Jesus was a historical figure. Modern historians and scholars agree. That informs us something, although not a whole lot. Did the Gospel writers take the real man, Jesus of Nazareth, and embellish him with your things as a virgin birth, miracles, sinless life, voluntary martyr’s death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven?
Many will let you know today that is exactly what happened. Doesn’t that appear to be the most reasonable explanation? Those “added features” seem unnatural; they appear unnatural. They actually aren’t the rock-hard reality you and I encounter everyday.
So what do we do with those grandiose claims of Jesus? He said he is the Son of God! Could a man having a sound mind state that about himself? So we keep running into miracles, including raising the dead; and that he himself was reported as resurrected in the grave. And of course addititionally there is the virgin birth. Does not the inclusion of supernatural elements result in the entire story questionable?
You are aware how Hassidic is when stories are passed around. Just a little enhancement here, a little trying out the facts there, and in a short time you’ve got a story all out of proportion to that of the original. When Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were placed on paper, tall tales were well established areas of the storyline.
However, we now realize the Late-date-for-the-Gospel theory was flawed right from the start. The case for it was not according to evidence. It had been mere speculation, speculation to permit the required time for the legend surrounding Christ to develop. The reality involved tell us another story. What evidence we are able to muster has a tendency to confirm early dates for Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.
Papias and Irenaeus Discredit Late Gospel Theory
In A.D. 130, Papias, the bishop of Hierapolis in Phrygia, quoted The Elder (the apostle John) as stating that Mark accurately recorded Peter’s statements regarding Jesus’ actions and words. Since Mark had not personally witnessed the events, however, they weren’t written in chronological order. However, Mark was scrupulously faithful to Peter’s teachings. Nothing added, nothing omitted.
As you can tell, Papias strongly endorses it of Mark. The succession might be wrong, but, he assures us, fundamental essentials very words of Peter.
Irenaeus was the bishop of Lugdunum (what’s now Lyons) inside a.D. 177. He was a student of Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna who had been burned in the stake inside a.D. 156. Polycarp in turn was a disciple from the apostle John.
Irenaeus lets us know that, “Matthew published his Gospel among the Hebrews in their own individual dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching the gospel in Rome and laying the principles of the church. After their deaths (Paul somewhere between A.D. 62 and 68 and Peter about A.D. 64), Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, handed down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke, follower of Paul, set down in a book the Gospel preached by his teacher. Then John, the disciple from the Lord himself, produced his Gospel as they was living at Ephesus in Asia.”
Papias agreed saying, “Matthew recorded the ‘oracles’ in the Hebrew tongue.” All the early church leaders the same task, namely, Matthew was the very first written Gospel. When was it written? Irenaeus indicates it had been probably produced in the first A.D. 60s. Vocal followed Matthew, Luke wrote third, and John composed his narrative some time later.
Spot the real significance of Irenaeus’ comments. No Gospels ever experienced a number of oral hand-me-downs. He assures us the apostle Matthew wrote their own account of the items he had been sent. Likewise, the apostle John produced a manuscript of the items he himself had witnessed. The apostle Peter preached. Mark wrote down his words, and wrote them down accurately too, according to Papias. By the same token, Luke recorded what he heard directly from Paul.
Irenaeus was only the 2nd generation from the apostle John. Over time and in acquaintances, he was not far from the facts. He explained the only real oral tradition in Mark is what Peter told Mark; the only oral tradition in Luke is what Paul told Luke. In Matthew and John, the oral tradition wasn’t a factor at all.
But what concerning the oral tradition anyway? The very first century was an oral society. Yes, they did have writing, but it was primarily a spoken word tradition rather than a paper based society like our own. We do not rely on our memories around they did in the first century. We write it down and make reference to it later, or we glance it to the pc. It’s easier this way.
But before the age of the printing press, books or scrolls were too costly for that average man to possess. Whatever one needed or desired to know, he’d to carry around in his head. That required a good memory.
Gospel Authorship and Dating
Gospel of Matthew
The Gospels themselves have a number of clues giving us a tough concept of once they were written. Matthew is a great one. The first church fathers were unanimous in attributing the work to Matthew, the tax collector who left his job to follow Jesus. His occupation required him to help keep records, therefore it doesn’t surprise us he had the opportunity to write.
