Boxing Pythagoras

Philosophy from the mind of a fighter

You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden underfoot.

“That is not danger,” said he. “It is inevitable destruction.  You stand in the way not merely of an individual, but of a mighty organisation, the full extent of which you, with all your cleverness, have been unable to realise.  You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden underfoot.”

The Final Problem, by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

A few days ago, I was reading a post from fellow blogger, Andrew Crigler, who writes Entertaining Christianity. He had written a fun little post, jovially comparing blind-faith beliefs to clothing for puppies, which I enjoyed and with which, for the most part, I agreed. However, at the end of the article, Andrew recommended his readers to J. Warner Wallace’s book Cold Case Christianity. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you might remember that I am no fan of J. Warner Wallace and, in fact, I think he is more akin to a crooked cop than an honest detective. I commented on Andrew’s post to convey this, and that began a nice back-and-forth conversation between us regarding Wallace and his claims. At one point, Andrew suggested that Wallace had written other articles which were more convincing, and formed on better logic, than the ones which I had critiqued. I asked him to suggest one, for me, so that I could read and review it here. Andrew provided me with a link to one of Wallace’s posts entitled, “The Case for the Eyewitness Status of the Gospel Authors.”

Unfortunately, I find this article to be just as poor as Wallace’s others.

Wallace divides his article into a number of sections, each of which discusses a specific point. I will be quoting as much of these sections as is pragmatic, in my responses, in order to make it easier for my readers. I know, all too well, how difficult it can be to try to read a response article while flipping back and forth to the original. If anything seems unclear, or if anyone believes that I have unfairly omitted one of Wallace’s points from my quotations, please feel free to mention it in the Comments section, and I will do my best to correct or clarify.

Eyewitness Authority Is Inherent to the Gospels
The Gospel accounts are written as historical narratives. The life of Jesus is intertwined with historical events locating it geographically and historically. The Gospels repeatedly affirmed their own historical, eyewitness nature, mentioning key figures who served to validate the history of Jesus as eyewitnesses:

John 1:6-7
There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him
.

It is patently absurd to claim that, since the gospel accounts are written as historical narratives, it is therefore implied that the author was an eyewitness. The vast majority of historical narratives, throughout the whole of history, were not written by eyewitnesses to the events, and ancient Roman Palestine is certainly no exception to this rule. It is, in fact, quite rare to find historical narratives from the period of New Testament authorship or earlier which were penned by eyewitnesses. Does Wallace think that Herodotus was an eyewitness to the construction of the pyramids? Or that Suetonius was a witness to Julius Caesar’s campaign in Gaul? Does he think that the author of 1 Maccabees must have been an eyewitness to the history he describes in his narrative? What about the author of the Gospel of the Ebionites? The fact that a document is written as a historical narrative says nothing, at all, about whether or not its author was an eyewitness to the events described.

Wallace’s first point is false.

Eyewitness Authority Was Commissioned by Jesus
Jesus understood the eyewitness status of the Apostles. In fact, he commissioned them to grow the Kingdom on the basis of their eyewitness observations:

Luke 24:[48]-49
You are witnesses of these things. And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Acts 1:[8]
“…but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

The fact that people in a historical narrative are explicitly named as witnesses to that narrative says nothing, at all, about whether or not the author was an eyewitness. Every single historical narrative which is written about specific people, by definition, discusses witnesses to the narrative. The author of a text need not be an eyewitness, nor have ever even met an eyewitness, in order to say that other people were eyewitnesses.

Wallace’s second point is a complete non-sequitur.

Eyewitness Authority Was Affirmed By the Gospel Authors
The authors of the Gospels proclaimed their authority as eyewitnesses (or as chroniclers of the eyewitnesses). While some skeptics have attempted to disassociate the Biblical statements from the Gospel authors to refute the authorship of the Gospels, the earliest believers embraced the traditional authorship of the eyewitnesses (and we can also make good circumstantial cases for the traditional authorship). The Gospel authors (and their sources) repeatedly identified themselves as eyewitnesses:

1 Peter 5:1

2 Peter 1:16-17

1 John 1:1-3

John 21:24-25

Luke 1:1-4

I have discussed, in my earlier articles on Wallace, why he is dishonest to claim that “the earliest believers embraced the traditional authorship of the eyewitnesses,” and I will address this again, later, so I will ignore that comment for the moment. Instead, I will simply discuss the main claim of Wallace’s third point: “The Gospel authors (and their sources) repeatedly identified themselves as eyewitnesses.” I’m going to deal with each of Wallace’s citations, in turn, to show why this claim is absolutely false.

