Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?

by jimmyakin

in +Religion, Apologetics, Bible

Did the gospel writers feel free to make stuff up?

Some people hold the view that the writers of the four gospels felt free to basically make stuff up, to freely shape the narratives they were writing about Jesus’ life by either manufacturing stories about his deeds or making up teachings and putting them on his lips.

The idea is that they used the figure of Jesus as a vehicle for their own ideas, and they made up material to serve the perceived needs of their local Christian communities.

It’s easy to show that by the second century there were a lot of people identifying themselves as Christians who did exactly this. That’s why there were so many Gnostic gospels dating from the second to the fourth century.

But what about the first century, canonical gospels?

Let’s take a look . . .

 

What We’re Talking About

I should say a word about what I mean and what I don’t mean.

I’m talking about making stuff up out of whole cloth–the kind of things that the authors of the Gnostic gospels did, telling stories and making up sayings that have absolutely no relation to the historical Jesus and what he said and did.

I’m not talking about paraphrasing what Jesus said–using different words to express the same thing. Or simplifying a story by choosing not to record certain details about what happened. Or telling a story from a certain point of view or bringing out an implication, nuance, or meaning that others might not have brought out. Or using a bit of literary artistry or reorganization in how the material is presented.

The gospel authors did all of those things, as is easy to show. John did a bit more of them than the other three.

What I’m talking about is fundamentally different. I’m talking about making stuff up.

While the Gnostics may have been into that kind of thing, there are very good reasons to think that the authors of the canonical gospels weren’t.

Let’s look at two reasons why . . .

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{ 53 comments }

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 4:02 am

“Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” Yes the did! See the evidence here: 
 
http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/did-the-gospel-writers-feel-free-to-make-stuff-up-part-2/

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 4:03 am

“Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” – Yes they did!
 
http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/21/did-the-gospel-writers-feel-free-to-make-stuff-up-part-2/

Bill912 October 21, 2012 at 5:56 am

@PaulWilliams1 How about posting some evidence HERE, so we can respond to it more easily?

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 6:14 am

@PaulWilliams1
This is the article I linked to.
 
Jimmy Akin is a Roman Catholic apologist from Texas. On Friday, October 19 he threw out what is in effect a challenge to those of us who do not subscribe to the unbiblical doctrine of biblical inerrancy. His article is entitled “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?”
He believes that the gospels are error free and would never “make stuff up”. I have already refuted this argument in my post below. Matthew clearly made up a prophecy concerning Jesus in Matthew 2. But this example is comparatively trivial compared to how virtually all biblical scholars view the ‘creative work’ of the author of the Fourth Gospel – traditionally called ‘John’.
 
Here is an illustration of my point:
 
Professor Richard Bauckham won the prestigious Christianity Today Book Awardin biblical studies for his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.
 
Bauckham (Professor of New Testament Studies in the University of St Andrews, Scotland) has also authored a little known (at least outside of scholarly circles) book entitled God Crucified : Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament. He argues that the first Christians included Jesus in the unique identity of the God of Israel in a way that was compatible with Jewish monotheism.
 
One of the weaknesses of his argument is his use of texts that he himself clearly believes are fictionalised accounts of Jesus’ teaching.
Consider these statements taken from his book God Crucified:
 
‘The Gospel of John places on the lips of Jesus during his ministry another of the characteristically Deutero-Isaianic declarations of unique divine identity. The Johannine choice is the concise statement ‘I am he,’ usually translated in the Septuagint Greek as ego eimi (‘I am’), the form in which it appears in John’s Gospel.’ (page 55)
 
and here:
 
‘We observed earlier [page 55] how John places Deutero-Isaiah’s great monotheistic self-declaration of God – ‘I am he’ – on the lips of Jesus in the series of seven absolute ‘I am’ sayings.’ (page 63)
 
If the author of the Fourth Gospel knowingly placed the ‘I am’ statements in Jesus’ mouth, then Jesus obviously did not say them, and John has invented sayings which countless generations of Christians have nevertheless taken as literal reportage.
 
But if John’s portrayal of Jesus represents a ‘highly interpreted’ and partly fabricated account of his life and teaching why should we believe what it says?
Bauckham’s views are based on a detailed analysis of the gospels’ genre and a comparison of the synoptic gospels and John. His views on the historicity of Jesus’ sayings in John are widely shared by other scholars (outside of fundamentalist seminaries).
 
So in reply to Jimmy Akin’s question “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” I say ‘Yes they did!’ at least according to top evangelical scholars and mainstream scholarship in genreal. Eminent Roman Catholic scholars such as Professor Rev. Raymond E. Brown would agree too, though they would never put it in such demotic language!
 
Is it not time that Christian apologists took note of what their own conservative Christian experts are saying?