We discover his Gospel were built with a distinctive Jewish style and character. According to both Papias and Irenaeus, the first edition was written in the “Hebrew tongue.” It’s a Jewish book compiled by a Jew for any Jewish audience.
The author starts by tracing Jesus’ ancestry to Abraham, the patriarch. Throughout his narrative, Matthew is constantly pointing out how Jesus is fulfilling a Messianic prophecy. His goal is to convince Jews, Jesus may be the Messiah and also the Son of God based on documents they consider beyond reproach.
Matthew feels you don’t need to explain Jewish customs, which is reasonable if he’s addressing Jewish readers. Also he makes use of such Jewish euphemisms as “Kingdom of Heaven” and “Father in Heaven.” Jews were reluctant to even mention the name of God. Consequently, these terms were common substitutes within their vocabulary. And just what may well be more Jewish rather than speak of Jesus as the “Son of David?”
The exclusive Jewish character of Matthew suggests it was composed soon after Jesus’ crucifixion, a period when the Christian movement was almost entirely Jewish.
In his 1996 book Eyewitnesses to Jesus: Amazing New Manuscript Evidence Concerning the Origin of the Gospels, Carsten Peter Thiede, A German papyrologist, analyzes three small scraps of Matthew chapter 26 from Magdalen College at Oxford University.
He found several ancient documents that have been comparable both in style and technique: the Qumran leather scroll of Leviticus, dated to the center of the first century; an Aristophanes papyrus copy of Equites (The Knights), dated late first century B.C. to early first century A.D.; and incredibly enough, an Egyptian document actually signed and dated by three civil servants July 24, 66.
According to these close comparisons, Thiede concludes the three tiny fragments of Matthew chapter 26, known collectively as the Magdalen papyrus, date no after A.D. 70. As we have previously noted, both Irenaeus and Papias claim the initial Matthew manuscript was at Hebrew. Obviously, the Hebrew original should have predated this papyrus Greek translation.
Gospel of Luke
Probably the least controversial author from the Gospel writers is Luke. Most agree that the physician and often traveling companion of Paul, wrote the Gospel that bears his name, that’s, the Gospel of Luke.
That book is really a companion volume towards the book of Acts. The word what and structure of the two manuscripts indicate these were written by the same person. Plus they were addressed towards the same individual — Theophilus. Luke’s authorship is based on early Christian writings like the Muratorian Canon A.D 170 and the works of Irenaeus inside a.D. 180.
Luke seems to be a well-educated gentile. His writings show he’s fluent in Greek. At times his style even approaches that of classic Greek. Each of his books are full of historical and geographical detail. As others have seen, this physician writes like an historian.
Luke informs us that the number of people had already written about Jesus’ life. However, he would prefer to set the record straight and proper the errors he present in those early reports. To split up fiction from fact, Luke conducts an individual investigation interviewing eyewitnesses and verifying oral accounts with the apostles. In the own words, he investigated from the start to write an orderly report for Theophilus to ensure that he or she is certain of the items he’d been taught. (Luke 1:3-4)
Indirect evidence suggests Luke wrote Acts in the early A.D. 60’s. Acts is really a history of early Christianity that was centered in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, there is no mention of Jerusalem’s destruction which took place A.D. 70.
Likewise, nothing is mentioned of Nero’s persecution of Christians in A.D. 64, nor does it talk about the martyrdom from the three major characters within the book: James, brother of Jesus, A.D. 62; Peter A.D. 64; and Paul a while between A.D. 62 and 68.
However, Acts does inform us from the deaths of two less prominent figures: Stephen, the first known martyr, in A.D. 36, and the apostle James, son of Zebedee and brother of John, in A.D. 44. Based on this indirect evidence, there is reason to believe Acts was composed in A.D. 62 or earlier. Acts is an obvious continuation of the Gospel Luke. Therefore if Acts were written by Luke no after A.D. 62, the Gospel of Luke was most likely recorded before that time, presumably within the late 50’s.
Carsten Thiede speaks of a codex papyrus of Luke’s Gospel found at the Bibliotheque in Paris. After evaluating the original document, the papyrologist decided it had been in the first century A.D., only slightly over the age of the Magdalen Papyrus.
Later Embellishment Theory
Before we leave Luke, there’s another item which needs to be mentioned. Skeptics, you will recall, believe that all those miraculous events were just fictitious inventions tacked to the original writings centuries later. Luke discredits their “later embellishment” theory.
