A review of “Making the Case for Christianity” by John Bombaro and other LCMS Lutheran theologians, Part 5

The fourth chapter of the book is entitled, “Defending the Deity of Jesus in the Face of Islam”, written by Adam Francisco.  Dr. Francisco has a doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford and is an Associate Professor of History at Concordia University, Irvine.  He is a “frequently sought speaker on the subjects of Islam and apologetics”.

(Correction:  Dr. Francisco’s degree is a Doctorate of Philosophy. I apologize to Dr. Francisco for this error.)

I am going to list some excerpts from Dr. Francisco and then give brief responses.

(Muslim apologist Fatoohi) is particularly fond of, and relies largely upon (as do a number of other Muslim apologists), the work of Bart Ehrman, especially his ‘Misquoting Jesus’.” p. 99

Gary:  Interesting.

“The canonical gospels, on the other hand (as compared with the many non-canonical gospels) were written by eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life (Matthew and John) or companions of the eyewitnesses (Mark and Luke).”  …(Fatoohi) believes that the authorship of the four Gospels was made up to guarantee their acceptance over against emerging gnostic and other non-canonical gospel traditions.” p. 107

Gary:  Oh boy.  Here we go again.  Another seminary trained LCMS theologian who believes that Matthew the tax collector, John Mark, Luke the physician, and John the son of Zebedee wrote the four gospels!  Seriously, the LCMS must update their apologetics courses in LCMS seminaries.  The majority of modern NT scholars do NOT believe that the traditional authors wrote the four Gospels.  LCMS theologians and pastors have got to stop selling this nonsense to LCMS laypeople.  They should at least be honest and admit that this position is held by a small minority of scholars, mostly fundamentalist evangelicals.

“The events recorded in the Gospel accounts were written with the assumption that the reader could, if he or she desired, verify their facticity.” p.107

Gary:  And how do you know this Dr. Francisco?  The first Gospel was not written until circa 70 AD (in the opinion of the majority of NT scholars), that is 40 years after Jesus’ death.  The majority of NT scholars believe that the first Gospel (Mark) was written in a foreign country, possibly Antioch, possibly Rome.  How was someone in Rome going to verify the claims in a book, detailing alleged events occurring four decades earlier, in a land far, far, away??

“Further, the question of the authorship of the Gospels is not an unsettled issue.  Both Irenaeus (c. 130-202 AD) and even earlier Papias (c. 70-155 AD) identify the authors of the Gospels as those who were either eyewitnesses of Jesus’ life or their close companions.” p. 108

Gary:  Good grief.  As I mentioned in my review of chapter two, Papias never states that he ever spoke to an eyewitness of the life of Jesus.  Never.  He simply retold stories he heard about Jesus and the apostles from “disciples of the disciples of the disciples”.  Not exactly eyewitness testimony, folks.  Papias says that he had heard from an unnamed source that John Mark had written a gospel containing the preaching of Peter, however, he never identifies this gospel.

The Gospel we today call the Gospel of Mark never mentions its author and no Church Father or any other Christian identifies the current Gospel of Mark as having been written by John Mark until—the late second century.  So if the book to which Papias was referring in the early second century, really was considered the work of John Mark, why does no one ever refer to this gospel by its author until the late second century?  No one knows.

But the fact is this:  no Christian refers to today’s Gospel of Mark as a gospel written by John Mark until the late second century.  And who is this Christian?  —Irenaeus, the heretic hunter.  Therefore, many scholars would agree with Fatoohi that Irenaeus, or other Church officials, most likely selected and named the four Gospels to give orthodox Christianity four “authentic”, officially-sanctioned texts, all with alleged apostolic authority, with which to combat the gnostics and other “heretics”.

Can scholars prove this theory?  No, but the evidence makes this a very strong possibility. Bottom line, NO ONE in the first century or in the first half of the second century, ever identifies the authors of the books we today refer to as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  No one.  They quoted passages from them, but no one ever identified their authors as being apostles or having apostolic authority.

In summary of chapter four:  Dr. Francisco continues the false assumption first begun by Mr. Pierson in chapter two, picked up by Mr. Parton in chapter three, that the four Gospels were written by the traditional authors; two of Jesus apostles (Matthew and John) and two close associates of apostles (Mark and Luke).  The consensus of modern New Testament scholarship is that this is false.  Shame on LCMS theologians for disseminating this false information to gullible laypersons, or, shame on them for their lack of knowledge in up-to-date apologetics.





