2015-07-01

Comparing the sources for Caesar and Jesus

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by Neil Godfrey

How do the roots of the Gospels compare to those of classical works? Is the historical evidence for Jesus Christ as good as that of Julius Caesar?

People often raise such historical questions critically, claiming the evidence for Caesar’s life is better attested than for Jesus’s. But is this really so? ~ Darrell L. Bock

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Gallic-Wars-frontcover-WEBProfessor Darrell Bock‘s article (Sources for Caesar and Jesus Compared) belongs on The Gospel Coalition  website and contributes nothing of scholarly value to anyone with a serious historical interest in Christian origins.

Bock opens with a typical evangelistic smokescreen of appropriating the language of an ancient historian (“Tracing ancient history is about examining sources and the manuscripts behind them . . .”) but before he finishes he will twice make it clear that his real agenda is preaching or protecting the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Can anyone stop themselves from raising an eyebrow when they read the following:

In some ways, Caesar’s autobiographical account gives us more to consider than the accounts of Jesus do. It provides direct testimony about events Caesar participated in.

“In some ways” — “in some ways” the autobiographical work of Julius Caesar gives us more historical data to consider than our late third hand theological accounts about Jesus give us about the founding figure of Christianity. “In some ways”, but otherwise it’s going to be a fairly even balance in the availability of historical data about each figure!

The Young Cicero Reading
The Young Cicero Reading (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In addition to Caesar’s own writings Bock lists other surviving records from contemporaries of Caesar, the writings of Sallust and Cicero.

Sallust and Cicero were Caesar’s contemporaries as well, so there are reliable outside sources closely tied to the time of these events.

Yes indeed. Caesar’s contemporary, Cicero, is the most fruitful source, even moreso than Caesar’s own writings on the Gallic War.

Other historians of value yet overlooked by Bock are Livy (whose sections on Caesar survive as epitomes), Asconius, Paterculus and others who completed Caesar’s own account of the Gallic Wars and certain of his activities in the Civil War. Perhaps he was in too much of a rush to get to the two late historians (a hundred years after Caesar) with useful information about Julius Caesar.

Two of the most important sources for the emperor’s life, however, Suetonius and Plutarch, write in the early second century. That’s more than 100 years after the time of Caesar.

These are the crux of Bock’s argument. If these two works written a century after Caesar are treated as valuable sources then so should we give equal credibility to the Gospel accounts about Jesus:

If we believe what the best sources say about Julius Caesar [meaning Suetonius and Plutarch only], then we should believe what the best sources say about Jesus Christ.

Yes, well. Seminarians would be wiser not to advertise their (il)logic for all to see like this.

But let’s enter into Bock’s game for a moment. Why do historians “believe” Plutarch? Here’s part of the reason, and a fairly major part, explained by the historian Richard Billows in his book Julius Caesar: Colossus of Rome:

Plutarch had access to and used an array of writings now lost to us – memoirs by Sulla, Rutilius Rufus and Lucullus; histories by the likes of Asinius Pollio, Ampius Balbus, Tanusius Geminus – who were contemporaries or near contemporaries of Caesar. In the late second and early third centuries two other Greeks wrote historical works that provide a great deal of information about our period. (p. xi)

And Suetonius?

Suetonius burrowed in archives and minutes: as a high member of the emperor’s secretariat he had access to the imperial archives, though it is unclear that he derived anything of value for this Life (as he did for Divus Augustus). But he shows knowledge of the pamphleteering exchanges of the last Republic, and can deploy the accusations launched by Tanusius Geminus, the elder Curio, Caesar’s fellow consul Bibulus, and M. Actorius Naso when paddling in the murky waters of the first Catilinarian conspiracy (Christopher Pelling, “First biographers” in A Companion to Julius Caesar, p. 253)

We know who Plutarch and Suetonius were. We can cross-check their accounts with earlier sources and with later ones. We trust them to the extent that they had access to sources contemporary with Caesar.

