A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”; discussion with Historian Adam Francisco, Part 5

Some of you may be wondering, “Where is Dr. Francisco in this discussion?  Dr. Francisco has informed me that he is “buried” grading papers at the moment (he is a university history professor) and that he will “catch up” as soon as he can.  (For those just joining us, Dr. Francisco is a conservative Lutheran author who has challenged me to read “good” scholarship regarding the reliability and eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  He recommended I read “The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony” by conservative New Testament scholar, Richard Bauckham.)

My review continues with chapter five of Bauckham’s book entitled, “The Twelve“.

As the title of the chapter implies, this chapter discusses the original twelve disciples of Jesus.  Here is the opening paragraph of the chapter:

“It is the contention of this book that, in the period up to the writing of the Gospels, gospel traditions were connected with named and known eyewitnesses, people who had heard the teachings of Jesus from his lips and committed it to memory, people who had witnessed the events of his ministry, death, and resurrection and themselves had formulated the stories about these events that they told.  These eyewitnesses did not merely set going a process of oral transmission that soon went its own way without reference to them.  They remained throughout their lifetimes the sources and, in some sense that may have varied for figures of central or more marginal significance, the authoritative guarantors of the stories they continued to tell.”  p. 93

Gary:  Has Bauckham made the case for this claim in the preceding chapters?  I would say, definitely not.  But maybe he will in future chapters.  Let’s recap the “evidence” presented so far:

Bauckham believes that Papias, an early second century bishop in Asia Minor, received “eyewitness” information from the disciples of two of Jesus’ very disciples, Aristion and John the Elder. Bauckham makes this assumption based on Papias’ statement that Aristion and John the Elder were “disciples of Jesus”.  However, I have yet to find any source which states that the majority of NT scholars believe that these two men were actual companions of Jesus.  If they were not, then at best, Papias received third or even fourth hand information from their disciples.  Papias never states that he spoke directly to any of the Eleven, to any other eyewitnesses to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, nor even directly with Aristion and John the Elder.

It is my contention that Bauckham has built his entire case, so far at least, on the assumption that Aristion and John the Elder were companions of Jesus—eyewitnesses to his ministry, his miracles, his death, and his post-resurrection appearances—and, were still alive and teaching during the time that the Gospels were written and distributed in the churches, guaranteeing the accuracy of the Gospels.

“…this group (the Twelve) was evidently so important for the transmission of gospel traditions that the Synoptic Evangelists are not content to leave them largely anonymous but preserve carefully lists of the members of the Twelve as the group was constituted during Jesus’ ministry.” p. 97

“Is it true that the names of the Twelve are carefully preserved in these lists?  Many scholars have thought not and have pointed to the differences among the lists as indicating that at any rate by the time the Gospels were written the membership of the Twelve was no longer accurately remembered.  If true, this would count against the argument that that the Twelve were the authoritative guarantors of the Gospel traditions not only at the beginning but also for as long as they lived.”  p.97

Gary:  Bauckham then goes on to review the four lists of the Twelve as mentioned in Matthew, Mark, Luke and Acts (John does not give a list).  Here are the four lists:

Matthew’s list:  Simon Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee, John the son of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alpheus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaeam, Judas Iscariot.

Mark’s list:        Simon Peter, Andrew, James the son of Zebedee,  John the son of Zebedee, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Cananaean, Judas Iscariot.

Luke’s list:          Simon Peter, Andrew,  James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas the son of James, Simon the zealot, Judas Iscariot.

The list in Acts:       Peter, Andrew, James , John, Philip, Bartholomew, Thomas, Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, Judas the son of James, Simon the Zealot.

Gary:  Notice the two names I highlighted in bold?  Mark and Matthew have a “Thaddaeus” in their lists, Luke has a “Judas the son of James” in his two lists.  How can Bauckham claim that a list of the names of the Twelve was accurately maintained with this discrepancy?  Answer according to Bauckham:  One of the Twelve was most probably named Judas-Thaddaeus and to distinguish him from Judas Iscariot, Matthew and Mark referred to him as Thaddaeus, Luke identified him by naming his father (son of James).  Proof?  None.  Simply speculation.  This is a classic Christian “harmonization”:  If it resolves the discrepancy that contradicts your presumed conclusion it MUST be the correct answer!

However, Bauckham then surprises me at the very end of the chapter:

“…the identification of Matthew with Levi the son of Alphaeus—a traditional case of harmonizing the Gospels in view of the parallel passages Matt. 9:9 (about Matthew) and Mark 2:14 (about Levi) must, on the same grounds of the onomastic evidence available, be judged implausible.  Mark tells the story of the call of Levi the son of Alphaeus to be a disciple of Jesus in 2:14 (followed by Luke 5:27 where the man is called simply Levi) and lists Matthew, with no further qualification, in his list of the Twelve.  It is clear that Mark did not himself consider these two the same person.  In view of the other details Mark does include in his list of the Twelve, he would surely have pointed out Matthew’s identity with Levi there had he known it.” p.108

Gary:  Wow! 

