«

»

Feb 15

Gospel Truth: Do we have eyewitness testimony?

This will be my first in a series of posts on questions of reliability and the gospels. I will give a high level overview of some major topics in comparative gospel study. My first discussion will focus on eyewitness claims. Other topics I’m considering include:

Do the gospels contain eyewitness accounts of Jesus?

Let’s first note that these gospels do not claim to be written by anyone in particular; they are anonymous. They also do not claim to be eyewitnesses. In fact, Luke says fairly directly that he is not an eyewitness. So why do we think they have anything to do with eyewitnesses? This seems to be largely based on church tradition to lend authority to these accounts. My guess is that the belief came about as a defense mechanism against critics and against competing gospels.

Evangelical Christians commonly claim that the gospels were either written by eyewitnesses or the authors had access to eyewitnesses. Ultimately, these claims are not very convincing to those outside that group. These gospels were likely written between 70-95 C.E. and the authors were dispersed throughout the region. To assume that followers of Jesus would have been in this situation and actually able to read and write is highly suspect.

Let’s first consider whether the gospels contain purely eyewitness testimony. This is surprisingly common, even though the claim can basically be dismissed immediately. Let’s think about what takes place in these gospels. Two of them start before Jesus was born. Were the writers there? Do they know what Joseph dreamed? Were the authors in the Garden of Gethsemane when Jesus went off alone to pray? Were all four writers present throughout the whole life and ministry of Jesus? It’s pretty clear though that none of them could possibly have seen all of this. So, one should at least grant that they cannot contain only eyewitness accounts.

But could the authors be eyewitnesses to the major events, just not those mentioned above? Again, this does not seem likely. It is pretty clear that Luke and Matthew used Mark as a source, as well as the “Q” source. They contain many of the same stories, which scholars believe were from copying written work. The reason it seems to be from written work, rather than multiple eyewitnesses recounting the same stories, is due to the many instances of verbatim similarity. This kind of congruence (wording, sentence structure, etc.) does not come from independent eyewitness testimony or oral interviews. So, we can dismiss Matthew and Luke from serious consideration as eyewitness accounts. You then have just Mark and John. Since John differs so much from Mark, it doesn’t seem to be copied. Yet, because of that stark difference, both cannot be correct.

John is often called the Maverick Gospel because of how different it is from the synoptic gospels. These differences are so interesting and numerous, I will provide a separate post just to deal with this gospel, and why I conclude it is the least reliable.

What about Mark, though? It has a lot of things going for it – it was the earliest, it was obviously popular and widely circulated, and it is the least embellished in many ways. A common apologist claim is that Mark travelled with Paul and used Peter as a primary source for accounts of Jesus. We have no real reason to believe this; it is simply later church tradition and it still wouldn’t make Mark an eyewitness. This also relies on Mark being the person mentioned in Acts and 1 Peter. First, Acts and 1 Peter are anything but reliable. Second, the name Mark was just a later addition to the gospel, which again is anonymous. We simply have no reason to think this name is actually the name of the author. The arguments for these claims go nowhere and rely on circular logic.

 

Conclusion

Since the authors do not claim in any way to be eyewitnesses, then that should not be our starting point. The real starting point is admitting we do not know, and then we go on to examine the evidence. The evidence, in this case, does not favor assigning eyewitness status to the authors. The vast majority of scholars agree with this view.

Similar Posts:

18 comments

5 pings

Skip to comment form

  1. mikespeir

    “We simply have no reason to think this name [Mark] is actually the name of the author.”

    Well, there is Papias, but his testimony is very iffy.

  2. Mike

    I agree about Papias. A number of the early church figures aren’t exactly reliable. And why should they be? Why would we really expect them to know anything special? That’s kind of the whole problem with the tradition of authorship – it’s just a tradition. There is no real evidence.

    That being said, I do think Mark (whoever wrote it) is probably the most reliable gospel to the extent we can call any gospel reliable.

  3. anti_supernaturalist

    …there is a vast literature on the historical standing of xian texts. It is widely accepted (by scholars, not bible worshipers) that

    the quest for the historical Jesus ends in historical fiction

    The quest for the historical Master Kung (Confucius) ends in historical fiction. The quest for the historical Mohamed ends in historical fiction. The quest for the historical Buddha ends in historical fiction.

