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A Jesus (gospel) update...(27 posts)

A Jesus (gospel) update...Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 7:56 AM
for Kristin and anyone else who cares and/or has been reading these periodic posts.
I'm reading EP Sanders "The Historical Figure of Jesus" which is by far the best history book I've read on this subject so far. Answers the questions I think anyone interested in the historicity of Jesus/Gospels would ask, with adequate explanations yet doesn't go overly deep into any one subject.
So, who wrote the Gospels?
The answer is, no one knows. Most historians think that the early Christians had an oral and possibly written tradition of short stories and sayings that illustrated relevant points about the teachings of Jesus. There was no need of a gospel since they thought Jesus would be returning any day. After a couple of decades when that didn't happen, some early Christians sat down to write a narrative of the life of Jesus to inform other Christians (the gospels post-date the earliest Christian writings that survive, which are the letters of Paul). The first three gospels contain the same basic outline of Jesus' life although many parables and short story's and sayings are placed at different times and/or in different places. The gospel of John is an altogether different animal, wasn't written until several decades after the other 3(so late in the 1st century), and is probably largely the work of "John" (or the Holy Spirit, if you prefer) without reference to much other material and probably doesn't represent words literally spoken by Jesus.

Here's the rub, all 4 of the Gospels which were eventually kept and included in the new Testament were anonymous works until late in the 2nd century (around 180 CE, is when they 1st started getting there respective authors assigned to them). It's thought that when the early church started to argue over which Gospels were legit and which weren't, the names of apostles or early followers of prominent Christians (Paul and James) were assigned to legitimize them.
Yes and noMcAndrus
Jan 14, 2003 9:43 AM
I think what you say is largely accurate. I don't believe that the names of the books were assigned to legitimize them. I think the early church believed that the books were already legitimate and assigned the names of those they believed to be the true author.

As an example, the author of book of Hebrews is unknown. There has been 2000+ years of speculation as to who the author is but the only consistent name give is "the author of the Book of Hebrews." In other words, they don't know.

My point being that the early church believed the assigned authors were the true authors and didn't go out of their way to make falacious assignments. If they didn't know then they didn't know.

I think early church history is fascinating. If you're curious you might try to find a magazine called "Christian History." Unfortunately you'll have a hard time finding it in a bookstore but it has in it some great stuff.
You're correct...Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 9:54 AM
I realize re-reading my original post that it sounded like I meant they made up who the authors were, when in fact they read the gospels for clues as to who the authors were and based on those clues and maybe other evidence assigned authors. The example Sanders gave, if I remember correctly, was that the author of John referred to himself as the "beloved disciple", which was apparently a title used for John, the disciple of Jesus. Thus, the early church concluded that John the disciple of Jesus was the author of the 4th Gospel. Of course, considering what is known now, that's highly unlikely.
You are right, but there is some good evidences w/in the textsKristin
Jan 14, 2003 9:54 AM
If you look at the gospel of Luke (sorry, only think I know to call it) there are some indications within the text itself that the author is the same as the author of Acts--which appears to be a continuation of the gospel. Since Acts is signed by Luke, theres a pretty good probably that we know who wrote both books. Is it 100% certain? Nope. But with every year I gain, I realize that precious little is. Interesting post. Thanks.

What gospels were Paul and James assigned as the authors of around 180 BC? I count Mark, Luke, John and Matthew. No James or Paul. Are you speaking of more than the first 4 books?
Sorry for the confusion....Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 10:02 AM
I meant two of the authors of the gospels were assigned to followers of Paul (one of which was also a follower of James). Then the other two were assigned to Jesus's disciples. All 4 of the NT Gospels were assigned their authors towards the end of the 2nd century or later.
Sanders also mentioned a Gospel that was rejected as NT material which dealt exclusively with the birth and childhood of Jesus, not sure if it's in existance or was just referred to in other ancient literature. That would be interesting to read, since the nativity passage in the 3 synoptic gospels is almost assuredly false, and was inserted to fulfill OT prophecy. Although if the early church rejected the Birth/Childhood Gospel maybe it didn't include much trustworthy info?
One thing we're learningOldEdScott
Jan 14, 2003 10:46 AM
from the Dead Sea Scrolls is how remarkably unchanged later versions of these texts are from the early ones. I'd always kind of assumed there were lots of alterations and emendations over the centuries until the current Christian Bible was codified. But it seems like we're pretty much getting the straight scoop.
That would only speak to...Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 12:07 PM
the Old Testament, correct? I don't think any NT material is alluded to or included in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They come from an Essene community (basically a fundamentalist sect of Jewish "monks" who thought that they were following the Law correctly) at the site of Qumran on the Dead Sea that was abandoned in 68 CE. I think the straight scoop we're talking about deals more with the gospels then with the Old testament.
Oh, I'm lumping stuff together indiscriminately, sure,OldEdScott
Jan 14, 2003 12:24 PM
but I guess my point is, it seems these old texts were really taken seriously as sacred, and preserved and passed along carefully and intact. I guess I had just assumed people stuck stuff in as years went along, like the joker who inserted crazy stuff like "He was the Christ" hilariously into Josephus.
I don't know if any major parts...Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 1:22 PM
were inserted/deleted from the gospels once they were laid out.
Although clearly there are elements of them which do not accurately portray the events of Jesus'life. Probably the biggest myth being the birth story.