I’ll take the 1 Peter and 2 Peter citations, together, since my counterpoints are the same for both. My first such counterpoint should likely be blatantly obvious to every reader: Peter was not an author of any of the gospels. Still, Wallace is likely attempting to say that Peter was Mark’s source for the composition of his gospel, and that Peter claims to have been an eyewitness. Of course, this means that Wallace needs to stack poor argument for the authorship of 1 & 2 Peter on top of his poor argument for the authorship of Mark. The simple fact of the matter is that the vast majority of New Testament scholarship regards 1 & 2 Peter as pseudepigraphical– that is to say, as forgeries written in Peter’s name by a later author. It is exceedingly unlikely that Peter, a poor and illiterate (Acts 4:13; Gk., ἀγράμματοί) Aramaic-speaker from the backwaters of Galilee, could have written 1 & 2 Peter, both of which would have required an expensive education in Greek grammar and rhetoric for their composition.

The next passage Wallace cites is 1 John 1:1-3, but this passage makes no claims to being an eyewitness to the events described in the Gospel of John, at all. The author, representing his community, is claiming to be a witness to the eternal life which results from Jesus’ teaching. There is a fairly tremendous difference between claiming to have witnessed an esoteric spiritual beneficence and claiming to have witnessed historical events.

Wallace then cites John 21:24-25, but conveniently omits the important context provided by verses 20-23. When read all together, it is exceedingly clear that this passage actually says precisely the opposite of what Wallace is claiming. According to this passage, Peter sees ‘the beloved disciple’ following him and Jesus and asks, “Lord, what about him?” Jesus responded by saying, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” Apparently, a great many Christians thought that this meant ‘the beloved disciple’ would never die, but the author of John feels the need to correct this interpretation– perhaps because ‘the beloved disciple’ had already died, in contradiction to such a belief. Then we get to verse 24, which states that the disciple under discussion– that is, ‘the beloved disciple’– is the one who witnessed these things, and that he wrote them down. Then, in contrast to that person, the author of the gospel states, “We know that his testimony is true.” The author is explicitly stating that he is not the beloved disciple which testifies to these things, but that he believes that disciple.

Finally, Wallace mentions Luke 1:1-4, which is a very common proof-text for the eyewitness nature of the gospels. Unfortunately, such apologists usually pretend the passage says something which it absolutely does not state. Very often, this text is cited to show that the author of Luke claims to have interviewed eyewitnesses in the composition of his work. However, a simple reading of the text shows that is says no such thing. Luke simply says that many people have tried to set to page an account of Christian history, just as those accounts had been passed orally even from the first eyewitnesses. The author of Luke does not claim to have known, spoken with, or otherwise interviewed any of the eyewitnesses, personally. Furthermore, the consensus of scholarship is that Luke copied the majority of his material from at least two written sources, neither of which is thought to have been composed by an eyewitness.

Wallace’s third point is false.

Eyewitness Authority Was Confirmed By the First Believers

The early believers and Church Fathers accepted the Gospel accounts as eyewitness documents. In fact, many Church fathers wrote about the Gospels. Papias, when describing the authorship of the Gospel of Mark, said, “Mark, having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately, though not indeed in order, whatsoever he remembered of the things said or done by Christ.” In addition, Papias, Ireneaus, Origen and Jerome affirmed the authorship of Matthew’s Gospel by the tax collector described in the account, written for the Hebrews in his native dialect and translated as he was able.

Papias, Irenaeus, Origen, and Jerome were certainly not the “First Believers.” The earliest of these, Papias of Hierapolis, did not compose his works until around 70 years after Jesus’ death. The earliest believers to whose writings we have access are the authors of the New Testament, and not a single one of them claims that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. In fact, there is no evidence to show that most of the New Testament authors were even aware the gospels had been written, at all.

Furthermore, Wallace is wrong to say that Papias was describing the authorship of the canonical Gospel of Mark in that famous quote. Papias simply says that Mark wrote an account. He does not say that the Gospel of Mark which we now use is the account to which he is referring, and he does not quote from the canonical gospel in any of his extant writings. Similarly, Papias does say that Matthew authored a work, but never links it to the canonical Matthew, nor ever quotes from the canonical Matthew. In fact, the book of Matthew which Papias describes is completely different from the canonical work. Papias says that Matthew penned a collection of quotations attributed to Jesus, and that the work was written in Hebrew. However, the canonical Matthew was composed in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic, and is composed of a great deal more than just a catalogue of Jesus’ sayings.

