Editor’s note: The question below is answered by ARS board member Brian Colon. Unfortunately, this person has a fairly critical attitude, but hopefully the interaction will be helpful. J. O.
I just ran across another article put out by you [John Oakes] about Bart Ehrman. The Memoir of the Apostles mentioned by Justin Martyr is certainly not the 4 gospels, you make some of the most outrageous claims. You disagree with anyone who does not see things like you do with your blind faith eyes. I would say Bart Ehrman is well above your supposed scholarly views. As i said before the 4 gospel writers are anonymous writers, no one ZERO knows who wrote the 4 gospels. And they certainly were not writen by any supposed desciples, because none of the 4 gospel writers claim they themselves were eyewitnesses to the crucifixtion or resurrection, they claim to have got the tale from heresay from un-named persons. It’s easy to see the gospel of John was not writen by the desciple John,the disciple John was an uneducated fisherman,the writer of the gospel John was a well educated scholar. The Rylands fragment dating about 125 A.D.proves nothing as far as the writer,dozens of gospels were floating around during the first and second century all the writers of them were anonymous just like the 4 gospels. So just because the Rylands fragment ends up in the gospel of a claimed John does not prove who wrote it. Do you know the 4 gospels have more proof of being writen in the second century than Christianity has that they were writen in the first century?
#1.The only Theophilus that Luke wrote to in Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1 showing up in history was a church Bishop and lived in the last half of the second century,since he was a Bishop also suggests that’s who Luke addreses his writings to, another pretty good proof the gospels were not writen until the last half of the second century.
#2.The first time early church fathers mention 4 gospels by name is between 170 and 190 A.D.kinda late for your claimed first century writing of the 4 gospels.
#3. It is pretty well proven the town of Nazareth did not exist in the first century, it is a town having it’s beginings in the second and third centuries,without the town of Nazareth in the first century there could be no Jesus of Nazareth in the first century,and also is another proof of the second century writings of the 4 gospels. You claim the Bible is the inspired word of God,that means you believe a snake(serpent)spoke the Hebrew language,that an ass(donkey)spoke the Hebrew language,that a burning bush talked,that the stopped moving for Joshua to cause a long day,when this writer supposedly inspired by god,thought the earth flat and the sun was went under the earth God forgot to tell him the earth is what turns. Remember it claims the Sun stood still. You must believe a virgin had a baby without sexual intercourse,and all the other myths,fables and tales writen in your Bible. The Bible was writen by men to control the lesser population not inspired by any God. In your answer to the person who had the question about Bart Ehrman you say what he says should be taken with a grain of salt. I’d say your what you say say should be taken with a mountain of salt.You need to start thinking responsibly.
You say the Gospels were annonymous. I am prepared to grant that we do not know absolutely for sure who wrote the gospels. So what? I personally am convinced that it’s possible that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, but I see no reason to die on that hill.
For the sake of argument lets just say that we don’t know that names of the people who wrote the four Gospels. We DO know a few things however.
1. Whoever wrote the Gospel of Luke and Acts was in first hand contact with the Apostle Paul and James (the brother of Jesus and the leader of the Jeruselam church). This is evident by the author of Acts suddenly switching to the first person plural (we, us) in Acts 16 when Paul and his entourage reach Troas (modern day Turkey). During the time the author is writing in the first person plural we see that they went to Jeruselam to see James "and all the elders were present." (Acts 21:18) This means that the Author of Luke/Acts had the ability to interview the eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life, crucifixion and resurrection.