I think alot of subtle changes probably occured in the translations. Aramaic words (maybe text?) to Greek, to Latin, eventually to modern English through any number of older versions of English. One of the books I read referred to this alot, he would discuss a topic, and then say well the oldest Greek versions of the gospel uses this word, which really means "this" instead of what you read in the King James Version, which changes how one might interpret a saying attributed to Jesus or one of the parables, that he used to illustrate points, meaning.
Jan 14, 2003 1:52 PM
A modern translation doesn't use an earlier translation as it's source, the translators go back to the early documents.

One issue, though, is that there are more than one set of early texts to use and there are some slight differences (none that affect doctrine that I'm aware of) between them.

Can you tell us why you think the story of Jesus's birth is a myth?
Jan 15, 2003 7:03 AM
I'm doing this from memory, and I have very little familiarity with the gospels themselves but I think I can give you the arguement (BTW, most historians think it's a myth, it's not like I did the research myself, I'm relying on them).

1st of all there are two versions (from Matthew and Luke, I think) which have mutually exclusive parts (so at least part of one is wrong, right?)

Both have Jesus born in Bethlehem, which is in Judea. By all other accounts Jesus was from Nazareth, which is in Galilee, and all but the final part of his ministry occurs in Galilee. O.K. why was Jesus born in Bethleham if that's not where he was from? Because that's where the "Son of David" is suppose to be born. In all liklihood, the evangelists knew Jesus was the Messiah, didn't really know much about his birth, and took it as a "fact" that he was born in Bethleham, since that is where the "Son of David" was to be born according to scripture.

But even they need some sort of rational for getting Mary and Joseph to Bethleham. So one (Luke?) or both (not sure I think Matthew might have another historically spurious reason why they went there) get them there via the census story. But this makes no historical sense.

When Romans conducted a census, the census takers traveled not the people being counted, because the purpose of the census was for taxation which required knowledge of land holdings (so why would you have a landholder travel away from the very land you need to assess for the census).

Ok maybe for some strange reason they had them travel this time. Was there a census in the final years of Herod's reign? No. They all mention Jesus was born in the final years of Herod's reign (prior to 4 BCE) this jives well with Jesus being executed in his early thirties. He was executed sometime during the High Priestship of Caiphus and the governship of Pilate which overlap from 26-36 CE.

When was there a census? 6 CE during the governship of Quirinius. So either Jesus was not born during the time of Herod (which would make him much younger at his execution then the gospels say he was, at least one of which suggest he may have even been in his forties) or his family did not travel for a census (which is unlikely in the 1st place).

Ok maybe there was a census we don't know about, again this is unlikely since Roman archives exist. Why would a family from Galilee travel for a Roman census? Galilee was not a Roman Province only Judea was. There would never be a reason for a Galilean family to travel to Judea to be counted in a Roman census.

There are also other reasons to doubt the historical veracity of the birth nativity. Luke who portrays Jesus as not only the "Son of David" like Matthew, also portrays him as the "new" Moses. Consequently, after the birth what does the family do? They flee to Egypt for a couple of years, and then return to Galilee just like Moses and the people of Isreal did in Exodus. This also includes the story of Herod hearing there was a new king born in Bethleham so he has all the male children under 2 killed (remind you of anybody?), which is what causes the holy family to flee to Egypt. Apparently Josephus recounts many of Herod's atrocities, it's not likely he would have left this one out if it actually occured.