Irenaeus is the first person on record to explicitly associate the four canonical gospels with their traditional authors. He made this connection in his book Against Heresies, which was written circa 180 CE– that is to say, around 150 years after Jesus’ death, 110 years after scholars generally believe Mark was written, 100 years after Matthew & Luke, and 85 years after John. Using the early dating proposed by Wallace is even more damning, since he thinks all four gospels were completed more than 120 years before Irenaeus wrote. Furthermore, Irenaeus ascribes these books to these particular authors in an explicit attempt to lend authority to his own views against those of other Christians; he was not simply recounting a disinterested historical fact. Putting all of this together makes Irenaeus a fairly unreliable witness on the matter of gospel authorship.

Wallace’s fourth point is false.

Eyewitness Authority Was Foundational to the Growth of the Church
It really shouldn’t surprise us that the authority of the Gospels was grounded in their eyewitness status. The eyewitness authority of the Apostles was key to the expansion of the early Church. The apostles were unified in the manner in which they proclaimed Christ. They repeatedly identified themselves, first and foremost, as eyewitnesses:

Acts 2:23-24, 32

Acts 3:15

Acts 4:20

Acts 4:33

Acts 10:39-42

For a moment, I’m going to ignore the fact that arguably the single most important apostle in the expansion of the early church, Paul, was not an eyewitness to the life of Jesus. The fact that the Apostles proclaimed that they had been witness to the ministry of Jesus says nothing at all about whether or not the gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Again, Wallace is conflating claims about eyewitnesses for evidence of authorship by eyewitnesses. These are two wholly separate subjects, despite Wallace’s attempts to force the one onto the other.

Wallace’s fifth point is a complete non-sequitur.

Eyewitness Authority Was Used to Validate New Testament Writings
Even Paul understood the importance of eyewitness authority. He continually referred to his own encounter with Jesus to establish the authenticity of his office and writings. Paul also directed his readers to other eyewitnesses who could corroborate his claims:

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.

In his final point, Wallace commits the same error, yet again. Whether or not Paul cites his own experiences is completely irrelevant to the question of the eyewitness authorship of the gospels. The one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. Let’s put Wallace’s claim into the form of a syllogism, in order to really illustrate just how completely illogical it actually is:

  1. Paul understood the importance of eyewitness testimony.
  2. Because he understood the importance of eyewitness testimony, Paul made reference to himself and others as eyewitnesses.
  3. Therefore, the gospels were written by eyewitnesses.

One does not need to be a philosophy major to see that such an argument is completely invalid. Wallace’s conclusion does not follow from his premises. This is a fairly basic fallacy of logic that one would rather expect a former cold-case detective to avoid.

Wallace’s sixth point is a complete non-sequitur.

In Conclusion…

When Andrew Crigler suggested I read and review this particular article, I was hoping that it was going to be better than the ones I had previously read from Wallace. Unfortunately, that hope was very soon dashed. In case you missed the final tally, here’s a summary review of all of Wallace’s points in the article:

  1. Historical narrative implies eyewitness authorship – FALSE
  2. Jesus called the disciples his witnesses – NON-SEQUITUR
  3. The gospel authors claimed to be eyewitnesses – FALSE
  4. The first believers claimed the authors were eyewitnesses – FALSE
  5. The Apostles referred to their own status as witnesses – NON-SEQUITUR
  6. Paul knew the importance of eyewitness testimony – NON-SEQUITUR

J. Warner Wallace makes six arguments in support of the eyewitness authorship of the gospels, but half of his arguments are false, and the other half are completely irrelevant to the question. I began this article with a quote from Professor Moriarty, intending to play on the juxtaposition of Wallace with Sherlock Holmes which I maintained in my previous two articles about the apologist. I was going to joke about how Wallace had set himself up against the “mighty organization” that is the body of New Testament scholarship. However, I’m beginning to think that analogy gives Wallace far too much credit. Despite his attempts to present himself as a fair-minded detective, J. Warner Wallace is certainly no Sherlock Holmes. It wouldn’t even be fair to call him a Jacques Clouseau, since that bumbling detective at least seems to get to the correct answer, in the end.

J. Warner Wallace is not the disinterested investigator that he pretends to be. He is a professional apologist who sells himself by exploiting the reputation of his former profession.

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6 thoughts on “You must stand clear, Mr. Holmes, or be trodden underfoot.

  1. Very, very, very nicely dismantled. I’ve never heard of this Warner, but it’s baffling to hear than an apologist is still trying to claim the gospels were penned by contemporary witnesses. It’s been over 100 years since that claim was thoroughly debunked.

    And it does always make me giggle when an apologist cites “real” events/places named in the bible as evidence the bible is true. I tend to point out that Tom Clancy’s, The Hunt For Red October” has many real places (Moscow and Washington, for example) as well as technologies actually used by real armies/spies… This doesn’t make Tom Clancy’s work non-fiction.

    Again, nice job. To say I’m impressed would be an understatement.