    The fiction / history dichotomy obviously presents a false choice —

    The fictional enlargement of Siddharta Gautama from the Buddha of the Dhammapada into a much later transcendental Buddha figure of the Diamond Sutra took hundreds of years. His deification should be a less difficult mental process for brainwashed westerners to cope with than the parallel deification of Jesus, which also took hundreds of years to complete.

    Teachings and sayings attributed to Buddha in the Dhammapada are known to be early writings from the Pali canon and function as indicators of what the Enlightened One may have said.

    Neither Master Kung nor Buddha suffers from deification in early texts — they are and remain human beings.Their early views are broadly non-theistic.

    As for the xian religion, a Jesus figure may have left behind teachings or sayings which may be authentic — but Jesus can not be separated from a context of deification even in the earliest of so-called gospels, “Mark” (70 CE). P/Saul of Tarsus creates the deified “Christ” between (50-65 CE).

    Before there were any xians, or members of Jesus cults within Judaism — hellenistic Jewish writers constructed texts which were intentionally what we would call resistance propaganda against macedonian occupiers.

    The Book of Daniel with its three resisters of royal oppression — and Judith, always shown cutting off the head of enemy general, Holofernes, are complete fiction.

    Putting a human face on an ideology is nothing new. We remember Daniel in the lions’ den and Judith with her sword dripping blood — long after any trace of their immediate context was erased.

    Like them the Jesus persona belongs on the level of a character in a cultural fable directed against an occupying roman army and a harsh puppet regime.

    But his persona was able to “to rise from the grave” to be employed totally out of context. Those who wrote in bad koine Greek became freed to address themselves to masses of ignorant and revenge filled non-jews who knew nothing about occupied Palestine, but who hated intellectuals, the well-off, and those in power.

    As the roman historian Tactus writes, “xianity is a religion fit for slaves”.

    the anti_supernaturalist

  4. Mike

    On Foxhole Atheism’s Facebook Page – http://facebook.com/foxholeatheism – there has been some ongoing discussion stemming from this post. (On a side note, I encourage you to become a fan and engage in the substantial amount of back and forth with a few Christians on almost every post of mine.)

    The commentor asserted that the gospel writers could have sought out and interviewed eyewitnesses. He brought up some other irrelevant points, too, but they went nowhere. But I do want to comment on the eyewitness interviews aspect, as it’s a related claim. Here is a shortened version of my response on Facebook; I have yet to receive a response:

    Your retreat to the possible is an incredibly weak position. Possibility is irrelevant unless I’m claiming it’s impossible. I am in fact claiming it’s impossible for the authors to have seen every event firsthand. I would also claim that interviewing eyewitnesses to EVERY event in the gospels is impossible for those same reasons from the post. What I am not claiming is that it is impossible for SOME things to have come from eyewitness interviews. So, you need to provide reasons why it is probable for that to have happened, not why it is possible. Do you have a single reason why it is probable (not just possible)?

    Here are a few reasons I would give for it being improbable. The gospels were written between 70 and 95 CE. They were likely composed in areas outside of Judea (no surprise there since the church was spreading to other areas in the empire). In these outer regions, the church was largely spread by Paul and his converts. So, we know that the stories were spread a great deal by people who were not eyewitnesses. We don’t know, except for a very few cases like the Centurion, of instances that it was spread by eyewitnesses. The life expectancy of the time was much shorter – one source says around 40. Let’s be generous and assume many people witnessing the activities of Jesus were 15 when they saw him. From 33 to 70 (when the first gospel was probably written) is 37 years, making a 15 year old 52. Also, a 15 year old would not be following Jesus through his entire ministry to see many events. A 30 year old would be 67, even more unlikely. And 70 is the earliest; add 10+ years for Matt/Luke and 20+ for John. So, you would have to say the writers hunted down a great variety of witnesses in a whole other region of the empire living well past their prime with accurate memories to piece together a story. Not likely. Furthermore, we know this didn’t happen because the writers copied from each other. Their info was from written sources, like Mark and Q, not from personal interviews.

    So, a few of the cons are: written much later, written in different regions, we know that much of the church was spread by people who were not eyewitnesses, life expectancy problem, piecing together multiple witnesses who all happen to be in this unlikely scenario, and evidence that most of the works are copied from text. What pros can you offer to outweigh these?

