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The Gospels Are Not Eyewitness Accounts


Mythra
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How about this? A thread devoted strictly to reasons for or against Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John being eyewitness accounts of the significant moments in Jesus' life.

 

Of course, nothing can be proven here, one way or the other. Let's just kick around some things and see what makes the most sense. What becomes the most probable answer.

 

When you start to examine them closely, they start to look less and less like eyewitness accounts. And let's face it. If they are not eyewitness accounts - there is no reason in the world to treat them as though they were the gospel truth.

 

For instance,

 

1. Why did Mark, Luke, and Matthew fail to mention the raising of Lazarus? Makes no sense - unless the writer of John's gospel made it up.

 

2. Why did Mark fail to mention Jesus after he had resurrected. It's pivotal to the story. Yet he left it out.

 

3. Why did Matthew leave out the ascension? If I were telling the story, and it was something I saw, I surely would have included each and every detail of it.

 

4. Why does Matthew borrow approximately 90% of Mark? If Matthew was written by Matthew the disciple of Jesus - he should have been able to tell his own story without using crib notes.

 

5. If these were actually written by Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John - wouldn't the external record show them as such before 180 C.E.? Someone would have mentioned them by name long before this, we have to get to 150 C.E. before anyone even mentions "the memoirs of the apostles". And those references may not have any resemblance to the four gospels as we know them.

 

What about it, christians? Help convince us that the gospels were written by people who actually walked and talked with the LORD JESUS CHRIST himself.

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In John 12:21, the writer references "Bethsaida in Galilee".

 

Bethsaida was on the other side of the Sea of Tiberias, not in Galilee.

 

Funny that John misplaced Bethsaida, being that is was his birthplace, according to tradition.

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It seems your goal is to get Christian responses to this whole topic, and my post really has nothing to add except a request, so I apologize. Anyway, this is a topic I've taken interest in as of late, but it seems a little difficult finding credible internet sources on the subject. If you have any links or suggestions to learn more about this, I'd be greatful if you could provide them.

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No, we'll take input from normal, rational thinking individuals. As well as christians. :HaHa:

 

There's tons of good info on the internet as well as plenty of hyperbole and semi-trash.

 

Here is a pretty good article about the reliability of the gospels.

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And as for the Gospels and who wrote them, why did Jeezus™ not write one? Was it not really that important? Was it because Jeezus™, if he lived at all, only intended his message to be conveyed to his fellow Jews, since he said he only came for the "lost sheep of Israel"?

 

Was it because Jeezus™, if he really lived at all, wanted his followers to believe the End of the World™ was at hand, like in all those passages where he clearly seems to say so? Hence the need for copying down his words and deeds would be irrelevant, since The End™ was soon to come?

 

Or what was the reason we don't just have any eyewitness accounts of Jeezus'™ life, but no words he directly wrote himself, or at least directly transcribed to some of his fans?

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One (and only one) of your points struck me as an objective argument, so I did a little research. Here's what I found.

 

"Bethsaida was on the other side of the Sea of Tiberias, not in Galilee."

According to this map, Galilee is the area on the west and north of the Sea of Galilee (also called the Sea of Tiberias). Archaeologists located Bethsaida about 1.5 km north of the the Sea in 1996, and have evidence that the sea was, at that time, a little larger than today. Therefore Bethsaida was indeed in Galilee. And interestingly enough, no one in medieval times could have known it, since the city wasn't excavated until recently.

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The map you linked to doesn't show the possible location for Bethsaida. I have read that there may be two locations found for Bethsaida, and there are some differing opinions. My information came from Bronson Keeler's "A Short History of the Bible".

 

He says this:

 

"The Gospel of John says that Bethsaida was in Galilee. There is no such town in that district, and there never was. Bethsaida was on the east side of the Sea of Tiberias, whereas Galilee was on the west side. St. John was born at Bethsaida, and the probability is that he would know the geographical location of his own birthplace."

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Here is an article showing the two possible locations for Bethsaida. Both look to be on the east side of the Sea of Tiberias and the Jordan River.
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"The map you linked to doesn't show the possible location for Bethsaida."