    • One needn’t even resort to completely fictional works. Suetonius was a Roman historian who gave us absolutely invaluable literature on the lives of the Roman Emperors. That doesn’t mean every claim which Suetonius makes should be taken as truth until shown otherwise. For example, I’m of the opinion that Suetonius’ story about Cleopatra being snuck into the palace in a rolled up carpet is very likely not an actual historical event, but rather a later legend.

      The real problem is the idea that the historicity of the gospels is a binary proposition: either they are wholly true, or else they are wholly false. This is a false dichotomy. Just because they contain some true history does not mean they are entirely accurate histories, and just because they contain some dubious history does not mean they should be discarded from historical discussions, entirely.

  2. The main problem I see here is that you and Wallace are starting on different premises. You say the gospels were not written by their namesakes, whereas Wallace says they are. His article is not about who wrote the books, but about the claims of the disciples to being eyewitnesses. Because the premises are different, many of the conclusions he draws do not make sense with where you start your position. Therefore, your views will not align because of the foundational difference. If we come at it from Wallace’s view, that the Gospels were written by their namesakes (albeit Peter through Mark), then his article is actually quite good. However, because two different sports were played, we can’t come to the same conclusion. In this article he is not trying to say that the gospels were written by the namesakes because they were eyewitnesses, but that those for whom the Gospels were named claimed to be eyewitnesses. That being said, Imma start dissecting.

    I agree that historical narrative alone does not make any sense for eyewitnesses. However, the gospels do not claim events that happened in the past (for the most part) or that were far away, but of things that were happening then and there. Because of the proximity it’s much more reasonable to say that they are eyewitness testimonies, though I agree that it’s not enough in itself. Again, no one piece of evidence alone is enough. We must find the most reasonable explanation for every piece provided.

    My opening paragraph dealt with the second point so I won’t reiterate it now.

    For Peter’s passages: If Mark was Peter’s dictator he could easily do some grammar fixing and the like. The possible illiteracy of Peter isn’t a reason that he didn’t write it for that very reason.

    For the 1 John passage: it is not actually speaking of eternal life in the sense of existence. Jesus, also at the beginning of John’s Gospel, is referred to as the word. Considering that the writer was not currently experiencing eternal life at the time of the writing, it is reasonable to say that it is in fact referring to Jesus as was the writers had “seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon and touched with our hands.” Eternal life is not something physical. Jesus was.

    On John 21:20-25: first, it is not exceedingly clear. The writer clarifies, sure, but there’s no reason to say that this was added later. The writer uses asides all through the book of John. And saying that “we know that his testimony is true,” when the third person view has been used for the entirety of the book, does not mean that it was written by someone else. It simply means that it is grammatically consistent. Explicitly stating would be something like, “Now that’s what I heard from the guy who actually saw this.” It certainly isn’t that. I don’t think there’s much evidence for saying that it wasn’t the writer talking about himself.

    For Luke 1:1-4: I agree that Luke may not have interviewed people, but he does claim that “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us.” So maybe he didn’t go to them, but they certainly told him about it. Also, the sources they say Luke got most of his material from are Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels. If He was gathering information from eyewitnesses, it’s highly likely that people who experienced the same events as cited in those first two gospels would say the same thing. I would say that that’s some reasonable evidence that those accounts were written as eyewitness accounts, considering that the it is corroborated by the eyewitnesses mentioned in Luke. The writer also says that he has “followed all these things closely for some time past, to write and orderly account.” He set out to get the facts straight. His intent is certainly explicit.

    Now to Papias: First, he and his buddies mentioned were not the first believers, but they are the earliest writings we have from believers outside the new testament. The gospels certainly predate them, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to mention them.
    Papias wrote that Mark wrote an account. We only have one account from Mark. It’s reasonable to say that it was Mark’s gospel account. It may not be super direct, but a lack of evidence isn’t evidence. It may be weak, but it is still the most reasonable inference. The point you make on Matthew is pretty great. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that someone else translated Matthew’s Hebrew into Greek early on. It was the most common language at the time and would be understood to the most people. Matthew was writing primarily to the Jews, thus he wrote the original in Hebrew. He may have had another book, Papias may have been summarizing part of Matt’s gospel or talking about something else. The Gospel certainly contains the sayings of Jesus, but Papias doesn’t exclusively say that this was or wasn’t the gospel. It’s reasonable to go either way. There’s not enough evidence to rule it out as a different book or that Matthew wrote no gospel at all.

