"

    There is an abundance of archeological evidence for the existence of both men, unlike for Jesus, for whom there is no archeological evidence. So any reasonable standard of evidence is met easily in the cases of Hannibal and Alexander; what is in question is whether the same standard of evidence, or another otherwise reasonable one, can establish not merely that Jesus lived (the evidence is good enough), but that he was born of a virgin, that he was capable of performing miracles including raising the dead, that he was the Incarnation of God in the flesh and/or was a preexisting being called the Logos, whose crucifixion had cosmic importance as a blood sacrifice for the sins of mankind, and whose subsequent rise from the dead defeated death for those who believe in him, granting them eternal life (and eternal hellfire for unbelievers).

    A slight difference between the three cases, don't you think?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    More on authors of the Gospels:

    "The problems facing the seeker of the historical Jesus are even more severe [compared to those seeking the historical Socrates]. Although the biographies of Jesus…were composed within forty to sixty years of Jesus' death, that is still later than the memoirs about Socrates composed by Xenophon and Plato. Socrates, furthermore, was remembered by disciples who were longtime companions and eyewitnesses. Although the Gospels undoubtedly bear within them evidence of firsthand sources and even eyewitnesses, such material is not identified as such, and the narratives as a whole were most probably composed by authors the generation after that of Jesus' immediate followers. Finally, seekers after the historical Socrates have the benefit of Aristophanes' contemporary and highly critical observations to balance the 'insider' accounts of the admiring disciples Xenophon and Plato. Outsider accounts concerning Jesus exist…but they are relatively late and are of uncertain value as a check to insider perceptions." (The Real Jesus by Luke Timothy Johnson, p.107)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    NT Wright on the composition of the Gospels:

    "What do we know about how the Gospels got written? Frustratingly little. We don't have Matthew's diaries about how he went about collecting and arranging his material. We don't know where Mark was written. We don't know whether Luke really was, as is often thought, the companion of Paul. We don't know whether the 'Beloved Disciple' to whom the Fourth Gospel is ascribed (John 21:24), was really 'John' (in which case, which 'John'?) or someone else. None of the books name their authors; all the traditions about who wrote which ones are just that, traditions, from later on in the life of the church (beginning in the first half of the second century, about fifty years after the Gospels were written)." (The Original Jesus, p.126-127)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Brad: I am not surprised you can cite scholars who doubt the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. As you may know, I wrote two book debunking some skeptical NT scholars, and recognize that is a common belief.

    Mark may have been Peter's secretatry. In that case, his gospel was probably based on first-hand accounts of Jesus' life, and not just from Peter. That also does not contradict the likelihood that Mark himself witnessed some of the events he records, as he seems to indicate.

    NT Wright's cited comments do not undermine mine. (In fact they contradict Sanders, who says the gospels were named 100 years after their authorship — Wright says 50.)

    My point is that you have no basis for denying that the gospels were written in part by eyewitnesses, not that I can prove beyond any doubt that they were. But I think the character of the gospels demonstrates their closeness to the events they describe. And there is no historical reason to deny this.

    I disagree about Socrates and Jesus. The gospels hold many advantages, over biographical traces about Socrates. One minor advantage is that Socrates died at 72, as I recall, while Jesus was in his early 30s. This would make it easier for young disciples to locate materials about Jesus' early career.

    It seems likely to me that a "tradition" of just 50 years, about authorship of such important documents in a close-knit religious community, would be accurate. I would guess it was wrong about Matthew, but right about the other three gospels.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    David, I feel the need to remind you of your initial claim.

    "Probably Mark was an eyewitness to some of that, as was John."

    I see nothing you've given to lead to that conclusion unless we mean different things in our use of the word probably. Here are the lines of evidence you've presented.

    "Many scholars see the story of the "young man" at the end of Mark as being the author's signature. As a writer myself, I can identify — this is the sort of clue I could see myself leaving. Tradition seems to agree."

    "John's signature is, I think, a little more obvious, in 21:24. That does, at least, indicate that an eyewitness was involved in putting together most of the gospel."

    "Mark may have been Peter's secretatry. In that case, his gospel was probably based on first-hand accounts of Jesus' life, and not just from Peter. That also does not contradict the likelihood that Mark himself witnessed some of the events he records, as he seems to indicate."

