Many Scholars Now Believe that All the Gospels were Dependent on the First Gospel, Mark. The Evidence for the Resurrection is Much Weaker than Most Lay Christians Realize!

Image result for image of john the evangelist
John the Evangelist

 

“One can no longer speak of a consensus against Johannine dependence on the Synoptics or, at least, on Mark.  The reasons for the revival of interest in favor of John’s dependence are varied.”

—New Testament scholar, Raymond Brown, in his book, The Death of the Messiah (1994), p. 76

 

Gary:  How many times have you heard conservative Christian apologists say that even if the authors of Luke and Matthew were dependent on Mark, the author of John was not.  “Scholarship demonstrates that the Gospel of John is not dependent on the Synoptics, therefore we have at least two independent sources (Mark and John) for the Arrest, Trial, Crucifixion, and Resurrection stories found in the Gospels.”

Not so fast, Christians!

Scholars are currently divided on this issue.  No one can claim either side of this argument as fact.  We might have two independent sources for these stories, but it is also possible that the core story came from just one source:  the author of the Gospel of Mark.  If the core details of the Jesus’ Passion Story came solely from the anonymous author of the Gospel of Mark, whom the majority of scholars do not believe was an eyewitness or the associate of an eyewitness (ie., not John Mark), it is then possible that much or all of the Arrest scene, Trial scene, Crucifixion scene, and Resurrection scene are literary inventions, perfectly acceptable in Greco-Roman biographies!

As long as the core story remained intact….that Jesus of Nazareth had been arrested by the Romans; tried and convicted of treason against Caesar; executed by crucifixion; buried in some manner; and shortly thereafter, his disciples believed that he appeared to them, in some fashion…the other details found in the Passion Narrative may be literary invention (fiction)!

Think of that!  It would certainly answer a lot of questions.  Why does (the original) Resurrection Story in Mark have zero appearance stories?  Why does the Gospel of Matthew, written a decade or so later, have appearances to the male disciples in Galilee, while the Gospel of Luke, also written a decade or so after Mark (whose author most scholars believe was not aware of Matthew’s gospel), has appearances only in Jerusalem and Judea?  And why does the last Gospel written, John, have appearances in Jerusalem and Galilee as if the author had combined Matthew and Luke’s stories???

My, my, my.  The evidence for a fantastical, never-heard-of-before-or-since Resurrection is much, much weaker than the average Christian layperson sitting in the pew on Sunday realizes!

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16 thoughts on “Many Scholars Now Believe that All the Gospels were Dependent on the First Gospel, Mark. The Evidence for the Resurrection is Much Weaker than Most Lay Christians Realize!

  1. I have nothing really to back this up, no authority I can point to, that is, but I’m of the opinion that the whole thing stems from metafiction deployed by 1st Century crisis cultists. Many scholars think the Gospel of Thomas may well be the oldest work, older than Mark, but it is nothing but “sayings” and parables (interestingly, containing virtually all the parables, which none of the gospels do). The “Jesus” in Thomas does not move, breathe, eat, or do anything. It reads like lines to be remembered. Lines which a travelling cultist could easily remember as he relays metafiction. Now, we know metafiction was used by the Greeks as early as the 1st Century BCE, so it was not unheard of, and it’s a devilishly clever theatrical device. In principle, it is placing a fictional character inside a secondary fictional story (which is what parables are), and it does so to heighten the audience’s immersion in the story… which is the doctrinal points the storyteller wanted to impart.

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  2. You still have Paul, the writer(s) of 1 and 2 Peter, the writer of Hebrews, James and Jude (LORD Jesus Christ is an allusion to resurrection) all attesting to the resurrection.

    You also have Tacitus and Josephus (the authentic core if the testimonium) again validiting the narrative of the New Testament.

    That’s a lot to try and explain away.

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    1. Wrong, again, Liam.