    For Irenaeus: he was the first to formally recognize the Gospels as eyewitness accounts, but that doesn’t mean that they were not previously recognized as such by other believers. For them to have any weight they must have been seen as such in a wide-spread way for a lengthy amount of time or it would not have held water with his audience. What he was doing in Against Heresies was using the Gospels as the foundation for his argument. Just because he wrote it later doesn’t mean that they were not considered to be foundational eyewitness accounts previously.

    Paul: he was considered and eye-witness to Jesus appearing to him on the road and blinding him. Not to the life of Jesus. That’s why he got promoted to apostle.

    Claiming themselves as eyewitnesses may not prove who wrote the books, but it also doesn’t follow that they didm’t write them. The premise that they didn’t, must first be true to make another claim (this was my intro again). Also, they would have been alive when these books were written with their forged names. Considering the quick spread of the texts, they would have known about it. Also, the gospels are consistent with the claims they make in the book of Acts. If they didn’t write them, then someone certainly knew everything they would have.

    Paul claiming eyewitnessness: I don’t think that this is a non-sequitur. The way you lay it down, it certainly doesn’t line up. But again, Paul would have known if someone was running around with his story in false pretense. He would have said something.

    As far as the ending, I don’t think it’s fair to assume Wallace has mal intent. Be wary of a bias against him.

    • The main problem I see here is that you and Wallace are starting on different premises. You say the gospels were not written by their namesakes, whereas Wallace says they are. His article is not about who wrote the books, but about the claims of the disciples to being eyewitnesses.

      I don’t think this is quite right. Firstly, I don’t know of anyone who would claim that the disciples weren’t eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus (except, of course, for mythicists, but they’re another can o’ worms). If we start from the assumption that Matthew and John were written by the disciples, Matthew and John, there seems no need to provide any further evidence that the gospel authors were eyewitnesses.

      Furthermore, if Wallace intended to start from the assumption that the gospels were written by the disciples, there would have been no need for him to attempt to prove that notion in his Fourth Point.

      I agree that historical narrative alone does not make any sense for eyewitnesses. However, the gospels do not claim events that happened in the past (for the most part) or that were far away, but of things that were happening then and there.

      I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to say, here. The gospels certainly weren’t journal-like daily logs of occurrences the authors were experiencing. They were absolutely describing events that happened in the past, even if one grants Wallace’s early dating.

      For Peter’s passages: If Mark was Peter’s dictator he could easily do some grammar fixing and the like. The possible illiteracy of Peter isn’t a reason that he didn’t write it for that very reason.

      Even if we assume that Mark was taking dictation from Peter, that would still require Peter to have had a rather expensive education in Greek rhetoric, which seems extremely far-fetched for a poor, Aramaic preacher from the backwaters of Galilee. Both 1 & 2 Peter were penned in Greek– they have none of the hallmarks of having been translated from Hebrew or Aramaic. It seems extremely unlikely that they were actually authored, in any way, by Peter.

      For the 1 John passage: it is not actually speaking of eternal life in the sense of existence. Jesus, also at the beginning of John’s Gospel, is referred to as the word. …the writer was not currently experiencing eternal life at the time of the writing

      I think that the author of 1 John absolutely believed that he was “currently experiencing eternal life at the time of the writing.” The author does not make reference to any of the physical occurrences related in the Gospel of John, throughout the entire epistle. Not even the Resurrection! The First Epistle of John says more about the actions Cain performed during his life than the actions Jesus performed.

      On John 21:20-25: first, it is not exceedingly clear. The writer clarifies, sure, but there’s no reason to say that this was added later.

      I’m not sure what you’re saying, here. I never claimed that this was a later interpolation.

      And saying that “we know that his testimony is true,” when the third person view has been used for the entirety of the book, does not mean that it was written by someone else.

      I didn’t claim that the switch from third-person to first-person indicated that the book was written by someone else.

      Explicitly stating would be something like, “Now that’s what I heard from the guy who actually saw this.”

      This is almost exactly what John 21:24 says! The verse states that ‘the beloved disciple’ set down his testimony, and “we know his testimony is true” (Gk., οἴδαμεν ὅτι ἀληθὴς αὐτοῦ ἡ μαρτυρία ἐστίν). The Greek very clearly and explicitly demonstrates that the “we” which represents the author is entirely distinct from the “this disciple” who witnessed the events.

      For Luke 1:1-4: I agree that Luke may not have interviewed people, but he does claim that “those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us.” So maybe he didn’t go to them, but they certainly told him about it.

      The Greek word being translated as “delivered” is παραδίδωμι, and while it could certainly indicate direct transmission, it was quite often utilized to indicate a teaching passed through oral tradition. At the very best, this passage is ambiguous, in which case it still cannot be reasonably cited to support Wallace’s claim.

      Now to Papias: First, he and his buddies mentioned were not the first believers, but they are the earliest writings we have from believers outside the new testament.

