Value: 5 Meets Expectations: 5 Jesus and the Gospels: An Introduction and Survey by Craig Blomberg has long been praised as one of the best resources available for a serious, well-rounded study of the subject. This second edition builds on the success of the prior edition by bringing updated and additional material on sociology and social-scientific criticism, literary criticism, the Gospel of John, the apocryphal and Gnostic Gospels, and issues related to the historicity of the Gospels. The footnotes and bibliography have also been substantially updated to reflect the most recent scholarship, debate, critical methods, as well as the ongoing quest of the historical Jesus. The reader is certain to appreciate Blombergs overall organization as it builds a foundation for the study therein.
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The Historical Reliability of the Gospels Many critics would argue not. The Jesus Seminar became the best-known collection of such critics during the s as they alleged that only 18 percent of the sayings ascribed to Jesus and 16 percent of his deeds as found in the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, plus the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, bore any close relationship to what he actually said and did. At the same time, a much more representative cross-section of scholars from about to the present has inaugurated what has come to be called the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus, in which a greater optimism is emerging about how much we can know, from the Gospels, read in light of other historical cultural developments of the day.
This article rapidly surveys 12 lines of evidence that, cumulatively, support the historical reliability of the Gospels, particularly the Synoptics Matthew, Mark, and Luke. None of these arguments presupposes Christian faith; all proceed following standard historical approaches of evaluating the credibility of a wide variety of ancient documents.
While none of the autographs remains, the sheer volume of manuscripts from tiny fragments to complete New Testaments -5, in ancient Greek alone-far outstrips what we have for any other Jewish, Greek or Roman literature, where historians often consider themselves fortunate to have manuscripts numbering in double figures!
The art and science of textual criticism enables scholars to date, classify, compare and contrast these documents where they differ and determine, with 97 to 99 percent accuracy, what the originals most probably contained. With the oldest known fragment of any of the Gospels, a few verses from John 18 dating to around A. For most other ancient works, at least several centuries elapse between the originals and the oldest existing copies.
None of this makes anything in the Gospels true, but it does mean we know what their writers claimed, something which we are often not at all sure of about other ancient writers. More skeptical scholars have often suggested that we should think of anonymous first-century Christians instead, perhaps disciples of the four men mentioned here. But either way, we are at most two removes away from eyewitness information. But either way, we are still talking about first-century testimony.
Again, compare these last two points with the typical situation for other ancient histories and biographies. This has often been doubted, primarily for two reasons. Who bothers to record history, even of that believed to be sacred, if they think the world might end at any time?
Well, Jews, for one, at least since the eighth century B. Second, some allege that the ideological i. There is no doubt that a passionate commitment to a certain ideology can lead some writers to play fast and loose with history, but certain kinds of ideologies actually require greater loyalty to the facts. Jews after World War II, for example, for precisely the reason that they were passionately committed to preventing a Holocaust such as they had experienced under the Nazis from ever happening again, objectively chronicled in detail the atrocities they had suffered.
It was less committed people who produced the appalling revisionism that substantially minimized the extent of the Holocaust or even denied it altogether.
Because Christian faith depended on Jesus having lived, died and been resurrected according to the biblical claims 1 Cor. Even just thirty years after historical events, memories can grow dim and distorted.
But first-century Judaism was an oral culture, steeped in the educational practice of memorization. Why was more than one needed in the first place? Moreover, the verbatim similarities among the Synoptics are usually taken as a sign of literary dependence of one Gospel on another or two together on a common source. There are a whole host of reasons for these differences. Many have to do with what each author selected to include or leave out from a much larger body of information of which he was aware John Distinctive theological emphases, unique geographical outlines, and larger questions of literary subgenre account for many of these selections and omissions.
But even where the Gospels include versions of the same event, verbatim parallelism usually remains interspersed with considerable freedom to paraphrase, abridge, expand, explain and stylize other portions of the accounts.
All this was considered perfectly acceptable by the historiographical standards of the day and would not have been viewed in any as errant. But recent scholarship is also pointing out how the flexibility and patterns in oral storytelling would have accounted for many of the more incidental differences as Christian tradition initially passed these stories on by word of mouth. The so-called "hard sayings" of Jesus suggest that the Gospel writers felt considerable constraint on what they could or could not include.
Numerous embarrassments in the Gospels could have been avoided if their writers had anywhere close to the freedom to tamper with the tradition in the ways that the Jesus Seminar and like-minded writers have alleged they had. The debate over whether Gentile adult males in a world without anesthesia-had to be circumcised as a sign that they were keeping the whole Jewish Law en route to becoming Christians threatened to tear the first generation of Christianity wide apart Gal.
The same can be said of speaking in tongues, an issue which threatened to blow the Corinthian church sky high see 1 Cor. Some might argue that this does not seem like a lot of detail but in a world in which almost all historical and biographical writing focused on kings, emperors, military generals, people in institutional positions of religious power, famous philosophers whose "schools" had long outlived them, and, more generally, the well-to-do and influential, it is remarkable that Jesus gets mentioned at all by first-through-third century non-Christian writers.
Before the legalization of Christianity in the fourth century, who would have expected this obscure, crucified rabbi to produce a following that would one day become the religion adopted by the greatest percentage of people on earth? And all of these details in the Gospels were once doubted before the archaeological confirmation came forth. Second-century Christian writers refer back to and even quote a considerable portion of the Gospel accounts with approval. These are no late Hellenistic legends that evolved long after the life of Jesus, the simple Jewish rabbi..
These were the revolutionary claims being made by his followers from the very beginning!
The final part on historical trustworthiness and theology round out the fine volume. Quite possibly one of the best resources I have ever read. Share your thoughts with other customers. The context this book will provide to your study of the NT is amazingly helpful. This second edition of Jesus and the Gospels prepares readers for an intensive study of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and the events they narrate.
Jesus and the Gospels
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels Many critics would argue not. The Jesus Seminar became the best-known collection of such critics during the s as they alleged that only 18 percent of the sayings ascribed to Jesus and 16 percent of his deeds as found in the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, plus the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, bore any close relationship to what he actually said and did. At the same time, a much more representative cross-section of scholars from about to the present has inaugurated what has come to be called the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus, in which a greater optimism is emerging about how much we can know, from the Gospels, read in light of other historical cultural developments of the day. This article rapidly surveys 12 lines of evidence that, cumulatively, support the historical reliability of the Gospels, particularly the Synoptics Matthew, Mark, and Luke.
Jesus and the Gospels (2nd Edition) (#1 in New Testament Introduction & Survey Series)