  5. Brian Colon

    Mike,
    I’m having trouble finding anything in your article I disagree with. As far as I can see you are correct in all the facts you present as they relate to textual criticism. It just seems that your conclusions were reached rather quickly.
    I’d like to bring to your attention Luke 1:1 which says that many have drawn up an account of the life of Jesus. Do you think when Luke said many he was referring only to Matthew, Mark, and John? I doubt it. If there were many accounts written then there is a higher degree of likelihood that the different segments of Jesus’ life were recorded by eyewitnesses, even if the whole thing wasn’t recorded by any single eyewitness. Later writers, such as Matthew could have used these eyewitnesses as a source. As for the times when no witnesses were around (such as Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane) it is reasonable to believe that those stories could have been the product of the Apostles inferring from what they DID see Jesus doing and saying. I’m quite happy to admit the only reason I am certain of the historicity of those stories is because of my a priori belief in Biblical inspiration.
    You also seem to go out of your way to say that Luke (or whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts) says specifically that he was not an eyewitness. This is true. But Luke does say that he “examined everything from the beginning.” This can be demonstrated by his sudden switch to using the 1st person plural (we, us) in Acts 16. In Acts 21:18, while Luke is using the first person plural, he says “The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present.”
    So here you have the author of Luke and Acts in first hand contact with the brother of Jesus, and “the elders.” Luke may not have been an eyewitness, but he had the opportunity to interview eyewitnesses.

  6. Mike

    Brian,

    It definitely was very quick. I’m torn between how in depth I want to go or how much I just want to put some high level overviews out there for consideration. This is my first post in the series and only one so far, but I’m leaning toward high level and then encourage people to look into it on their own. I’m very interested in the issues and have some background in them, though I’m no expert, but I’m not sure the level of interest is shared by my readers.

    First, just to bring any readers up to speed, Luke and Acts were probably written by the same person. So, that can give you an understanding of Brian’s point toward the end.

    The main point I wanted to address was whether the gospel writers themselves were eyewitnesses, and that’s why I mention Luke. I wasn’t really clear in my writing, but those early verses you mention are precisely what I had in mind. Whether eyewitnesses were interviewed is probably a more interesting question, but a more difficult one for me to answer. Like you said, Luke talks like he does have access to eyewitnesses. In that case, unlike the initial case, we do have reason to make that assumption.

    I gave some reasons above why I don’t think it’s likely. And when I say not likely, I’m really referring to all things in all gospels. I’m not specifically opposed to the gospels containing some accurate things that could have come from eywitnesses, or that could perhaps be traced back to eyewitnesses, but it gets tricky to figure out what those are.

    I don’t think Matthew and Luke knew about each other and I think John was written later. So, I don’t think he’s referring to those as many. The only comment I can really make is that he had Mark, Q (this is a sayings gospel that likely predates Mark for any who don’t know), and some independent sources. We can then ask, what were those independent sources? Were they written, verbal interviews, popular traditions, etc.? I really don’t know. I’ve never heard a good answer other than we categorize them as L sources. That’s not terribly satisfying or informative. Without knowing more, I feel like we are just making tentative guesses. And that’s basically what I would say about Gethsemane and similar events. I’ve heard lots of attempts to harmonize things, but I’d prefer some good reason to create interim events when there are simpler explanations.

    That’s an interesting verse from Acts. I’d like to look into that more when I have some resources available.

  7. Dexter

    Let’s first note that these gospels do not claim to be written by anyone in particular; they are anonymous.
    -Agree.

    They also do not claim to be eyewitnesses.
    -Does this necessarily mean they were NOT eyewitnesses? At best, you should be agnostic about this. Agree?

    In fact, Luke says fairly directly that he is not an eyewitness.
    -Does this necessarily mean Luke was NOT an eyewitness? Again, at best, you should be agnostic about this. But if you know this, please provide evidence for making a positive assertion.

    So why do we think they have anything to do with eyewitnesses? This seems to be largely based on church tradition to lend authority to these accounts.
    -It seems like it. But how does it follow that the writings do NOT necessarily have anything to do with eyewitnesses? Please provide evidence for your positive assertion.

    My guess is that the belief came about as a defense mechanism against critics and against competing gospels.
    -Only a guess.

    Evangelical Christians commonly claim that the gospels were either written by eyewitnesses or the authors had access to eyewitnesses. Ultimately, these claims are not very convincing to those outside that group.
    -Actually, some outside are—and some are not—convinced.