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 6:21 am

Here is the article I linked to:
 
“Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” Part 2 by Paul Williams
 
Jimmy Akin is a Roman Catholic apologist from Texas. On Friday, October 19 he threw out what is in effect a challenge to those of us who do not subscribe to the unbiblical doctrine of biblical inerrancy. His article is entitled “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?”
 
He believes that the gospels are error free and would never “make stuff up”. I have already refuted this argument in my post below. Matthew clearly made up a prophecy concerning Jesus in Matthew 2. But this example is comparatively trivial compared to how virtually all biblical scholars view the ‘creative work’ of the author of the Fourth Gospel – traditionally called ‘John’.
 
Here is an illustration of my point:
 
Professor Richard Bauckham won the prestigious ‘Christianity Today Book Award’ in biblical studies for his book ‘Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.’
 
Bauckham (Professor of New Testament Studies in the University of St Andrews, Scotland) has also authored a little known (at least outside of scholarly circles) book entitled God Crucified : Monotheism and Christology in the New Testament. He argues that the first Christians included Jesus in the unique identity of the God of Israel in a way that was compatible with Jewish monotheism.
 
One of the weaknesses of his argument is his use of texts that he himself clearly believes are fictionalised accounts of Jesus’ teaching.
 
Consider these statements taken from his book ‘God Crucified’:
 
‘The Gospel of John places on the lips of Jesus during his ministry another of the characteristically Deutero-Isaianic declarations of unique divine identity. The Johannine choice is the concise statement ‘I am he,’ usually translated in the Septuagint Greek as ego eimi (‘I am’), the form in which it appears in John’s Gospel.’ (page 55)
 
and here:
 
‘We observed earlier [page 55] how John places Deutero-Isaiah’s great monotheistic self-declaration of God – ‘I am he’ – on the lips of Jesus in the series of seven absolute ‘I am’ sayings.’ (page 63)
 
If the author of the Fourth Gospel knowingly placed the ‘I am’ statements in Jesus’ mouth, then Jesus obviously did not say them, and John has invented sayings which countless generations of Christians have nevertheless taken as literal reportage.
 
But if John’s portrayal of Jesus represents a ‘highly interpreted’ and partly fabricated account of his life and teaching why should we believe what it says?
 
Bauckham’s views are based on a detailed analysis of the gospels’ genre and a comparison of the synoptic gospels and John. His views on the historicity of Jesus’ sayings in John are widely shared by other scholars (outside of fundamentalist seminaries).
 
So in reply to Jimmy Akin’s question “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” I say ‘Yes they did!’ – at least according to top evangelical scholars and mainstream scholarship in genreal. Eminent Roman Catholic scholars such as Professor Rev. Raymond E. Brown would agree too, though they would never put it in such demotic language!
 
Is it not time that Christian apologists took note of what their own conservative Christian experts are saying?
 
(more evidence to follow…)

Bill912 October 22, 2012 at 3:11 am

@PaulWilliams1 ”Matthew clearly made up a prophecy concerning Jesus in Matthew 2.”
 
What is the prophecy St. Matthew allegedly “made up”?  How is it clear that he did so?

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:15 am

Very clear. Consider Matthew 2:
 
“There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”
 
*There is no such prophecy anywhere in the Bible.*

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm

@PaulWilliams1 True.  The Jews had an oral tradition they called the Oral Torah.

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 6:24 am

Did Jesus utter the famous ‘I ams’?
 
What is almost certainly the most difficult case of all for Christians who hold the Bible in high regard? I refer to the Fourth Gospel. Here the matter is peculiarly sensitive, since so much seems to depend on it. For if John’s Gospel is straightforward history, then we have in it the most amazing and powerful self-testimony of Jesus. If John’s Gospel is unvarnished history then all that Christians need ever claim for Jesus is clearly attested there, by Jesus himself. If John is correct, then the old apologetic-evangelistic question is unavoidable: the one who makes such claims for himself is either mad, bad or God.
 
But the very starkness and unequivocalness of these claims is what begins to raise the nagging question in the mind.  If Jesus made such claims, why do the other Gospels make no use of them? What Evangelist having among the traditions which had been passed to him such wonderful sayings as the ‘I ams‘ – ‘I am the resurrection and the life’; ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’; ‘Before Abraham was, I am’; and so on – what Evangelist having to hand such saying could ignore them completely? The question once raised, cannot be squashed into silence, since the integrity of that whole apologetic-evangelistic approach is at stake.
 
Once raised, that question leads to others. For we begin to realize more clearly that the style of Jesus‘ teaching in John’s Gospel is very distinctive, and very different from that in the other Gospels. There we have a Jesus who speaks in short, pungent sayings, like the one-verse parables mentioned above. Or whose longer, connected statements consist in longer parables, or what look like collections of shorter sayings, like the Sermon on the Mount. But in John’s Gospel we have these lengthy discourses, which often seem to take a theme and develop it in a sort of circular motion, as in the Bread of Life discourse in chapter 6, returning more than once to the earlier sub-themes and elaborating them afresh. Rather in the way a theme like love is elaborated in the first Epistle of John.
 