      This is not true. We have a great deal of extra-Biblical Christian writings which predate Irenaeus, and some which may predate Papias. The Didache and 1 Clement were both likely written earlier than Papias, and there are numerous extant writings prior to Irenaeus in 180 CE, including (but certainly not limited to) the Epistle of Barnabas, the Coptic Gospel of Thomas, and the works of Justing Martyr. Many of these writings even quote from the canonical gospels, but not a single one of them refers to the canonical gospels as having been written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John.

      Papias wrote that Mark wrote an account. We only have one account from Mark.

      The account we have does not claim to have been written by Mark, and there is no evidence that a single person claimed Mark wrote it until 80 years after Papias wrote.

      I don’t think it’s unreasonable to believe that someone else translated Matthew’s Hebrew into Greek early on.

      The Gospel of Matthew lacks all of the hallmarks one would expect of a text translated from Hebrew into Greek. Linguistic scholars have been quite convinced, for a very long time, that the document was originally written in Greek, and not translated from another language. For a good example of a document which was translated from Hebrew into Greek, one might look to 1 Maccabees.

      For Irenaeus: he was the first to formally recognize the Gospels as eyewitness accounts, but that doesn’t mean that they were not previously recognized as such by other believers. For them to have any weight they must have been seen as such in a wide-spread way for a lengthy amount of time or it would not have held water with his audience.

      This is demonstrably untrue. There are numerous other books which were also widely utilized and accorded authoritative weight by Christians, though they were known to have been written by authors who were not eyewitnesses: 1 Clement, the Epistle of Barnabas, the Didache, the Shepherd of Hermas. There are sects of Christianity, even today, which include some or all of these books in their Biblical canons, completely aware that the authors were not eyewitnesses to Jesus ministry.

      Even more to the point, Paul was not an eyewitness to Jesus ministry or crucifixion, and yet he was accorded an incredible amount of authority, as you well know.

      Just because he wrote it later doesn’t mean that they were not considered to be foundational eyewitness accounts previously.

      The point is that there is no evidence that anyone prior to Irenaeus considered the canonical gospels to be eyewitness accounts.

      Paul: he was considered and eye-witness to Jesus appearing to him on the road and blinding him. Not to the life of Jesus. That’s why he got promoted to apostle.

      Paul was not “promoted to apostle.” He declared himself to be an apostle while claiming to have seen the risen Jesus. He was believed, and found to be authoritative, by Christians despite the fact that he had never actually seen Jesus during the Nazarene’s living ministry.

      Claiming themselves as eyewitnesses may not prove who wrote the books, but it also doesn’t follow that they didm’t write them. The premise that they didn’t, must first be true to make another claim (this was my intro again).

      The great deal of internal and external textual evidence backing the idea that these books are forgeries, which is precisely why they are considered to be such by the majority of NT scholarship.

      Also, they would have been alive when these books were written with their forged names. Considering the quick spread of the texts, they would have known about it.

      Firstly, if the dating ascribed by mainstream NT scholarship is correct, it is extremely unlikely that these men would have been alive when the pseudepigrapha were written. Secondly, even if they were alive, what do you propose they could have done about it?

      Also, the gospels are consistent with the claims they make in the book of Acts.

      Acts was written by the same author as the Gospel of Luke. It is rather unsurprising that the two are fairly consistent. And since Luke and Matthew were both largely copies of Mark, it is unsurprising that the gospels, in general, are fairly consistent with Acts.

      But again, Paul would have known if someone was running around with his story in false pretense. He would have said something.

      Again, Paul was likely dead by the time that the pseudepigrapha and Acts were written.

      As far as the ending, I don’t think it’s fair to assume Wallace has mal intent. Be wary of a bias against him.

      Wallace might believe himself to be performing an entirely necessary and moral ministry. He might not have any mal intent, at all. That’s beside the point. He is still being dishonest when he pretends to be a disinterested investigator to promote himself.

      • I think that his fourth point would still be relevant. What he’s doing there is evidencing that traditionally the eyewitnesses were considered to be the authors. I’ll talk more about this in a minute. I don’t think it’s an assumption to say that the gospels were written by their namesakes. There’s plenty of evidence for that, but I won’t get into it now because it’s off topic.

        What I meant to say was “in the distant past.” Sorry about that. The events were significant enough and recent enough to be remembered well.

        I would say that Mark’s education would be the one in question, not Peter’s. It’s less likely that Peter was literally translated. If Mark knew enough about both languages he could easily help Peter use the Greek rhetoric necessary. The uneducated reasoning isn’t very convincing because the disciples were considered leaders for a long time before they actually wrote those gospels. It would be a priority to become educated enough to be able to fulfill their commission.