On the other hand, we have only hypothetical sources for the gospels (Q, oral tradition, special materials of Matthew and of Luke . . .). All of these are debatable. Many of us know of Mark Goodacre’s challenge to Q; and I have posted many times on various challenges to the arguments for oral tradition as a source. There have also been many publications (especially among mainstream scholars) establishing strong arguments for lesser or greater amounts of the gospels being adaptations of Old Testament narratives. Some have even seen gospel sources in classical Greek literature.

The point is that gospel sources are traditionally hypothetical; the sources used by the earliest biographers of Caesar are known to be contemporaneous with Caesar.

Further, we know the identities of the authors of our sources about Caesar. We know neither the authors nor the original audiences of the gospels. We don’t even really know when they were written. In other words, the provenance of the gospels is lost to us.

Not knowing who wrote something, when and for whom, is bad enough. That sort of information we have for our sources for Caesar and it helps orient our interpretative faculties. What’s worse for Bock’s comparison is that the gospels don’t even pretend to follow the same genres as Plutarch’s, Sallust’s or Cicero’s writings. The gospels betray no interest in establishing credibility among readers in the same ways Plutarch and Suetonius do: assuring readers of the reliability of their sources and writings through clear identification of those sources and their own standing. The gospels assure readers of their authenticity be appeals to prophetic fulfilment and the voice of anonymous authority (Luke’s prologue notwithstanding).

On the rare occasions a Roman historian or biographer mentions a miracle the sceptical reader is quickly assured that the author understands (and perhaps even shares) his or her scepticism. The original audience of the gospels were more interested in uncritically listening to the wonderful works of God and the miracles of his Son. The gospels were theology from the start and very often re-writes of “Old Testament” narratives, not history.

(In a future post I’ll talk more about the reliability and otherwise of various ancient sources, and not only of the gospels but also of various historians like Josephus and Herodotus. We will see that sometimes where they are the most “convincing” with the richness of their details and protestations of direct personal eyewitness experience they are, in fact, lying, or at least deceiving their readers. But I’m straying.)

Bock also has a lot to say about the comparative manuscript tradition behind our sources for Caesar and Jesus and concludes:

Classics scholars build much of our understanding of Caesar around these sources, even though their manuscript traditions contain significant gaps of time.

His whole argument is largely irrelevant, however. Scholars are very aware of the problems of not having the original manuscripts (the autographs) of our sources. They know of the possibility of corruptions creeping in as manuscripts are copied. A classic illustration of this is the journal of Columbus. That would appear to be a first-hand account but scholars have been troubled by the fact that it’s not in Columbus’s own handwriting. Our earliest copy has been penned by Bartolomé de las Casas (two generations after Columbus). That inevitably raises questions about how much we really know about Columbus’s own thoughts:

Trusting that Las Casas got Columbus right, and that Columbus got himself right, most historians have taken comfort, but the journal is riddled with inconsistencies and incongruities, suggesting a massive early rewrite by Columbus for his own purposes. It can also be shown that, as a transcriber, Las Casas wielded an attitude as well as a pen. (David Henige, Historical Evidence and Argument, pp. 44-45)

Then recall Bart Ehrman’s Orthodox Corruption of Scripture and wonder.

All the manuscript tradition can do is offer us (relative) assurance about the integrity (more or less) of our text. It does not change the factors involved in the interpretation of the text’s narrative contents, or whether a text was written as history or as a theological miracle story.

Bock further makes the apologetic appeal to the authenticity of the names traditionally assigned to the gospels. Of course this is another bit of legerdemain: the names might just as well be Joel, Lot, Adam and Enkidu. Names alone are meaningless. What counts is what we know about the person identified by the name. (Besides, there is no evidence for even the names by which we know the gospels ever being associated with them from their beginnings.)

Bock gives his game away in the final section of his article.

The nature of the claims tied to Jesus often gets in the way of such an assessment. Many hesitate to see Jesus in the same light as Caesar since the Gospel sources testify that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and performed unusual signs and wonders to validate his claim.