    These gospels were likely written between 70-95 C.E. and the authors were dispersed throughout the region. To assume that followers of Jesus would have been in this situation and actually able to read and write is highly suspect.
    -What is your evidence for asserting such “highly suspect.”

    Let’s first consider whether the gospels contain purely eyewitness testimony. This is surprisingly common, even though the claim can basically be dismissed immediately.
    -“Purely” eyewitness testimony? Who is saying this?

    But could the authors be eyewitnesses to the major events, just not those mentioned above? Again, this does not seem likely. It is pretty clear that Luke and Matthew used Mark as a source, as well as the “Q” source.
    -What is your evidence for asserting that Luke and Matthew used Mark, etc.?

    They contain many of the same stories, which scholars believe were from copying written work. The reason it seems to be from written work, rather than multiple eyewitnesses recounting the same stories, is due to the many instances of verbatim similarity.
    -Awhile ago you used the words “pretty clear.” Now you’re saying it “seems” to be.
    -Even if granting some things were copied, why are you disallowing that multiple eyewitnesses? Where is your evidence? Again, you’re making a positive assertion here.

    This kind of congruence (wording, sentence structure, etc.) does not come from independent eyewitness testimony or oral interviews.
    -This is a bold positive claim. Why couldn’t one writer (in this case Luke) have interviewed (for verification) some of the—or even perhaps the same—multiple eyewitnesses, who told another writer (in this case Matthew) what they saw? Explain your disallowing this.

    So, we can dismiss Matthew and Luke from serious consideration as eyewitness accounts.
    -No. We can’t dismiss Matthew and Luke yet.

    You then have just Mark and John. Since John differs so much from Mark, it doesn’t seem to be copied. Yet, because of that stark difference, both cannot be correct. John is often called the Maverick Gospel because of how different it is from the synoptic gospels. These differences are so interesting and numerous, I will provide a separate post just to deal with this gospel, and why I conclude it is the least reliable.
    -Granting the two are different, if the difference isn’t stark, would you agree that the difference would not touch on whether they are eyewitness accounts?

    What about Mark, though? It has a lot of things going for it – it was the earliest, it was obviously popular and widely circulated, and it is the least embellished in many ways.
    -Embellished? What do you mean? Some things in the other three gospels were invented? Please provide evidence.

    A common apologist claim is that Mark travelled with Paul and used Peter as a primary source for accounts of Jesus. We have no real reason to believe this; it is simply later church tradition and it still wouldn’t make Mark an eyewitness.
    -It may be later church tradition, but does this disqualify Mark as, at least, having interviewed eyewitnesses?

    Since the authors do not claim in any way to be eyewitnesses, then that should not be our starting point. The real starting point is admitting we do not know, and then we go on to examine the evidence. The evidence, in this case, does not favor assigning eyewitness status to the authors. The vast majority of scholars agree with this view.
    -Now, then, for the sake of argument, isn’t it more plausible to think that the real writers had interactions with the eyewitnesses—than to think it was the individuals’ names (attached to the gospels), who wrote them?
    -Let us also examine the evidence YOU might have in making a number of assertions above.

    .

  8. Mike

    Hi, Dexter. Thanks for the comment. I understand your desire for evidence of my claims and you are right to ask for it. I do want to point out, though, that my intention was only to provide a high level case. A detailed case would obviously get quite lengthy and perhaps no one would ever read the whole thing! Pretty much everything you said followed something like, “It’s possible that it happened some other way, prove that it couldn’t have.” so, I’m going to focus on all of your comments as a general category of possibility claims.

    We should distinguish between trying to find out what could have happened and what did happen. Lots of things could have happened. But we should strive to move beyond mere possibility and work toward probability. The historian’s role is to determine what probably happened in the past. Given the evidence, what is most likely? Take the claim that Jesus never even existed and was a completely invented myth. That is strictly possible, but the person who claims it has to do a lot of work to get there. They have to insert a lot of things that conflict evidence and, thus, decrease the probability they are correct. To say that the stories are based on some actual person seems much more likely, even if we can’t be entirely certain of accurate precise details.

