Third and Last Section – g. Conclusion

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by Neil Godfrey



The final conclusion of the investigation into the relationship between the Pauline letters and their position in relation to the Acts of the Apostles will be provided by the decision on the letter to the Galatians.

It is certain that the Pastoral letters are the last products of this epistolary literature. The first letter to the Thessalonians presupposes the Acts of the Apostles and, apart from the Corinthian and Roman letters, also presupposes the Galatian letter with its current introduction. 

The author of the letter to the Philippians, a letter that concludes the series to which it belongs, used the second letter to the Corinthians, the first and second sections of the letter to the Romans, and the first letter to the Thessalonians. 

The letters to the Ephesians and Colossians presuppose familiarity with the first letter to the Corinthians and with the letter to the Galatians. 

When the third section of the letter to the Romans was written, the Acts of the Apostles did not yet exist, for the author of the latter has (in the speech of Paul to the elders of the church of Ephesus in Acts 20:35) inserted the catchphrase of that section regarding the reception of the weak in a completely foreign context and on a highly unmotivated basis *)—at least in its current form, the Acts of the Apostles did not yet exist even then, when the concluding section of the letter to the Romans was written, for the one who gave the Acts of the Apostles its final redaction imitated, in his reference to the words of the Lord, which he added to his unmotivated exhortation to receive the weak, the example of Christ for the reception of the believers among themselves (Romans 15:7). 

The first section of the letter to the Romans is the oldest product within the circle of this literature, for it was known to the author of the first letter to the Corinthians, which immediately follows it in time and reproduces the catchphrases of his dialectic *) concerning sin as the sting of death and the law as the power of sin —if even the third section of the letter to the Romans precedes the Acts of the Apostles, then even more so does the first letter to the Corinthians, which was before the author of that section.

It can even be demonstrated that the Apollos of the Acts of the Apostles owes the essence of his character, his attitude, and his successes to the first letter to the Corinthians: he was originally (Acts 18:24) an Alexandrian Jew, hence speculatively educated,**) and thus represents in his beginnings human wisdom, whose contrast to the divine the author of the first letter to the Corinthians deals with in the section in which he sets Paul and Apollos against each other—he goes from Ephesus to Achaia and Corinth, thus coming to the stage he occupies in that letter—by his struggle with the Jews, he performs a great service for the believers here, thus doing again what the Apollos of the first letter to the Corinthians does, he waters the planting that Paul has laid out***): only the author of the Acts of the Apostles has, in his own way, subjected the Alexandrian-educated dialectician both to Paul and to Christian Judaism, by giving him through Aquila and Priscilla, that couple friendly to the Gentile apostle, the Christian completion (Acts 18:2, 3, 26)—finally, that unmotivated and highly unfortunate appeal of the apostle to the selflessness he has shown in providing for his own livelihood *) was formed according to the presuppositions of the first letter to the Corinthians.

*) Acts 20:35 πάντα ὑπέδειξα ὑμῖν ὅτι οὕτω κοπιῶντας δεῖ ἀντιλαμβάνεσθαι τῶν ἀσθενούντων.
Rom 14:1 τὸν δὲ ἀσθενοῦντα τῇ πίστει προσλαμβάνεσθε.

*) 1 Cor 15:56. Rom 7, 8-13

**) The writer of Acts even marks him out. emphatically (ibid.) as a scientifically educated man ανηρ λογιος.

***) Acts 18:27-28. 1 Cor 3:6

*) In that speech to the ecclesiastical leaders of Ephesus (Acts 20:33-34).


I must admit that I am not yet able to make a definitive decision regarding the relationship between the Second Corinthians and the Acts of the Apostles. However, one thing is certain: the Second Corinthians presupposes a detailed treatment of Paul’s life. Its author firmly assumes that the life of the Apostle was distinguished by miracles and miraculous experiences. He already lives with the idea that suffering was the essential attribute of the Gentile Apostle but was always resolved into victory through divine miraculous help (Ch. 6:5-10). Even the enumeration of his sufferings, such as being beaten by the Jews and then whipped (Ch. 11:24-25), corresponds to the order in which the Gentile messenger,**) after being persecuted and mistreated by the Jews in Antioch, Iconium, and Lystra, is whipped in Philippi in the Acts of the Apostles. The fact that the alms collected in Antioch and sent by Paul of the Acts of the Apostles and his fellow traveler Barnabas to the brothers in Judea is referred to as a service also agrees with the usage of the Second Corinthians. One of the two, the author of this letter or the author of the Acts of the Apostles, must have had the other’s work in mind, but who? The way in which the latter (Acts of the Apostles 24:17) describes the gift that Paul brings to Jerusalem as one that he sacrifices to his people as his personal gift seems to me to be compelling evidence that the author of the Second Corinthians had an earlier treatment of the Acts of the Apostles in mind, and that the one who gave the latter work its final redaction borrowed its keywords from that letter.

**) Acts 11:29εἰς διακονίαν.  Compare 2 Cor 8:4; 9:12


Therefore, there must be a kind of pivot point where the Galatians letter stands: the letters that precede it do not yet know the present Acts of the Apostles, and among those that follow, the first Thessalonians and Philippians letters assume familiarity with it, not to mention the pastoral letters.

So what about the letter itself?

It knows the present Acts of the Apostles*). When Paul is brought into conflict with it, whether he should circumcise Timothy, who had a Jewish mother but a Greek father, but circumcised him because of the Jews among whom he lived, the conflict is just as naturally shaped as resolved. In contrast, the corresponding conflict in the Galatians letter, as I have shown, is already flawed and misshapen in its conception, and the author of this letter neither understood nor dared to give it a real solution, a real conclusion. Although he would like to contrast with the flexibility that Paul shows in the Acts of the Apostles, he would like to bring it about that the apostle freed the Greek Titus from the claims of Judaism, and yet he is so dependent on his original, the Acts of the Apostles, that he borrows a turn of phrase*), which would lead to the apostle submitting to the consideration of the Jews. Only the embarrassment into which this dependence on his original has entangled him is so great that he leaves the sentence that the turn of phrase demands unfinished and drops the verb completely.

*) Therefore, I must also overturn the opposite assumption that I left standing in my work on the Acts of the Apostles.