There you have it. You, Sceptic, are hung up over the gospels because in your hard-heartedness you do not want to submit to God and believe the gospel! That is Bock’s punchline. If you are persuaded by the logic and evidence in this post then your motive is ungodly. You are in need of salvation.

Then Bock tells us that one detail that is known “without dispute” is that Jesus had “such a big public reputation” — so wide was it that a “wide array” of other sources acknowledge this. And what other sources? Bock mentions Justin writing in the second century! And the Talmud in…. what was it? the sixth century? maybe the fourth? But none contemporaries. No Ciceros or Sallusts or Asinius Pollios or Ampius Balbuses or Tanusius Geminuses for Jesus. And no Plutarchs a century later to refer to these contemporary sources either.

I feel I have written this post once too often before. Let this do till another day when I hopefully can find a fresh angle to tackle it. Till then, I think you get the point.

I’m sure Darrell Bock is a nice enough gentleman but I see no common ground that would enable a critical scholar to seriously engage in an academic discussion with such an evangelist apologist.

P.S. I have not read Richard Carrier’s response to the same Bock article. I trust there will be a broad similarity in the core arguments.

 

 

 

22 Comments

  • Bee
    2015-07-01 17:49:35 UTC - 17:49 | Permalink

    Nice summary of the problems with the argument that Jesus was historical, like Caesar.

    These summaries need to be repeated periodically, to catch up newcomers. And they are useful to continually tighten up the core arguments.

  • Barsac
    2015-07-01 20:08:58 UTC - 20:08 | Permalink

    Caesar coined some money, called aureus.
    What about the money coined by JC ?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2015-07-01 20:39:06 UTC - 20:39 | Permalink

      Yes, there is much, much more I could have written but I have addressed additional points in principle (if not specifically related to Julius Caesar’s case) in many posts over the years. The arguments of “scholars” like Bock are so obviously evangelist apologetic they do not belong in the same arena as genuine scholarship.

      • Pofarmer
        2015-07-05 12:22:04 UTC - 12:22 | Permalink

        The problem is, the intended audience often doesn’t know the difference.

  • RoHa
    2015-07-03 04:43:07 UTC - 04:43 | Permalink

    I think there is a circular argument in the apologetics.

    “How do we know the Gospels are trustworthy”
    “Because they were written shortly after Jesus lived”
    “How do we know when Jesus lived?”
    “The Gospels tell us”
    “How do we know the Gospels are trustworthy?”

    As far as I can tell, we have no more-or-less reliable source outside the Gospels to tell us when Jesus lived.

  • RoHa
    2015-07-03 04:55:20 UTC - 04:55 | Permalink

    I also note that Bock simply repeats the line that P52 dates from 125AD.

    Not so fast.

    In 1935 Colin Roberts dated it to the “first half of the second century” (Roberts 1935, P16). The middle of that period is 125 CE, and so Robert’s cautious dating became transmogrified into the received wisdom that P52 dates from 125 CE. This date is repeated ad nauseum as evidence that the Gospel according to John was written in the first century. (Sometimes even earlier dates for P52 are given!)

    But this is to go too far.

    First, no palaeographic dating can be so precise. Even on Robert’s dating, 150 CE is quite possible. Some other experts prefer later or earlier dates.

    Second, the tiny amount of text gives very little evidence to work with. It is so scanty that six letters of the Greek alphabet are not represented on the manuscript. This means that any dating will be very uncertain.

    Third, Nongbri (2005) has found that some letter forms of P52 were still in use in the third century. The range of possible dates has to be extended close to 225!

    “What I have done is to show that any serious consideration of the window of possible dates for P52 must include dates in the later second and early third centuries.”
    (Nongbri, 2005, p 46)

    Fourth, P52 is a fragment of a codex, not a scroll. Scrolls were written on one side only. A codex is the format of bound pages, written on both sides, used in modern books. Codex form was still a very new invention in 125 CE, and not yet widely used. This suggests that it is more likely to be from a later date. (Though, of course, it is quite possible that it was an early codex. Some codices had to be early ones, and P52 might have come from one of the first.)

