Christian Gottlob WILKEDer Urevangelist Translated into English

Update: 3rd August 2023

I somehow managed to complete a first draft of a translation of the entire near 700 pages of the work that significantly contributed to the case for the Gospel of Mark being the first gospel.

It can be accessed here on my vridar.info page. Link is to a PDF – 27 MB.

Wilke’s work is more than a voyage of discovery to identify the first evangelist, though. It addresses a range of principles and arguments that have relevance for question of the origins of the details of the story of Jesus. It also opens up options for consideration for anyone interested in knowing how the canonical form of the Gospel that we have today compares with what it may have originally looked like.

I am posting the draft form now because I expect it will be some time before I manage to go through it more carefully to fine-tune aspects of the translation and layout, and especially double-checking the Greek text which currently contains inconsistencies and errors with the accents.

Original post: 2nd July 2023

When I was translated Bruno Bauer’s studies of the New Testament writings i encountered numerous references to one of the pioneers of the Markan priority hypothesis, Christian Gottlob Wilke. Bruno often but not always deferred to Wilke’s judgments relating to the relationships among the synoptic gospels and how to account for their variations, what passages appeared to be earlier, which verses were intrusions of some kind, and so forth. My appetite was whetted and I wanted to read Wilke for myself. The work in question is Der Urevangelist oder exegetisch kritische Untersuchung über das Verwandtschaftsverhältniß der drei ersten Evangelien published in 1838. Translation: The Urevangelist [=Original Gospel] or exegetical critical study on the relationship of the first three Gospels.

I have just completed translating the introductory pages and part one — approximately 160 pages in all.

Part one addresses in depth the question of whether the synoptic gospels drew upon oral tradition. Wilke’s assessment is that they did not. The evidence that he advances to reach this conclusion is thorough in its detail. He also concludes part one with a discussion of variations of the standard notion of oral tradition and alternative hypotheses such as an Aramaic original.

I have read many modern studies about such questions and cannot help but think that many scholars would have written differently had they also read Wilke in the original. The original is in Old German or Fraktur font but I can offer a second best option. I have maintained the original pagination in the translation. Some of the paragraphs in the original exceed ten pages in length, and even a single sentence can sometimes run on beyond a page, but Wilke had the happy habit of inserting into his walls of text subdivisions — a, b, c, … α, β, γ…. 1, 2, 3 ….. aa, bb, cc,…. and I have broken the paragraphs at each of those points for easier reading.

For those who are seriously minded about these sorts of questions…. (you may have to do a bit of cursor clicking to make the files show)

Title page – Foreword – 3 TABLES to which the remainder of the study will constantly refer

Download (PDF, 92KB)


addressing the question of whether the synoptic gospels drew upon oral or written sources

Download (PDF, 408KB)

Original text is available at archive.org, the Bavarian State Library and no doubt other places.

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Neil Godfrey

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