At the same time we recognise elements within these discourses which strongly recall particular sayings of Jesus found in the Synoptics. The new birth discourse in chapter 3 echoes Jesus‘ saying about entry into the kingdom being possible only for one who becomes as a little child (Matt. 18.3 pars.). The Father-Son discourse of chapter 5 seems to build on the way Jesus was remembered as addressing God as Father in intimate terms (as in Mark 14.36). And the discourse about Jesus as the good shepherd in chapter 10 seems to be a natural and (in Christian perspective) inevitable deduction from Jesus’ parable about the lost sheep and the caring shepherd preserved in Luke 15. So the teaching of the Johannine Jesus is not so far removed from that of the Synoptic Jesus, at least in core sayings and themes.
 
These twin features in John seem at first sight puzzling – the striking dis-similarity between the Johannine discourses in boldness and style of statement and the teaching of Jesus in the Synoptics, and the similarity provided by central elements of these same discourses. The puzzle is resolved when we realize that these Johannine discourses are probably just a more developed example of the sort of thing we have already seen in the Synoptics themselves. The Johannine discourses are probably best understood as extended meditations or reflections on the significance of various typical events in Jesus‘ ministry and sayings of Jesus remembered within the communities from which John’s Gospel came. They are but a further example of the oral tradition process and of how it was a living process where the richness and significance of the earlier tradition was spelt out, in story form, perhaps even actual sermons, by one who had been present at such events and perhaps even heard these sayings and who had meditated long and hard on them.
 
Some Christians find such conclusions rather threatening, because they seem to undermine the trustworthiness of John’s Gospel. But that is to miss the point. That is to assume that John’s intention was to provide straightforward, unvarnished history. Nothing that he says compels us to that conclusion…
 
Excerpt from ‘The Living Word’ pp. 40-42 by James D.G. Dunn.
 

 
James D. G. Dunn is a leading British New Testament scholar who was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham. Since his retirement he has been made Emeritus Lightfoot Professor. Dunn is especially associated with the New Perspective on Paul, along with N.T. Wright and E. P. Sanders.
 
Dunn has an MA and BD from the University of Glasgow and a PhD and DD from the University of Cambridge. For 2002, Dunn was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, the leading international body for New Testament study. Only three other British scholars had been made President in the preceding 25 years.
 
In 2005 a festschrift was published dedicated to Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit. (edited by Graham N. Stanton, Bruce W. Longenecker & Stephen Barton (2004). The Holy Spirit and Christian origins: essays in honor of James D. G. Dunn. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co.

Bill912 October 22, 2012 at 3:15 am

@PaulWilliams1 Jesus is pictured as speaking in shorter discourses in the Synoptic Gospels and longer ones in St. John’s, and that shows that the evangelists “made stuff up”?

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:22 am

No,  you trivialize an important question: 
 
If John’s Gospel is straightforward history, then we have in it the most amazing and powerful self-testimony of Jesus. If John’s Gospel is unvarnished history then all that Christians need ever claim for Jesus is clearly attested there, by Jesus himself. If John is correct, then the old apologetic-evangelistic question is unavoidable: the one who makes such claims for himself is either mad, bad or God.
 
BUT the very starkness and unequivocalness of these claims is what begins to raise the nagging question in the mind.  If Jesus made such claims, why do the other Gospels make no use of them? What Evangelist having among the traditions which had been passed to him such wonderful sayings as the ‘I ams‘ – ‘I am the resurrection and the life’; ‘I am the way, the truth and the life’; ‘Before Abraham was, I am’; and so on – what Evangelist having to hand such saying could ignore them completely? The question once raised, cannot be squashed into silence, since the integrity of that whole apologetic-evangelistic approach is at stake.
 
I would guess that 99% of reputable scholars (outside of fundamentalist seminaries) do NOT consider that Jesus actually said these words. Scholars attribute them to the creative activity of the author(s) of the Fourth Gospel. I agree that this is only a problem if one is concerned to understand the historical Jesus - rather than the Christ of faith.

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 3:38 pm

@PaulWilliams1 The Masked Chicken answered your questions (see above) before you even asked them.

PaulWilliams1 October 21, 2012 at 6:29 am

The Christology of the Fourth Gospel
 
When we turn from the synoptic Gospels [Matthew, Mark and Luke] to the Fourth Gospel [John], we move in some respects into a different world. The differences between John and the synoptics have long been recognised, reference often being made in this context to the famous statement of Clement of Alexandria (early third century) that, whereas the other Gospel writers gave the ‘bodily‘ facts about Jesus, ‘John wrote a spiritual Gospel’ (cited by Eusebius, E.H. 6.14.7.).
 
