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What Proof Do We Have That The Gospels Were Written Anonymously


Jds22
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Hey all. One of the first things I remember learning during my deconversion that really impacted me was that the gospels were written anonymously.

 

My question is how was this conclusion reached?

 

I know if I bring this up in a conversation with a believer they will ask me how I know this or what proof do I have. I need to be able to answer this intelligently and not just say because Ehrman and Price say so. :grin:

 

Thanks,

Jerry

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I think the one making the claim of authorship needs to prove it. For example, prove that a real person named John lived during a certain period and personally penned the material we now know as the Gospel of John.

 

Though most scholars agree in placing the gospel of John somewhere between AD 65 and 85, some scholars place the writing of the final edition of John later in the first or early second century. The text itself states only that the Fourth Gospel was written by an anonymous follower of Jesus referred to as the Beloved Disciple. Traditionally he was identified as John the Apostle, who was believed to have lived at the end of his life at Ephesus.

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It's not until the person who claims a book was written by a specific author provides evidence to back up that claim that we can examine the evidence and decide if it is valid or not.

 

When people who claim that a "Matthew" wrote the first gospel provide evidence about Matthew (which Matthew he was, what his ties were to Jesus, the evidence that he wrote some version of the book, etc.) that evidence can be evaluated to determine the probability that it's true. Until the, it's simply heresay.

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Hey all. One of the first things I remember learning during my deconversion that really impacted me was that the gospels were written anonymously.

 

My question is how was this conclusion reached?

 

I know if I bring this up in a conversation with a believer they will ask me how I know this or what proof do I have. I need to be able to answer this intelligently and not just say because Ehrman and Price say so. :grin:

Ummm...what?

 

They're anonymous because nowhere within the texts do the authors identify themselves. This has nothing to do with Ehrman, Price or anyone else...it has everything to do with reading comprehension. Read the gospels for yourself and try to locate the name of the author. You never will. It simply does not exist in any of them.

 

The fragments of Papias is how we've come to get the names for the gospels. And according to what little he wrote we don't have it quite right. But it's from tradition. Not from the texts themselves. The texts are anonymous.

 

mwc

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John 21:20-25 is written to make it look like one of the apostles wrote this gospel. In all likelihood it's pseudonymous.

 

The fragments of Papias is how we've come to get the names for the gospels

I didn't even know we had that! I thought it was quotations of Papias by Eusebius that remained behind.

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John 21:20-25 is written to make it look like one of the apostles wrote this gospel. In all likelihood it's pseudonymous.

Are you sure about that?

 

20 Then Peter, turning round, saw the disciple who was dear to Jesus coming after them--the disciple who was resting on his breast at the last meal, and said, Lord, who is it who will be false to you? 21 Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, What about this man? 22 Jesus said to him, If it is my desire for him to be here till I come back, what is that to you? come yourself after me. 23 So this saying went about among the brothers that this disciple would not undergo death: Jesus, however, did not say that he would not undergo death, but, If it is my desire for him to be here till I come back, what is that to you?

 

24 This is the disciple who gives witness about these things and who put them in writing: and we have knowledge that his witness is true. 25 And Jesus did such a number of other things that, if every one was recorded, it is my opinion that even the world itself is not great enough for the books there would be.

Peter points to a guy and the rumor starts up he won't die because of some misunderstanding. So we'll call that guy "John."

 

Then what happens?

 

The author makes a statement that this "John" is the one who testified and put this all in writing. Sounds good. But adds "we have knowledge his witness is true." Who does? Who is this "we?" Who is writing this statement? Who wrote any of this? "John" wrote something it seems. Then this other guy "anonymous" wrote the thing we're reading. Or is he just the notary vouching on the final page so that we know this "John" is telling us the truth? He has to add that he thinks that if they recorded all of "jesus'" deeds that they wouldn't be able to have enough storage in the whole planet for them. Wow! Not bad for a guy who we only know the same basic details from four texts. But this notary seems to know so much more than we all every could hope to know. It's disappointing he didn't bother to write anything himself.

