Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Pt.8
The Existence of Non-Existent Sources for the Gospels
COVERED IN THIS POST:
- Those “sources” of the Gospels
- How obvious?
- Downplaying what scholarship knows
- Enter Q with a cardboard cutout Jesus
- Oral tradition hypothesis fails the prediction test
- How one story became four
- Luke’s and Matthew’s special sources
- “You can’t be serious!”
- Hiding and hoping?
- Insupportable claims for Mark and John
- John’s sources were unique . . . the problem
- Evolution of Jesus
- Who invented Jesus?
* * * * *
Written Sources for the Surviving Witnesses
(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 78-83)
Those “sources” of the Gospels
. . . our surviving accounts, which began to be written some forty years after the traditional date of Jesus’s death, were based on earlier written sources that no longer survive. But they obviously did exist at one time, and they just as obviously had to predate the Gospels that we now have. (pp. 78-79)
This is a curious statement. Usually one uses the term “obviously” only after one has indicated the basis for the obviousness. But since any sources of the Gospels would indeed “obviously” predate the Gospels without that point needing demonstration, perhaps Ehrman is taking the obviousness of written sources as equally self-evident.
But our knowledge of such sources is extremely limited. Once again, the Prologue of Luke is appealed to: those “many” earlier authors who had compiled narratives about the life of Jesus. One of them, of course, is indeed “obvious”: the Gospel of Mark. But this is a source that we do have, and so it falls outside the range of those claimed by Ehrman which “no longer survive.” What we are looking for is evidence that written sources of the life of Jesus predated Mark, sources on which the Gospel content is based.
Ehrman downplaying what scholarship knows
Ehrman does acknowledge a debt to Mark by Luke:
But he certainly liked a good deal of Mark, as he copied many of Mark’s stories in constructing his own Gospel, sometimes verbatim. (p. 79)
Yet once again, we see Ehrman down-playing something well known to scholarship. “[H]e copied many of Mark’s stories” makes it sound like Luke cherry-picked some of these to fit into his own composition, whereas the very heart and spine of Luke’s own Gospel is Mark’s story. Luke has actually used a little over 50% of Mark. (Matthew used almost 90%.) Without those Markan parts, Luke’s (and Matthew’s) story would not exist. There would be nothing to hang their own parts upon. This bears repeating: on a fundamental level, Mark and Luke and Matthew do not represent multiple accounts of Jesus’ life, let alone independent ones. They are the same account, with Luke and Matthew each recasting it with editorial changes and additions to fit their own and their community’s agenda.