Although the differences between John and the synoptics can perhaps be exaggerated, there can be no denying that at many levels John presents a radically different presentation of the life and ministry of Jesus. There are differences at the more superficial level of dates and places, for example in John, Jesus ‘cleanses’ the temple early in his ministry; in the synoptics it is much later. In John, Jesus is active for much longer in Jerusalem; in the synoptics, Jesus is in Jerusalem for only one final week of his life. In John, Jesus dies on the eve of Passover, in the synoptics he dies on the feast of Passover itself. But there are also differences in the whole mode and content of Jesus‘ own teaching: instead of the short pithy sayings and the parables which characterise the synoptic presentation of Jesus’ teaching, John’s Jesus teaches in long discourses with none of the parables so characteristic of the synoptics. So too, categories such as the ‘kingdom of God’, which is so prominent in the synoptics, rarely appear in John; in turn other categories, such as teaching about ‘eternal life’, dominate the picture in John. But the area where this difference is most prominent is precisely the area of Christology.
 
In general terms, the synoptic Jesus says very little explicitly about himself: his preaching is about God, the kingdom of God, the nature of God’s demands, etc. The Johannine Jesus by contrast is far more explicit about himself so that his teaching focuses on his own person far more directly. John’s Jesus makes himself the object of faith far more explicitly that in the synoptics. John 14:1 is typical: ‘Believe in God, believe also in me’; cf. also 20:31. In the synoptics the motif occurs only in Matthew 18:6 (‘these little ones who believe in me’) which is almost certainly due to Matthew’s redaction (the Markan parallel in Mark 9:42 lacks the phrase ‘who believe in me’).  And he teaches quite openly about himself and the importance of his own role on God’s plan, supremely in the great ‘I am…‘ sayings which come throughout the Gospel.
 
In line with this, the beginning and end of the Gospel focus directly and explicitly on the person of Jesus. Thus the prologue of the Gospel (1:1-18) speaks of Jesus as the Word of God; and in what is probably the ending of at least one version of the Gospel, it is stated that the book has been written ‘so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God’ (20:31).
 
So too the figure of Jesus is portrayed in a more exalted role throughout the story. Jesus is fully in control of all the events concerned. His miracles highlight his person, and indeed at times Jesus acts in order to highlight even more his activity. Thus in chapter 11, when Lazarus falls ill and dies, Jesus is portrayed as deliberately delaying going to heal him in order apparently to make the miracle of raising him all the more stupendous (11:4, 15). John describes what appears to be a vestige of the agony scene in Gethsemane (12:37); but in John there seems to be no real agony on Jesus’ part and Jesus displays unbounded and unquestioning confidence in God. So too, in the account of Jesus‘ actual death, little if anything is made of Jesus‘ suffering. Jesus admits to thirst on the cross, but only in order to fulfil scripture (19:28); and his final word is no agonized cry of dereliction, as in Mark, but a statement of supreme confidence: ‘it is finished‘ (19:30). Above all, it is John that we get the two most explicit statements in the New Testament about the divinity of Jesus. Moreover they come at key points in the narrative – at the beginning and at the end – encompassing the whole story in a powerfulinclusio. Thus the first verse of the prologue affirms that the Word was not only in the beginning ‘with God’, but in some sense also ‘was God‘ (1:1); and Thomas at the end of the story openly confesses Jesus as ‘my Lord and my God’ (20:28). John thus presents Jesus explicitly in far more exalted terms than anything we find in the synoptic Gospels.
 
In terms simply of historical reliability or ‘authenticity’, it seems impossible to maintain that both John and the synoptics can be presenting us with equally ‘authentic’ accounts of Jesus‘ own life. (By ‘authentic’ accounts I mean here historically accurate representations of what Jesus himself actually said and did. The theological ’authenticity’ of John’s account is quite another matter).  The differences between the two are too deep seated and wide ranging for such a position to be sustainable. If there is a choice, it is almost certainly to be made in favour of the synoptic picture, at least in broadly general terms. The Johannine picture then presents us with a view of the Jesus tradition which has been heavily coloured and influenced by John and his own situation.          
 
Extract from Christopher Tuckett, Christology and the New Testament pp.151-152, in chapter 9: ‘The Gospel of John’.
 
Christopher Tuckett is a biblical scholar, and Professor of New Testament Studies at the University of Oxford.

Bill912 October 22, 2012 at 3:19 am

@PaulWilliams1 ”…in John, Jesus ‘cleanses’ the temple early in his ministry;  in the synoptics it is much later.”
 
Also, His reply to the Pharisees is different.  Did you ever think that maybe He drove out the buyers and sellers on more than one occasion?

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:25 am

No, I don’t consider this a serious option. Why? Because no gospel says the cleansing of the Temple occurred twice. In positing two dramatic actions you are creating a 5th gospel.