2. If you were to subtract from the Gospel of Luke everything that is also found in Matthew, Mark and John (thus observing what Luke had to say that he didn’t get from any other source), you’ll find that many of Luke’s exclusive narratives are connected to women who follow Jesus during his ministry. One example of this is Joanna, the wife of Herod’s household manager. This woman supported Jesus’ ministry out of her own means (Luke 8:3) and was among the first eyewitnesses to Jesus’ empty tomb (Luke 24:1-12). At the time this was written the testimony of women was worthless. Consider the following quotations concerning the testimony of women during that time. “But let not the testimony of women be admitted [into a court of law], on account of the levity and boldness of their sex, nor let servants be admitted to give testimony on account of the ignobility of their soul; since it is probable that they may not speak truth, either out of hope of gain, or fear of punishment” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 4.8.15). “Any evidence which a woman [gives] is not valid (to offer), also they are not valid to offer. This is equivalent to saying that one who is Rabbinically accounted a robber is qualified to give the same evidence as a woman” (Talmud, Rosh Hashannah 1.8). “Sooner let the words of the Law be burnt than delivered to women” (Talmud, Sotah 19a). Given the low opinion of the testimony of women, It becomes inexplicable why the author of Luke/Acts would invent a story and base it on what would be considered worthless testimony at the time. Such an action would undercut the validity and apologetic value of his Gospel.
3. The Apostle Paul (who you’ll remember was in first hand contact with the author of Luke/Acts) WAS an eyewitness to the resurrected Jesus (Acts 9). In 1 Corinthians 15, Paul passes on an oral tradition which he previously recieved (presumably from Peter and James in Galatians 1:18-19) which lists the eyewitnesses, and even mentions 500 witnesses, most of whom were still alive at the time of his writing and could be questioned. Scholars have dated this oral tradition to withing 7 years of the crucifixion. Your suggestion that Luke/Acts was written in the second half of the second century based on the fact there was a Bishop named Theophilus at that time is extremely simplistic.
Scholars have dated Luke/Acts to the second half of the FIRST century for the following reasons.
1. Acts mentions several events occuring in Jerusalem but never mentions the destruction of Jeruselam, which occured in AD 70. This would mean that Luke/Acts was written before AD 70.
2. Acts focuses primarily on Paul (after his conversion of course) but interestingly never mentions his death. We’re not sure when Paul died, but since he was old enough to be a Rabbi and kill Christians in AD 35 (Stephen), then he obviosly didn’t survive the first century. And by the way, if you want to trust Wikipedia on this, Paul lived from 5 – 67 AD. This puts the completion of Luke/Acts shortly after the first half of the first century.
You then list off several miracles reported in the Bible that a Biblical Inspirationist, like myself would have to believe: 1. Talking snake 2. Talking donkey 3. Talking burning bush 4. Earth stopped moving for a day. 5. No mention of a round earth 6. Virgin birth 7. Other myths,fables and tales writen in the Bible. Its obvious that you have a naturalistic bias. You come to the table already assuming the non-existence of God and therefore miracles such as these are impossible. But what if you DON’T assume naturalism? What if God DOES exist? Given that premise, is there anything impossible about a burning bush talking? The logical form of your argument would look like this:
1. God does not exist
2. Therefore supernatural events are impossible
3. The Bible reports supernatural events
4. Therefore the Bible is false
5. The Bible reports the existance of God
6. Therefore God does not exist
This is a classic example of begging the question. You are assuming your conclusion as a premise in your argumentation. "The Bible was writen by men to control the lesser population not inspired by any god." If you want to maintain that the Theist alone has the burden of proof to demonstrate that God exists, then I would avoid making positive claims to knowledge such as this that place the burden of proof back onto you.
About Nazareth, a good friend John Wilson has excavated in the area and he tells me that there is very good evidence that Nazareth was occupied in the first century. I do not know where you get your information, but Dr. Wilson is one of the world’s experts on archaeology in the Galilee region. I choose to trust a man who has actually excavated there.
About the gospels. All four are quoted by church fathers in books such as Clement of Rome (AD 95), Epistle of Barnabas (before AD 110), Ignatius (AD 117). Not only are they quoted long before you say they were written, they are used as authoritative scripture. Your contention does not hold up to the evidence and no reputable scholar would make the claims you do.