Why do Conservative Christians Reject the Consensus Position of Scholars that the Gospels are not Primary Sources?

The Tobacco Industry has paid millions of dollars to create research which appears to contradict the consensus of medical experts and their belief that tobacco smoking causes cancer. Do they do this because the medical research supporting the consensus position is poor? No. They do this because they don’t like the consensus position!

They don’t like the facts!

I suggest that conservative Christians have a similar agenda when it comes to rejecting the expert opinion on the authorship of the Gospels. Conservative Christians should listen to New Testament scholar NT Wright when he says,

“I don’t know who the Gospel authors were, nor does anyone else.”

Conservative Christian blogger “Unlike others, I do not bow down in worship at, nor even remotely defer to, the “modern consensus of New Testament scholars.” In fact, I think the field of New Testament studies is so badly screwed up that we owe its consensus pretty much zero deference. Even less than zero, if possible.”

Gary:  I find this to be the typical conservative Christian response to any consensus of experts on any subject which contradicts one of conservative Christianity’s “sacred cows”, such as the origin of species (evolution), the age of the earth (cosmology), and the non-historicity of the biblical story of the Exodus (archeology).  All these fields are filled with biased, God-hating atheists and that is why these fields deny the Christian “truths” of a Six Day Creation, a Ten Thousand Year Old Universe, and a literal exodus of hundred of thousands if not millions of Hebrews from ancient Egypt.

So New Testament scholars: you are not alone.  Other experts have been black-listed by conservative Christians.  In the world of conservative Christians, cosmologists, biologists, and archeologists too have conspired against the real truth to which only Christians have secret access.  You see, Christians believe that an invisible ghost lives inside them who tells them in an inaudible voice…the real truth;  science, reason, and archeological evidence be damned!

It is a cult, folks.  Conservative/traditional Christianity is a cult.  Plain and simple.  We owe future generations to expose it.

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13 thoughts on “Why do Conservative Christians Reject the Consensus Position of Scholars that the Gospels are not Primary Sources?

  1. The Synoptic gospels, like the gospel of Thomas, could reasonably be gospels written during the time of the apostles and with the apostles’ direct input.
    Peter could have given direct input for the information in Mark, and if he didn’t, a later apostle reasonably could have. The apostle John lived up to near the end of the 1st c., and the synoptics were probably written in the first c. The reasonable thing to do would be to use the apostles’ own telling of stories in constructing the narrative. Thus the gospels are either primary documents or else contain primary materials like perhaps the Lord’s prayer.

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    1. How do you know that the Apostle John lived to near the end of the first century?

      You have a lot of “could of’s” in your statement. Doesn’t sound like very strong evidence.

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  2. I don’t “know” it, but it makes sense and is what we find in the early Christian literature.

    Let’s say he was born in 15 AD. He could reasonably have lived to 70 years old, up to 85 AD.
    Scholars commonly date Mark’s gospel several years after 70 AD, so that would be well within that time.

    Besides, Jesus had 30-70 apostles, didn’t he? It’s likely that some of them lived to the time of writing of the first gospel.

    Besides, let’s say that all gospels antedate the apostles lives, that all apostles were dead in 70 AD and that even if any of them lived to the gospels’ writing, they were not directly involved. even in that case, it’s likely that the gospels have some primary material like the Lord’s prayer. Supposedly the Lord’s prayer was taught by Jesus himself and recited by the followers as the main prayer. It’s very easy to memorize, especially when you have group support.

    Then you have the fact that scholars commonly think that the gospels are composed of several different compositions, like the Sayings Gospel, the Signs Gospel, the Passion Gospel, Q.

    Here is how the Skeptical “Internet Infidels” research site ECW dates them:
    30-60 Passion Narrative
    40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
    50-90 Signs Gospel
    50-140 Gospel of Thomas
    50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
    65-80 Gospel of Mark
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

    Finally, consider that the apostles were going throughout the empire teaching the gospel. They needed to keep their story straight if they were going to do that successfully. It would have been important for them to carry Jesus’ sayings around with them too instead of always paraphrasing everything from memory. And like I said, there were 30-70 of them, IIRC. Some of them naturally were going to write down what they heard in their own lifetimes and those pieces were reasonably going to end up in the final product.

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    1. I never said that there weren’t some historical statements in the Gospels, just that the consensus of scholars is that eyewitnesses did not write these four books.

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      1. Personally, it is not clear for me whether either Matthew or Mark met Jesus and also completed their own gospels. However, I find the idea likely or reasonable. I don’t know why Mark could not reasonably have been a young man in Jesus’ time who met Jesus and who letter got the stories in his gospel from Peter and others who knew Jesus and then in AD 33-AD 80 have written his gospel.

        The scholars commonly date Mark to about the time of the destruction of the Temple or afterwards because first of all his gospel seems to predict its destruction. However, I think Jesus himself could have reasonably predicted it based on Daniel 9’s ending or based on the fact that Ezekiel predicts a third temple or based on the tensions between Rome and Judea. Since the temple was in fact destroyed by Romans, there could already have reasonably been a level of expectations about its destruction.