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2012 at 11:08 am

@PaulWilliams1
Why would they have to say that there were two cleansings

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2012 at 11:11 am

Rats, comment got published before I finished.
None of the Gospels have to say that the cleansing occurred twice. There were focused on their particular cleansing. The other, of it existed, might not have been important to them.
More then that, though, it was not common in early writings to maintain a strict chronology. This is historical retrojecting

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2012 at 11:12 am

This is Twentieth-century retrojecting into a narrative process of a different time.

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 11:17 am

Fact: no gospel says there were two cleansings. The only reason anyone suggests there were is for dogmatic reasons to keep up the appearance of an error free New Testament. But not all of us are fundamentalists…

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 3:42 pm

@PaulWilliams1 Fact:  no gospel says there were NOT two cleansings.  (Wow, that was hard to refute).
 
“The only reason anyone suggests there were is for dogmatic reasons…”  Speaking of dogmatic…

Bill912 October 22, 2012 at 3:20 am

PaulWilliams1:  Do you have anything of your own to say, or is cut-and-paste all you can do?

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:29 am

that’s not a helpful remark.
 
The question is: “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” 
 
according to virtually all scholars they did! To prove my point and give you a taste of their observations I have included a representative selection of their views. In the light of their comments do you still think Jesus said all the things attributed to him by John?
 
If so why?

SDG (DecentFilms) October 22, 2012 at 7:09 am

PaulWilliams1: 1. Cutting and pasting large chunks of content, especially in the absence of substantive commentary of your own, is rude and contrary to the house rules at this blog. 2. It looks as if you may not have even read the preface in the blog post above you’re commenting on, let alone watched the video. Most if not all of the commentary you’re copying and pasting does not support claims contrary to what Jimmy is arguing above. Please read more carefully and comment more thoughtfully if you have something to contribute.

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:30 am

@SDG (DecentFilms) Sorry my friend I will post and comment as I please…

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2012 at 11:00 am

@PaulWilliams1 @SDG (DecentFilms)
“As I please…”. Did you not read the rules for etiquette for this site?
The Chicken

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 11:14 am

@PaulWilliams1  @SDG No I havent – but I will continue to post as I please - your bullying tactics wil not work.

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 3:43 pm

@PaulWilliams1  @SDG Thank you for a fine example of bullying.

SDG (DecentFilms) October 23, 2012 at 12:08 pm

@PaulWilliams1  When you are a guest, you owe it to your host to respect house rules. That’s common courtesy. Boors who can’t observe common courtesy are liable to be blocked. But why would you want to be a boor? Why not be courteous instead?

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 12:13 pm

@SDG (DecentFilms) I am not being a boor – you are being a bully - just because you dont like what i’m saying. So please go and bother someone else! – there are adults trying to have a serious discussion here!

SDG (DecentFilms) October 23, 2012 at 12:57 pm

PaulWilliams1, I’ve spent my whole life having productive discussions with smart, thoughtful people I disagree with. I haven’t singled you out for remonstration because I don’t like what you’re saying. I singled out you because you’re being rude, now stooping to childish insults. You will find that this blog is very accommodating to divergent points of view, but if you insist on insulting people, you’re setting yourself up for a short stay.

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm

@SDG (DecentFilms) just who are you? Why are you being so aggressive and rude? I think you would profit from taking some deep breaths and let me continue with the serious folk here. Your unwelcome threats and comments are obstructing this

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 3:44 pm

@PaulWilliams1  @SDG (DecentFilms) You need to learn the definition of the word “adult”.

Jimmy Akin October 23, 2012 at 4:27 pm

@PaulWilliams1  @SDG (DecentFilms) Paul Williams: I have been cutting you slack in the interests of fostering dialogue, but SDG, Bill912, and TheMaskedChicken are correct. You are being rude. Pasting long stretches of text from another site or sites and being rude to the other comboxers is against the tone I try to set for this site, as spelled out here: http://jimmyakin.com/blog-rules
 
Also, I was taken aback to discover the following comment posted under your name in my Register combox. Either someone is posting under your name or I am at a loss to explain the starkly negative tone it takes:
 
“Jimmy, your arrogance is quite breath taking! You are clearly rabidly anti-intellectual and have retreated into a long discredited fundamentalism. As an “apologist” you are clearly an abject failure. To follow your brand of Catholic fundamentalism one would need to leave one’s brain at the church door.
 
“I feel sorry for you. There is obviously no point in further discussion with such a willfully ignorant man”
 
If this is how you conduct dialogue, Paul, then I am afraid I will not be a suitable dialogue partner for you.

SDG (DecentFilms) October 23, 2012 at 6:15 pm

@Jimmy Akin  @PaulWilliams1  Thanks, Jimmy. 
 
Paul Williams: <a href=”http://decentfilms.com/about”About me.</a>
 
I’m a diaconal candidate, a Catholic convert, a long-time apologist, a professional film critic, a husband and father of seven, and, FWIW, a past contributor to and admin for this blog.  
 
