Does the Catholic Church Believe that the Gospels were Written by Eyewitnesses? Part 3

Image result for image of st. peter's basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica

Debate the evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus with any evangelical or conservative Protestant Christian and you will usually get this claim:  “The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is as good if not better than any other event in ancient history.  This is true because we have multiple eyewitness accounts of this event, found in the four Gospels of the New Testament.”

When presented with the fact that most modern New Testament scholars doubt or even reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, the conservative Christian will usually respond: Most modern New Testament scholars are liberals, agnostics, or atheists.  They are biased against the supernatural.  Therefore, conservative Christians can ignore the opinion of the majority of New Testament scholars.”

But there is a big problem with this argument.  If the only scholars who doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels were liberals, agnostics, and atheists, then the claim that this position is based on a bias against the supernatural might be credible.  The fact is, however, that a large percentage of New Testament scholars who very much believe in the supernatural, miracles, the virgin birth, and the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus also doubt or reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels.  Who are these scholars?   Roman Catholic New Testament scholars.

So conservative Christians must ask themselves this question:  If the evidence for the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is good, why do so many scholars who do not have a bias against the supernatural doubt or reject it?  Let’s see what the Catholic Church says about the next Gospel in the New Testament, the Gospel of Luke:

Image result for image of st. luke

Statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:

The Gospel According to Luke:

Early Christian tradition, from the late second century on, identifies the author of this gospel and of the Acts of the Apostles as Luke, a Syrian from Antioch, who is mentioned in the New Testament in Col 4:14, Phlm 24 and 2 Tm 4:11. The prologue of the gospel makes it clear that Luke is not part of the first generation of Christian disciples but is himself dependent upon the traditions he received from those who were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word (Lk 1:2). His two-volume work marks him as someone who was highly literate both in the Old Testament traditions according to the Greek versions and in Hellenistic Greek writings.

Among the likely sources for the composition of this gospel (Lk 1:3) were the Gospel of Mark, a written collection of sayings of Jesus known also to the author of the Gospel of Matthew (Q; see Introduction to Matthew), and other special traditions that were used by Luke alone among the gospel writers. Some hold that Luke used Mark only as a complementary source for rounding out the material he took from other traditions. Because of its dependence on the Gospel of Mark and because details in Luke’s Gospel (Lk 13:35a; 19:43–44; 21:20; 23:28–31) imply that the author was acquainted with the destruction of the city of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70, the Gospel of Luke is dated by most scholars after that date; many propose A.D. 80–90 as the time of composition.

Luke’s consistent substitution of Greek names for the Aramaic or Hebrew names occurring in his sources (e.g., Lk 23:33; Mk 15:22; Lk 18:41; Mk 10:51), his omission from the gospel of specifically Jewish Christian concerns found in his sources (e.g., Mk 7:1–23), his interest in Gentile Christians (Lk 2:30–32; 3:6, 38; 4:16–30; 13:28–30; 14:15–24; 17:11–19; 24:47–48), and his incomplete knowledge of Palestinian geography, customs, and practices are among the characteristics of this gospel that suggest that Luke was a non-Palestinian writing to a non-Palestinian audience that was largely made up of Gentile Christians.



Next post:  The Catholic Church on the authorship of the Gospel of John




End of post.

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