There are other spurious passages as well. You have to remember that the guys writing the gospels, were not historians, they were writing approximately 70 yrs after the fact without written records or even standardized dates (which is probably why Matthew overlapped the Census of Quirinius with the reign of Herod). The point of the nativity story isn't to report the facts about Jesus' birth, it's to establish for fellow Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah (i.e. the Son of David). If you accept that fact, then of course Jesus was born in Bethleham, since that is what the holy scriptures say, so why not write it into the gospels?
I can do better...Wayne
Jan 15, 2003 11:54 AM
I actually went and looked at the birth stories of Luke and Matthew (surprised at how short they are).

Matthew (written between 80-100CE) starts with Joseph and Mary living in Bethlehem, but uses the Herod killing young children because new king is born... story to explain why Jesus was from Nazareth, Galilee. That is, Jesus and family fled to Egypt to escape Herod's persecution and then when they came back settled in Galilee, since they couldn't go back to Bethlehem. Believeable, if you didn't know:
1)Matthew colors his story to make Jesus look like Moses in many places (unlike Luke)
2)We have Josephus' account of Herod's reign in which he reports on many of his cruelties against political challenges but fails to mention this particularly heinous one which would hold special attention to any Jew familiar with the scriptural stories of Moses (which Josephus was since he was a priest)
3)Luke's version contradicts this one.

In Luke's version, Mary and Joseph are from Nazareth but go to Bethlehem (David's City) because of the census by Rome that requires you to go to the city of your family. Then return to Nazareth afterward.
Not even believable because:
1) Methodologically this makes no sense b/c that's not how the Roman's conducted censuses
2) The census of Quirinius was in 6 CE, Herod died in 4 BCE so Luke 2.2 contradicts Luke 1.5 based on what modern historians know to be facts.
3) Galilee was not a Roman province during either 4 BCE or 6 CE or at any point in Jesus' life, so the basic premise that Jesus' family would have to go to Bethlehem for a Roman census is not believable (kind of amazing that Luke would over look that, but aparently by the time Luke wrote it (sometime between 80 -130 CE) that little piece of knowledge was forgotten. I may be wrong but I don't think Galilee became a Roman territory until 68-70CE following the Jewish Revolt)

In conclusion, Luke and Matthew contradict one another, so either one or the other is wrong, most likely both were "fabricated" stories, given that
1) the earliest gospel Mark (written sometime between 65-80 CE) doesn't have a birth narrative only saying Jesus "came from Nazareth", supporting in a sense, the less historically believable Luke and suggesting that little or nothing was known about the birth.
2) Old Testament Scripture states and/or implies that the Messiah will be a "Son of David", born in Bethlehem so there is the motivation to place Jesus' birth there.
3) The gospels were not meant to be histories, and Matthew and Luke would not have thought they were being fallacious by placing Jesus' birth in Bethlehem because they accepted as fact that Jesus, the Messiah, was born there since he was the fulfillment of the OT prophecies. Matthew used the story to further emphasize Jesus = Moses reborn, Luke probably legitimately thought that the census of Quirinius occured during the time of Herod, and that Galileans would have been subject to it, and therefore it was logically this reason that took Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem.

Consequently, it's probably safest to say Jesus was born and grew up in Nazareth, Galilee and leave it at that! Or at least, that there is a preponderance of evidence that would suggest that the birth in Bethlehem stories do not reflect actual historical events.
They are not the same storyDJB
Jan 16, 2003 1:55 PM
Luke and Matthew are talking about 2 different periods of time.

The story in Luke is the actual Nativity story and ends in verse 2:39 with Joseph, Mary and Jesus returning to Nazareth after going to the Temple in Jerusalem.

Matthew's story deals with the 'wise men from the east'. This happens about a year later. Herod directs them to Bethlehem since that's where prophecy spoke of, but the Scripture doesn't say they went there. It says they continued to follow the star which led them to where Jesus was. The town is not identified. Notice that Jesus is described as a 'young child', not a baby. Also, when Herod had the male children killed, it was up to 2 years of age.
It was after the wise men left that Joseph was warned in a dream and fled to Egypt.

There is a lot of controversy over the date of the census,
as you know, but that just shows the hazards of trying to prove something didn't happen by a lack of records. Especially when the time frame in question is 2,000 years ago.
What? That strains credibility!Wayne
Jan 17, 2003 8:01 AM
I'm looking at the King James Version.
O.K. accepting that Luke is the only nativity story. Why in the world would a family from Galilee travel to their 20+ generations removed ancestor's (David) city to be counted in a census that as non-Roman subjects didn't apply to them?
Don't you need to refute this huge problem to believe Luke?