        For the 1st John passage: sure the author doesn’t mention anything from the book of John, but he’s certainly talking about something physical. For the reasons I gave before, I think it’s most reasonable that he is referring to Jesus and is thus claiming to be an eyewitness of Jesus.

        For John 21:20-25: You say that “a great many Christians thought that this meant ‘the beloved disciple’ would never die, but the author of John feels the need to correct this interpretation– perhaps because ‘the beloved disciple’ had already died, in contradiction to such a belief. “ That’s complete speculation. It assumes that the disciple was already dead. It’s also possible that John knew how people would take it and clarified himself to prevent such confusion. I don’t think it’s evidence that he was dead at all (thus the implication that it was written after he died). That’s what I meant by being later.

        I phrased that poorly. It’s not a change of tense but of who is being referenced that you mention. I don’t see the contrast between “beloved disciple” and “we know that his testimony is true.” It doesn’t imply that the author isn’t John at all. The “we” could just as easily mean the author is simply including himself among the listeners. It does’t imply that he’s someone else entirely, simply that he is telling a group he includes himself in.

        Oral tradition in Jewish culture was highly accurate. It wasn’t a large game of telephone. It was a strict and precise practice of the priests. This was holy scripture and they would not alter it. They would be sure to be word for word. I agree that Wallace’s claim is loose, but the fact that the author was informed by eyewitnesses remains.

        That’s fair. However, Wallace is simply using the ones that do make mention of the authors of the gospels. There was no need to mention it with frequency if they were named after those who wrote them. Talking about the books by those names were directly indicative of who wrote them. If I wrote a book called “the book of Andrew Crigler” it’s less likely that anyone would ask or mention who the author was as it would be redundant.

        I still think it’s likely that Matthew knew greek. He was a tax collector and collected taxes from all kinds of people, not just Jews. As greek was the language of business at the time, he would likely know it.

        One of the requirements for the canonization of the new testament is that the books must be written by eyewitnesses or someone who talked to them. That’s why we don’t see many books that were held in authority in the New Testament: eyewitnessness was necessary to be considered scripture.

        Paul was given that authority because of his conversion experience with Jesus. This was debated in the book of Acts, but ultimately they believed that Paul passed the test for apostleship. There were witnesses to his experience.

        As a favor to me (and for the sake of my laziness), can you write a post with the evidence that the gospels were forgeries? Honestly, that this is contested among scholars is new to me. There are few among Christianity who hold this position. So much so that I’ve never heard one. I don’t think that the majority rules that these are forgeries. Otherwise, we’d have given them up long ago and I would certainly be an Atheist.

        If they were alive at the time, they could have written about it. They still had a great amount of authority with their peers and certainly among Christians. There were many times that liars and heretics were called out for being just that in the early church.

        The last thing I’ll say about Wallace’s character in this post: I don’t think he’s pretending. I think he originally came to the gospels as a disinterested investigator. It is what he claims and I see no evidence otherwise. It’s only a lie for self promotion if we can evidence that he is lying. Otherwise it’s an unfair assumption.

        • I would say that Mark’s education would be the one in question, not Peter’s. It’s less likely that Peter was literally translated. If Mark knew enough about both languages he could easily help Peter use the Greek rhetoric necessary.

          Mark suffers from most of the same problems that Peter does. Acts similarly identifies Mark as an Aramaic-speaking Galilean. It is still unreasonable to claim that he would have had the benefit of an expensive education in Greek grammar and rhetoric.

          For the 1st John passage: sure the author doesn’t mention anything from the book of John, but he’s certainly talking about something physical. For the reasons I gave before, I think it’s most reasonable that he is referring to Jesus and is thus claiming to be an eyewitness of Jesus.

          I do not believe that 1 John 1:1-3 is referring to Jesus’ human nature in any way, shape, or form. There does not seem to be any indication of this, in the text, even including the references to the physical senses.

          For John 21:20-25: You say that “a great many Christians thought that this meant ‘the beloved disciple’ would never die, but the author of John feels the need to correct this interpretation– perhaps because ‘the beloved disciple’ had already died, in contradiction to such a belief. “ That’s complete speculation.

          I agree that it is speculation, which is why I prefaced it with the word “perhaps.” It would seem the most natural reason why a person would want to mention and correct such a legend, but I agree that it cannot be asserted with certitude.

          I don’t see the contrast between “beloved disciple” and “we know that his testimony is true.” It doesn’t imply that the author isn’t John at all. The “we” could just as easily mean the author is simply including himself among the listeners.