In Acts 2:22, he quotes Peter’s sermon towards the Jews at Pentecost: “Men of Israel, hear me. Jesus of Nazareth was designated by God making known to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did among you thru him.” Peter followed that track of: “. . . you, with the aid of wicked men put him to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead . . . . God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact . . . . God makes this Jesus, that you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:23-24, 32, and 36)
Peter said in effect: You yourselves saw Jesus perform miracles. That wasn’t only a man you crucified. Which was your Lord and Christ. In addition, that Man didn’t stay dead. God brought him back to life. We know that for certain. We view him with this own eyes; heard him with this own ears; why, we even ran our fingers over his crucifixion wounds. He’s alive. And he’s back!
The interesting point this is how everyone else reacts. If modern skeptics were right, that is, those incredible supernatural events never really happened, we’d expect everyone else to state something towards the effect: Who’re you kidding? That man never performed any miracles! And he’s dead. We saw him die. Forget him, Peter. Go get a life of your personal.
However they didn’t state that. Instead: “They were cut to the heart and said: ‘Brothers, what don’t let do?'” (Acts 2:37) They’d seen Jesus’ “miracles, wonders, and signs” and Peter used that knowledge to convert those Jews to Christianity.
Something else. Notice that Peter doesn’t shy away from Jesus’ resurrection. Actually, it’s the focus of his speech. Remarkable isn’t it? 3,000 of these hearing Peter’s words accepted the apostle’s eye witnessed account. We read, “Those who accepted (Peter’s) message were baptized and about 3,000 were added to their number on that day.” (Acts 2:41)
Peter, John, and Paul all made good use of firsthand evidence within their writings. Peter said: We didn’t make up stories when we said about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. (2 Peter 1:16)
John reads: We let you know what we should have experienced and heard so you may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the daddy and his Son, Jesus. (1 John 1:3) John is talking about himself when he known the witness of Christ’s death: “We know this is true, because it was relayed through somebody that first viewed it happen. You can now have faith too.” (John 19:35 CEV)
Also Paul, in talking with Festus and King Agrippa, tells them that Christ did precisely what Moses and the prophets said he would do, that is, he suffered, died, and was raised in the dead. Festus immediately questioned Paul’s sanity. But Paul responds: “What I am saying is affordable and true. The king is familiar with these things and that i can speak freely to him. I am convinced none of the has escaped his notice, since it wasn’t done in a corner.” (Acts 26:25-26)
Again, notice the reaction. The interesting thing here’s what King Agrippa didn’t say. He didn’t say: That’s the craziest thing That i have ever heard about Paul. It’s been my experience that dead people have a tendency to stay dead!
That’s exactly what we should would expect Agrippa to state, unless, unless he knew something out of the ordinary had taken place. Paul made three startling claims here: First, Jesus was the long awaited Messiah and also the fulfillment of prophecy. Second, Jesus was resurrected from the grave. And maybe more and more extraordinary, Paul himself states have seen and heard the resurrected Jesus on the road to Damascus.
Amazingly enough, King Agrippa doesn’t laugh at, ridicule, or get angry at Paul’s “outrageous” claims. Apparently, Agrippa missed the remarks outrageous. He merely replies, “Do you believe in this small amount of time you are able to persuade me to become a Christian?” (Acts 26:28)
Gospel of Mark
The Gospel of Mark was most likely composed in A.D. 50’s or the early 60’s. According to early church tradition, Mark was designed in Rome where Peter spent the last days of his life. Romans crucified Peter upside down in A.D. 64.
Mark has been written for any gentile audience, possibly a Roman audience. Unlike Matthew, he explains Jewish customs and translates Aramaic words for his readers. Also Mark shows a unique curiosity about persecution and martyrdom – subjects of crucial importance to Roman believers of his day.
Mark’s work was readily accepted, also it spread rapidly throughout Christianity. Some believe the main reason it was distributed so quickly is because it originated from Rome.
A papyrus scroll fragment of Mark 6:52-53 called 7Q5 was excavated from Qumran Cave 7. “It must be dated before A.D. 68 and may easily be as early as A.D. 50,” claims Carsten Thiede.
Even though the early church said Matthew was the first Gospel, many today think Mark wrote his account first. They base their judgment around the proven fact that Mark’s book is shorter and far of what he said are available in the Gospel of Matthew.