    "My point is that you have no basis for denying that the gospels were written in part by eyewitnesses, not that I can prove beyond any doubt that they were. But I think the character of the gospels demonstrates their closeness to the events they describe. And there is no historical reason to deny this."

    None of these things leads to your conclusion. You say something may have been the case or that we have no basis for denying that it is the case. Those certainly don't do the trick. And, in fact, we do have good reason to deny it is the case because prima facie the deck is stacked against you in terms of probability. That means you have a hill to climb.

    In the end, I don't think it significantly affects the contents of this series of posts. I just wondered why you would make this 'probably' claim. To this point, I have seen no real justification.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    In addition, you've referred to parts of the gospels being witnessed or perhaps they talked to someone who witnessed some part. But how would you determine what those parts were? It makes that claim essentially useless. It seems to me you want to say all or most was witnessed or taken from a witness, but I see no basis for that conclusion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    James Dunn on Mark:

    "So far as the value of Mark as a source is concerned, we shall have to be content with the firm consensus that Mark is the earliest written Gospel to have survived intact, that it appeared about forty years after Jesus' death, and that it contains traditions about Jesus which must have circulated in the generation prior to that date." (Christianity in the Making, Volume 1: Jesus Remembered, p.146).

    Note that Dunn does not claim that Mark was an eyewitness, nor that the traditions about Jesus used by the author of Mark originate from an eyewitness source. Dunn believes it is possible that the preaching of Peter was a source used by the author of Mark, but Dunn says that "the evidence is too sparse for solid hypothesis building." (p.146)

    James Dunn on the Fourth Gospel:

    "…few scholars would regard John as a source for information regarding Jesus' life and ministry in any degree comparable to the Synoptics [Mark, Luke, Matthew]."
    (p.165-166)

    "John's Gospel cannot be regarded as a source for the life and teaching of Jesus of the same order as the Synoptics." (p.166)

    "In short, John provides another window on how the Jesus tradition was used already within the first century, and indeed, within the first two generations of Christianity. But one can recognize both that the tradition has been heavily worked upon and that it is well rooted within earlier Jesus tradition. The point so far as the teaching material is concerned is, once again, that the recognition of both features is determined by comparison with the Synoptic tradition. That is to say, the Synoptic tradition provides something of a norm for the recognition of the oldest traditions. In what frollows, therefore, we shall certainly want to call upon John's Gospel as a source, but mostly as a secondary source to supplement or corroborate the testimony of the Synoptic tradition." (p.167)

    So the Gospel of Mark is preferred by Dunn over the Gospel of John as an historical source for the life of Jesus, even though Dunn does NOT assume Mark to have been an eyewitness of the life and ministry of Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Theissen and Merz on composition of the Fourth Gospel:

    "The editors of the Gospel refer in 21.24to the Beloved Disciple as the author of the Gospel and the guarantor of its truth and seem to be interested in his literary anonymity. Early church tradition saw John son of Zebedee, as the author…. On a critical inspection we can hardly infer more from John 21.20-25 and other passages about the Beloved Disciple than that the Christian group from which the Gospel of John arose derived its tradition from a disciple of Jesus who was not all that well known…. The time of origin is to be put around the turn of the century…" (The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide by Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz, p.35-36)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    NT Wright comments on some of the above scholars/books…

    On Raymond Brown's Death of the Messiah:

    "Massive, hugely learned, yet clear and accessible. This will be a landmark for at least a generation." (The Original Jesus, p.152)

    On E.P Sanders' The Historical Figure of Jesus:

    "Probably the most influential NT scholar in the English-speaking world. Very different position to Crossan and the 'Jesus Seminar'." (The Original Jesus, p.155)

    On Luke Johnson's The Real Jesus:

    "Deeply critical of the 'Jesus Seminar'…. Deep scholarship worn lightly…"(The Original Jesus, p.154-155)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels on author of the Fourth Gospel:

    "A common understanding of the Beloved Disciple is that he is a person who heard and followed Jesus, although he was not one of the Twelve. …He exercised a role of leadership in one group of early Christian congregations, probably gathering a circle of disciples around him. One (or more) of his disciples wrote the Gospel, but who this author is remains unknown to us. He preserved,shaped and interpreted the witness of his master, the Beloved Disciple, who had in turn interpreted the teaching of the Master himself." ('John, Gospel of' by M.M. Thompson, Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, p.370)

    "The Gospel presents the Beloved Disciple as the witness on which it is based, but not necessarily as its author." (p.370)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels was published by IVP.