      Tacitus and Josephus (very briefly) mention Jesus. That’s it. That doesn’t mean they were confirming the events in the detailed Passion Narratives in the Gospels. Paul does not confirm one single detail from the Gospel Passion Narratives except that Jesus was crucified, buried, and then appeared after death to some of his followers. For instance, Paul never mentions any details of Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, or burial. He never mentions Joseph of Arimathea. He never mentions the appearance in the Upper Room; the appearance on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius; the giving of the Great Commission; or the details of the Ascension from the mount near Bethany. No details at all!

      Do you have any confirmed statements from the identified and confirmed author(s) of First and Second Peter, the writer of Hebrews, James, or Jude which corroborate the detailed events of the Passion as told by the gospel authors?

      No.

      Therefore, for all we know, the detailed Passion Narratives in the four Gospels are all based on “Mark’s” literary/theological inventions.

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  3. Uh, Gary – “Paul does not confirm one single detail from the Gospel Passion Narratives except that Jesus was crucified, buried, and then appeared after death to some of his followers.”

    You’re making my case for me here. That’s all we need confirmed – that’s THE main thing. That’s the central point of the NT narrative: Jesus death and Resurrection. If nothing else can be confirmed and just that, Christianity stands (1 Cor 15). Thanks for that.

    Tacitus confirms the broad narrative of The NT: that Jesus died and rose again. Yes, framed in the context that “it was believed by his followers” but that’s what Tacitus tells us about Jesus. This is also what Paul confirms for us. Paul also confirms Jesus’ crucifixion when he tells us Jesus died on a tree. Crucifixion had become commonly described as death on a tree in extra-biblical literature before and up until the time the NT was written.

    We also do have the author of the Pastorals confirming that Jesus appeared before Pilate. That’s another source for that fact of history.

    Jospehus tells us that Jesus was called the Christ and was brother of James and about John the Baptist in undisputed passages (well, undisputed except by Christ-mythers).

    He also tells us: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.”

    This is probably the original wording without later interpolations. Again, the broad NT narrative is confirmed, with the details of Pilate condemning Jesus to die on a cross.

    My point in citing the NT authors was to show that we have ancient writers who affirm Jesus as being alive after His death.

    This is the point – LORD Jesus Christ again and again affirms that Jesus is believed to be alive in James and Jude. James goes further saying that we will be a kind of “first fruits” because of what Jesus has done.

    Hebrews talks about Jesus being alive and reigning after the Jesus walked the earth in His flesh.

    1 and 2 Peter at least do the same and go much further.
    1 Peter describes Jesus’ Resurrection vividly in 1:3 and throughout.
    2 Peter describes the Transfiguration as being witnessed by the author.

    I could go further – the unique material in Matthew and Luke isn’t reliant on Mark and provides further sources for Jesus’ resurrection.
    Even if John did rely on Mark, there is enough material in John that definitely didn’t come from Mark to show there were traditions independent of Mark which again affirmed Jesus’ resurrection.

    Those are lots of independent sources to try and toss out.

    On any other fact of history independent corroboration from Tacitus and Josephus would pretty much put this to bed. Seutonius would be helpful there.
    Add to that Mark and Paul and it would be pretty much assured.

    Add to that Hebrews, 1 and 2 Peter and the allusions of James and Jude and there would be no doubt.

    Add to that the independent traditions recorded in the unique material of Matthew and Luke and John… wow.

    You’re going to have to work harder to chuck out all the evidence for the fact if Jesus’ resurrection.

    Which I know you will.

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    1. Yes, Paul believed that Jesus had been crucified, buried, and then raised from the dead to appear to his disciples. So what! The disciples of Mohammad believed that Mohammad had ridden a winged horse to heaven. What does either statement of belief prove in relation to the actual historicity of the claim being made???

      Answer: None!

      I am not suggesting that the early Christians did not believe that Jesus had been resurrected. What I am suggesting is that the DETAILS in the four Resurrection stories in the four Gospels may be literary embellishments (fiction). Can you provide evidence that any other author living during the time of Jesus records that Jesus appeared in the Upper Room and allowed Doubting Thomas to examine his wounds or any detail from the other appearance claims as stated in the Gospels?

