Scripture in 1 Clement: Composite Citation of the Gospels (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining the function and use of scripture in the early Christian writing known as 1 Clement.

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

Clement’s relationship with written Christian texts remains far more difficult to parse than his near constant reliance on Jewish scriptures. Arguments have been made for this epistle’s use of nearly every writing now in the New Testament, [1] although in no place does Clement introduce a possible reference to these writings with anything other than a “he says/said” introduction.[2] Clement’s lack of clear citations to Christian literature contributes to the major divergence of scholarly opinion regarding this letter’s possible use of materials from the Synoptic Gospels.  Commonly noted possible parallels include the sayings on mercy and forgiveness found in 1 Clement 13.2,[3] the reference to the Parable of the Sower found in 1 Clement 24:5,[4] and the quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in 1 Clement 15:2, where Clement agrees with the form found in Matthew 15:8 and Mark 7:6 over LXX Isaiah.[5] Continue reading

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The Day That Jesus Died

When students are first introduced to the historical, as opposed to a devotional, study of the Bible, one of the first things they are forced to grapple with is that the biblical text, whether Old Testament or New Testament, is chock full of discrepancies, many of them irreconcilable…. In some cases seemingly trivial points of difference can actually have an enormous significance for the interpretation of a book or the reconstruction of the history of ancient Israel or the life of the historical Jesus.”—Bart D. Ehrman1

Bart D. Ehrman

As this statement from contemporary (and popular) New Testament scholar Bart D. Ehrman indicates, there those who study Christianity—its scriptures and history—who argue that the canonical gospels2 do not present a historically accurate account of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Around Easter every year, scholars and journalists of this perspective often pen pieces on the ”Why the Resurrection Story is a Myth” or ”Did Jesus Really Rise from the Dead?” In more nuanced versions of these discussions, the credibility of early Christian accounts of Christ’s passion and resurrection is called into question, even on facts as seemingly mundane as the day on which Jesus was crucified.3 Such is the position of Ehrman, who argues that the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and Gospel of John portray Jesus as being killed on two different days, thus revealing their historical inaccuracy and untruthfulness.4 As is my Good Friday custom, in this post I examine this claim and explain why the canonical gospels indicate that Jesus died on the same day: Good Friday. Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? Conclusions

This post is the final post in a series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.
The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

The Four Evangelists (Book of Kells)

What then can we conclude concerning claims that none of the gospel writers were eyewitnesses to the events that they describe? First, on one level it must be admitted that this position could be correct—none of the gospels bear explicit identification of the author or date of writing— and it bears repeating that none of the writers had to be an eyewitness for the gospel accounts to be authoritative. Second however, it must be remembered that the goal of undermining the historical reliability of the canonical gospels does not necessarily follow from any conclusion concerning the eyewitness status of the events recorded. As modern studies concerning trial testimony has demonstrated, eyewitnesses can be wrong. Each gospel account must stand or fall on its own historical merits. Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? John

This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

fourth-gospelThe Fourth Gospel, traditionally referred to as the Gospel According to John, provides the closest example of explicit reference to authorship, though it too remains originally anonymous. Church tradition has long linked the Fourth Gospel with three early epistles and the Apocalypse, which bears the author’s name, John.[1] While debated (as all good scholarly truth claims are), there exists a good deal of evidence (vocabulary, structure, grammar, theology) indicating that the Fourth Gospel and the Apocalypse were written by the same individual. Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? Luke

This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

Gospel of LukeIt should be noted that Luke’s gospel immediately indicates that the author is likely NOT an eyewitness of the events that are recorded afterward. The introduction to the account reads, “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.”[1] Luke assures Theophilus that while he himself is not an eyewitness of the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, he has done his research as a historian to demonstrate the veracity of the story that he is telling. Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? Matthew

This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.
Synoptic Relationships

Synoptic Relationships

Before diving into consideration of the possibility that the writer of Matthew was an eyewitness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we must first consider the “synoptic problem”, the relationship between Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The Gospels found first and third in the canon, Matthew and Luke, respectively, have had a long and varied history of interpretation and understanding, especially with respect for their relationship to Mark. Approximately 76% of Mark finds itself replicated in both Matthew (45%) and Luke (41%), with an additional 18% of Mark finding its way into Matthew’s gospel (10%). These relationships have led to nearly-endless speculation concerning the reasons for the different uses of the same material and relationship between the three ‘Synoptic’ gospels.[1] Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses? Mark

This post is part of an ongoing series examining whether or not the writers of the canonical gospels were eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus.