    Editors of the Dictionary:

    Joel B. Green (an expert on the death of Jesus and the Passion narratives).

    Scot McKnight (professor of NT at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School).

    Consulting editor: I. Howard Marshall (professor of NT at Univ. of Aberdeen in Scotland, and author of the book I Believe in the Historical Jesus)

    Here is a comment on the Dictionary by conservative Evangelical scholar Murray Harris (of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School):

    "IVP's stunning Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels… [will]provide an authoritative treatment of all the major historical and theological themes found in the four Gospels….The Dictionary will prove a spelendid tool not only for pastors and teachers but also for students and laypersons."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Mike: You mistakenly assume that because I say something is "probably" the case, what follows will necessarily give all my reasons for thinkin so. As I said, I wrote two books on the subject, and am not about to repeat all my reasons here. But what I said was enough to cast doubt on Brad's initial assertion, which is all I wanted to do.

    Given four biographies of Jesus from the 1st Century, written with vivid and historical-sounding details about his life, and some hints within in the texts (especially John) that two of the authors were witness to at least some of the events, whatever scholars he may find to agree with him, based on primary texts, Brad has no warrant for denying the possibility that eyewitnesses were, in fact, the authors.

    I'll see now what else he has added to attempt to buttress his case, though.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Brad: What I've read of Aristophanes did not really seem to add a whole lot that was credible about Socrates; Plato seems far more believable. And I don't doubt that he is a very good general source for Socrates' life.

    You're citing good scholars, and I commend you for that. I'm sure you recognize the limitations of that kind of argument, though. None of the citations you give actually much buttress your historical claim. Appeals to authority are effective and often useful short-cuts, but they are not themselves historical arguments.

    Again, let me repeat my objection. I see no reason to assume that none of the gospels transmit eyewitness accounts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Many of the citations you give are far removed from explaining why I or anyone else should.

    I agree with the IVP quote. To what purpose did you give it? And then blurbs for the book? I can give nice blurbs to my books, too. It would be helpful if you were to connect your citations more closely to the points you mean to support by them.

    But I apologize for making you do all the work — I'm having trouble with my computer, and therefore can't access my own textbooks right now, using this one.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    All right, here's Craig Blomberg's perspective on the authorship of John:

    "In fact a strong case for the Apostle John's having written a substantial portion of the Fourth Gospel — perhaps all but the closing verses — can still be credibly defended. But the question of John's historical reliability depends surprisingly little on such a case. Recent Johannine scholarship has gone a long way towards undermining earlier skepticism by simply pointing out evidence for the bulk of the gospel relying on sources with highly accurate details about Palestinian geography, topography and religious custom."

    Blomberg cites FF Bruce, BF Westcost, and Leon Morris, on John's authorship.

    He then justifies his claims about John in some detail.

    I cite these not as "evidence," but to indicate that my earlier remarks were not made in a critical vaccuum, and to show that the "appeal to authority" alone cannot justify a dogmatic "John did not write this gospel."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    David Marshall said…

    "Blomberg cites FF Bruce, BF Westcost, and Leon Morris, on John's authorship."

    ==============
    Response:

    I agree that there are some NT scholars who defend the traditional view that the apostle John was the author or primary source for the Fourth Gospel.

    However, many leading NT scholars have rejected this traditional view of the authorship of John, as well as the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels now called Matthew and Mark.

    It is not just 'skeptical' scholars, such as those associated with the Jesus Seminar who reject the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels. Mainstream. liberal and conservative scholars doubt or reject the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    David Marshall said…

    NT Wright's cited comments do not undermine mine. (In fact they contradict Sanders, who says the gospels were named 100 years after their authorship — Wright says 50.)
    ===========
    Response:

    Wright speaks of 'traditions' about the authorship of the Gospels going back to 50 years after the Gospels, while Sanders is talking about written references identifying the authors of the Gospels being absent for 'a period of one hundred years or so' after the composition of the Gospels.

    So there is no direct contradiction between Wright and Sanders.

    Papias is the earliest source dating to about 140 CE. Papias mentions Mark and Matthew. Mark supposedly writing down material from Peter's preaching, and Matthew writting down sayings of Jesus in the 'Hebrew dialect'.