    Thus, the date of P52 is very uncertain. It may indeed be from very early in the second century, but it is impossible to establish that.

    Also, in spite of the best efforts of the scholars, it is not possible to establish that it is actually from the Gospel of John as we have it today. It may have come from some early Passion story that later was incorporated into John. (See http://www.jesusgranskad.se/p52.htm)

    So it “cannot be used as evidence to silence other debates about the existence (or non-existence) of the Gospel of John in the first half of the second century”
    (Nongbri, 2005, p46.)

    Nongbri, Brent (2005) “The Use and Abuse of P52: Papyrological Pitfalls in the Dating of the Fourth Gospel.” Harvard Theological Review 98:23-52.

    Roberts, C. H, An Unpublished Fragment of the Fourth Gospel in the John Rylands Library (Manchester: The University Press, 1935).

    • Kaelik
      2015-07-04 04:13:09 UTC - 04:13 | Permalink

      Carrier, in On the Historicity . . . speaks of two authors for John, and that one it being extremely likely, and not particularly disputed by the scholarly consensus that there are two authors, with one being clearly second, and making large modifications to the existing gospel. Now, that doesn’t tell us anything about the time periods of the first or second John writing anything, but is there enough text on P52 that we could even determine if it was the John with only one author, or if the second had involved himself already by that point?

      • RoHa
        2015-07-06 05:26:15 UTC - 05:26 | Permalink

        No.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2015-07-06 10:15:59 UTC - 10:15 | Permalink

        You can see what P52 contains here.

        • Kaelik
          2015-07-06 14:34:55 UTC - 14:34 | Permalink

          While I appreciate the showing, I just honestly didn’t know anything about this John/Two Authors thing prior to Reading Carrier’s book. So I have no idea what specifically we know/think belonged to one author or the other, and how much we just don’t know. 🙂

          So I was mostly asking someone who does know about the John thing to give me some idea.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2015-07-06 22:12:01 UTC - 22:12 | Permalink

            The disjointed character of the Gospel of John leads (probably most) critical scholars to consider it a work that has been pastiched together by a number of authors/redactors over time. There are a few dissenting voices, one of them being Thomas L. Brodie.

    • mcduff
      2015-07-04 05:15:33 UTC - 05:15 | Permalink

      In addition:
      P52 was dated in relation to P. Egerton 2
      P Koln 255 is now known to be a continuation of P. Egerton 2
      It contains a punctuation mark that was not evidenced prior to the end of the second century.
      Thus P. Egerton, used to date P 52, is now dated c. 200 plus.

      Therefore it would support a date for P52 as likely c. 3rd century.

      From here – which is a review of Bagnall’s “Early Christian Books in Egypt”

      http://www.reltech.org/TC/v16/Bagnall2011rev.pdf

      • RoHa
        2015-07-06 05:29:33 UTC - 05:29 | Permalink

        Thanks. Useful info.

  • Bee
    2015-07-03 06:51:20 UTC - 06:51 | Permalink

    Even if it was 125, furthermore, that is four generations after Jesus died. So this Gospel of John would not have been an eyewitness account.

    This fragment appears only after there was plenty of time for unreliable rumors to have circulated. And especially after 70AD, there would have been fewer and fewer living witnesses to contradict what was said. Really no adult witnesses at all, by 125.

    The death of all witnesses to c. 30 AD would prove all too useful for Christianity, to be sure.

  • Stuart
    2015-07-03 17:47:14 UTC - 17:47 | Permalink

    You forgot one important item that helps in establishing Roman emperors and the extent of their empires and actions: physical evidence. We have cities, plaques, and of great help coins from all over Europe. Also there are mundane record of tax receipts , marriage licenses, land purchases, and so on. These establish dates, places, names, titles, etc. This is huge confirmation, and sometimes refutation of writers. We lack that with Christianity until a date far too late to establish any certainty before a rather late date.