    So, I’m sorry, but you don’t just get to say possibility is enough. We need probable reasons to think these things. I don’t think you’ve given a single reason to assume any of this is probable. On the other hand, we do have reasons to think my assertions are probable. You asked for evidence for things like why I think Matthew and Luke copied from Mark. This is all very basic scholarship and well established. I’m not going to recount the work of the past 300 years of textual criticism. You’ll have to take the time to study these matters and see if you find them convincing. I can offer suggestions of where to start, if you’re interested. Please keep in mind that New Testament scholars, who are almost all Christian, would have no real issues with what I’ve presented. I meant this as an educational piece about scholarly opinion of the gospels. It is not just some atheistic rant. There is noting I’ve said here that negates or belittles Christianity. It is simply trying to impart understanding that there were relatively few eyewitnesses and they were concentrated around Jerusalem. It is not probable that these writers ever met any of them.

  9. Dexter

    You asked for evidence for things like why I think Matthew and Luke copied from Mark. This is all very basic scholarship and well established. I’m not going to recount the work of the past 300 years of textual criticism. You’ll have to take the time to study these matters and see if you find them convincing. I can offer suggestions of where to start, if you’re interested. Please keep in mind that New Testament scholars, who are almost all Christian, would have no real issues with what I’ve presented. I meant this as an educational piece about scholarly opinion of the gospels. It is not just some atheistic rant.
    ——Mike, since you’re affirming the claim of some scholars (Christians and not) that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark, I’d like to hear in your own words as to how those scholars arrived at such a conclusion, and I’d like to hear you defend it. Now, I’m not necessarily disagreeing with that conclusion; I merely would like to hear in your own words precisely what evidence/argument do they use and why you find their conclusion convincing. (You may know—and keep this in mind—that there are scholars, Christains and not, who do not arrive at that same conclusion, e.g., Matthean priority and Matthean/Markan concurrence [written around the same time]).

    Mike, you have made a number of other positive claims—regarding the gospels’ NOT being “eyewitness account,” and hence the burden is on you. So, I’m asking you to answer the following, with your statements enumerated:
    1. They also do not claim to be eyewitnesses.
    -Does this necessarily mean they were NOT eyewitnesses? At best, you should be agnostic about this. Agree?

    2. In fact, Luke says fairly directly that he is not an eyewitness.
    -Does this necessarily mean Luke was NOT an eyewitness? Again, at best, you should be agnostic about this. But if you know it, please provide evidence for making a positive assertion.

    3. So why do we think they have anything to do with eyewitnesses? This seems to be largely based on church tradition to lend authority to these accounts.
    -It seems like it. But how does it follow that the writings do NOT necessarily have anything to do with eyewitnesses? Please provide evidence for your positive assertion.

    4. These gospels were likely written between 70-95 C.E. and the authors were dispersed throughout the region. To assume that followers of Jesus would have been in this situation and actually able to read and write is highly suspect.
    -What is your evidence for asserting such “highly suspect.”

    5. Let’s first consider whether the gospels contain purely eyewitness testimony. This is surprisingly common, even though the claim can basically be dismissed immediately.
    -“Purely” eyewitness testimony? Who is saying this?

    6. They contain many of the same stories, which scholars believe were from copying written work. The reason it seems to be from written work, rather than multiple eyewitnesses recounting the same stories, is due to the many instances of verbatim similarity.
    -Even if granting some things were copied, why are you disallowing multiple eyewitnesses? Where is your evidence? Again, you’re making a positive assertion here.

    7. This kind of congruence (wording, sentence structure, etc.) does not come from independent eyewitness testimony or oral interviews.
    -This is a bold positive claim. Why couldn’t one writer (in this case Luke) have interviewed (for verification) some of the—or even perhaps the same—multiple eyewitnesses, who told another writer (in this case Matthew) what they saw? Explain your disallowing this and provide good reasons.

    8. What about Mark, though? It has a lot of things going for it – it was the earliest, it was obviously popular and widely circulated, and it is the least embellished in many ways.
    -Embellished? What do you mean? Some things in the other three gospels were invented? Please provide evidence.

    There is noting I’ve said here that negates or belittles Christianity. It is simply trying to impart understanding that there were relatively few eyewitnesses and they were concentrated around Jerusalem. It is not probable that these writers ever met any of them.
    ——Again, Mike, you’re making a positive claim that it is NOT probable that these writers ever met any of them. To say that some event is improbable is to make a positive claim; and if one makes such a claim, then one must provide evidence and argument. Do you have them or not? If so, please provide.