I enjoy talking to, and debating with, Muslims, Jews, Protestants, atheists, agnostics, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and people who think <i>The Lion King</i> was a good movie. 
 
Different points of view strongly expressed don’t ruffle my feathers. Telling a highly learned and thoughtful man that you can’t take him seriously because of his Internet handle, and pronouncing that you don’t care what house rules on a blog are, you’ll post as you please — that ruffles my feathers. Maybe that’s how you roll in your country (and maybe it’s not), but in any case the world is a big place, and people engaging in dialogue across borders need to be willing to make adjustments. 
 
Please be civil and respectful, and disagree as strongly as you wish. If you can do that, you’ll find no shortage of worthwhile discussion here. Cheers.

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm

@SDG (DecentFilms)  @Jimmy Akin I am hope you will follow your own advise too – as some of your comments have been uncivil and disrespectful too!

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 11:00 pm

@SDG (DecentFilms)  @Jimmy AkinI hope you will follow your own advise too – as some of your comments have been uncivil and disrespectful too!

Bill912 October 23, 2012 at 11:15 pm

@PaulWilliams1  @SDG (DecentFilms)  @Jimmy Akin Lie.

The Masked Chicken October 24, 2012 at 6:46 am

There are many different levels on which one may respond to the accusation that the Gospel writers made stuff up, but I have a great limitation in making those responses: there seems to be a 1500 word limit on posting in the combox. It looks like I may have to segment my posts, which could get tedious to both format and read.
Dear PaulWilliams,
Whenever I visit a blog on which I intend to post, I almost always look over the archives to get a sense of the types of discourses which are acceptable as well as to become familiar with the comments of, “the Regulars.” Back when the Internet was just getting started and largely a closed system among college students and professional colleagues, this was considered part of learning “netiquette.” Sadly, with the large influx of the general population in about 1993, conversation has become increasingly coursened. Since I have been on the Internet since before it’s mass market beginnings and posted to many general and academic sites, I believe I have a very good idea of what constitutes civil and polite discussion on the Internet. Insulting someone because of their handle is, at least uncharitable, and certainly mocking. You have no idea why I chose that handle (a story which I have told, before) nor is my handle germane to the topic at hand. That you would mock it is a classic example of abusive ad hominem.
I have many things to say on this topic and I have Ph.d-level training as an historian, among other areas, so I think I can make an informed contribution.
In the past, on the predecessor of this blog, sometimes, a new poster would wander in, post long clips, brush his hands and either wander on or start inciting the regulars. If you look at the archives of JimmyAkin.org, you will see the pattern repeated many times. SDG, who was a moderator of the blog at the time, often had to be in the thick of the mess and it can wear on a person. I realize you want to have a serious discussion on the topic of this post, but you seem to have gotten off on the wrong foot, rhetorically, since, although you meant well, it looked like you could have been another drive-by poster (hope they have that term in England – it comes from the idea of drive-by shooting among American gangs) because you started by posting long chunks of material without asking permission, which you would have seen was appropriate had you read the archives for a while before posting.
Generally, unless a bomb is about to go off, the search for Truth is usually made easier if it is conducted in a spirit of calm and with the assumption of charity among all parties. I have given you no insult. I simply ask for none in return.
May we, please, begin, again?
The Chicken

PaulWilliams1 October 25, 2012 at 11:45 am

let us start again then :)
 
I think assumptions were made about my motivations and modus operandi which were not warranted and I certainly felt I was being treated dismissively (and yes rudely - and so I gave as good as got :) by individual Catholics on this blog. No matter. 
 
My intention in my posting the longish excerpts from reputable scholars was to *illustrate* that the points I was making were also advocated by reputable world class scholars. If you visit my blog you will see I regularly post such comments. To have my serious attempt at scholarly discourse then dismissed as “rude” has never happened before and I (perhaps wrongly) attributed this reaction to certain benighted attitudes. 
 
So let us start again and think the best our each others motives. 
 
DId you have anything particularly you wished to discuss? 
 
regards
 
Paul Williams (former adult convert to Catholicism – now a Muslim) 
 
bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/

The Masked Chicken October 22, 2012 at 8:46 am

Apparently, some people are not aware that different eyewitnesses can stress different things. That is not making stuff up. Do you think Mrs. Lincoln was watching the play?
The Chicken

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 9:31 am

I have no idea what you are talking about. Remember not all of us on the Internet are Americans!

The Masked Chicken October 23, 2012 at 10:58 am

@PaulWilliams1
The point was sufficiently made. The last sentence was mere illustration. To use a less historical example, some reporters at a High Society ceremony will cover the fashion, some will cover the people.
The Chicken

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 11:13 am

@PaulWilliams1 Dear Chicken – it is important to realize that the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses - scholars have known this for a very long time. For a discussion of the authorship question just consult any standard word of Introduction to the New Testament.