    If Mark was composed about 65 CE, then the Papias reference was about 75 years after the composition of Mark, which is halfway between Wright's 50 years and Sanders' 100 years.

    If Matthew was composed about 85 CE, then the Papias reference was about 55 years after the composition of Matthew, which corresponds closely to Wright's 50 years, but not with Sanders' 100 years gap.

    However, Papias' comment that Matthew wrote sayings of Jesus in the 'Hebrew dialect' does not fit with the Gospel of Matthew which is in Greek, and does not appear to be translated from Aramaic, which was probably the language used by Jesus.

    Furthermore, Papias does not identify authors of our four Gospels, but rather he identifies early Christian scribes/authors. Even assuming that Papias was 100% correct, his comments only show that there were men named Mark and Matthew who wrote about the ministry of Jesus, not that the Gospels we now have were written by those two men.

    Perhaps Sanders does not read the quotes from Papias as identifications of the authors of our Gospels that bear the names 'Mark' and 'Matthew', and so he would not date the first identification of the authors of those Gospels as going back to Papias.

    The identification of the authors of those two Gospels may have taken place sometime after Papias, and the identification may even be the result of an early inference based on Papias' comments (such as Eusibius who recorded quotes from Papias makes).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    According to NT Wright, we don't know who the 'Beloved Disciple' is.

    That means, we don't know whether John the son of Zebedee is the author of the Gospel that bears his name. That means that the fact that John the son of Zebedee was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus does not imply that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.

    Of course, the unknown 'Beloved Disciple' might have been an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, but if we don't know who this person is, then we don't know whether the Gospel was written by an eyewitness of the minstry of Jesus.

    Furthermore, many leading NT scholars believe that there was a 'Beloved Disciple' but that this person did not write the Fourth Gospel, but was instead the founder of an oral tradition that was later written down by followers of the 'Beloved Disciple'.

    This explains why many of the lengthy sermons by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel are really sermons about Jesus, unlike what we read in the other Gospels. The words put into the mouth of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel appear to be sermons by the 'Beloved Disciple' about Jesus, rather than words spoken by the historical Jesus himself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    According to NT Wright, we don't know who the 'Beloved Disciple' is.

    That means, we don't know whether John the son of Zebedee is the author of the Gospel that bears his name. That means that the fact that John the son of Zebedee was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus does not imply that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.

    Of course, the unknown 'Beloved Disciple' might have been an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, but if we don't know who this person is, then we don't know whether the Gospel was written by an eyewitness of the minstry of Jesus.

    Furthermore, many leading NT scholars believe that there was a 'Beloved Disciple' but that this person did not write the Fourth Gospel, but was instead the founder of an oral tradition that was later written down by followers of the 'Beloved Disciple'.

    This explains why many of the lengthy sermons by Jesus in the Fourth Gospel are really sermons about Jesus, unlike what we read in the other Gospels. The words put into the mouth of Jesus in the Fourth Gospel appear to be sermons by the 'Beloved Disciple' about Jesus, rather than words spoken by the historical Jesus himself.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    I don't think David and I can settle the question of whether any of the Gospels was authored by an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, given that NT scholars don't agree on this issue.

    However, given that many leading NT scholars have rejected the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels, I don't see how one can be certain that any Gospel was written by an eyewitness.

    Since there are also NT scholars who defend the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospels, it is also difficult to be certain that no Gospel was written by an eyewitness.

    David –

    What probabilities would you give to the following claims?

    1. The author of the Gospel of Mark was an eyewitness to the trials of Jesus.

    2. The author of the Gospel of Mark was an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus.

    3. The author of the Gospel of Mark was an eyewitness to the burial of Jesus.

    4. The author of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness to the trials of Jesus.

    5. The author of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness to the crucifixion of Jesus.

    6. The author of the Gospel of John was an eyewitness to the burial of Jesus.

    I will think about this too, and come up with my own probability estimations.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Graham Stanton on the authorship of the Gospels: "Today it is generally agreed that neither Matthew nor John was written by an apostle. And Mark and Luke may not have been associates of the apostles." (The Gospels and Jesus, p. 135)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Assuming that there was an actual historical Jesus of Nazareth, Peter was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus.

    But Peter did not write a Gospel.

    According to Papias, there was a man named 'Mark' who was an 'interpreter' of Peter and who 'wrote down all that he [Peter] recalled of what was either said or done by the Lord.'