    .

  10. Mike

    Dexter, I will provide a brief defense of Markan priority, but I’ll have to do it later when I have some time.

    1. In my conclusion, I made a fairly similar point but I was talking about where we should begin our investigation – or where do we set our priors in Bayesian terms. I said that our starting point should not be that they were. Rather, our starting point should be that we don’t know who wrote the gospels. It is then incumbent upon us to follow the evidence and see what conclusion is probable. The evidence does not give us reason to think they were written by eyewitnesses. Thus, a conclusion that they were not is appropriate. Whether it is possible is not really important.

    2. Luke sought out the information, according to his gospel. If he takes the trouble to reference that he used sources, then why not give even more credence to his work by pointing out that he witnessed them himself? He is obviously trying to give his work authority by saying it is researched and it is not probable that he would simply omit that he himself was there. Also, if he copied from Mark, then that is further indication. I will address that separately, as I said. These are straightforward interpretations of the evidence. We would need good reasons to depart from that interpretation.

    3. The work of early church figures in the 2nd century and later is geared toward arguing for the authority of certain books and against the authority of other competing gospels, like Gnostic gospels. The only early writing we have about whether the gospel writers were close to the source is from these figures. So, that is the only evidence we have about the origin of the belief. I am not saying that makes it false. I am saying that is the only source to which we can point with confidence. This point is fairly unimportant to the issue as a whole.

    4. To show improbability here is quite simple. Just look at the life expectancy and the literacy rates (and writing was even more rare than reading). We can be even more confident in the latter point if we are to trust the gospels about the occupations of the disciples. So, you have two improbable things that you are combining,thus making it even less probable. I could say more, but that is certainly sufficient to say it is unlikely.

    5. I have heard this before, but you should know I came from a pretty fundamentalist background. Their views would probably seem extreme to many. It’s not a straw man, if that’s what is worrying you. I think that type of claim is made by people who don’t really think about it. They think, “yes, the gospels were written by eyewitnesses to the life and deeds of Jesus” without realizing they contain other things that disciples, etc. wouldn’t have seen. Again, this should be fairly unimportant assuming you agree with me.

    6. This is again the straightforward interpretation and we would need reason to deviate. If a later work is directly copied from an earlier work, then why would we think the later work was an eyewitness account? There is no reason to make this assumption and you bear the burden here if you want to depart from that. But let’s say something even stronger. Even if they were both eyewitnesses and copying written work, it wouldn’t be coming through in the written piece. Think about it. Let’s say you witnessed the events of 9/11/2001. You were so affected that you wanted to write a book about everything you experienced that day. Now let’s say your book comes out and it has large passages that are exact copies from an earlier book by a different author. So, even if you were an eyewitness, if you just copied, then your eyewitness account isn’t even being presented in those copied passages.

    7. This is not a bold claim at all. This is a very, very simple claim. Again, it is the straightforward interpretation. When you have multiple people tell a story, they do not tell it in the EXACT same way. Even if you have the same person tell a story twice, this is true. So, it is ridiculously more probable that instances of exact or near exact replication are the result of copying a written work, rather than oral.

    8. By embellished, I mean adding a lot of details. For example, see Matthew’s resurrection story compared to Mark’s. Mark’s seems sparse by comparison; in fact, his whole gospel is that way – not a lot of fluff or narrative. Embellishment is a common criterion for historians to use and it is widely accepted that more embellished accounts are generally less historically reliable than less embellished ones. Stop thinking about just the gospels for a moment and think of all of history. If you have two accounts of a battle, and one is pretty much just facts and figures and the other is a poignant story with lots of twists and turns, like Braveheart, which is more reliable all other things being equal? It isthe less embellished one. I’m simply applying a standard criterion. Think of it like Ockham’s Razor. It’s simply part of accepted method. It does not mean the truth will always turn out to be simple. But remember, we are after probability not possibility and I am approaching these not as sacred but as I would any other historical document.

    Finally, let’s first determine whether the gospels were written by actual eyewitnesses, then we can turn to whether they met them, if you want.