I linked to two maps. The second link, which describes the archaeological dig, shows its location on the northern tip of the Sea of Galilee. It also describes how the dig was not shown conclusively to be that of the ancient city of Bethsaida until 1996. Bronson Keeler, writing in 1888, could not have known this. He was promoting mere speculation when he said "There is no such town in that district, and there never was." This, it turns out, was not only something he couldn't know, it was also false.

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Okay - we'll concede that you may be right on that point.

 

Do you have any reasonable evidence to show that the author of Luke did not derive all of his historical details from reading Josephus?

 

Luke and Josephus

 

We're still looking for some plausible reasons to come to the conclusion that the four canonical gospels were eyewitness accounts.

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:)Mythra, I don't know how we expect there to be many primary resources from the time that Jesus lived, since it immediately became a life threatening issue if you were associated with this cult. If one were to sense this danger, I'm sure they'd burn whatever they had, if they were brave enough to have anything! So who is going to spend all day hand writing these teachings and passing them out? I don't think the Gideons would have done well in those days. :HaHa:

 

I have recently heard of a book that evidently predates these others... supposedly 30 CE! It's called The Passion Narratives. It is not in complete alignment with the other biblical books, therefore maybe why it is often dismissed. (Maybe it is before much of the myths were also added, IDK) However, it does speak from an eye witness accout. The only info I could dig up on it now is here, and click on Flavius Josephus (Early Christian Writings), then on the Chronological List where you will then find the Passion Narrative the first one listed. It would not allow me to copy and paste excepts here, although its evaluation does seem to come from an objective viewpoint. Are you already familiar with it?

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:)Mythra, I don't know how we expect there to be many primary resources from the time that Jesus lived, since it immediately became a life threatening issue if you were associated with this cult. If one were to sense this danger, I'm sure they'd burn whatever they had, if they were brave enough to have anything! So who is going to spend all day hand writing these teachings and passing them out? I don't think the Gideons would have done well in those days. :HaHa:

 

How was it life threatening? According to what truly secular resource?

 

If you mean the Romans well....

 

http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/xtianpersecute.html

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:)Mythra, I don't know how we expect there to be many primary resources from the time that Jesus lived, since it immediately became a life threatening issue if you were associated with this cult. If one were to sense this danger, I'm sure they'd burn whatever they had, if they were brave enough to have anything! So who is going to spend all day hand writing these teachings and passing them out? I don't think the Gideons would have done well in those days. :HaHa:

 

I have recently heard of a book that evidently predates these others... supposedly 30 CE! It's called The Passion Narratives. It is not in complete alignment with the other biblical books, therefore maybe why it is often dismissed. (Maybe it is before much of the myths were also added, IDK) However, it does speak from an eye witness accout. The only info I could dig up on it now is here, and click on Flavius Josephus (Early Christian Writings), then on the Chronological List where you will then find the Passion Narrative the first one listed. It would not allow me to copy and paste excepts here, although its evaluation does seem to come from an objective viewpoint. Are you already familiar with it?

 

Amanda, sorry but I can't find the link to "passion narrative" could you please check.

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I'm going to give an argument, there's plenty of examples in the Gospels that are obviously NOT eyewitness accounts. I'm not going to argue that nothing in the Gospels were eyewitness accounts, but I can argue there are many stories that were not.

 

First of all, lets establish eyewitness. An eyewitness is a person that with his own eyes observed the event. Not that he wrote down the story based on someone elses retelling of the story.

 

These stories are from obvious reasons not observed by the authors themselves:

 

The nativity story. Did Joseph shapeshift into on of the authors? Or Mary?

 

Jesus temptation in the desert. How would the author "see" the Devil's temptations?

 

Jesus on the mount, in agony, praying, while discples sleeping, how would they know what Jesus said?

 

When Jesus is captured. All the disciples fled. Peter followed. Unless Mark/Matthew/Luke/John is the same as Peter, this is not eyewitness but Peter had to report the story back.

 

Jesus at trial. Only someone inside could have reported back. Second hand accounts again.

 

Mary Magdalene found the empty tomb, but her gospel is not in the Canon. Her Gospel is not considered an eyewitness report, while the Gospel authors retelling her story should be? Doesn't make sense.

 

I could go on. What about the things that happened before Jesus selected the disciples? How would the authors know about those events, unless Jesus told them.

 

All in all, a huge number of the stories in the Gospels are not told by the person that actually saw it, but at the best, written down from hearing the story from the person. The Gospels are mostly hearsay, whichever way to tweak it.