6 thoughts on “A review of “Making the Case for Christianity” by John Bombaro and other LCMS Lutheran theologians, Part 5

  1. Hi Gary,

    Those LCMS apologists, theologians and biblical scholars who deny the view the large majority of biblical scholars who argue for a dating of the 4 canonical gospels somewhere between CE 70 and CE 100, with Markan priority are not being honest with their parishioners and should be exposed.

    To claim that they were written by eyewitnesses is appalling, given that it is not only liberal and moderate Christians scholars who deny this view being argued for in the book but also quite a number of evangelical ones also deny earlier datings and eyewitness dependence. That minority that does hold to the view espoused in this book just shows how Fundamentalist some of the LCMS leaders are.

    Many thanks for your great work on your blog.


    John Arthur


    1. Thanks, John. Yes, it’s amazing that seminary trained LCMS theologians would hold such out of date positions on NT scholarship. These are the positions of poorly educated fundamentalists. I’m shocked. Truly shocked.


  2. I know Dr. Francisco. He’s not a fundamentalist (a term you use quite liberally). Nor do you get the basic facts about him right (which is interesting since you charge all the authors in this book with inaccuracies). He doesn’t have a seminary degree nor does he have his doctorate in philosophy. There are a few other things you say about him as well that are inaccurate.



  3. Hi Abdul. Thank you for your comment. I don’t believe I ever referred to Dr. Francisco as a “fundamentalist”. I said that his scholarship was more in line with fundamentalists than with mainstream scholarship. Please provide the quote and I will be happy to correct it if I misspoke.

    My statement that Dr. Francisco has a Doctorate in Philosophy comes directly from the “contributors” section at the back of his book: “Adam Francisco, M.A., Concordia University, Irvine; D.Phil., University of Oxford.”

    If “D.Phil.” does not mean “Doctor of Philosophy” I will be happy to post a correction.


  4. Dr. Francisco sent me this email today:


    I tried to post this on your blog, but apparently I need a password:

    Gary, I received your email and your letter. I apologize for the late response. I’ve been out of the country.

    Blogs are interesting things. Anyone can write them, and issues take on a life of their own there. So I don’t really engage (or even read) them. I’m making this one exception.

    In your letter you told me to do a simple google search to verify your claim about NT scholars not believing the four (canonical) gospels were written by eyewitness or based on eyewitness testimony.

    Really? I could do a simple google search and back up any claim. I’m pretty sure I could find a consensus of “scholars” supporting the proposition that Bigfoot exists (and maybe there are such creatures).

    If you want a list of a few NT scholars who believe the gospels are at least based on eyewitness testimony, written by eyewitnesses, or written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (as those who lived in the late first and early second century believed as opposed to people living 2000 years later) here you go: Richard Bauckham, Martin Hengel, James Dunn, Samuel Byrskog, Craig Keener, Craig Blomberg, Michael Grant, Birger Gerhardsson, Craig Evans, Ben Witherington, Peter Williams, Vincent Taylor, DA Carson.

    I’ll let you do the reading.

    While you’re at it, you refer to me a seminary-trained theologian and (in your letter) a reverend. I’m neither; I’m a simple laymen. I do have an Oxford DPhil though. That does not mean my doctorate is in philosophy. True, it is a doctorate of philosophy, but that’s a different thing than a doctorate in philosophy. I don’t want to be nasty, but when you accuse me of being ignorant of the facts and then point me to google to clear up my ignorance it’s rather odd since you are ignorant of even more basic, easily investigable (using google) facts.

    Btw, it looks like we live close to each other. I’m just across the north San Diego county line. Perhaps we could meet up for a beer.

    This is for Abdul: please email me. I’d like to talk (if only by email). And thanks for defending me from the ad hominem attack of being similar to a fundamentalist. Gary: Your response to Abdul in a different post about the source material for Islam being better than it is for Christianity is absolutely hilarious. The earliest stuff we have for the life of Muhammad, for example, dates to 200 years after his death, and it is filled with miraculous accounts that happened beyond the view of any other humans (e.g. Muhammad split the moon in half, rode a pegasus from Mecca to Jerusalem, et cetera).


    Adam S. Francisco, DPhil

    Professor of History


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