*) that expression that describes the authoritative character of the consideration for the Jews – Gal. 2:4 διὰ δὲ τοὺς παρεισάκτους ψευδαδέλφους. Acts 16:3 διὰ δἐ τοὺς Ἰουδαίους τοὺς ὄντας ἐν τοῖς τόποις ἐκείνοις


The Paul of the Galatians is so jealous of his independence, which is even guaranteed by a special divine revelation, that from his side, it is inconsistency, false concession, even mistrust in the revelation he received when he goes to Jerusalem and presents his Gospel to the apostles of circumcision, whom he himself despises as only supposed pillars of the Church – even for the express purpose of testing his concern that he might be or have been running in vain, at the right source, at the right authority. Even this inconsistency can only be explained by the dependence on the Acts of the Apostles, in which the outbreak of the Antiochian discord over the validity of the law of circumcision – a discord that could not be resolved outside Jerusalem, naturally led to the sending of Paul and Barnabas to the apostles and elders of the early Church, to obtain a decision from them (Gal. 2, 2. Acts 15, 2).


The comparison between Paul and the original apostles was accompanied by a clause, as was also the decision that Paul and Barnabas received from the council in the Acts of the Apostles*). The Paul of the Galatians assures that he made every effort to fulfill the obligation that clause imposed on him to support the poor of the original community, just as in the Acts of the Apostles, the decision of the Antiochene community to send aid to the brothers in Judea is carried out by Paul and Barnabas**). The recognition by the original apostles in Galatians, upon seeing the grace given to Paul, that he had the right to testify to the community, is imitated in the Acts of the Apostles by the joy Barnabas felt when he saw the grace of God among the believers in Antioch, whose conduct he had investigated on behalf of the original community in Jerusalem***). Finally, in the Galatians, when the communities in Judea hear that the one who once persecuted them now preaches the faith he once destroyed, we hear in this stiff and laboriously formed sentence the patchwork of keywords from the Acts of the Apostles’ account of the impact that Peter’s report on the conversion of Cornelius had on the community in Jerusalem and the news of the conversion of the former enemy of the community †).

*) Gal 2:10 μόνον.  Acts 15:28 πλν.

**) Acts 11:30 ὃ καὶ ἐποίησαν.
Gal. 2:10 ὃ καὶ ἐσπούδασα αὐτὸ τοῦτο ποιῆσαι.

***) Gal 2:9 καὶ γνόντες τὴν χάριν τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι . . . . . δεξιὰς ἔδωκαν ἐμοὶ . . . .
Acts 11:23 καὶ ἰδὼν τὴν χάριν τοῦ Θεοῦ ἐχάρη.

†) Gal 1:23 μόνον δὲ ἀκούοντες ἦσαν ὅτι ὁ διώκων ἡμᾶς ποτε νῦν εὐαγγελίζεται τὴν πίστιν ἥν ποτε ἐπόρθει, καὶ ἐδόξαζον ἐν ἐμοὶ τὸ Θεόν.
Acts 11:18 ἀκούσαντες δὲ ταῦτα . . . . ἐδόξαζον τὸν Θεὸν.
Acts 9:21οἱ ἀκούοντες. . . . ἔλεγον· οὐχ οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ πορθήσας
Compare also Acts 8:1, 3 22:4  Gal 1:13


The haphazard way in which the quarrel between Paul and Peter is brought about in the Galatians is also due, as we can now demonstrate with certainty, to the clumsiness with which the author copied his original: only in the Acts of the Apostles is the accusation made by the Jewish faction against Peter that he has entered and eaten with uncircumcised people naturally brought about – only here is it really justified that Peter is living like a Gentile – only here was there a real reason for complaints against him (Acts 11:2-3).

In short, it is not the author of the Acts of the Apostles who is strange to Galatia, as I once thought, nor is Galatia a threatening land for him because of the struggles presupposed in the Galatians, which Paul must quietly and loudly pass through – but the author of this letter chose it as the scene of his struggles because it was still, as it were, virgin territory, not yet occupied by the Acts of the Apostles, which only presupposes communities here in general, and his successor, the author of the letter to the Colossians, followed him in choosing Phrygia as the scene of his struggles, which is only mentioned in passing in the Acts of the Apostles. *)

*) After this result, one can judge how well-founded all the previous analyses were of the “Galatian” and “Colossian” heresies and their relationship to the “seduced” communities.

Until now, the contradictions that I have demonstrated in the assumptions of the Galatians, for example, have been overlooked. Instead, people have attributed to the “seduction techniques” of the heretics in individual communities what was, in fact, encountered by the authors of these letters as a general ecclesiastical condition. Unfortunately, the authors of the letters had to force this general condition into the entanglement and history of a single community, since they had to assume that Paul intervened in these situations and had to fight personal adversaries who were trying to turn his followers away from him. The inner struggle of the church with its own Judaism, the struggle of its freedom with its own bondage, was now turned into an intrigue of individual Judaizing heretics who wanted to make up for the damage that Paul had done in individual communities, resulting in the relapse of Pauline free thinkers into bondage, and the Apostle’s clumsy wounds over the possibility that a community he had just engendered and that had just been securely free, had allowed itself to be lured back into legal servitude.


We are able to test the validity of the above conclusions by examining the relationship between the Pauline letters and the various redactions that the Gospel of Luke underwent, as well as the Luke writings that were used by Ur-Luke, the author of the first redaction.

The letters that presuppose the current Acts of the Apostles also know the accompanying Gospel of Luke, and their diligent use of it testifies to the authority it had already gained in the circles in which they themselves originated.

For example, how does the author of the Galatians come to call the original apostles “those who were reputed to be something” (Galatians 2:2) without any preparation for this abrupt expression and without any explanation of it, before he designates them in verse 9 as “those who were recognized as pillars,” and in verse 6 as “those who were supposed to be something”? He has before him the clumsy expression of the Gospel of Luke (in the section dealing with the dispute among the disciples at the Last Supper), “who should be the greatest among them.*)

*) Gal 2:2 τοῖς δοκοῦσι.  Ch. 2:6 τῶν δοκούντων εἶναί τι  Ch 2:9 οἱ δοκοῦντες στῦλοι εἶναι.  Compare Ch. 6:3
Luke 22:24 τίς αὐτῶν δοκεῖ εἶναι μείζων.