  • Greg Pandatshang
    2015-07-04 16:23:12 UTC - 16:23 | Permalink

    If we believe what the best sources say about Julius Caesar [meaning Suetonius and Plutarch only], then we should believe what the best sources say about Jesus Christ.

    Yes, well.”

    Right. For some reason I’ve seen this argument presented with regard to Augustus more often than Julius Caesar. But the logic contains an unavoidable flaw right at its heart. If the evidence for Caesar really is equally as bad as evidence for Jesus, then logically that calls into question whether Caesar really existed! Maybe Caesar really is a myth; it depends on what the evidence shows. We can’t begin with the assumption that Caesar was a real person and then assume that everything with equally bad evidence is therefore also real.

    Logically, the claim that the evidence for Caesar really is equal to the evidence for Jesus could also mean that there is more evidence for Jesus than we had thought. In that case, though, why not just talk about the new, convincing evidence for Jesus and leave Caesar out of it?

  • Reader
    2015-07-04 18:09:50 UTC - 18:09 | Permalink

    I wonder if Professor Bock would read the above post and Dr. Carrier’s and re-evaluate and ultimately adjust his conclusions? Other persons would read all three then draw their conclusions.
    Genuine scholarship and intellectual integrity demands no less.

  • Joss
    2015-07-16 10:15:17 UTC - 10:15 | Permalink

    On Plutarch: There’s also Appian who (even more like Plutarch) relied heavily on Asinius Pollio, and where Plutarch and Appian accord, it is pure Pollio.

    On Livy: Cassius Dio used Livy a lot, like other authors did (e.g. Obsequens), which is not 100% clear for Caesar’s times, but pretty much settled for the passages on the Augustan period, so it’s safe to infer the same for Caesarian passages.

    On Gospel genre: There are apparently some (I know of two) publications positing that Mark was written in the genre of the Plutarchan Bios, one article even saying that it’s the same construct as Plutarch’s Caesar biography. I don’t agree with this assessment, one reason being that there is no (and never was a) birth or childhood narrative in Mark, which originally used to be in Plutarch’s Caesar biography (and probably also in Suetonius’)… at least that’s what many modern historians have assumed, e.g. Weinstock. If the Gospel was modeled on Plutarch’s Bios (or even his Caesar bios), then Mark would’ve also included a birth/childhood narrative. My 2¢: Mark is a theological and quasi-epic short-form variant of the annals genre. (If it is “annalistic”, you could then, of course, assume a historical core/origin, but that’s moot, if you don’t have any original sources. Back to square one, anyway.)

    Approach from the opposite angle: There’s Justus of Tiberias, a (second-half) 1st century Jewish historian from Galilee, and he sure as hell would’ve written about a historical Jesus, if there had been one, and about some of the (more important) things that happen in the Gospel, if those things had ever happened… but he didn’t. Not a peep. If a person like Caesar existed, we would expect historians to have written about him, a lot of things and mostly consistent things, and we would expect later authors like Tacitus to at least mention him in passing… which they all did, most of them anyway. Conversely, if there was no “historical Jesus” (“Yeshua ben Yosef” LOL), we would expect historians like Justus and Josephus to not mention him or anything from the Gospel. And so it is. Therefore all that fuss about the TestFlav, not because it has any historical value—it’s a Eusebian forgery—, but because believers want Jesus to be historical, so they want the TestFlav to be true, at least in some form. They must be really desperate.

    Addition: There are many contemporary or close poets, like Lucan, Ovid, Virgil, and other kinds of authors like Seneca, Pliny etc., who have a lot of relevant historical information, commentators like Servius who also used Livy and other contemporary historians et cetera. It’s not only the “true historians” of antiquity that are important in this respect.