  11. Mike

    Furthermore, it is a fact of probability that a lack of evidence supporting a claim is actually evidence against that claim. So, your assertion that I have to prove it to say it is more probable is actually false. The prior probability of the gospels being written by eyewitnesses is already low. The time, place, and literacy rates are more than enough to establish low priors. So, without any good reason to raise that probability based on evidence, we are actually perfectly justified in saying they probably were not eyewitnesses. Now, you are welcome to offer some reason to think they were and we can see if it is successful. So, interesingly, despite all your insisting to the contrary, it is you who has the burden of proof if you want to say they were written by eyewitnesses.

  12. joe

    there was mention of papias and mark. papias says he was a jew and companion to peter. “mark” the book, was evidently now written by a person familiar with jewish traditions, rites, customs, etc … and his factual mistakes to that end are removed in “matthew” (whose author apparently WAS a jew) or revised to make “mark’s” writtings, as it was copied into “matthew”, consistent with those traditions, rites, customs, etc. that “mark” mentions.

    “mark”, the author of, is a preserver of an oral tradition and at most, an eyewitness (as any believer should only claim in order to make a case for christ) to some transformation “mark” had undergone that he attributes to christ. as it is, he was evidentially, not a jew. papias may also have been wrong about his relationship to peter, but i don’t really care.

    it’s a desperate grasp at straws to use scripture alone to validate scripture itself, and to say that the resurrection is real. for scripture, you must be a historian and you must be a literary scholar specializing focus on the new testament and all things related (culture and how it is captured and expressed in history). however, there is no such historical means to say a thing about resurrection.

    most likely, he was entombed by one of the very men who convicted him of blasphemy and had him crucified. that same man being a promenent pharisee, according to jewish custom, did so in haste because of the sabbath and probably in the same tomb (his own, which was nearest where the crucifiction took place) as the two others crucified alongside jesus. and with the same level of contempt he’d have had for jesus as when he convicted him, removed all of the bodies as customarily “legal” (after the sabbath) and placed them all in the place where those who are crucified go … a common, criminal burial ground; his tomb (joseph of arimathea) empty once more; no more spectacularly empty than before the crucifictions than after.

    should this baffle a christian? no. it’s the grasping that i distain. i, as a christian, realize that my belief in christ isn’t built on the platonic, greek epic, odyssyean manner in which mark was written. i realize from history AND the mythology of mark that something WAS important about this man jesus … because this style of writing was only a compliment paid to such persons. does it surprise me that a former pharisee named paul hinged christianity in a logical plea to negative consequence (resurrection, heaven, hell, salvation) on a phariseeical understanding OF resurrection (bodily) rather than the less popular sadducee vision of it (spiritual … as is what is found in jesus materializing and dematerializing in upper rooms, and physically unrecognizable until desired)?

    what a christian can only offer as proof of resurrection are two things, far more important than the bullshit we can remove and see the obvious message of christ. it is this: the same unmistakable transformation that happened to paul has happened to them, and we too lack the ability to articulate the ineffable but in poorly deprivate human language. and, it is this also: look at how i now stand in terms of my own resurrection, for who i once was is nothing like i now am … and this, because a human being freely shared a message of what it means to be fully human, and that usually does come with a dire cost (also replete in the histories of our nations heros; they too of their own accord and for the same principles).

    what the hell do i know, though? i’m a heretic to most. personally, i thank the problems atheists point out. it ought to (if they can refrain from discarding the baby with the bathwater) make fundamentalist, uneducated, and willfully ignorant christians either be a bit more quite so the adults can speak and be heard … or, actually spur them on finally to an INTELLECTUAL pursuit of christ rather than grasping at straws.

    cheers.

  13. joe

    “not” written instead of “now” … sorry for that typeo and i’m sure many others.

  14. ChipeSpice

    What you noted is also taught in Bible schools and seminary schools, per Bart Ehrman. However, they don’t tell the lay people this. Much of the Bible is pretty hazy in origin, the first 5 books of Moses, Gospels and some of the Pauline Epistles.
    Once us “lay people” start doing research, the truth rears its ugly head. From the misuse of un-Biblical tithing, to speaking in tongues it’s one folly after another. They never teach Tithing from the “Torah” aspect which it originated, they cherry pick and to misappropriate your paycheck. That is stealing. However, I don’t feel bad for people. The hundreds of people that carry their Bible, all they need to do is open it up and use their heads.