 

So who wrote this text? "John" the mysterious disciple? The notary or some other of the "we" crowd that may or may not have just copied "John's" work? We have the word of one anonymous source vouching for another anonymous source assuring us that this "original" source is legit. I have no idea who either of them are but I can be certain this is all true? This doesn't sound credible. It's totally anonymous. No one is ever identified.

 

mwc

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I would say the Q hypothesis, would debunk matthew and luke being eyewittnesses or even really close disciples to the 12. One wouldn't have to rely on a previously written text if they had such "high quality" witnesses. And for various factual details and some stylistic one's mark wasn't a eyewitness or close to a eyewitness and John just was simply to late in the game when the average lifespan depending on estimates was about 40ish. So whats left.

 

But even if I am wrong, think about it, Jesus died supposedly around 30 ad, and mark was written about 65-70 depending on who you ask. The people writing would have to be relying on other people.

 

As to the names associated to the gospels, all we have is the late(as relative to the gospel accounts) church father tradition.

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John 21:20-25 is written to make it look like one of the apostles wrote this gospel. In all likelihood it's pseudonymous.

Are you sure about that?

...

So who wrote this text? "John" the mysterious disciple? The notary or some other of the "we" crowd that may or may not have just copied "John's" work? We have the word of one anonymous source vouching for another anonymous source assuring us that this "original" source is legit. I have no idea who either of them are but I can be certain this is all true? This doesn't sound credible. It's totally anonymous. No one is ever identified.

I think that's what Alen meant too. That it was written in such a way that it would look like it came from the horse's mouth, John (or another apostle).

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I would say the Q hypothesis, would debunk matthew and luke being eyewittnesses or even really close disciples to the 12. One wouldn't have to rely on a previously written text if they had such "high quality" witnesses. And for various factual details and some stylistic one's mark wasn't a eyewitness or close to a eyewitness and John just was simply to late in the game when the average lifespan depending on estimates was about 40ish. So whats left.

 

But even if I am wrong, think about it, Jesus died supposedly around 30 ad, and mark was written about 65-70 depending on who you ask. The people writing would have to be relying on other people.

 

As to the names associated to the gospels, all we have is the late(as relative to the gospel accounts) church father tradition.

The author of G.Luke concedes the point right off the bat.

1 As a number of attempts have been made to put together in order an account of those events which took place among us, 2 As they were handed down to us by those who saw them from the first and were preachers of the word, 3 It seemed good to me, having made observation, with great care, of the direction of events in their order, to put the facts in writing for you, most noble Theophilus; 4 So that you might have certain knowledge of those things about which you were given teaching.

He makes no mention of his name. He states that "a number of attempts" have been made prior to his own. He has decided to start over and write his own narrative with things laid out in proper order. He is no one and knows no one. He's just taking the story and laying it out in the proper order for Theophilus. He does not name his sources beyond "eyewitnesses" but this could be G.Mark and G.Matthew.

 

mwc

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I think that's what Alen meant too. That it was written in such a way that it would look like it came from the horse's mouth, John (or another apostle).

But that's what I'm asking. He said it was "pseudonymous" which means it's a pen name. But how does that work for two (or more) anonymous words? It says that the "disciple" wrote things down so the pen name would be for the "disciple" but then it continues to vouch for the "disciple" so it obviously must be written by the "we" guy making the pen name for him instead. Unless the "disciple" wrote the first bit and the "we" guy came along and only wrote the last couple of lines because, as it turns out, his word is actually more trustworthy than the "disciple." It would have to be because he is the one vouching for the disciple and his story but he never says who he, and his group, is so we can't know why they are more trustworthy than the person they are vouching for. So it's the anonymous story from the "disciple" and the anonymous statement from the "we" guy that it really is true and you can take all their word for it...whoever they all are.