The assertion of the Apostle in the Philippians’ letter that he forgets what is behind and strains toward what is ahead is reminiscent of the saying of the person who is focused on what is behind, imitated **). Additionally, the “rejoice” in the Philippians’ letter and the designation of the Apostle’s co-workers as those whose names are written in the book of life echoes the saying, “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (Philippians 4:3, Luke 10:20).

**) Phil 3:14  τὰ μὲν ὀπίσω ἐπιλανθανόμενος.  Luke 9:62 βλέπων εἰς τὰ ὀπίσω

The remark in the Ephesians’ letter that one should not be swayed and tossed by every wind of doctrine is based on a symbolic application of Luke’s account of the storm on the sea. Only Luke explicitly mentions the disciples not only battling against the storm wind but also against the waves.***)

***) Eph. 4:14 κλυδωνιζόμενοι. Luke 8:24 τῷ κλύδωνι

The frequent recommendation of prayer found in all these later letters aligns with the assumption in Luke’s Gospel that Jesus sought prayer in solitude. Moreover, the exhortation in the Colossians’ letter (4:2) to stand firm in prayer reflects the praise that Luke’s Gospel gives to shameless persistence in asking (Luke 11:8).


The lost catchword in the Galatians letter about the false friends who want to “exclude” the believers, as well as that in the first Thessalonians letter about the Jews who want to hinder the apostle from bringing salvation to the Gentiles, is taken from the lament in the Luke Gospel about the legal experts who have taken possession of the key to knowledge and prevent those who are entering *) – likewise the catchwords in the exhortation of the Ephesians letter: “therefore, gird up your loins,” and the exhortation of Luke: “let your loins be girded” **).

*) Gal 4:17 ἐκκλεῖσαι ὑμᾶς θέλουσιν. 1 Thess 2:16 [corrected from 1:16]  κωλυόντων.  Luke 11:52 τοὺς εἰσερχομένους ἐκωλύσατε.

**) Eph 6:14 στῆτε οὖν περιζωσάμενοι τὴν ὀσφὺν ὑμῶν.
Luke 12:35 ἔστωσαν ὑμῶν αἱ ὀσφύες περιεζωσμέναι


On the other hand, the one who composed the original version of the current Luke’s Gospel, known as “Urlukas,” already knew the first Corinthians letter – he could have taken the twisted wording of the saying of the Lord, according to which his followers should take up their cross daily,***) only from the naturally related expression of the same letter: “I die daily.” He also used the category of the faithful steward in addition to that of the faithful servant in the parable of the wise servant †), only because of his dependence on the same letter. The addition to the interpretation of the parable of the sower (Luke 8:12), “so that they may not believe and be saved,” which is patterned after the first section of the letter to the Romans, is just as unnecessary, since the fate of those who are like the seed that fell on the path is already sealed by the fact that the devil comes and takes the word from their heart, as the birds come and eat the seed along the path in the parable itself.*) Likewise, Urlukas, like the authors of the later letters, remained faithful **) to the supposed Pauline category of “the kingdom of God” (the abstraction and universalization of the kingdom of heaven, which is the standing category of the original gospel). The Apostle’s phrase in the first Corinthians letter (15:9) that he is the least of the apostles seems to me to be too natural and much too fully worked out, and the contrast to which the glory of the grace that has raised him above all other apostles forms (v. 10) seems to me to be too subtly elaborated and motivated for me to believe that the author had that saying in mind, which in the Luke’s Gospel ***) is nothing more than a lost cause. The most I could agree to is that the gospel source material that Urlukas and the author of the first Corinthians letter used contained that saying in a more appropriate, more prominent position. However, it is certain that there was already a gospel document before Urlukas that took a reconciling view of the apostle to the Gentiles. The mechanical and inappropriate manner in which the saying about the foreign exorcist is inserted in Luke’s Gospel (9:49-50), which represents the father who revealed this to the wise and understanding but hid it from the infants, leads us back to an original gospel source from which the author of the first Corinthians letter borrowed the material for his antithesis between the divine favor of the foolish and the humiliation of the wise (1:27) and for the hidden wisdom of God (2:7).

***) Luke 9:23 ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καθ᾿ ἡμέραν 1 Cor 15:31 καθ᾿ ἡμέραν ἀποθνήσκω.

†) Luke 12:43 is the name of this servant, the Matth. 24:45 [corrected from 24:25] ὁ πιστὸς δοῦλος is also δοῦλος, against it V. 42 πιστὸς οἰκονόμος — compare 1 Cor 4:2.

*) Even in the redaction that Urlukas gave to the parable itself, it is an inappropriate exaggeration when that seed (v. 5) is also trampled.

**) Compare, for example, the natural wording of 1 Cor. 4:20 with the convoluted wording of Luke 17:20.

***) Luke 9:48 “Whoever is the least among you all is the greatest.”


In short, my discovery that the author of the first Corinthians had access to that Gospel text from which Urlukas borrowed a great deal of his enrichments of the primitive Gospel has now also been secured from this perspective – as for the other letters, I believe I have done enough for the beginning if I founded the rational basis for research, even though the futility of the questioning corresponds to that of the most decisive answers – supported by this success, I therefore turn back to the Gospels to first determine their relationship to the ecclesiastical literature of the second century.



BRUNO BAUER: Criticism of the Pauline Letters – in English

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by Neil Godfrey

Machine translated by Neil Godfrey from Kritik der paulinischen Briefe – March 2023

  1. Contents of the three volumes
  2. Section 1: Origin of the Galatians Epistle
  3. Section 2: Origin of the First Corinthians Letter
  4. Third and Last Section – a. 2 Corinthians
  5. Third and Last Section – b. Romans
  6. Third and Last Section – c. The Pastoral Epistles
  7. Third and Last Section – d. The Letters to the Thessaslonians
  8. Third and Last Section – e. Ephesians and Colossians
  9. Third and Last Section – f. Philippians
  10. Third and Last Section – g. Conclusion


I compiled the table below to illustrate Bruno Bauers’s conclusion (see “10. Third and Last Section – g. Conclusion”) on the order in which the New Testament works were composed:

Pastorals The final documents

1 Thess Philip Eph Col


Acts – Luke  ?=====? 2 Corinthians

Possibly Part 2 of Romans precedes Acts-Luke – but not absolutely certain

Part 3 of Romans


1 Corinthians 

part 1 of Romans

1st Gospel Document The earliest document



How the Gospels Became History

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by Neil Godfrey

We discuss here the second of three parts of the chapter about "scriptural fulfillments" 
in Nanine Charbonnel's Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier . . . 