      I don’t think you can and that is a BIG problem for your side, Liam.

      Liked by 2 people

    2. “Tacitus confirms the broad narrative of The NT: that Jesus died and rose again. Yes, framed in the context that “it was believed by his followers” but that’s what Tacitus tells us about Jesus. This is also what Paul confirms for us. Paul also confirms Jesus’ crucifixion when he tells us Jesus died on a tree. Crucifixion had become commonly described as death on a tree in extra-biblical literature before and up until the time the NT was written.”

      Did you even read my post, Liam??? I clearly stated that I believe that the following events ARE historical:

      -Jesus was arrested.
      -Jesus was tried.
      -Jesus was convicted of treason against Rome.
      -Jesus was crucified.
      -Jesus was probably buried in some manner.
      -Jesus’ disciples believed that Jesus appeared to them, in some fashion, shortly after his death.

      I am NOT contesting these claims. So are you telling us that Tacitus gave more details about Jesus than what is in this list? If so, please give a reference.

      Liked by 2 people

    3. “We also do have the author of the Pastorals confirming that Jesus appeared before Pilate. That’s another source for that fact of history.”

      Who wrote the Pastoral epistles? When were these books written?

      Most scholars do NOT believe that Paul wrote these books. Most scholars believe that First Timothy, the book to which you are referring, was written in the second century. Therefore any mention of Pilate could have come straight from—> The Gospel of Mark

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    4. “Jospehus tells us that Jesus was called the Christ and was brother of James and about John the Baptist in undisputed passages (well, undisputed except by Christ-mythers).”

      The reference by Josephus to Jesus being “the Christ” is disputed. Many scholars believe it is a later Christian interpolation.

      I have never questioned Jesus relationship to James, the first bishop of Jerusalem nor I have contested the existence of John the Baptist. What I AM contesting is the historicity of the details in the Jesus Passion Narrative, in particular, the details in the multiple, very different appearance stories as told in the Gospels.

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    5. He [Josephus] also tells us: “About this time there lived Jesus, a wise man. For he was one who performed surprising deeds and was a teacher. He won over many Jews and many of the Greeks. And when, upon the accusation of the principal men among us, Pilate had condemned him to a cross, those who had first come to love him did not cease. And the tribe of the Christians, so called after him, has still to this day not disappeared.” This is probably the original wording without later interpolations. Again, the broad NT narrative is confirmed, with the details of Pilate condemning Jesus to die on a cross.

      Liam: STOP AND LISTEN! I am NOT contesting the broad outline of the Jesus Passion Narrative. I am contesting the historicity of the details. Please read before you comment.

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    6. “My point in citing the NT authors was to show that we have ancient writers who affirm Jesus as being alive after His death.”

      Liam: This is an incredibly dishonest statement or an incredibly stupid statement. Neither Tacitus nor Josephus “affirm” that Jesus was alive after his death. Come on.

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  4. Ok Gary, you seem to be moving goal posts or something.
    YOU said that the evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection was flimsy, as a final comment about your post saying that because John shouldn’t be thought to be independent of Mark.

    The whole point is that if THIS point can be even reasonably validated, the Christianity stands.

    So Tacitus and Jospehus are definitely extra-biblical sources validating that this is what the church taught and believed. Jospehus and Tacitus validate the historicity if Jesus’ crucifixion and the belief of His Resurrection.

    Plus we have Paul and Mark telling us that it was an historical event.

    Then we have the other writers of the NT also telling us it was an historical event.

    Lots of sources to have to dismiss.

    That’s the point – as historical events go, we have lots of independent sources validating the historical fact of Jesus’ resurrection, even without thr Gospel of John.

    Which I contend still gives us enough independent material to counter as an additional independent source for the Resurrection.

    YOU made the Resurrection of Jesus the focal point of your blog post, I’m showing the historical merit of THAT event, you’re taking about other stuff now.

    Weird.