Scholars are inclined to express it was more likely that Matthew would expand on Mark’s text rather that Mark would condense and leave out areas of what Matthew wrote. Besides, all of what Mark wrote supposably came directly from Peter.
The assumption is the fact that one copied in the other, but independent origins really are a distinct possibility. The issue remains, why would an authentic apostle of Christ need to depend on other people to tell him what Jesus said and did?
Both writers probably used exactly the same oral tradition for memorized accounts of Christ’s sayings and actions. It is certainly inside the arena of possibility these odds and ends of information had already found their distance to writing before Matthew and Mark composed their Gospels. The Gospel writers arranged and shaped those commonly known stories and sayings of Jesus in to the more comprehensive narratives which bear their names.
Whichever Gospel was initially, there is general consensus that both Matthew and Mark appeared before Luke unveiled his Gospel. That puts the probable dates of both early compositions somewhere in the A.D. 50’s. The functional point here is that the period from Jesus’ death to the first three Gospels is too short for that introduction of myths and legends.
The virgin birth, miracles, and the resurrection counseled me there right from the start. Those “incredible” supernatural events were a complicated part of the original story.
Many saw and remembered Jesus’ miracles, and also over five-hundred people saw the resurrected Jesus one time. Early Christianity trusted this common knowledge for recruiting new members. The apostles pointed out that this resurrected miracle worker was both Lord and Christ. As Peter demonstrated at Pentecost, it was a very persuasive argument.
Gospel of John
The apostle John “the disciple whom Jesus loved” may be the author. He describes “the disciple whom Jesus loved” six times without naming the name. He was prominent in the early church, but his name is never mentioned within this Gospel. That is among the little oddities of his book. “The disciple whom Jesus loved” will be a “natural” if somewhat coy method of referring to himself if John were the author. Otherwise, it’s impossible to explain.
The Gospel of John includes a number of personal eyewitness touches such as recalling the fragrance of Mary’s pure nard perfume which she poured on Jesus’ feet in the home at Bethany. Its keep is the episode of Jesus writing in the dust together with his finger when they brought him the woman caught in adultery.
C.S. Lewis highlights the value of this “dust writing” is it’s no significance. Whether it were a tale, it might be the mark of a realistic prose fiction which never actually existed prior to the eighteenth century. To quote Lewis: “Surely, the only explanation of this passage would be that the thing really happened. The author put it in simply because he had seen it.”
Two early Christian writers, Irenaeus and Tertullian, both declare that John the apostle composed this Gospel and the internal evidence concurs. Traditionally, it’s been dated around A.D. 85. Recently, some scholars have suggested an early on date, even right down to the 50’s with no after the 70’s. One bit of internal evidence is John 5:2, where John uses the present tense “is” rather than “was” for any pool near the Sheep Gate. That suggests a time before A.D. 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed.
In 1935 a small fragment of the Gospel of John was found and dated in a.D. 125. Method . the John Ryland Manuscript. One side quotes John 18:31-33, and the other sides shows verses 37-38. The significance of this find is difficult to overstate, because it helps you to read the traditional date of the Gospel within the first century. Before discovery, there is a movement among scholars to place the original composition date around A.D. 170.
It comes with an academic discipline called “Textual Criticism.” When the original document is lost, textual critics compare all available copies to try to piece together exactly what the original document probably said. Generally the greater manuscripts available and also the closer they date towards the original, the better. The New Testament scores well on both points.
New Testament books provide a insightful material for that text critic scholars to evaluate: 5,147 ancient manuscripts, over 10,000 translated scripts into Latin Vulgate, and various other translations, plus a large range of early scripture quotations by the church fathers. The majority of the variations in the copies are minor variations such as word order, spelling, grammar, or stylistic details. However, some variations really make a difference. The United Bible Societies’ Greek New Testament lists 2,040 sets of word variations they think Bible translators should consider.
Does that sound like a lot of disagreement? Actually, it represents a really small area of the New Testament scriptures. But the important point is that this: The unanimous opinion among text scholars remains intact; none of the disputed words affect any doctrine from the Christian faith.
Realistically that is the best Christians could hope for. The same textual criticism which analyzes all ancient text confirms the substance from the New Testament text. The traditional text experts tell us the New Testament account we’ve today is basically exactly the same message that the authors recorded over nineteen centuries ago.
Article resource: http://EzineArticles.com/455795