 

mwc

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I just read it as if the "beloved" disciple was the one who wrote it. If that was the intent then I would say the writing is pseudonymous or in other words a fraudulent pen name (like the Pastoral epistles, 1-2 Peter et cetera). Looking at it now that you've pointed it out, I could see it not referring to the disciple as the author at all and therefore the gospel would be anonymous not pseudonymous. Either way works for me anyways.

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Hey all. One of the first things I remember learning during my deconversion that really impacted me was that the gospels were written anonymously.

 

My question is how was this conclusion reached?

 

I know if I bring this up in a conversation with a believer they will ask me how I know this or what proof do I have. I need to be able to answer this intelligently and not just say because Ehrman and Price say so. :grin:

 

Thanks,

Jerry

 

Just a food for thought:

The disciples were illiterate. (A good guess, since they were fishermen and most people of low ranks would not be educated). So the disciples did not write them. Perhaps they dictated them.... But they were written a number of years after Jesus' claimed death. Who knows, maybe even after the disciples' death. But even if they were alive, could they remember EXACTLY what Jesus has said years and years after the fact? It's very possible that people did not realize the importance of Jesus until after his death or until some time has passed (stories about heroes tend to grow with time) So the disciples would have to realize the importance of having everything written down (for future generations) and they would have to find some literate scribe who would have to write things for them. Somehow it's too hard to believe that the disciples KNEW that a new teaching was being born and notes had to be taken for future generations....

 

 

I would imagine that the gospels were written based on people's recollections (oral traditions, words spoken from mouth to mouth over the years). And these always change with time. So now who knows which things Jesus really did say and which were ascribed to him by the people (as though he said them)?

 

I believe that in those days they were used to naming their writings after some famous people. So it wouldn't be lying to put a disciple's name as the title of the book. It would probably honor the disciple... So if that's the case, it's easy to see how disciples' names happened to be on the books they did not write (or dictate).

 

One very interesting thing about the Book of John. It smells like a gnostic book. It has elements of gnostic beliefs: such as Logos and enlightenment of the soul and the secret things of God (in dialogue with Nicodemus). So either John was a gnostic himself, (which was considered a heresy by some sects of Christianity of those days) or he wasn't the one who wrote the book. It's very interesting, how in this book one more mysterious disciple keeps appearing, but the name is not given...as though it's a secret... It's also interesting how Mary Magdalene shows up a lot in this book. And how the account of the resurrection gives only HER all the credit. And according to some beliefs, Mary Magdalene was an unofficial disciple of Jesus, who was very active in some movement, and some believe that she was "The disciple whom Jesus loved". Don't you think it's weird to say: "and the disciple that Jesus loved" did this and this....instead of saying: John did this and this.... UNLESS, somebody was trying to hide the identity of the disciple...Why try to hide it? Could it be that the disciple was a woman?

 

And in those days the credit given to a woman would be unthinkable. So it makes sense that some gnostics who honored Mary Magdalene, (who was told to be a gnostic herself) wrote the Gospel of John and gave Mary Magdalene lots of place in the book and named her "the other disciple" or "the disciple whom Jesus loved" so that the masses wouldn't completely not accept the book if they knew the true identity of the mysterious disciple...

 

So I would say that John did not write this book, unless he was impressed with Mary and wanted to honor her and give her some space in his writings...

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Thanks for the replies everybody.

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One very interesting thing about the Book of John. It smells like a gnostic book. It has elements of gnostic beliefs: such as Logos and enlightenment of the soul and the secret things of God (in dialogue with Nicodemus). So either John was a gnostic himself, (which was considered a heresy by some sects of Christianity of those days) or he wasn't the one who wrote the book.

 

I always heard from the pulpit that John was written against the Gnostics, because he said the Word became flesh, a repudiation of the idea that flesh or matter was itself evil. He emphasized the incarnation later saying "which we have looked at and our hands have touched".

 

This website goes into more detail, saying John was written years later specifically to make it look like Jesus refuted the Gnostics.

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