I find it hard to believe that the date of a Roman Empire wide census ordered by Caesar Augustus can't even be assigned to the proper decade. When Cyrenius (Greek version of Quirinius) was governer of Syria (Luke 2.1) is probably pretty firmly dated, and I imagine corresponds with the census date of 6 CE. Again, everyone agrees Jesus was born in the final years of Herod's reign, 4 BCE being the latest date. So evidence is right there that Luke doesn't have his facts straight.

Luke 2.39 "And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord (In Jerusalem, my addition), they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth."
Reinforcing that they were not subject to Rome's census b/c they were from Galilee not Judea. This also contradicts Matthew (see below) as to where the holy family was from.

The only possible legitimate refutation you suggest of my points is that Luke and Matthew describe different events.

O.K. maybe so, but you have a few problems.
1) As I said before there is a recurring theme throughout Matthew that Jesus is the new Moses, this fits into that mold. Why was this significant story unknown to Mark, writing before Matthew or Luke writing around the same time(not damning but creates doubt to its legitimacy)
2) I concede that it could be interpreted that the wisemen did not go to Bethlehem to see Jesus, but
Matthew states Jesus is born in Bethlehem, Herod sends the wismen to Bethelem, the star guides them to Jesus' house. It doesn't say the house is in Bethlehem but it's implied, and it doesn't say it was in Nazareth or another Judean town (see below).

Clearly Matthew 2.22 speaking of the return from Egypt says, "he turned aside into the parts of Galilee:
[23] And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth".

This is how Matthew gets them to Nazareth (presumably when Jesus is now a small child). The reason:
Matt. 2.22 "But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee."

So clearly he planned on returning to Judea, but I guess according to you not Bethlehem since their "house" was somewhere else when the wiseman came and they fled to Egypt.

So I have some questions:

How come he was not afraid to go to Galilee where Antipas (also the son of Herod) now ruled?
How come Jesus was born in Bethlehem if that's not where he was from (since I think we can dismiss Luke's explanation)?
How come Joseph was planning on going back to Judea when according to Luke he was from Nazareth and had returned there shortly after the birth (when Mary completed the purification stuff) and they had gone to Jerusalem?

Clearly, Matthew and Luke are still at odds.
Luke has Jesus and family coming from and returning to Nazareth shortly after his birth. Matthew clearly implies that Joseph and Mary were not from Nazareth (I think it assumes they are from Bethlehem, but maybe you can propose another city in Judea?). He doesn't have them going to Nazareth until Jesus is a small child and gives a reason to explain why they don't return to Judea, where he assumes they are from.

In short Matthew has the holy family coming from Bethlehem(?), Judea while Luke has them coming from Nazareth, Galilee. Which is it?
Not reallyDJB
Jan 17, 2003 1:11 PM
Since I only have a little bit of time before my ride comes, I have to be brief.

First of all, like you, I'm not a scholar. Google searches don't give us the whole picture.

Still, here are some things I've read:

- the Census requiring Joseph to travel. The following is from INFIDELS.ORG, a rather thorough skeptic site:

"The second "mistake" lies in supposing that people would be called back to ancestral towns to be counted, rather than be counted in the actual towns they were in. This charge has been formulated a dozen ways, but none of them really carry much force. Though Jesus' family appears to have resided outside Judaea in Nazareth, there could easily be any number of reasons why an ancestral connection with Bethlehem would require them to journey there for a census of Judaea (so much as a tiny plot of ancestral land would be enough, and Judaic law made it unusually difficult to get rid of such properties), though it does seem oddly unnecessary to take a woman on the verge of labor on such a dangerous trip (as all journeys were in such regions). We do know that censuses could have such requirements for travel, not only from papyri [1.3] but also from common sense: it is a well known fact that even Roman citizens had to enroll in one of several tribes to be counted, and getting provincials to organize according to locally-established tribal associations would be practical (see also n. 8 in my essay Luke and Josephus; and also [1.3.5]). Finally, even if Luke were making this up, he would sooner make something up that sounded plausible: in other words, such procedures were probably followed in at least one census within the author's memory, and we have no way to disprove the use of such a practice in previous provincial assessments.[1.4] Alternatively, Luke may have deliberately added both of these features to the story for apologetic reasons (see [1.1.5])."

- the census being in 6 A.D.

Just because we know of only this one doesn't mean we won't
have additional information in the future. The work Luke uses for governor was 'hegemon' which one definition for is 'one who governs' We also know that Quirinius was in charge of a Roman legion in Syria while fighting the Homanadensian war between 10 and 7 B.C. Did this give him any sort of ruling authority? I don't know.