. . .

The Jewish Scriptures spoke of times that were supposed to be fulfilled in coming days and in the text of the New Testament we read of those events having been fulfilled.

What is going on here? Nanine Charbonnel (NC) picks up from her earlier discussion of “midrash” and other specifically Hebrew techniques [the links below take you to posts where that earlier discussion was presented here] and begins to show how they apply to the creation of Jesus in the gospels.


The word of God has the power to create its own fulfilment

Readers of the Jewish Scriptures were confronted with passages such as Isaiah 55:11

. . . my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.

Healing at Pool of Bethesda. (From Picryl) But here’s the problem. This sort of detail is not what we find in other works that really are historical accounts in the ancient Greco-Roman world.

There is a point of Hebrew grammar here that needs some explanation because it is quite unlike anything in English.

Our verbs have tenses, most simply, past, present and future. Hebrew verbs don’t, well not quite. Instead, they express either completed and incomplete actions, perfect and imperfect. The perfect form or completed action can be translated as the past tense: e.g. I said, I have said, etc.; the imperfect or incomplete action can be translated as either the present or future tense: e.g. I shall say, I am saying, etc.

But there’s a catch. The little consonant, waw = ו (meaning “and”), just to make it interesting, can be added to either of these Hebrew “tenses” and reverse them! So a ו added to a perfect verb (I said) turns it into a present or future tense; and a ו added to an imperfect (future tense) turns it into a past or perfect tense.

Such is my no doubt very simplistic and overly simplistic explanation of the little I have read about Hebrew and what I gleaned from NC’s discussion of that particular point.

The point is that Hebrew expressions can be ambivalent about when, or the time, they are supposed to refer to. Many of us are aware, for example, of how a passage translated in the past tense in the Bible is understood by the reader to refer to a future event.

I better stop here before I get myself in over my head. It’s a long time since I’ve attempted to learn any basic Hebrew. But I am reasonably confident that the above is more or less how Hebrew works and what NC is addressing.

And Jeremiah 1:12

Then the Lord said to me, “You have seen well, for I am ready to perform My word.”

Then Jeremiah 33:

14 ‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will perform that good thing which I have promised to the house of Israel and to the house of Judah:

15 ‘In those days and at that time
I will cause to grow up to David
A Branch of righteousness;
He shall execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.
16 In those days Judah will be saved,
And Jerusalem will dwell safely.
And this is the name by which she will be called:

That “I will perform” is an instance of that waw at work: וַהֲקִֽמֹתִי֙ — so the past or perfect tense (have performed) is transformed into a present or future tense (will perform).

The Church Fathers were aware of this linguistic aspect of the Hebrew. Irenaeus explains it in his Discourse in Demonstration of the Apostolic Preaching, para 67:

At this point let us speak of His healings. Isaiah says thus:

He took our infirmities and bare our sicknesses: (Isa. liii. 4)

that is to say, He shall take, and shall bear. For there are passages in which the Spirit of God through the prophets recounts things that are to be as having taken place. For that which with God is essayed and conceived of as determined to take place, is reckoned as having already taken place: and the Spirit, regarding and seeing the time in which the issues of the prophecy are fulfilled, utters the words (accordingly). 

Eschatological expectation

I am not so convinced that “messianic movements” were a feature of Second Temple Judaism as I have discussed in other posts. But I present NC’s thesis here as accurately as I can. On the other hand, I do find her point about prophets at the time very interesting.

NC stresses the importance of “the intensity of eschatological anticipation” in Israel from the time of their Babylonian exile and especially through to the time of Daniel and no doubt at the time of the Roman conquest and plundering of the Jerusalem temple in 63 BCE. The great sociologist Max Weber’s testimony is brought in to emphasize the point.

Peculiar for the Israelite expectation is the increasing intensity with which paradise, or the savior prince, were projected into the future: the first out of the past, the last out of the present. This did not happen in Israel alone, but this expectancy has never become central to religious faith with such obviously ever-increasing momentum. Yahwe’s old berith with Israel, his promise in conjunction with the criticism of the miserable present made this possible. But only the momentum of prophecy made Israel to this unique degree a people of “hope” and “tarrying” (Gen. 49: 18).

(Weber, 233)

This messianic hope in the life of Israel was “messianic”. An ideal figure, an “anointed” one, was “typically Jewish”, we might say. What made the Messiah or Christ figure of Christianity so different was that this figure was to be preached to the entire world, to all nations; he transcended “the Jewish people”. Jesus will be the “anointed” (=”messiah”, “christ”) for all of humanity, not just the Jews. This is the message of “Third Isaiah” — Isaiah 56-66.

For the sake of a refresher here are some passages from those chapters (though not quoted by NC here): Continue reading “How the Gospels Became History”


The Christian Revolution: The Threefold Fulfillment of Scripture

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by Neil Godfrey

Continuing with Nanine Charbonnel's Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier . . . 

. . .

We are not talking about a violent revolution but a revolution in the way the Jewish Scriptures were read, the one that launched Christianity itself, or at least Christianity as we know it to be grounded in belief in the four gospels.

Nanie Charbonnel (NC) begins the nitty-gritty of her discussion with this question of hermeneutics. The Jewish Scriptures came to be read as foreshadowings of what was to be fulfilled as reality in Christianity. (This is to be distinguished from the sort of allegorical reading Philo practised. For Christians it was important to begin with the understanding that the OT spoke of historical reality that was rather like a shadow-acting out of what was to come.) There were three types of fulfilment all bound up together:

1. The promises, the prophets, the psalms, in the OT were read as having been fulfilled in the last days which were “here and now” — the “old” Israel was replaced by a “new” and “true” Israel;

2. History itself was at an end, being completed in the “here and now” of the days of the advent of God’s works through the introduction of “Christianity”;

3. The true moral meaning of the Scriptures was found in Christian interpretation: the “old” Jewish reading of the Scriptures was barren, literal, legalistic, dominated by a God of wrath; the “new” Christian reading was life, spiritual, faith, introducing a God of love.

And all of these fulfillments culminated in Jesus.

Our “Christian tradition” has misunderstood the original meaning of this fulfilment with respect to ethics. Often we have heard and read about how Christianity introduced a “spiritual” and higher ethic than was found in the OT, so different that the advent of Christianity can be seen as the marker of a new evolutionary phase for humanity. Notice, for example, the way the word “τέλειος” has been translated in Jesus’ instruction to the rich man who wanted eternal life.

Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

But the word more strictly means “fulfilled”, “completed”, “accomplished”. The idea is not that Jesus was teaching a hitherto unknown level of perfection, but that he was teaching fulfilment of an ideal, a hope.

The Prophets longed for a time when God’s rule would bring about mercy, justice, healing. The Beatitudes we read from the mouth of Jesus were not a new teaching per se but rather a fulfilment of what was once expressed as a longed-for hope. Recall Isaiah 61:

Matthew 5:

3 Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord,
And the day of vengeance of our God;
To comfort all who mourn,
3 To console those who mourn in Zion,
To give them beauty for ashes,
The oil of joy for mourning,
The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness;
That they may be called trees of righteousness . . .

The “superior ethic” is in fact a proclamation of eschatology. The prophecy, the hope of the old, has been fulfilled.

We know of different ways Jews have sought to find meanings in the Scriptures by exploring and “discovering” various nuances of meaning, but when we come to early Christian interpretations of the Scriptures we have changed tracks and tended to assume that the first Christian exegetes were beginning with historical events and looking for explanations of those events in the Scriptures. The Jesuit priest Xavier Leon-Dufour, sums up this viewpoint:

Some points are accepted by all. Long before the early Christians, Scripture was referred to as the manifestation of the word of God; but we did it differently. [Other than the targumim,] sometimes we wanted to comment on the text of the Scripture to make it more alive and more assimilable: the inquiries of the rabbis ended in the midrashim. Still earlier it was declared that such a prophecy, for example that of Habakkuk, announced in its own way the events experienced by contemporaries: we know the Qumran pesher. In all these cases we therefore sought to actualize the divine Word. The first Christians did not do otherwise: for them too, the key to interpreting the events they had just experienced was found in the Holy Scriptures. . . .

Something, however, radically differentiates their practice from Jewish exegesis. What is first for Christians is not the scriptural text, but the event. If they use Scripture, it is not to comment on it according to their time; it is to better understand the events experienced by them.

(From Preface to C.H. Dodd’s French edition of According to the Scriptures, NC: 155)

The Christian approach has been to begin with the historical reality of events addressed in their gospels and to then turn to read the Jewish Scriptures as “proofs” of the divine will and acts behind those events. The irony, NC asserts, is that those events were originally created from texts that had been written (in Hebrew) as Jewish midrash or pesher.

The original church or Christians did not see themselves as some sort of substitute for Judaism; they saw themselves as a fulfilment of Israel according to God’s plan. That is how the assembly in Jerusalem at Pentecost in the opening of Acts is presented.

The New Testament is nothing more than an expression of the belief that the promises of the OT are fulfilled. The New Covenant is essentially the book of Deuteronomy, for instance, with the only difference being that what was promised in Deuteronomy is fulfilled in the NT. Jesus himself is the New Israel, the new people of God, fulfilling the law perfectly. Even his conquering of death is part of this fulfilment since this, too, was part of the hope of Israel.

The “good news” that Jesus preaches is that he himself is the “good news”. He is the kingdom brought near to all. Many readers today, including scholars, have drawn the same interpretation of Jesus’ message, but that’s where they have stopped. They have failed to go on to the next step that should follow from that point: that Jesus himself is a figure created to express that idea. The Jesus figure is created from the promises of the OT as a fulfilment of the OT. He is not a real figure to whom followers sought to attach descriptive scriptures.

What we need to examine are the hermeneutic practices in the Jewish Bible and how it came about that those techniques became confused with “prophecies” that found fulfilment in historical reality.

Charbonnel, Nanine. 2017. Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier. Paris: Berg International.


How Open To Radically Fresh Ideas Are New Testament Scholars Really?

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by Neil Godfrey

6th August: corrected the first quote: the first line should have read 

I had supposed that scholars were dedicated to the pursuit of truth, wherever that might lead, and that new ideas would always be welcome. 


Even some of the more conservative of New Testament scholars boast how they belong to a guild that prides itself on craving exploration for new insights, that is committed to testing the old ideas following wherever the truth may lead. Emeritus Professor Larry Hurtado about a year ago posted one such claim that as stridently endorsed by fellow faithful Christian soldiers/scholars James McGrath and Jim West:

The field of NT/Christian Origins, for example, is now more diverse, with more approaches, more perspectives, than ever; and probably most scholars dream of being able to correct or refute some established view, or successfully lodge some new view, or publish some hitherto unknown or insufficiently noted datum. 

Innocent bystanders might raise an eyebrow at such claims emanating from a field that looks for all the world as if it is dominated by persons with a conflict of interest to such a pursuit. The vast majority are clearly committed in some fashion to the faith their scholarship seeks to underpin (or test).

I responded critically to the main theme of Larry’s disingenuously self-serving remarks because they sounded to me so contrary to what I have known researchers in “real” say about their fields. Do theologians really believe their own propaganda aimed at the masses of unwashed outsiders?

Fortunately not all do.

I have just had the pleasure of reading the memoirs of Michael Goulder, Five Stones and a Sling: Memoirs of a Biblical Scholar. Goulder is most noted for keeping the torch burning for the Austin Farrer thesis — the thesis that Luke knew and used Matthew and that there was no Q document behind either of these gospels — until Mark Goodacre came along to stand at his side and take up the cause.

There’s much in Goulder’s memoirs to write about but here let’s just see what this renowned scholar had to say about his own scholarly peers and their willingness to take up new ideas.

He explains the disappointment he experienced when scholars first dismissed his carefully reasoned arguments without any attempt to engage seriously with them: Continue reading “How Open To Radically Fresh Ideas Are New Testament Scholars Really?”


How the New Testament Works

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by Neil Godfrey

David Trobisch reminds us in The First Edition of the New Testament that the books of the New Testament canon have been arranged in way that conveys its own message to readers. So editors responsible for the arrangement of the books send a message to readers. This is part of what Trobisch explains is “the editorial concept”.

So we open the New Testament and the first book we see is the Gospel of Matthew. Now the author’s name is nowhere found in the book itself. Someone has added the title and author heading to it. So who is this Matthew? We read the book and see Matthew is one of the Twelve Disciples. So the reader is led to understand that this first book is written by one of the Twelve who were with Jesus.