    I was a former Catholic, former Pentecostal, now no religion. I was raised Catholic and joined a Pentecostal Church in my early 30’s. I left shortly after. I started to study my Bible, like the pastor suggested. That is when the problems started which turned out in my best interest. I started re-examining what I believe in and in the end, left with too many questions with very little logical answers to defend many books of the Bible and call it inspired by God. It became apparent that that people “in” the church are only parroting, most either have no idea of looking deeper to the origins of scripture or are purposely playing ignorant to the fact because they can’t explain their way out of tuff questions. One thing I am sure, it is surely not “God’s Word.”
    I remember it being touted that the Gospels are 4 eyewitness accounts of people witnessing the same car accident per say. What is troubling, the Gospels are written clearly in the third person in many versus. How about the Temptation in the Wilderness? Where were the eyewitnesses then? John 21:24, the writer is receiving information from a disciple, with no name. Paul claimed 500 people saw the risen Christ? Where are these testimonies? Names? These people just disappeared? What helped Christianity prosper was it become prolific in Rome. Very common themes pagan Rome was familiar with.

    I have no problem with people practicing a faith but when Christians say, “God does not forgive you unless you accept Christ.” They are parroting books with very hazy origins to begin with and then to say it’s Gospels truth?

  15. RaymondSnub

    http://www.newkakaku.net/lv.htm

    スーパーコピー時計販売はコピーガガミラノ通販専門店です . 0.106072179 レプリカガガミラノの私は(私がオンラインで見つける大丈夫、ランダマイザ)大きなふわふわサンタの帽子の中にすべてのaBlogtoWatchチームメンバーの名前を入れて、ランダムに彼らは匿名で2014年からガガミラノの時計を選ぶだろう誰のために相互に各チームメンバーをペアに名前を描いた私はその後 }}}}

  16. smb12321

    Years ago I adopted the “it’s all fictional conjecture” though I rejected the “idea” that Christianity was the result of a huge conspiracy. After decades, I am increasingly persuaded that much of John (non-supernatural elements and especially the Passion) is from an eyewitness.

    There are the many archaeological confirmations of places mentioned that were buried since 70 AD. John explains Jewish customs (why Peter could not enter Pilate’s palace, correct burial rules – linen strips and a face cloth, etc). His dating differs. He does not call the other two crucified “robbers” or “criminals” (not crucifiable crimes). His geography unlike the others, is exact. The “story” makes sense. Jesus is immediately bound because he’s already been found guilty of sedition, thus no trial. Only John describes the plaque above Jesus’s head (in three languages – a common practice).

    John (and the pastorals) were written to battle the heresy of Docetism – the idea that Jesus was not real but only an illusion. The antichrist is anyone who “confesses not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”. He even added a fictional story of Thomas touching Jesus to “prove” he was flesh and blood.

  17. Smithd232

    Thanks for any other informative web site. Where else may just I get that kind of information written in such an ideal way? I have a mission that I am just now operating on, and I have been on the look out for such information. ckfabegabebceddg

  18. 印刷 香港

    Its DA is 51/100.

  1. Gospel Truth: Important Contradictions | Foxhole Atheism

    […] post in a series on the New Testament Gospels. My first post was on whether the Gospel writers were eyewitnesses. Now, I’ll turn my attention to the contradictions between the […]

  2. Atheism » Blog Archive » Gospel Truth: Important Contradictions | Foxhole Atheism

    […] post in a array on a New Testament Gospels. My initial post was on either a Gospel writers were eyewitnesses. Now, I’ll spin my courtesy to a contradictions between a […]

  3. Proof of Jesus’ resurrection? | No Forbidden Questions

    […] verified the historicity of the Bible, and that the Gospels and the book of Acts are all “eyewitness accounts of the life and death of Jesus.” It also points to Josephus, Tacitus, Lucian, and the […]

  4. May I ask a general question about the Gospel? - Christian Forums

    […] transfigured and only took John, James and Peter with him – warning them to not tell others). I had heard of others saying that there's no way to have eye-witness accounts if someone was not there for… – but thankfully, there are a couple of ways that one can go about addressing that rather […]

  5. St. Lazarus the "One Whom Jesus Loved" - Possible He Wrote the 4th Gospel? - Page 5 - Christian Forums

    […] transfigured and only took John, James and Peter with him – warning them to not tell others), I had heard of others saying that there's no way to have eye-witness accounts if someone was not there for… – but thankfully, there are a couple of ways that one can go about addressing that rather […]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.