          Previously, you have stated that a plain reading of the text is preferable unless reasonable evidence to the contrary can be provided. The text plainly distinguishes the “we” from “the beloved disciple.” Therefore, what reasonable evidence can you provide that the “we” instead includes “the beloved disciple?”

          Oral tradition in Jewish culture was highly accurate. It wasn’t a large game of telephone. It was a strict and precise practice of the priests. This was holy scripture and they would not alter it. They would be sure to be word for word.

          Do you have any primary sources from that period or earlier which could verify this claim?

          Furthermore, I’ll note that the early Christians passing along oral tradition were not Jewish priests, nor is oral tradition Scripture. Even if your claim regarding the transmission of oral tradition was true, it is seemingly irrelevant.

          I agree that Wallace’s claim is loose, but the fact that the author was informed by eyewitnesses remains.

          Again, I’ll note that receiving oral tradition which had its origin in an eyewitness is not equivalent to being directly informed by an eyewitness.

          That’s fair. However, Wallace is simply using the ones that do make mention of the authors of the gospels. There was no need to mention it with frequency if they were named after those who wrote them. Talking about the books by those names were directly indicative of who wrote them. If I wrote a book called “the book of Andrew Crigler” it’s less likely that anyone would ask or mention who the author was as it would be redundant.

          You still don’t seem to understand. These books were not originally named “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John.” They had no titles, and were ascribed no authorship. It’s not like there was a book entitled “The Gospel According to Matthew,” and people then wondered who wrote it. That book was untitled and anonymous, and there is no evidence that anyone prior to Irenaeus thought it was written by the apostle, Matthew.

          I still think it’s likely that Matthew knew greek. He was a tax collector and collected taxes from all kinds of people, not just Jews. As greek was the language of business at the time, he would likely know it.

          As a publican, it stands to reason that Matthew would have been able to speak some Greek, since it would be necessary for him to communicate with the Roman officials that had contracted him. However, this does not even imply that Matthew would have been able to speak Greek very well, nor that he would have been able to read Greek; and it certainly does not imply that he would have had the benefit of an expensive Greek education in writing, grammar, and rhetoric.

          One of the requirements for the canonization of the new testament is that the books must be written by eyewitnesses or someone who talked to them. That’s why we don’t see many books that were held in authority in the New Testament: eyewitnessness was necessary to be considered scripture.

          Firstly, there was no formal process for canonization, at all. Secondly, the preference was for books with apostolic authority, not necessarily books written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. Again, Paul was ascribed apostolic authority despite his not being an eyewitness and despite the fact that (by his own testimony) he spent exceedingly little time with the apostles.

          Paul was given that authority because of his conversion experience with Jesus. This was debated in the book of Acts, but ultimately they believed that Paul passed the test for apostleship. There were witnesses to his experience.

          Paul claims quite explicitly, in Galatians, that he was not given authority by any men, including the apostles. He began his apostolic ministry before he had ever met with any of the apostles, and the Churches that he founded still believed him despite the fact that he had not been an eyewitness to Jesus’ ministry.

          As a favor to me (and for the sake of my laziness), can you write a post with the evidence that the gospels were forgeries? Honestly, that this is contested among scholars is new to me. There are few among Christianity who hold this position. So much so that I’ve never heard one. I don’t think that the majority rules that these are forgeries. Otherwise, we’d have given them up long ago and I would certainly be an Atheist.

          I never said that the gospels were forgeries– they most certainly are not. In order for something to be a forgery, it must claim to have been written by someone other than its author. The gospels make no claims, at all, about their authorship. Scholars contend that they are pseudonymous (falsely ascribed), but not pseudepigraphical (forged in another’s name).

          Examples of suspected forgeries would be Ephesians, Colossians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus, which claim to have been written by Paul; 1 Peter and 2 Peter, which claim to have been written by Peter; and Jude, which seems to claim to have been written by the brother of James the Just.

          If they were alive at the time, they could have written about it. They still had a great amount of authority with their peers and certainly among Christians. There were many times that liars and heretics were called out for being just that in the early church.

          So then people would have two letters, both claiming to be from the same person, and both claiming to offer the truth in that person’s name. How do you propose this audience could have determined which of the letters was actually authentic and which came from a liar?

          The last thing I’ll say about Wallace’s character in this post: I don’t think he’s pretending. I think he originally came to the gospels as a disinterested investigator. It is what he claims and I see no evidence otherwise. It’s only a lie for self promotion if we can evidence that he is lying. Otherwise it’s an unfair assumption.

          Disinterested investigators do not cherry pick minority scholarship and discard the majority of expert opinion. If a detective working a case interviewed 10 doctors, and nine of them said that the deceased had died of natural causes, would that detective be justified in concluding that the deceased was definitely murdered?

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