Next comes the Gospel of Mark, and the reader is left curious as to Mark’s identity. But the editor has collated other books and perhaps even added the odd “incidental” line that leads the reader to learn who he is, too. I’ll return to this later.

Then we read The Gospel of Luke. This work begins with a claim that leads readers to understand many others had attempted to write gospels before this one. The reader has already turned the pages of two of these. Now this Gospel is tied by the preambles to the Book of Acts that soon follows. Now Acts concludes suddenly with an imprisoned Paul preaching in Rome and waiting trial. The reader was expecting to read about the death of Paul. Moreover, some passages in Acts are written in the first person. It is natural, then, for the reader to conclude that Acts was written prior to the death of Paul.

And if Acts was written in the life-time of Paul, then so must have been the Gospel of Luke that precedes Acts. Yet the reader has seen that Luke follows earlier gospels still, such as Matthew and Mark. It is natural, then, for the reader to view these first three gospels as all being composed very early and during the life-time of Paul and other apostles.

Continue reading “How the New Testament Works”


Why did they put contradictory gospels together in the New Testament?

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by Neil Godfrey

trobisch1The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and the Gospel of John contradict each other on the date of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Synoptics tell us Jesus ate the Passover sacrificial meal with his disciples the evening before he died; the Gospel of John that Jesus was crucified at the same time of the Passover sacrifice. In the Gospel of John there is no description of a ritual meal — “take, eat, this is my body, etc” — on the eve of Jesus’ arrest.

Whoever was responsible for collecting those gospels with such a blatant contradiction and placing them side by side in a holy canon? What on earth were they thinking?

David Trobisch in The First Edition of the New Testament offers an intriguing explanation. His explanation is in fact only one small point in a small volume that raises several major new ways of understanding the evidence for the origins of the New Testament canon. The back cover blurb sums it up:

The First Edition of the New Testament is a groundbreaking book that argues that the New Testament is not the product of a centuries-long process of development. Its history, David Trobisch finds, is the history of a book — an all Greek Christian bible — published as early as the second century C.E. and intended by its editors to be read as a whole. Trobisch claims that this bible achieved wide circulation and formed the basis of all surviving manuscripts of the New Testament. 

In the first part of his book Trobisch argues that certain characteristics of the surviving manuscript trail are best explained if they all originated from a carefully edited collection. That is, from a canonical New Testament very similar to the New Testament with which we are familiar today. The traditional understanding has been that the New Testament canon was a relatively late development and many of the surviving manuscripts originated solo long before the various works were collated into the NT. Trobisch points to features in common across most of these manuscripts that indicate otherwise —

  • English: Folio 115 recto of the codex with the...
    English: Folio 115 recto of the codex with the beginning of the Gospel of John (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

    the common use of the nomina sacra,

  • the adaptation for a codex form of publication,
  • the uniform order and number of writings in the manuscript tradition;
  • the common formulation of the titles,
  • and the evidence that the collection was known as the “New Testament” from the beginning.

The second part of his book is another fascinating exploration, this time of the “editorial concept” of the New Testament. Trobisch alerts us to many features many of us who have grown up with the New Testament know all too well but have tended to take for granted. I am thinking of those many little cross-references and “coincidental” positions of the books in relation to one another. The NT is collated like a little code book in some ways. There is just enough information placed strategically to allow us to discern a real historic unity behind all of the books and to see who has written what and what the historical relationship of each of the authors was with one another. (I’m talking about a naive popular reading of the NT.) So towards the end of 2 Peter and 2 Timothy we find Peter and Paul writing in ways that lead us to think all their earlier differences (e.g. in Galatians) were patched over and they ended up as spiritually affectionate brothers. There are enough references here and there to Mark to alert us to identifying the apparent author of the second gospel as the companion of Peter. Similarly Luke is given enough “incidental” references for us to identify him as a beloved physician and companion of Paul and author of Luke-Acts. In a codex form it would have been a thrill to explore back and forth to see how all of the works do relate to one another, how their authors’ histories with one another can be discerned, and above all, how all the various ideas and teachings were really from the one spirit and pointed to real underlying harmony in the church from its beginnings.

As we have seen, Trobisch believes the best explanation for the details of the manuscript evidence is that the New Testament as we know it was collated much earlier than generally thought. He places around the middle/latter half of the second century.

Now we come to our little detail of the contradiction over the date of the crucifixion.

Continue reading “Why did they put contradictory gospels together in the New Testament?”


Oral Tradition Is Unnecessary to Explain the Gospels

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by Neil Godfrey

This post concludes Thomas Brodie’s critique of the role oral tradition has played in Biblical studies, especially with respect to accounting for the Gospel narratives about Jesus. It is taken from chapter 6 of The Birthing the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of the New Testament Writings.

Even if a hypothesis is unclear in its foundation, and even if in practice there are serious difficulties with getting it to work, perhaps in some way it is still the only apparent response to a real need. It is appropriate therefore to ask whether the hypothesis of oral tradition is necessary to New Testament studies. (p. 60)


.Reasons for seeing Oral Tradition as Necessary. .Thomas Brodie’s responses.
“Gospel texts follow the rhythms of oral speech.” “Oral rhythms do not require reliance on oral tradition.
“Oral rhythms are a quality of both oral communication and much writing, especially ancient writing.”
“Someone sitting silently at a computer can compose oral rhythms with a view to being heard by the ear.”
“The variations between the gospels correspond to the variations that occur in oral communication.” This looks plausible at first glance.
But look closely at the differences between the gospels and one begins to see a very deliberate variation governed by a quite different and coherent theological strategy.
Differences that arise through oral transmission alone are not like this; they are accidental and haphazard.
Oral tradition fills the gap between the historical Jesus and the Gospels. “Oral tradition may or may not assure more historicity.
“From a historical point of view, the ideal is that the evangelist is an eye-witness to the gospel events – thus needing no tradition whatever – or else speaks directly to such a witness.
Interjecting an unpredictable chain of communication into a period of less than a lifetime has the effect not of promoting claims to historicity, but of dissipating them.”
Besides, it is “not appropriate” (I would say it is “invalid”) that “a desire for a particular type of historical conclusion should predetermine the idea of how the gospels were composed.”
If the idea of oral tradition is to stand, it must stand on its own inherent merits.
“Oral tradition is embedded in the fabric of New Testament studies, in the prevailing paradigm, and, for the moment at least, there is no alternative paradigm to replace it.” “It is true that oral tradition has been embedded in the fabric of NT studies and is central to the prevailing paradigm. But that situation is changing rapidly.
“The literary approach, despite its teething problems – its occasional obscurity, pretentiousness, and narrowness – is not an esoteric game.
“Rather, the literary approach provides the context which, when developed, offers the best prospect for future research. It restores the writings to their role as literature, even sacred literature, and it does not exclude theology and historical investigation. On the contrary, it sets history and theology on a firmer footing.”
The Gospels portray scenes of people speaking, often in the open air. It is a scene of oral simplicity.“Such simplicity corresponds with the simplicity suggested by oral tradition.” True, the gospels do depict scenes of simplicity far removed, most often, from the world of writing.
“However, the fact that a scene is rustic need not mean that the artist who portrays it is rustic. A film, for instance, may portray rural life but be produced in the countryside by city dwellers using highly technical methods. Likewise, the simplicity portrayed in the gospels need not indicate the way the gospels were composed.”