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    1. You just don’t get it, do you, Liam?

      If hundreds of people in the early nineteenth century wrote in their diaries, in letters, and in books that George Washington chopped down a cherry tree, that doesn’t mean that he did. What we would need to see to believe that George Washington really did chop down a cherry tree is multiple, independent eyewitness (George himself, his father, siblings, etc.) sources stating that he did, giving descriptions of the event that are identical.

      We have ZERO confirmed eyewitness sources which give us a detailed description of any of the alleged appearances of Jesus. None. That is the BIG problem for your argument.

      The fact that a number of people BELIEVED that Jesus had been resurrected is HEARSAY.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. Oh, and I never said Paul wrote the pastorals in my post. You’re implying that I did. I think that by YOUR criteria they count as yet another ancient writer’s affirmation of Jesus and His resurrection.

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  6. AND Paul does in fact corroborate many more facts about Jesus than I mention and far more than you seem to realise. This is all in the context of debunking the Jesus-myth, but the point stands. We would learn LOTS about Jesus from Paul even if we only had his 7 accepted letters.

    “The Non – Silence of Paul

    The whole idea that Jesus did not exist started with the fact that Paul does not say very much about his life or ministry. It is instructive to first find out what he did say so here is a list. You can read the relevent snippet biblical text by holding your mouse over the red scripture references.

    Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews. (Galatians 4:4Jesus was referred to as “Son of God”. (1 Cor. 1:9Jesus was a direct descendent of King David. (Romans 1:3Jesus prayed to God using the term “abba”. (Galatians 4:6Jesus expressly forbid divorce. (1 Cor. 7:10Jesus taught that “preachers” should be paid for their preaching. (1 Cor. 9:14Jesus taught about the end-time. (1 Thess. 4:15Paul refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), which was the name Jesus gave to him. (1 Cor. 3:22Jesus had a brother named James. (Galatians 1:19Jesus initiated the Lord’s supper and referred to the bread and the cup. (1 Cor. 11:23-25Jesus was betrayed on the night of the Lord’s Supper. (1 Cor. 11:23-25Jesus’ death was related to the Passover Celebration. (1 Cor. 5:7The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly rulers. (1 Cor. 2:8Jesus underwent abuse and humiliation. (Romans 15:3Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus’ death. (1 Thess. 2:14-16Jesus died by crucifixion. (2 Cor. 13:4 et al)Jesus was physically buried. (1 Cor. 15:4

    It turns out that careful analysis of the letters shows that Paul was not actually all that silent at all. The first reaction to all this from the Jesus Mythologist is to dispute that Paul wrote very many of these letters. But actually seven of his letters are completely undisputed and all facts about Jesus’s life shown above are from these. It is ironic that the pastoral epistles of 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus, that liberals insist are late (and date from after the synoptic Gospels), contain practically no details about the life of Jesus at all.

    As there are still rather a lot of details about the historical Jesus in the undisputed letters, the Jesus Mythologist will use special pleading to try and explain them away. But as we can see, Paul is not attempting to tell Jesus’s life story, he is just using the odd snippet about Jesus where it is helpful to illustrate his point. He knows that his readers are aware of what happened because all of his letters are to people who are already Christians. He is not trying to convert them and he is not engaged in apologetics.

    If we look at the letters of the early Christian fathers, they rarely have details about the life of Jesus except in passing because they know their readers are familiar with the Gospels. What we today call the Gospels had not, of course, been written down at the time that Paul was preaching but oral communication was considered to be more reliable than the written word at the time. When these people had heard about Jesus they did not need a revision primer when Paul wrote to them but specific advice about problems and controversies. Of course, none of this will convince the Jesus Mythologist who just cannot understand why Paul does not just repeat verbatim to his correspondents what he has already told them in person.”

    From: http://www.bede.org.uk/jesusmyth.htm

    So with just Paul and Mark we have lots of independent corroboration of events from Jesus life and death and a corroboration of His Resurrection. And it takes special pleading to take that away.

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