 

And this is based on rational thinking and the Bible itself.

 

True eyewitness accounts should have been reported like this:

 

This is a written down account of what Peter saw, heard and experienced with his walk with Jesus....

And the story by Peter should have been "And I saw the light" or "and Jesus went into the desert, and when he came back he told me that..."

 

But the stories are not told that way. The stories are told like a Harry Potter book. The reader gets to know information that the actors in the story does not know about and can't know about until later or at all.

 

Since the stories are different in places where they should be the same we can say the at least 3 of the 4 were not there.

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How was it life threatening? According to what truly secular resource?

 

If you mean the Romans well....

 

http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/xtianpersecute.html

 

:) White Raven, thanks for the site, it is very interesting... although I don't know how objective it is. And there does not seem to be much information on the initial Christian movement other than the Bible. It is said that Paul, not at the time of Jesus, was amongst those that wanted to eliminate the Christians. Originally, it seemed to be the Jews or Pharisees that had the most against the revolution against them, for the Christians calling them vipers and such.

 

This site, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_o...tians_by_Romans says:

 

The first documented case of imperially-supervised persecution of the Christians in the Roman Empire begins with Nero (37-68). In 64 A.D., a great fire broke out in Rome which destroyed vast portions of the city and economically devastated the Roman population. Nero, whose sanity had long been in question, was widely suspected of having intentionally set the fire himself. In his Annals, Tacitus, states that "to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace" (Tacit. Annals XV, see Tacitus on Jesus). By implicating the Christians for this massive act of arson, Nero successfully capitalized on the already-existing public suspicion of this religious sect and, it could be argued, exacerbated the hostilities held toward them throughout the Roman Empire.
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The only info I could dig up on it now is here, and click on Flavius Josephus (Early Christian Writings), then on the Chronological List where you will then find the Passion Narrative the first one listed.

 

Amanda, sorry but I can't find the link to "passion narrative" could you please check.

 

:) Golden Meadows, I just checked and found it again. I'm unable to copy the direct internet address for the precise page, as it doesn't have one at the top of that page on my computer! It won't even let me copy and paste info to share some of it here! I'm not too computer literate, so IDK what is happening. It does say www.earlychristianwritings.com on the page that lists chronologically these works, The Passion Narrative being first. The actual Passion Narrative page just says that it is having something to do with Microsoft Internet Explorer where the address normally is, if that means anything. If it still does not work for you, maybe you can do a Yahoo search for The Passion Narrative, and find a result that has the virtualreligion.net address, or probably even better would be earlychristianwritings.com? :shrug:

 

 

 

That makes sense.

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The only info I could dig up on it now is here, and click on Flavius Josephus (Early Christian Writings), then on the Chronological List where you will then find the Passion Narrative the first one listed.

 

Amanda, sorry but I can't find the link to "passion narrative" could you please check.

 

:) Golden Meadows, I just checked and found it again. I'm unable to copy the direct internet address for the precise page, as it doesn't have one at the top of that page on my computer! It won't even let me copy and paste info to share some of it here! I'm not too computer literate, so IDK what is happening. It does say www.earlychristianwritings.com on the page that lists chronologically these works, The Passion Narrative being first. The actual Passion Narrative page just says that it is having something to do with Microsoft Internet Explorer where the address normally is, if that means anything. If it still does not work for you, maybe you can do a Yahoo search for The Passion Narrative, and find a result that has the virtualreligion.net address, or probably even better would be earlychristianwritings.com? :shrug:

 

 

 

That makes sense.

 

The link is http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/passion.html but its not what it seems - its only somebody's thesis based on the existing gospel of mark, i.e there is no actual manuscript evidence.

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My understanding of the Nero incident was that Nero started the fire to clear out a section of Rome that he would later build a HUGE pleasure palace on in the heart of the city. Blaming the Christians for it was a political move: blame a small sect of religious fanatics and take the attention away from your own political schemes.

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The link is http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/passion.html but its not what it seems - its only somebody's thesis based on the existing gospel of mark, i.e there is no actual manuscript evidence.