I also don't know why Joseph was afraid of Archelaus and not Antipas.

What I do know is that Luke is extremely reliable as a historian. Check out the story of Sir William Ramsay, a 19th century archeologist (rather well known at the time), who traveled to the middle East exclusively to prove Luke wrong (since Luke so heavily uses real names, places and dates in the two books that he wrote). Long story short, Ramsay converts to Christianity because of Lukes accuracy.

p.s. I won't be on-line the next few days. Please don't misinterpret my lack of any response.
Jewish perspective I came across (bit off topic)DougSloan
Jan 14, 2003 11:05 AM
Interesting reading:
The stuff about Pilate is interesting.OldEdScott
Jan 14, 2003 11:23 AM
I always wondered why the Gospels were so 'soft' on him. Makes perfect sense. These Gospel writers were politicians!
Jewish perspective I came across (bit off topic)Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 11:56 AM
That seems to be trying to deflect, understandably so since it was written by Jews and they have born the brunt of the blaim for Jesus' death, away from the Jews. From what I've read, including Sanders book, which covers this topic, both Pilate and the Jews, or more acurately the High Priests who ran the Temple and Jerusalem were equally responsible. They both had the same interest, keep the peace!
Pilate lived on the coast in Ceasarea with a small garrison, the day to day affairs of Jerusalem and Judea were run by the Jewish high priests. The last thing they wanted was trouble, since that could mean Roman troops coming in force (from Syria where they were stationed), killing, a disruption of their positions of power, etc. I think it's fair to say that the consensus amongst historians is that Jesus went to Jerusalem and caused a ruckus at the Temple leading to his arrest by the guards of the Temple and a formal (the 3 synoptic gospels) or informal trial (John) in which the High Priest (Caiphus) sentenced Jesus to death for not denying he was the son of God. By not doing so, he marked himself as a big-time potential trouble maker, because of the possible militaristic association with the title of messiah (although I don't think that's what Jesus was about, unlike later 1st century Jewish messiahs such as Thadeus or "the Egyptian"). The decision was then reviewed by Pilate, who when not given any reason to overturn the decision based on his questioning of Jesus, decided to go ahead with the execution.

P.S. I don't think Tacitus mentions Jesus (as that website says), but Josephus does give him a paragraph which is accepted as legit by historians with some later Christian "propaganda" added to it. That paragraph is the only mention of Jesus outside of the biblical texts. Its really hard to believe how big Jesus became, since he really was a nobody at the time. His execution was not recorded in the annuls of Rome and even Josephus toward the end of the 1st century gives him vere little coverage compared to other "messiahs" of the 1st century Jews.
I believe you're right about Tacitus. nmOldEdScott
Jan 14, 2003 12:06 PM
re: A Jesus (gospel) update...Jusme
Jan 14, 2003 12:35 PM
Sort of on topic I guess. Could someone tell me the difference between the 'Dead Sea Scrolls', what was found in the caves of Qum'ran (sp) and the texts found at Nag Hamadi?

Are they all the same?
Where did things like "The Gospel of Thomas' and "The Gospel of Q' come from? What was not included in the original Bible per the council of Nicene?

Maybe instead of perusing cycling websites at work, I need to research some Biblical history (at work of course).

I'll give it a go...Wayne
Jan 14, 2003 1:06 PM
The Dead Sea Scrolls come from Qum'ran which is generally recognized as an Essene (a sect of Judaism) community that existed for a couple of hundred years until 68 CE. There's Old Testament stuff, theological stuff unique to the Qum'ran community, and everyday affairs stuff.

Nag Hamidi is in Egypt and is a site near to an early Christian monastery (late 4th century). Right around the time Christianity was gaining political power via the conversion of prominent Romans. Gnosticism was a competing version of what would be called "catholic" christianity. Those in power were "catholics" and drove the gnostics to ground declaring them heretics. It's thought that some gnostic monks hid the gnostic literature of the monastery in the desert. Found in the 1940's or 50's by some guy, who took them home, some of which his Mother used for kindling (I'm sure 1500 year old papyrus burns real good). Importance is that the Gnostic texts were all destroyed by the catholics and were only known from references in catholic literature. The Gospel of Thomas is one of those gnostic texts which was recovered at Nag Hamidi (it's basically a listing of one-liners attributed to Jesus).