The most plausible explanation of the occurrence of the name Matthew in 9:9 is that the author of this Gospel, knowing that Matthew was a tax collector and wishing to narrate the call of Matthew in the Gospel that was associated with him, but not knowing a story of Matthew’s call, transferred Mark’s story of Levi to Matthew.  The story, after all, is so brief and general it might well be thought appropriate to any tax collector called by Jesus to follow him as a disciple.  There is one feature of Matthew’s text that helps to make this explanation probable.  In Mark, the story of Levi’s call is followed by a scene in which Jesus dines with tax-collectors (Mark 2:15-17).  Mark sets this scene in “his house”, which some scholars take to mean Jesus’ house,  but could certainly appropriately refer to Levi’s house.  In Matthew’s Gospel, the same passage follows the narrative of the call of Matthew, but the scene is set simply in “the house” (Matthew 9:10).  Thus, this Evangelist has appropriated Mark’s story of the call of Levi, making it a story of Matthew’s call instead, but has not continued this appropriation by setting the following story in Matthew’s house.  He has appropriated for Matthew only as much of Mark’s story of Levi as he needed.”  (bolding, Gary’s)p.111

Gary:  WOW!

“If this explanation of the name Matthew in Matt. 9:9 is correct, it has one significant implication:  that the author of Matthew’s Gospel intended to associate the Gospel with the apostle Matthew but was not himself the apostle Matthew.  Matthew himself could have described his own call without having to take over the way Mark described Levi’s call.”  (bolding, Gary’s) p.112


The apostle Matthew did not write the Gospel of Matthew???  The author of the Gospel of Matthew INVENTED stories using Mark’s original stories as a template???  Wow!!!  One must then ask:  What ELSE did the author of Matthew invent?

Answer:  How about having the resurrected Jesus show up in the Garden on the day of the Resurrection to talk to the women…when (the original) Mark only had the women meet one young man that day and no one else prior to fleeing the Garden?  How about inventing detailed post-death appearance stories…stories that are no where to be found in the original Gospel of Mark???

Wow!  and I mean…WOW!!!

Is Dr. Francisco sure that he wants me to continue reading this book???

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.  —The Gospel of Mark, chapter 16


After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he[a] lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead,[b] and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.” So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. 10 Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”  —Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28





2 thoughts on “A Review of Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”; discussion with Historian Adam Francisco, Part 5

  1. Here is an interesting thought on the “Twelve” from Neil Godfrey, author of Vridar Blog:

    “Bauckham is correct in his understanding of the symbolic role of the Twelve. This is what the narrative place of the Twelve points to: appointed on mountain by a Moses like figure after escaping a crowd across a sea; named at the beginnings but soon afterwards lost from sight. There is no evidence that as a result of this status they assumed an authoritative role in the history of the early church. The silence of such an authoritative body is deafening. No, the Twelve were first and last a symbolic body. If we take the only Twelve that we know, the Twelve in the gospels/Acts, the Twelve that appear in the early church literature, and read into them no more than what we read in that literature, then we see a body portrayed by the authors to inject a particular symbolism into the story of Jesus and the church. We have no evidence that they were any more than what we read in the gospels/Acts.”

    And what about Bauckham’s harmonization of the discrepancy in the names of two of the Twelve in two of the Gospels:

    Neil Godfrey: “One of the cases of name variations (Thaddaeus and Judas of James) could possibly be the same person after all, one set of lists using a form of his Greek name and the other his Semitic name. Could be, yes, so is there any evidence? No, B [Bauckham] cites none. Just could be. So if the reader wishes to believe the hypothesis then “could be” will no doubt graduate to “is”.

    Historians, like other humans, have their off days. Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, by David Hackett Fischer, lists one fallacy in particular that one encounters too often among publications of biblical scholarship, B’s book no exception: ‘The fallacy of the possible proof consists in an attempt to demonstrate that a factual statement is true or false by establishing the possibility of its truth or falsity.’ (p.53)

    Source: http://vridar.org/2007/02/06/bauckhams-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses-chapter-5b/


  2. Here is what Neil Godfrey of Vridar Blog has to say about Bauckham’s belief that the author Matthew borrowed “Mark’s” story about Levi’s calling as a disciple for Matthew’s calling as a disciple:

    Matthew and Levi

    Bauckham concludes this chapter with his reasons why we should not harmonize Matthew the tax collector in the list of Twelve with the Levi who sat at the tax office. (We have already addressed when harmonization is legitimate for Bauckham.) To B, the author of the gospel of Matthew was not Matthew, even though he believes it bore Matthew’s name. The author of this “GMatthew” for some reason did not know the circumstances of the call of Matthew the disciple whose gospel he was writing, so he stole Mark’s Levi and cuckood him with the Matthew of the Twelve.

    Dare one wonder what was distracting the authoritative eyewitnesses when this author was allowed to put pen to parchment?

    Would it be disrespectful to ask what suddenly possessed this gospel author whom Bauckham has been insisting was so scrupulously honest and careful to record accurately the traditions from eyewitnesses?

    Source: http://vridar.org/2007/02/06/bauckhams-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses-chapter-5b/


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