  • Chris I
    2018-07-10 20:13:28 UTC - 20:13 | Permalink

    What a curious piece. That is all I can think right now.

    What could have been an objective comparison and deconstruction of the reliability of Caesar’s autobiographies in comparison to the writings regarding Jesus Christ of Nazareth, slowly became a series of quips and intellectually dishonest half-assertions. Agenda-driven writing (which yours clearly is) on somber topics (which the historicity of Jesus’ life clearly is) provides a disservice to your craft. I think you’re a great writer from what I’ve seen, and you can rise above this baseless criticism and truly build a substantial audience.

    While I don’t have a PhD (I presume you do based on your website, but I have not checked), I do, in fact, hold a Juris Doctorate — so at the very least, i can tell a poorly reasoned argument when I encounter one.

    ***”On the other hand, we have only hypothetical sources for the gospels. . . . We know neither the authors nor the original audiences of the gospels. We don’t even really know when they were written. In other words, the provenance of the gospels is lost to us.”***

    (1) GOSPEL OF JOHN

    It just so happens that we have a Gospel purporting to be written by John the son of Zebedee (i.e. “the disciple whom Jesus loved”), and its central theme happens also to be love — identical to the central theme in the other long-enough-to-be-substantive writing of Apostle John (that is, 1 John). The source is John’s own firsthand experiences and accounts, irrespective of if he condensed a set of earlier personal notes or wrote from memory.

    As to your claim that we don’t know the audiences, it is well-established that John’s audience consisted of both Jews and Gentiles living in the larger Greco-Roman world in Ephesus and beyond near the close of the first century. As for the date claim, you have again stated something misleading — we know John was written between circa A.D. 60 and 100. The liberal dating is 90-100, primarily because of John’s emphasis on Jesus as the Son of God and the *a priori assumption* that this view did not arise until the second century. Leading Bible scholar and translator Daniel Wallace (who is also the founder and executive director of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts) dates the Gospel of John to the mid 60s.

    (2) GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

    I suppose since you have taken the view that this part of history is virtually unknowable, I will again just begin with authorship. The author of Matthew is thoroughly entrenched in Judaism. He does not speak much of Gentiles. Notably, reports abound among the early Church fathers that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written in Aramaic or Hebrew, and was later re-translated into Greek by the author. Papias of Hierapolis (c. 60-130), for example, writes, “Matthew put together the oracles [of Jesus] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.”

    Additionally, Matthew’s Gospel adds relevant financial details found first and/or only in Matthew, such as: “When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the two-drachma tax went up to Peter and said, ‘Does your teacher not pay the tax?'” (Matt 17:24). It seems strange and unlikely for a Gospel-forger to place as much time and emphasis into Matthew’s Gospel (including ensuring the smoothness of any and all integrations with Mark), only to choose a mostly obscure Apostle like Matthew as a pseudonym — rather than, say, James, Peter, Thomas, or Philip. A reasonable person is to be so skeptical as to believe that a random stranger, writing fraudulently as Jesus, came up with the Beatitudes on his own, as a practical joke? I really don’t think so.

    Seeing as Matthew was a devoutly Jewish tax collector, he seems a strong fit for likely author. As for the date of Matthew, this can be deduced from a second century report of Irenaeus, who confirms that Matthew composed his Gospel “while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel and founding the Church in Rome.” (Against Heresies, 3.1.1). The only time we know of this occurring is the mid-60s. Overall, however, conservative scholars date Matthew between A.D. 60-80, while liberal scholars place it between A.D. 80-100.

    (3) GOSPEL OF MARK

    Mark, also called “John Mark” (John being his Hebrew name and Mark being his Greek name), was a bilingual Hellenist. He was related to the wealthy landowner Barnabas (see Colossians 4:10, Acts 4:36). For Mark’s Gospel, we must look to Eusebius of Caesarea’s (A.D. 260-340) work “Ecclesiastical History” wherein he preserves presently-lost statements of Papias. The compelling weight of the evidence points to (1) the Apostle Peter as the spoken author, (2) with Mark as the writer, (3) and Mark was not an eyewitness or disciple of Jesus, but (4) he was concerned with accurately transposing Peter’s words and it was his desire not to misrepresent or omit any detail.