(The quotations are from pages 60 and 61 of The Birthing of the New Testament. Formatting is my own.) Continue reading “Oral Tradition Is Unnecessary to Explain the Gospels”


Oral Tradition in NT Studies is Unworkable

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by Neil Godfrey

Thomas Brodie has shown that the theory that the Gospel narratives began as oral traditions is not founded on valid logical argument. Nonetheless, he recognizes that an idea that rests on little more than mere presumption “may still be useful as a working hypothesis.” So he proceeds to explore whether the theory of oral tradition works in New Testament studies. What follows is from Brodie’s chapter 6 of The Birthing the New Testament — all posts archived here.


First, here’s a chart of the arguments attempting to explain how oral tradition worked — as covered by Brodie. He covers many scholars in quick succession and it can be a bit numbing for someone wanting a quick blog read and who is unfamiliar with the topic to take it all in very easily. I use the many colourful images that have arise in the various attempts to explain how oral tradition is supposed to work:

Continue reading “Oral Tradition in NT Studies is Unworkable”


Oral Tradition Behind Gospels and OT: Unfounded, Unworkable and Unnecessary

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by Neil Godfrey

As signalled in a comment on my recent post on the single authorship of Genesis to 2 Kings, I have decided it best to back-track a little before continuing that series and posting a little on how oral tradition came to be a ruling paradigm among Biblical scholars and why an increasing number of scholars, especially those who study the Gospels, are coming to question whether it has any place at all in the creation of the biblical stories. This post begins to cover Thomas L. Brodie’s chapter, “Oral Tradition: Wonderfully Plausible but Radically Problematic”, in The Birthing of the New Testament: The Intertextual Development of New Testament Writings.


There was a time when the gospels were seen as the product of writing — of competent authors using some ancient form of pen and writing materials. It was presumed that the evangelists [i.e. gospel authors] had either been present at many of the events they described (like Matthew and John) or had received their information from authoritative sources (Mark from Peter, and Luke perhaps partly from Paul.) (p. 51, The Birthing of the New Testament, by Thomas L. Brodie)

Given that the time-gap between the events narrated and the gospels was at most fifty or sixty years, it was understood that eye-witness testimony in some form (oral or written) was available to even the latest of evangelists.

Hermann Gunkel

Enter Oral Tradition as the New Paradigm

Julius Wellhausen in 1876 made mention of oral tradition but it was Hermann Gunkel in his 1901 commentary on Genesis who

used it as a model and who thus introduced it to the center of biblical studies.

Gunkel went against the perceptions of those who had gone before by failing to see Genesis as artistic literature. Further, Gunkel implied that his model “could be applied to the life of Jesus.” (Brodie, p. 51)

In effect, he gave the twentieth century a new paradigm.

The Gospels become UNliterary

Soon the new idea of “form criticism” began to appear in New Testament studies. Wellhausen went beyond Gunkel’s implication and secured a central role for oral tradition in Jesus studies with his series of commentaries and introductions to the gospels 1905-1911. Bultmann summarized Wellhausen’s contribution:

The oldest tradition consisted almost entirely of small fragments . . . and did not present a continuous story of . . . Jesus. When these fragments were collected they were connected so as to form a continuous narrative. . . [Wellhausen] showed not only that they evangelists’ narratives . . . were secondary, but also that oral tradition was steadily producing more and more new sayings of Jesus. (Bultmann, 1926, quoted on p. 51 Birthing of the New Testament)

K. L. Schmidt introduced the model of the Gospel of Mark that has been widely embraced among scholars up to today and that has been discussed in recent posts reviewing Jesus, Criteria, and the Demise of Authenticity:

In 1919 he used Gunkel’s model to distinguish between Mark’s framework, which Schmidt reckoned came from the evangelist, and Mark’s various units, which Schmidt assigned to oral tradition . . . Continue reading “Oral Tradition Behind Gospels and OT: Unfounded, Unworkable and Unnecessary”


Did Jesus exist for minimalist and Jesus Process member Philip Davies?

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by Neil Godfrey

Philip Davies

Emeritus Professor Philip Davies has not been able to “resist making a contribution to the recent spate of exchanges between scholars about the existence of Jesus” in an opinion piece titled Did Jesus Exist? on The Bible and Interpretation website. It is a question that he says “has always been lurking within New Testament scholarship generally”, though the occasion of his essay appears to be the recent set of exchanges over the views of Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey and Thomas L. Thompson on that website along with some thoughts on the recently released ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’.

(Since Davies was also announced as a member of The Jesus Process (c) (TJP), it is encouraging to see someone from that august body addressing the tactic of the gutter rhetoric that we have endured recently from other TJP members Joseph Hoffmann, Maurice Casey and Stephanie Fisher. It would be nice to hope that Davies’ article can mark a turn for the better from that quarter at least.)

Philip Davies is (in)famous for his 1992 publication In Search of ‘Ancient Israel’ (partly outlined on vridar.info) that is reputed to have brought “minimalist” arguments on the Old Testament to a wider scholarly (and public) awareness. In Did Jesus Exist? Davies says he has “often thought how a ‘minimalist’ approach might transfer to the New Testament, and in particular the ‘historical Jesus’”, and infers that the collection of articles in ‘Is This Not the Carpenter?’ is an appropriate way to open the question.