 

:)Golden Meadows, once you get to that thesis, at the top of the page there is a dot with the words following it saying Pre-Markan Passion Narratives. Click on that, and it seems to take you directly to the writings them selves. My apology in not being more clear, as the thesis seems to be an objective assertion as to why the early date placed on it, probably before 37CE. I personally found it all difficult reading, and would take far more focus than I wished to invest. Hopefully I can get someone's insights that find it far more easier reading than I. :wicked:

 

According to the insights HanSolo offered in examining how these scriptures are written, they do not seem to be first person. I would expect this if they were an eye witness to these accounts. Yet, maybe they were of some and not others, and just retelling the whole story, IDK.

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:)Golden Meadows, once you get to that thesis, at the top of the page there is a dot with the words following it saying Pre-Markan Passion Narratives. Click on that, and it seems to take you directly to the writings them selves. My apology in not being more clear, as the thesis seems to be an objective assertion as to why the early date placed on it, probably before 37CE. I personally found it all difficult reading, and would take far more focus than I wished to invest. Hopefully I can get someone's insights that find it far more easier reading than I. :wicked:

Actually if you read it you'll get "the following depends on the Young's Literal Translation of the passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark, verses 14:32-15:47." The discussion is trying to reconstruct the passion narrative from the Mark text using a color coding scheme (ie. if you read only the red text you might be reading the oldest, original passion play...but all the text combined is simply Mark).

 

mwc

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Actually if you read it you'll get "the following depends on the Young's Literal Translation of the passion narrative in the Gospel of Mark, verses 14:32-15:47." The discussion is trying to reconstruct the passion narrative from the Mark text using a color coding scheme (ie. if you read only the red text you might be reading the oldest, original passion play...but all the text combined is simply Mark).

 

mwc

 

:thanks:Thanks MWC. So, are the Pre-Markan Passion Narratives mixed into the book of Mark? The scholars seem to disagree with the authenticity of it all being of the earliest writings, which I believe are of the Passion Narrative. Are they of the consensus that Mark is compiled of several authors efforts? I was able to copy and paste now, and the thesis found here seems to say there were more than one author, or different times of writing some information because of the political environment.

 

Theissen finds another reason for the anonymity of the high priest; it was not necessarily for the reason that the writing took place before 37 CE. Rather, during the period between 30 and 70 CE, "there was no time when Caiaphas and his family were not powerful" (p. 173). For this reason, reasons Theissen, "Traditions circulating in their sphere of influence were well advised not to mention their names in a negative context" (p. 173). By contrast, as shown by Philo and Josephus, Pilate "was the subject of more negative tradition than many other prefects and procurators," and so the creators of the original passion narrative had no reason not to mention Pilate by name and to place blame upon him. This situation is changed in the period after the First Jewish Revolt in the writings of Matthew and Luke, in which Pilate is exonerated and the high priest is named without hesitation.

 

On the naming of "James the younger," Theissen writes, "It would have been particularly necessary in Jerusalem to distinguish a 'James the younger' (or 'the less') from the 'older' (or 'greater') bearers of that name in the period circa 30-65 C.E." (p. 178) Theissen speculates that the "Mary of James the younger and the mother of Joses" is to be indentified with the mother of Jesus in Mk 6:3, and thus that "James the younger" is James the brother of Jesus. If this is the case, the expression belongs to the time before 44 C.E., when James the son of Zebedee was more prominent.

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:thanks:Thanks MWC. So, are the Pre-Markan Passion Narratives mixed into the book of Mark? The scholars seem to disagree with the authenticity of it all being of the earliest writings, which I believe are of the Passion Narrative. Are they of the consensus that Mark is compiled of several authors efforts? I was able to copy and paste now, and the thesis found here seems to say there were more than one author, or different times of writing some information because of the political environment.

I'm going to have to go take a closer look at it and let you know. Since there's no actual text (or mention of a text by other authors) this is all speculation on their part (sort of like the Q document). Also, the discussion appears to be purely about the authorship of the passion narrative in Mark and not Mark itself. From what I saw yesterday the argument seemed to be that this narrative seemed different from the rest of the text for a number of reasons. The scholars voted on the various verses and the weighted verses were color coded (which is what you saw referenced as the pre-Marken writing). What I thought they were trying to say is that Mark took the passion narrative from an existing work and placed it within his story (perhaps editing it). So they were trying to divine the "original" (assuming there is one).

 

mwc

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