        In the case of Luke and John, Luke I think was someone whom Paul converted and John did not complete his own gospel as chp. 21 shows.

        Anyway, if the Passion narrative, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday is from 30-60 AD like the Skeptical ECW, then it suggests that one of the most important parts of the gospels, especially as concerns the resurrection miracle is concerned, comes from “Primary Witnesses”.

        Nonetheless….. just because the gospels reflect the basic story about Jesus that the apostles were telling people in AD 30-AD 60 doesn’t itself seem to necessarily prove that the events therein turn out to be fully factual.

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        1. Everything you say is possible, but Christians are asserting that the most improbable of all events occurred based on a collection of possibilities, not on good evidence. That is the problem for Christians. Yes, the Resurrection possibly occurred, but probability tells us, it most likely did not. Believe it by faith (wishful thinking), if you wish, but to say that you believe it because it is the most logical explanation for the evidence is just sheer nonsense. There are just too many much more probable naturalistic explanations for the evidence than that an ancient Hebrew deity breathed life back into a three-day-brain-dead corpse.

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          1. We are starting to get off topic, but anyway you write:

            “Christians are asserting that the most improbable of all events occurred based on a collection of possibilities, not on good evidence.”
            They are asserting it on good evidence. That a group of people and/or their close associates would claim that the group witnessed an event, while risking severe persecution for their claim, is “good evidence” when considered alone. However, just because something is “good evidence” does not make it “conclusive”. In the case of the good evidence I gave, one can still be delusional, make things up intentionally for other reasons, exaggerate in a hagiographic form, etc., thus making what would normally be “good evidence” conclusive.

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          2. If we had confirmed, signed statements from the alleged eyewitnesses, that would be “good evidence”. But we have ZERO confirmed eyewitness statements from anyone who describes this event. In fact, we have only one confirmed eyewitness statement of someone claiming to have seen the risen Jesus, Paul, and he doesn’t even tell us what he saw! (No where does Paul himself, in his writings, tell us what exactly he saw when he says that saw Jesus. Did he see a bright light? Did he see a shadow? Did he see a body? We don’t know because Paul doesn’t tell us. The anonymous author of Acts says all Paul saw was a bright light.)

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          3. Evidence is some fact tending to support some conclusion.
            “Good” evidence would be a “good”, positive, helpful fact.

            Scholars consider that the gospel stories’ basic passion and resurrection story was being told even during the apostles’ lives. They were claiming that Jesus had bodily reenlivened, and they risked severe persecution for their claims. This is a relevant significant fact that tends to support the conclusion that they did see something.

            Just because a piece of evidence is good or significant or tends to support a claim does not mean that the claim is correct or that the evidence is very strong or conclusive.

            If several staffpeople in the king’s kitchen claimed they saw the cook try to poison the king and they risked severe punishment for their claims, it’s good evidence that the cook did. And it’s still “good evidence” even if it turns out that there was no poisoning, the cook happened to be away that day, everyone ate all the food with no incident, and there were no definitely no poisons in the whole house.

            There is plenty of “good evidence” for different claims and theories in the world, but much “good evidence” is not “good enough”. Park ranger reports and many footprints and hundreds of sightings is “good evidence” that an animal by the description lives in US state parks. Does that mean one finds the evidence so strong that one believes in Bigfoot?

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          4. The ancient Greeks claimed that some mythic God-man, Hercules, led the Greek army and defeated Troy. The story has plenty of mythical or unlikely elements. I mean, did they literally fill a Trojan Horse with soldiers and invade by night from inside of it? The written accounts are not contemporaneous, were not written by eyewitnesses, and were passed down for generations. For centuries many writers thought that Troy was a mythical city or that the Battle of Troy was mythical too.

            Later on, archeologists discovered Troy and nowadays the idea that the Greeks battled it successfully is a mainstream teaching. That the Greeks believed their legend and passed it down is “good evidence” that it occurred, even if the legend was not contemporaneous or by eyewitnesses. This would be true even if it turned out that Troy the city was wholly legendary.

            The ancient Romans starting in the early 4th c. believed that Jesus resurrected and they had 1st century accounts claiming this by people who risked severe persecution to tell the story. Maybe in reality Jesus was clinically dead and then reenlivened or that apostles meant that Jesus had a hagiographic allegorical or spiritual resurrection.. Who knows. The 1st c. stories, the belief in them by ancient Rome, the stories’ success in overcoming persecution – these kinds of facts are “good evidence” in favor of the claim that Jesus’ body reenlivened after death. Just because a piece of evidence is “good” doesn’t make it conclusive.

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          5. Confirmed eyewitness accounts are “good evidence”. Hearsay and legends are not.

            We will have to agree to disagree.

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          6. It actually depends on the hearsay and the legend.

            Leif Erikssons discovery of Canada is hearsay and legend and good evidence of the discovery. For a long time people were unsure if it was just a myth.

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