(I don’t think it is all that difficult to apply a “minimalist” approach to the New Testament: it’s a simple matter of approaching the data with the same logical validity and consistency — the avoidance of circularity [and circularity of method is confessed by several historical Jesus/NT scholars] in particular. The hard part is in acknowledging the circularity given our cultural conditioning.)


NT studies “not a normal case”, ad hominem rhetoric, and hope

He points out that what is uncontroversial in any other field of ancient history runs into trouble when suggested in the field of New Testament studies (my emphasis): Continue reading “Did Jesus exist for minimalist and Jesus Process member Philip Davies?”


Mark Goodacre, Criteriology, and the “Appearance” of Science

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by Tim Widowfield

In his latest podcast Mark Goodacre turns his attention to the problem of applying criteria selectively after the fact:

. . . I think that there can then be problems when one tries to make historical Jesus criteria like multiple attestation, like the criterion of embarrassment, do too much. When you take them beyond the introductory student level, into mainstream work on the historical Jesus — because after all, historians don’t work with a great big tool bag of criteria.  Historians don’t, you know, hold up a tradition and say, “OK, let’s kind of dig into the bag and see if we can find a criterion that satisfies this tradition.”  

I just don’t think that’s how historians work a lot of the time.  History’s much more complex than that.  It’s more nuanced; it’s more detailed.  We’re looking at things in all sorts of different ways.  And so I think we have to be a little bit careful about the way that we react to these kinds of criteria.  They can be terribly wooden.  They can be excuses often not to think very clearly.

And worst of all, sometimes what historians of the New Testament — sometimes what historical Jesus scholars do — is they’ll take a tradition they rather like the look of subjectively and then they’ll find some criteria that they can use to make it sound like it’s more plausibly historical.  So the criteria are often applied after the fact, rather than before the fact.  So there’s sort of the appearance of science, the appearance of a sort of scientific validity to what they’re doing.  It’s often just an appearance.

This kind of honest discussion is a breath of fresh air.  For years now, Vridar has been the lonely voice in the wilderness, warning that the historical Jesus scholars were using their criteria to do too much. Besides trying to use criteria that were designed to assign relative probabilities to determine absolute historicity, we’ve noted here countless times, again and again, that HJ scholars appear to apply the criteria selectively, after the fact in order to prove what they wish to be true.

Kudos to Dr. Goodacre. Maybe the next time we have another friendly tussle with Dr. McGrath, Mark will come to our defense — you know, on the side of right — instead of coming to the aid of a beleaguered fellow member of the guild who has once again gotten in over his head.


2 Peters, 1 Jude and 2 Revelations: the first New Testament (Couchoud)

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by Neil Godfrey

Apocalypse of Peter

Continuing the series archived at Couchoud: The Creation of Christ – – – (Couchoud argues that our “editor” – Clement? – compiled 28 books, one more than our current 27 that make up our New Testament and this post concludes the section where Couchoud discusses the origin of our New Testament books.)

The perfect balance of the New Testament still stood in need of a counterweight. Just as the tale of Peter counter-balanced that of Paul in Acts, so the letters of Paul required as counterpoise letters from the Twelve.  There were already in existence a letter by James and three by John.  To make up seven, our editor produced two letters by Peter and one by Jude, John’s brother. (p. 305)

I don’t know if Couchoud here means to suggest “the editor” wrote these epistles himself. I find it difficult to accept the two letters attributed to Peter are by the same hand given what I have come to understand of their strikingly different styles, but let’s leave that question aside for now and cover what Couchoud’s views were as published in English 1939.

1 Peter

This epistle is said to have been a warrant for the Gospel of Mark. (Maybe, but some have suggested the name of Mark for the gospel was taken from this epistle. If it were a warrant for Mark one might be led to call to mind the unusual character of that Gospel. Its reputation had been tinged with “heretical” associations.) In the epistle Peter calls Mark “my son” and is supposed to be in his company in Rome, biblically called “Babylon”. The inference this leads to is that Mark wrote of the life and death of Jesus as learned from the eyewitness Peter. This coheres with Justin’s own naming of the Gospel “Recollections of Peter” in his Dialogue, section 106.

The letter is “a homily addressed to baptized heathen of Asia Minor at the time of a persecution.” Its teachings can be seen to be of the same category as those addressed in the earlier discussions by Couchoud – typical of Clement and anti-Marcionite . . . Continue reading “2 Peters, 1 Jude and 2 Revelations: the first New Testament (Couchoud)”


Historian Demolishes Historical Jesus – Gospel Paradigm

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by Neil Godfrey

Hopi: Image via Wikipedia

Sorry about the sensationalist headline but, being a mortal, I couldn’t resist it this time. (I know one swallow doth not a summer make, but humour me till the rest turn up.)

I wish to thank Dr James McGrath, Clarence Goodwin Chair in New Testament Language and Literature at Butler University, for drawing my attention to a case study published by oral historian Jan Vansina in Oral Tradition as History (1985). (Note I used italics instead of quotation marks for the title this time so that there can be no doubt that I have actually read the book.) {for the uninitiated the link is to Dr McGrath’s post in which he points out that my earlier use of quotation marks for the title of the book is a “suspicious” indicator I had not read it}

Most students and many interested lay readers of New Testament scholarship know that there are two things that are generally accepted in the guild:

  1. the first gospel was composed roughly around 40 years after the death of Jesus
  2. the first gospel is more about a “Jesus of faith” than an historical Jesus since it is so riddled with mythological embellishments

In this post I show that a renowned oral historian publishes a case study that demonstrates the unlikelihood that mythological embellishments could possibly have been added to an “oral report” within 40 years of the event.

So what might the research of oral historians contribute to this critical NT and HJ discussion?

Keep in mind that an axiom of the historical Jesus scholarly guild is that the first Gospel — usually taken to be that of Mark, though some say Matthew, but for our purposes no matter which — is not to be taken as a straight historical record of the words and deeds of Jesus. It is filled, we are told (as if we needed to be reminded when we read of walking on water, talking to Being in heaven, predictions that the central character will descend from heaven in cataclysmic judgment, etc) with mythological embellishments. That is the very reason why, we are told, historical Jesus scholars cannot work like other historians but must assume the role of “detectives” and come up with additional criteria to convince the sceptics. Continue reading “Historian Demolishes Historical Jesus – Gospel Paradigm”