    From “Ecclesiastical History”, 2.15.1: “And so greatly did the splendor of piety illumine the minds of Peter’s hearers that they were not satisfied with hearing once only, and were not content with the unwritten teaching of the divine Gospel, but with all sorts of entreaties they besought Mark, a follower of Peter, and the one whose Gospel is extant, that he would leave them a written monument of the doctrine which had been orally communicated to them. Nor did they cease until they had prevailed with the man, and had thus become the occasion of the written Gospel which bears the name of Mark.” [see also, especially, the remainder of 2.15.1; 2.15.2; and 3.39,14-16 in same]

    One cannot overlook the heightened vividness of Mark when discussing Peter, nor the proximity between Peter’s Caesarea speech (Acts 10:34-43) and the Gospel of Mark. Peter (another of the closest disciples alongside John) is by far the strongest candidate for authorship of Mark.

    As for the dating of Mark, late 50s to late 60s fits a conservative mindset, while liberal dating places it as late as the 70s. The Gospel of Mark was composed for the wider church as the record of the Apostolic testimony of Peter, with Gentile Christians also a seemingly targeted recipient.

    (4) GOSPEL OF LUKE

    Finally, Luke was, obviously, not an Apostle, so I will not go into great detail here. However, it’s well-accepted that Luke traveled with Paul and that he was absolutely keen on detail. I can provide you the quotes of historians more highly regarded than either you or I, such as the late William M. Ramsay (1851-1939). Ramsay—who was the recipient of 3 honorary fellowships, 9 honorary doctorates, and was considered by many contemporaries to be one of the greatest archaeologists to ever live—concluded, after about 30 long years of investigation, that:
    “Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness. . . . Luke is a historian of the first rank . . . [Luke] should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.” [Source: /The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament/].

    For what it’s worth, Ramsay was raised an atheist. He set out to disprove the New Testament through his work, not be converted by it.

    Expressing agreement with Ramsay is the late E.M. Blaiklock (1903-1983)—who served as chair of classics at the University of Auckland, New Zealand for more than 20 years—who concludes that, “Luke is a consummate historian, to be ranked in his own right with the great writers of the Greeks.” [Source: /The Acts of the Apostles/]

    Oh, and it isn’t hard to figure out Luke’s audience. He names him — Theophilus. While admittedly the dating of Luke continues to be debated, there is consensus it was written before Acts but after Mark. A conservative range is A.D. 60-80 and a liberal range is A.D. 70-110.

    (5) YOUR UNSUPPORTED CLAIM THAT THE GOSPELS BETRAY A LACK OF INTEREST IN CREDIBILITY

    ***”The original audience of the gospels were more interested in uncritically listening to the wonderful works of God and the miracles of his Son. The gospels were theology from the start and very often re-writes of “Old Testament” narratives, not history. . . . The gospels betray no interest in establishing credibility among readers.”***

    Since you’ve put no evidence behind this claim, I don’t need to do much to refute it. Nor do I sense there is much room for common ground between you and I on this issue (a feeling I am sure you would reciprocate to me after getting this message). So what I am going to do instead of going off on a tangent, is give you an excerpted quote from a man named J. Warner Wallace, which really evolved the way I looked at things. (This was right around the same time I discovered the 1 Corinthians 15:3-7 oral tradition, and found its dating to within 2-4 years of Jesus’ death supported even by atheist historians like Gerd Ludemann and others).