SDG (DecentFilms) October 23, 2012 at 12:31 pm

PaulWilliams1.
 
Your response to the Masked Chicken is a bit condescending. You probably don’t know this, but the Chicken has formidable academic credentials and doesn’t need to be pointed to basic NT introductions. (For that matter, I’m currently earning my second graduate degree at a Catholic seminary, and the major for my first degree was sacred scripture. I am currently engaged in my third course on the Gospels.) It is certainly the critical consensus that none of the evangelists were eyewitnesses, though baldly stating “the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses” as a certain fact is a little too presumptuous. Epistomological humility compels us to acknowledge that scholars can’t definitively rule out the traditional ascriptions of Matthew or John (or for that matter of Mark or Luke, though neither the second or third evangelist was traditionally supposed to be a witness of most of the events they wrote about). There are good methodological reasons for concluding that the Evangelists relied on oral and written testimony rather than simply their own eyewitness recollections, but that’s not quite the same thing as certitude that none of the evangelists were eyewitnesses. And there are also good methodological reasons for historical confidence regarding the broad picture of Jesus that emerges from a critical study of the Gospels, which is based on eyewitness testimony reliably passed on via oral tradition. With the appropriate caveats noted above by our host, among others, the Gospels attest the evangelists’ interest in historical and biographical truth — with a clear religious and theological perspective, of course, but not to the extent of manufacturing their picture of Jesus from whole cloth.

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 1:23 pm

I’m sorry but anyone who repeatedly refers to themselves as a “chicken” cannot be taken seriously even if he has certain undeclared ‘academic’ credentials - does he have a degree in poultry studies perhaps? 
 
You say: “there are also good methodological reasons for historical confidence regarding the broad picture of Jesus that emerges from a critical study of the Gospels, which is based on eyewitness testimony reliably passed on via oral tradition.”
 
I think if you reread my earlier posts then you might engage with the point I made about John’s gospel. Very few scholars think Jesus actually uttered the famous ‘I am’ statements in John, and Jesus’ teaching there is so different from the synoptics that scholars have had to choose between them and 99% have chosen the synoptics over John.
 
This issue is especially significant when it comes to christology: the highly exulted Christology of John is radically different from of Mark our earliest gospel, where Jesus even denies that he is good! (see Mark 10)

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 1:30 pm

@SDG (DecentFilms) 
As EP Sanders commented: 
 
“It is impossible to think that Jesus spent his short ministry teaching in two such completely different ways, conveying such different contents, and there were simply two traditions, each going back to Jesus, one transmitting 50 per cent of what he said and another one the other 50 per cent, with almost no overlaps. Consequently, for the last 150 or so years scholars have had to choose. They have almost unanimously, and I think entirely correctly, concluded that the teaching of the historical Jesus is to be sought in the synoptic gospels and that John represents an advanced theological development, in which meditations on the person and work of Christ are presented in the first person, as if Jesus said them.”
 
E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure Of Jesus, 1993, Penguin Books, pp. 70-71

V October 22, 2012 at 4:13 pm

My comment is not about content. The posted video did not have closed captioning as provided by Jimmy. All that was available was “Transcribed” which when dealing with things like biblical history tends to obscure names, theology specific words and the like. Fortunately, this one wasn’t entirely unintelligible.  Though there were areas whose meaning alluded me. I loved that the gnostics were called the “non-sticks”, and the Pharisees were the “fantasies”.

V October 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

I just wanted to let Jimmy know that this video did not have built-in closed captioning. it is awesome that you have this done at your expense!  While there is transcribed closed captioning, it does not do well with biblical names, special terms or obscure languages. This can have some  humorous side effects:  I loved that the Pharisees were the “fantasies” and the Gnostics were the “non-sticks”.  :)

Jimmy Akin October 22, 2012 at 5:35 pm

Thanks, V! I forgot to upload the transcript file. It’s processing now. :-)

PaulWilliams1 October 23, 2012 at 12:16 pm

“Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?”
 
Part 3 by Paul Williams – from my blog: 
 
http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2012/10/23/did-the-gospel-writers-feel-free-to-make-stuff-up-part-3/
 
*Out of Egypt*
 
Continuing my new series on the theme “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?” in reply to Catholic apologist Jimmy Akin. On October 19 Jimmy threw out what is in effect a challenge to those of us who do not subscribe to the unbiblical doctrine of biblical inerrancy. His article is entitled “Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?”
 
He believes that the gospels are error free and would never “make stuff up”. I have already refuted this argument in 2 posts below here and here.
 
Today I examine another fabricated prophecy - further proof that this particular gospel writer ‘made stuff up’.
After the birth of Jesus Matthew tells us that astrologers from the East came looking for Jesus. They asked King Herod about the Messiah and later on in a fit of genocidal jealousy Herod had every baby 2 years old and younger killed. Having been warned of this in a dream Joseph and Mary escaped to Egypt, and only returned home after the tyrant’s death.
 