    If Papias is correct, then there was an early written record of the sermons of Peter, which would have included various teachings of Jesus and events from the ministry of Jesus.

    If Papias is correct, then the 'Mark' who wrote down information about Jesus from the sermons of Peter 'neither heard the Lord, nor was a follower of his'. So, if Papias is correct, then the man named 'Mark' who wrote down sermons from Peter, was not himself an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus.

    So, if our Gospel that is now called 'Mark' was in fact written by the 'Mark' referred to by Papias, and if the claims of Papias about this man are correct, then the Gospel of Mark was NOT written by an eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.

    If, however, Papias was mistaken, and the man called 'Mark' was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, then he might well have also been mistaken in his claim that 'Mark' knew Peter and wrote down the sermons of Peter.

    For if Papias was mistaken about whether 'Mark' was an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, then Papias probably did not know 'Mark' personally, and was getting his information about 'Mark' from an unreliable source, who passed on false information about 'Mark' to Papias.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Many leading NT scholars doubt or reject the traditional view of the authorship of the Gospel now called 'Mark', so it is uncertain whether this Gospel was authored by a person who listened to the sermons of Peter.

    Suppose, for the sake of argument, that our Gospel called 'Mark' was written by a man who listened to sermons by Peter, an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, and that a significant portion of our Gospel called 'Mark' derives from the sermons of Peter.

    Does this mean that the Passion narrative in Mark is based on eyewitness testimony?

    There are at least two more problems here:

    1. Which parts, if any, of the Passion narrative in Mark are based on sermons from Peter?

    2. Was Peter an eyewitness to the Roman trial, the crucifixion, and/or burial of Jesus?

    The answer to (1) is: We don't know.

    The Gospel of Mark does not indicate specific sources for specific stories or details. So, even if Peter's sermons were a primary source for the Gospel of Mark in general, we don't know whether Peter's sermons were the basis for any given detail in the Passion narrative of Mark.

    The answer to (2) is: probably not.

    The Synoptic gospels do not place any of the twelve disciples of Jesus at the Roman trial, the crucifixion, or the burial. It is implied, and is intrinsically plausible, that the disciples went into hiding soon after Jesus was arrested, and that only some of the female followers of Jesus were present at the crucifixion and burial of Jesus.

    [The Fourth Gospel does place the 'Beloved Disciple' at the crucifixion, but it is unclear who this 'Beloved Disciple' is, and many leading NT scholars reject the traditional view that this person was John the son of Zebedee.]

    So, (1) it is uncertain whether the Gospel of Mark was composed by a person who heard the sermons of Peter, and (2) even assuming this to be so, it is unknown whether any given detail in the Passion narratives is based upon information from a sermon delivered by Peter, and finally, (3) even if some details in the Passion narratives are assumed to be based upon information from a sermon delivered by Peter, that information is probably hearsay, since Peter was probably not present at the Roman trial, the crucifixion, and the burial of Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10733749439230562093 Vincent Jorgensen

    Not that this is central to your point, but Mark and John do not agree on what day the crucifixion took place. Mark has him tried and executed on the morning of the Passover, and John has him tried and executed the day before. I'm told that the author of John moved the day back by one so that Jesus would die at the same time as the lambs would have been being sacrificed in the Temple, thus–at least to an observant Jewish audience–the Lamb of God connection couldn't be more clear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Brad: Again, the position I was objecting to was that we know that none of the gospels was written by an eyewitness. We don't know that, as you now seem to admit.

    (1) As for when the first descriptions of the gospels as eyewitness account appear, let's not neglect Luke himself:

    "Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished AMONG US, just as THOSE WHO FROM THE BEGINNING WERE EYEWITNESSES and servants of the word HAVE HANDED DOWN TO US, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order . . . "

    And of course one of Luke's main sources is Mark. He seems to imply that (a) the events he will describe occured 'among' his sources, and others he has interviewed; (b) the earlier gospels, surely including Mark, were based on eyewitness accounts; and (c) he has done what he could to check up on these accounts.

    Based on Acts and references by Paul, it seems almost certain that Luke was, in fact, in a position to obtain such first-hand accounts.

    (2) Didache cites Matthean material quite a bit, and very early. I guess the canonical gospel mixes Luke / Mark and the original, which could be an eyewitness as well.