The Gospel of MarkWe begin our examination of the question “Were the Gospel writers eyewitnesses?” with consideration of may have been the earliest written record of Jesus’ life, that narrative referred to as the Gospel According to Mark. Many modern scholars believe that Mark’s gospel was written between 50-70 CE,[1] placing its composition within one generation of the life and death of the historical Jesus of Nazareth.  Mark’s Gospel does not explicitly profess to have been written by an eyewitness to Jesus, though some traditions and interpreters have understood Mark’s account to have been based primarily upon the theology and understandings of the Apostle Peter (who would have been an eyewitness to the accounts recorded therein). Continue reading

Were the Gospel Writers Eyewitnesses?

Gospel Writers

Gospel Writers

In light of the multitude of cable and internet exposes on early Christianity, I’m occasionally asked if the canonical Gospel writers were eyewitnesses of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Since a great deal of modern Christian belief and practice finds its foundation in the words of Jesus recorded in the New Testament, this seems a perfectly legitimate query, and an important one too. Were the Gospel writers eyewitnesses? Continue reading

The Marcion Problem: Canon and Literature Formation (Part II)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence of the formation of the New Testament canon.

Joseph Tyson

Joseph Tyson

Joseph Tyson

Following Knox’s perspective is Joseph Tyson’s work Marcion and Luke-Acts: A Defining Struggle, in which Tyson argues argues for a late compositional dating of Luke-Acts as a response to Marcion during the period from 100 to 150 CE.[91] Tyson understands Marcion to have presented an enormous problem for the church with his rejection of the Jewish Scriptures, and that writers such as Irenaeus and Tertullian were pressed into finding symbolic or allegorical representations of Christ in those scriptures whilst simultaneously using the gospel narratives to present him as something unique.[92] Pauline writings and theology became especially problematic for use by the proto-orthodox, as they constituted the core of Marcion’s theological system, and thus the proto-orthodox created Luke-Acts to combat the challenge of Marcionite Christianity.[93] Tyson thus argues for three distinct versions of the Gospel According to Luke: the pre-Marcionite gospel of roughly canonical Luke 3-23, the Marcionite Gospel which likely included the pre-Marcionite version with some significant omissions and minor changes, and the canonical edition with added prologue, infancy narratives, a re-writing the resurrection, and addition of post-resurrection scenes.[94] This proto-orthodox version of Luke-Acts became the primary anti-Marcionite tool in the early church, eventually becoming formally canonized.[95] Tyson, following Knox, argues that both Marcion and the editor of Luke-Acts used a primitive form of Luke’s gospel. Such actions on the part of proto-orthodox writers demonstrate not only Marcion’s unique position of canon formation, but also how his use on new Christian scripture influenced the great Christian community. Continue reading

The Marcion Problem: Canon and Literature Formation (Part I)

This post is part of an ongoing series examining Marcion of Sinope and his influence of the formation of the New Testament canon.

Gospel of LukeWe now turn to the Canon and Literature Formation school, which understands Marcion not only to have been formed the notion of a Christian canon, but also to have influenced the major redaction and writing of texts now found in the Christian New Testament. The first major proponent of this view was John Knox in his work Marcion and the New Testament. Knox affirmed Harnack’s argument that Marcion’s canon was the first distinctly Christian canon,[85] writing that only with the closing of a canon is a canon really formed and thus once Marcion had adopted his “Gospel and Apostle” model and closed his canon, he had made for the first time Christian writings scripture.[86] Knox also agreed with Von Campenhausen’s understanding of Marcion’s “Gospel and Apostle” distinctiveness.[87] But the Canon Formation School understood Marcion’s version of Luke to be a redacted version of our current Luke, Knox argued that Marcion edited a primitive form of Luke’s Gospel.[88] Concerning the relationship between the canonical Luke and Marcion’s Luke, Knox wrote that there would be “a primitive Gospel, containing approximately the same Markan and Matthean elements which our Luke contains and some of its peculiar materials, was somewhat shortened by Marcion or some predecessor and rather considerably enlarged by the writer of our Gospel, who was also the maker of Luke-Acts.”[89] Continue reading