    J. Warner Wallace is a retired Los Angeles police cold-case detective and a recognized expert in analyzing eyewitness testimony. He earned the 2015 California Peace Officer Association COPSWEST Award for best solved cold-case. Wallace grew up as a skeptic before meticulously analyzing the Gospel accounts. Here is part of what he found:

    ““If there’s one thing my experience as a detective has revealed, however, it’s that witnesses often make conflicting and inconsistent statements . . . They frequently disagree with one another and either fail to see something obvious or describe the same event in a number of conflicting ways. . . . Growing up as a skeptic, I never thought of the biblical narrative as an eyewitness account. Instead, I saw it as something more akin to religious mythology—a series of stories designed to make a point. But when I read the Gospels (and then the letters that followed them) it appeared clear that the writers of Scripture identified themselves as eyewitnesses and viewed their writings as testimony. . . .

    . . . Before I ever examined the reliability of the gospel accounts, I had a reasonable expectation about what a dependable set of eyewitness statements might look like, given my experience . . . It turns out that my expectations of true, reliable eyewitness accounts are met . . . by the Gospels. All four accounts are written from a different perspective and contain unique details that are specific to the eyewitness. . . . All four accounts are highly personal, utilizing the distinctive language of each witness. . . . If it was God’s desire to provide us with an accurate and reliable account of the life of Jesus, an account we could trust and recognize as consistent with other forms of eyewitness testimony, God surely accomplished it with the four gospel accounts.” [Source: /Cold Case Christianity: A Homicide Detective Investigates the Claims of the Gospels/]

    And lastly, concerning the direct sayings of Jesus as recorded within the Gospels, late theologian and “one of the outstanding New Testament scholars of his day,” Dr. Vincent Taylor (1887-1968), writes:

    “I have no hesitation in claiming that the tradition of the words of Jesus is far better preserved than we have any right to expect, and with much greater accuracy than is to be found in the record of the words of any great teacher of the past. . . . The result, then, for a study of the formal aspects of the stories about Jesus is to strengthen confidence in their historical value.” [Source: /The Formation of the Gospel Tradition/]

    (7) WRAP-UP

    It’s worth pointing out that the Twelve were in the absolute best position to know the details surrounding Jesus’ life from the beginning of His ministry until His crucifixion. Yet when we have writings from members of the Twelve, we need to *exclude* the evidence that they saw real things happen with their eyes while sane…because miracles stopped being real when we stopped being babies…right? One may stop thinking this way when one realizes that “existence” (as opposed to non-existence — why there is “anything” instead of “nothing”) and “consciousness” (as opposed to mere intelligence — intelligence is simple problem solving, while consciousness is the universe experiencing itself through people made of stardust) are both true miracles in and of themselves. And when that’s the case, perhaps we shouldn’t rule out anything simply on the basis of it challenging our preconceived notions about what “should” be true or possible.

    Thank you very much for your time and for reading. Be well. Peace and comfort to you through Christ, and may God bless you.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-07-10 22:33:13 UTC - 22:33 | Permalink

      All you have done is repeat the faith you have been taught. You have failed to critically question your claims. Have a look at http://www.vridar.info/bibarch/arch/davies2.htm and see the critical questions that a historian should apply to any and all narratives he or she comes across.

      • Chris I
        2018-07-12 04:32:41 UTC - 04:32 | Permalink

        “Have a look at http://www.vridar.info/bibarch/arch/davies2.htm and see the critical questions that a historian should apply to any and all narratives he or she comes across.”

        This link is to a source that makes an a priori assumption of the Bible’s lack of historicity — the same type of “faith” based approach you are lobbying against.

        I don’t need to point out that you’ve failed yourself to critically address any point I have made. Have a good day!

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-07-12 04:51:58 UTC - 04:51 | Permalink

          No, there is no faith assumption at all. That site (my site, by the way) is pointing out why the a priori assumption of historicity is flawed.

          Are you seriously suggesting that the alternative is to start with the assumption of historicity? Surely not.

          The only honest starting point is to assume neither historicity nor non-historicity.

          If you follow the links to the following pages you will see what follows after we approach the question of historicity with that neutral assumption. We look for supporting evidence, independent, external evidence, to make our case for historicity or nonhistoricity.

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