"Q" is an inferred document (perhaps similar in kind to the Gospel of Thomas). Two of the synoptic gospels, Matthew and Mark I believe, which are thought to be the 2 earliest ones (written around 60 - 80 CE) contain largely verbatim some stories/sayings, etc. However, in other major parts, the styles differ and the facts are even contradictory. Consequently, it's assumed that Matthew and Mark were working independently of one another, yet had a common document, called by modern scholars "Q", from which they drew on for their respective narratives.

I haven't read anything about the council of Nicene yet, so I'm not sure what other gospels or books were available and were rejected, and whether or not they exist or are just referred to in ancient works.
I don't remember why butMcAndrus
Jan 14, 2003 1:42 PM
I was talking to a pastor once (a PhD candidate working on a very obscure exegesis of the Book of John) and asked him why the Gospel of Thomas was left out of the Bible. He gave me a reason and I sure wish I could remember it. In effect, the early church did not consider the Gospel of Thomas to be authentic. I just can't remember why and if I find it I'll try to remember to post it.
It's definitely a Gnostic text...Wayne
Jan 15, 2003 7:23 AM
so it's very theology, which is attributed to Jesus, runs counter to "catholic" theology attributed to Jesus. From what I've read I think the catholics have the "authentic" Jesus theology, but that doesn't mean all of the sayings and actions of Jesus in the Gospels were actualy said or done by Jesus. As Sanders points out many of the early Christians thought the Holy Spirit communicated with them. The Holy Spirit = Jesus = God. John wrote his gospel around 120 CE, it respresents a well developed theology (even including some Gnostic-like stuff) wholely unlike the synoptic gospels. All of sudden John has all of these theological sayings attributed to Jesus often saying "I am ...". Where were these for the past 60 years when the other gospels were written, how come a guy who clearly doesn't view himself as a Jew, unlike the earlier gospel writers (although even by the time of Paul, it was clear that more gentiles were converting than Jews) get these. Most likely from the Holy Spirit, nothing wrong with attributing them to Jesus, since Jesus = the Holy Spirit. Consequently when historians look for the actual sayings and actions of Jesus they largely ingore hte gospel of John.
Jan 14, 2003 9:42 PM
There were a number of different texts in circulation and use in the early centuries of Christianity. By the time of the Council of Nicea (called to settle the debate between Athanasius and Arius/trinitarianism and a form of unitarianism, not to be confused with today's version of the same name), they had decided to sift through those texts. Don't know the specifics but some are called the Pseudopygrypha which are considered to be falsely ascribed to a prominent author, most probably because there was no original text in Hebrew or Greek. Others might have been dropped because they were so at variance with common teachings as to be deemed fake. And the Catholic church accepted the Apocrypha which if I am correct, are texts that only exist in Greek originally, therefore rejected by Protestants but accepted by Catholics.
re: A Jesus (gospel) update...Jusme
Jan 14, 2003 2:05 PM
Thanks so much.Feel free to continue educating me...
You asked for it...Wayne
Jan 16, 2003 9:36 AM
A little more information on Q.

Mark is the earliest Gospel, it's thought that both Matthew and Luke (which were roughly contemporaneous) used Mark as a Source and the now unknown Q as a source (this is called the Two Source Theory). An alternative is that Q never really existed but that Matthew predates Luke. So Matthew used Mark, Luke in turn used both Mark and Matthew as sources for his gospel (called the Farrer Theory).

I get the impression most historians except Q as any early gospel that predates Mark (I'm assuming that Mark is thought to have used Q since the dates given for Q always predate the earliest dates for Mark (50 CE).

The synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) are all narratives that tell the story of Jesus by often, rather poorly, connecting what are thought to have been earlier short stories, sayings, parables, etc. Q is thought to have been a collection of the above. But Q is not a narrative but rather a listing of 200+ Jesus sayings and parables, etc. The arguement for the existence of Q were strengthened when the Gospel of Thomas (written somewhere between 50 - 140 CE) was rediscovered in this century, which stylistically resembles Q and interestingly also includes some of the Q material (again suggesting it was a source available to early Christian writers).

Further strengthening the arguement for Q is that it appears to consist exclusively of the main tenets of Jesus' message, namely his inaugeration of the coming of the Kingdom of God. Contextually, Q represents just what you would think the earliest Christian teachings should have been about. Naturally then, Q represents the essence of Jesus' teaching before the development of early Christian theological concerns which may have colored the synoptic Gospels (for instance see my posting above concerning the birth narative) and especially John.
Jan 16, 2003 9:56 AM
I'm still unsure about whether Mark is thought to have used Q or not. I was looking at a website and actually the possible dates given for their origin do overlap.