Matthew claims that the return of Jesus to Palestine was a fulfillment of prophecy. In Matthew 2:15 we read:
This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’
 
Matthew is here quoting from Hosea 11 verse 1, but he is quoting out of context and thus distorting the prophecy. The context in Hosea 11 clear:
 
When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son. 2 The more I called them, the more they went from me; they kept sacrificing to the Baals, and offering incense to idols. 3 Yet it was I who taught Ephraim to walk, I took them up in my arms; but they did not know that I healed them. 4 I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. I was to them like those who lift infants to their cheeks. I bent down to them and fed them. 5 They shall return to the land of Egypt, and Assyria shall be their king, because they have refused to return to me.
 
It is clear that the above passage has absolutely nothing to do with messianic prophecy. The “son” is the Israelites when they were lead out of captivity in Egypt. They showed a regrettable tendency to idolatry and apostasy, running after false and evil deities. This is not an appropriate allusion to Jesus. Also nowhere else in the entire NT is there any confirmation that Jesus spent any time in Egypt. So this is an invented prophecy created by ripping a few words out of their context and applying them to the life of Jesus. Why would Matthew do this? One convincing explanation would be his attempt to create a parallel between the life of Jesus and that of Moses.
 
But that is another story…

The Masked Chicken October 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

One problem with citing “experts” with regards to the interpretation of the Bible is the problem of theological bias.  Just as there are thousands of Protestant denominations, there are many different schools of Biblical interpretation: some literal, some metaphorical, and a lot of shades in between.  There is very little consensus among experts on even common issues, such as whether baptism requires water or not.  In the sciences, there is a consistent, ever-tightening testing of each term used until a clear picture emerges.  This is not really the case across the board for many aspects of the Bible.  For instance, a Protestant “expert” may say that everyone needs to be Baptized in the Holy Spirit, while another says it is demonic.  Each claims to make their case from the Bible.  So, any beginning to seriously discuss this subject must start by finding reliably and commonly agreed upon methodology.
 
That seems reasonable, I think?  If the eventual thing to be proved is that the Gospel writers were liars (which seems to be implied by the idea of them making things up in the Bible), then this is an extraordinary claim and demands an unambiguously rigorous proof.  In science, many arguments rise and fall on the methods used and the unquestioned assumptions made.
 
There are plausible answers to the apparent contradictions between John’s Gospel and the Synoptics.  Just as in many areas, some experts will be convinced, some will not.  It is hard to make perfect judgments with imperfect facts.
 
I will be unavailable over the weekend, so I will pick this up on Monday.
 
The Chicken

PaulWilliams1 October 27, 2012 at 2:34 am

Hi Chicken
 
thank you for your comments. You raise some excellent methodological questions that go to the heart of the debates concerning the historicity of the gospels. 
 
I agree with you that all experts (biblical scholars) have their biases. This applies to Roman Catholics as much as Protestant and other non-religious historians and exegetes. 
 
However I do not think we must conclude that if the evangelists made stuff up then they must be lying - that is, intentionally deceiving their readers (or listeners). 
 
A leading expert on the gospel’s genre, The Revd Professor Richard Burridge (who is Dean of King’s College, London) has written the standard work on the gospels entitled: ‘What Are the Gospels?: A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography’ (2004, Cambridge University Press).
 
He says:
 
‘Some modern studies assume that if there is ‘fiction’ in the gospels, then they are inauthentic or unreliable. However, closer attention to literary criticism shows that no one wrote a classical biography to provide a documented historical text as we might capture something with a tape recorder, but rather in an attempt to get ‘inside’ the person. Thus, John’s stress on ‘truth’ is not about documented fact but the higher truth of who Jesus is, which is why he writes in a biographical format. For him, Jesus is ’the way, the truth and the life’, so his Jesus says these words (John 14.16). To ask whether Jesus actually ever spoke these words is to miss the point completely. This is neither a lie nor a fiction; it is simply a way of bringing out the truth about the subject which the author wishes to tell the audience.’
 
pp 67-68 in ‘Jesus now and then’ published by SPCK 2004.
 
I strongly disagree with Dr. Burridge when he says: ‘To ask whether Jesus actually ever spoke these words is to miss the point completely’. I believe that if we wish to do responsible Jesus research then this is precisely the kind of question we must ask.
 
best wishes
 
Paul
bloggingtheology.wordpress.com

PaulWilliams1 October 27, 2012 at 3:40 am

p.s.
 
back in July I wrote an article which is relevant to our discussion:
 
‘The Gospel of John: fact and Fiction intermingled.’
 
http://bloggingtheology.wordpress.com/2012/07/26/5349/
 
See also the discusion beneath the article.

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