    (3) Thomas cites every layer of gospel material, apparently. This suggests the books were accepted before Thomas was written.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    David B Marshall said…

    Brad: Again, the position I was objecting to was that we know that none of the gospels was written by an eyewitness. We don't know that, as you now seem to admit.
    =============
    Response:

    You are correct. We don't know who wrote the Gospels, and we don't know that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus.

    We also don't know that Jesus was an actual historical person, nor that Jesus was crucified in Jerusalem in the first half of the first century.

    We have only probabilities concerning Jesus and the Gospels, and the probabilities almost never reach the level required for knowledge.

    The author of Mark never claims to be an eyewitness, never claims to be 'Mark', never claims to have heard the sermons of Peter, and never attributes any of his information to eyewitness testimony.

    If Papias was correct that a man named 'Mark' heard and wrote down some of the sermons of Peter but was not an eyewitness to the ministry of Jesus, and if Eusibius was correct in identifying this 'Mark' as the author of the 2nd Gospel (now called 'Mark'), and if the Roman trial, crucifixion, and burial stories in 'Mark' are based mainly on information from Peter's sermons, then (a) Mark was not an eyewitness, and (b) the primary source of the Roman trial, crucifixion, and burial stories in Mark are probably NOT based on eyewitness testimony, since Peter was probably not present for those events.

    Papias did not have firsthand knowledge of Mark, so we cannot be certain of his statements about Mark hearing and writting down material from Peter's sermons. I would give this a probability of about .8.

    Papias does not identify 'Mark' as the author of the second Gospel. This identification was made later by others. Those who made this identification were even further removed from Mark and Peter, and many NT scholars view this as a second-century guess about the authorship of Mark. So, the identification of the 'Mark' mentioned by Papias as being the author of the second Gospel is merely probable, not very probable, so I would give the probability as .6, assuming that Papias was correct about there being a 'Mark' who wrote down sermons by Peter.

    Even if the 'Mark' mentioned by Papias did write the second Gospel, he need not have based the Gospel primarily on Peter's sermons. Mark does not specify his sources. So, the probability that the second Gospel's stories about the Roman trial, crucifixion, and burial of Jesus are based primarily on Peter's sermons is less than very probable. I would give this a probability of .7, assuming that (a) there was a 'Mark' as described by Papias, and (b) this 'Mark' was the author of the second Gospel.

    So, the probability that the stories of the Roman trial, crucifixion, and burial in the second Gospel were based primarily on information from Peter is
    .8 x .6 x .7 = .336 or .3 (one significant figure).

    It is probable that Peter was NOT an eyewitness to any of those three events. I would give a probability of .7 for that. This means that the probability that Peter was NOT an eyewitness to the Roman trial is about .9, and NOT an eyewitness to the crucifixion about .9, and NOT an eyewitness to the burial about .9 (.9 x .9 x .9 = .729 or .7 (one significant figure).

    So, the probability that the crucifixion story in the second Gospel is based on eyewitness testimony from Peter is

    .3 x .1 = .03

    or 3 chances in 100.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05034037930336299849 Mike Gage

    "You mistakenly assume that because I say something is "probably" the case, what follows will necessarily give all my reasons for thinkin so."

    No, I did not make that assumption. I did, however, assume that given the short space of a comment thread you would provide reasons you found particularly powerful. I was merely pointing out that the reasons you gave either were appeals to possibility or were not significant probability raisers (at least in my eyes, but that's up for debate). I'm not looking for a long debate on the subject, but I did want to point out that given an initial asseriton by you regarding probability, you've since done virtually nothing to bolster that claim.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    The probability that Peter's sermons were a main source of information used by the author of the second Gospel (called 'Mark') is somewhat higher than my estimate above, becuase even if this Gospel was not written by the 'Mark' mentioned by Papias, it could have been written by someone else who listened to the sermons of Peter.

    I will do a more careful analysis of the probability in a short post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    I think we also must weigh information gleaned from the epistles particularly 1 Corinthians (written around A.D. 53-55) and Galatians (written around A.D. 48) which are unanimously accepted as being authentic Pauline texts. These letters give credence to the Gospel accounts. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul writes:

    For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

    First of all, Paul says that he received his information. Paul is likely quoting an early church teaching that goes back to about five years after the death of Jesus. Paul likely received this teaching when he visited Jerusalem around A.D. 36. This teaching would have come from people that surrounded Jesus’ ministry.
    Second Paul mentions that Jesus appeared to Cephas or Peter and to James the brother of Jesus.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    This is important when we consider what Paula wrote in Galatians 1:11-19:

    For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man's gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus.

    Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord's brother.

    Paul’s conversion was around A.D. 33-34, so this means that Paul met up with Peter and James the brother of Jesus around A.D. 36-37 just six or seven years after Jesus’ death and post mortem appearances. This also means that Paul, Peter and James had a chance to talk about the Gospel and church doctrine. It also lends credence to Paul’s claim that Peter and James say that Jesus appeared to them after his crucifixion. During Paul’s 15 day stay at Jerusalem he would have had a chance to talk with them about Jesus’ crucifixion and post mortem appearances.

    Then in Galatians 2:1-2 and 6-10 Paul writes:

    Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus along with me. I went up because of a revelation and set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain… And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me. On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles), and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.

    Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.

    This means that 14 years (around A.D. 44-47) after Paul’s first visit to Jerusalem he comes back to meet with Peter, John and James the brother of Jesus to make sure that his Gospel message is correct. The three church pillars and witnesses to Jesus life, death and resurrection confirm that Paul’s message is correct.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    Another important epistle is 1 Peter, particularly in light of what Paul says about him in 1 Corinthians and Galatians. In 1 Peter 1:3-5 Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” Here Peter confirms his belief in the resurrection from the dead. Then in 1 Peter 5:1 he confirms that he witnessed Jesus’ punishment when he says, “So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed…” So, 1 Corinthians, Galatians and 1 Peter confirm the Gospel accounts that say that Peter is a firsthand witness to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. I think we can say with a high degree of confidence that Peter truly believed that he observed Jesus walking around after his crucifixion and burial.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    When it comes to evaluating the authenticity of the Gospels I think we must think about embarrassing sections in the Gospels. These are sections that are unlikely faked because they would cause difficulties with the early church. One of those sections would be the betrayal of Jesus by one of his own disciples, Judas Iscariot. Another would be Peter, one of church pillars, denying that he knew Jesus three times while Jesus was being crucified. Another would be that women followers of Jesus were the first to see that Jesus tomb was empty. Women’s testimony was not even accepted in legal proceedings in Jewish society. If the Gospel accounts were made up then it doesn’t make sense to have women be the witnesses of Jesus’ burial and be first people to see the empty tomb. It would have made much more sense to have men be the first to see the empty tomb if the Gospels were faked.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11075074084646770559 Keith Rozumalski

    As to the author of Mark, the ESV Study Bible introduction to Mark says:

    Widespread evidence from the early church fathers affirms that Peter passed on reports of the words and deeds of Jesus to his attendant and writer, John Mark. Of particular significance in this regard are the brief statements by Papias (Bishop of Hierapolis; c. a.d. 120), preserved by Eusebius of Caesarea (260–340). Papias states that he received oral tradition from John the elder and apostle, and he passes on the following regarding Mark: (1) he was the writer for Peter; (2) he wrote down accurately as much as he could remember of Peter’s words, which the latter had adapted to the needs of the moment; (3) he was not an eyewitness of Jesus, nor a disciple (but see note on Mark 14:52); and (4) it was his desire not to omit or misrepresent anything. Papias concluded that the Gospel of Mark gains its apostolic and reliable character from its Petrine origin (Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History 2.15.1–2; 3.39.14–16).

    Internal evidence also supports the Patristic testimony that Peter stands behind Mark’s Gospel. Mark’s account is especially vivid when recounting incidents involving Peter. It presents the weaknesses of Peter, as well as the disciples as a whole, and omits praiseworthy or noticeable references to Peter reported in Matthew and Luke. It has also been observed that there exists a certain structural proximity between Peter’s Caesarea speech (Acts 10:34–43) and the Gospel of Mark.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04029133398946303654 David B Marshall

    Brad: I meant to respond to your most recent comments, and actually did so — then lost what I wrote. It looks like I'll be busy for a bit, now, but hopefully I'll have time to address your arguments later.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05211466026535549638 Bradley Bowen

    Response to David B Marshall…

    Sorry about your responses getting lost. That is frustrating.

    I will be interested in your responses whenever you find the time to write them out again.


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