The Accuracy of the Oral Traditions of Early Christianity Were Meticulously Maintained…Except When They Weren’t

The Four Gospels and the Caesar Gospels

My ongoing review of “Lord or Legend“ by evangelical apologists Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy, part 11:

No informed person denies that there are apparent contradictions within and between the four Gospels. …The question is, do these conflicts constitute contradictions that should undermine our assessment of the historical veracity of these works, or can most of these apparent contradictions be harmonized?

…To treat these works [the Gospels] responsibly we have to try to imagine the broader tradition the audience and author shared and within which the individual, fragmentary, elliptical accounts were originally understood. And this means we have to try to imagine a broader oral context within which the apparent conflicts between accounts can be harmonized. In this light we must conclude that the refusal of skeptical scholars to acknowledge the legitimacy of attempting to harmonize the Gospel accounts is not only prejudicial, it is fundamentally opposed to the very nature of the Gospel texts themselves.

These observations, of course, do not imply that we can simply assume that if we had access to the broader oral tradition of the early Christians all apparent conflicts would be instantly resolved. From a strictly historiographical perspective, we have to concede that it’s possible that various traditions modified their contents in the course of transmission in ways that simply contradict other traditions, even by ancient oral standards.

–pp. 111-116

Gary: Wait a minute! You guys have been arguing in the preceding chapters of your book that early Jewish Christians meticulously maintained the accuracy of their oral traditions, but now in your attempt to rationalize (explain away) the presence of apparent contradictions in these four ancient texts, you admit that it is possible that in the “course of transmission”, the contents (details) of these stories were modified in ways that resulted in contradictory traditions??

You have just shot yourselves in the proverbial foot, my evangelical Christian friends! If two traditions are contradictory, that means that one of them is wrong. That means that one of them is untrue. It never happened. It is therefore a fictional story. It is fictional, regardless of whether the “tradent” (storyteller) purposefully invented a new twist in the Jesus Story or because he made a mistake. So my question for you is: If by your own admission, the Gospels may contain fictional material, how the hell can we ever figure out which ones are fictional and which ones are true???

Read part 12 here.






End of post.

3 thoughts on “The Accuracy of the Oral Traditions of Early Christianity Were Meticulously Maintained…Except When They Weren’t

  1. I just noticed that one of Boyd’s books has a title of “Inspired Imperfection: How the Bible’s Problems Enhance Its Divine Authority.”
    I know authors often do not get to choose the title of their books, but this click bait-y or provovative title served its purpose and got me curious.
    Anyone read it? Does he play card – “I know the Bible has problems, but Jesus is great, and he had no problem with the OT, so everything must be ok – look to Jesus (ignoring that all we think we know about Jesus comes from that same flawed Bible).


    1. I have not read that book, but in this book, he agrees with the view that discrepancies in the details of multiple (alleged) eyewitness reports is the norm and confirms that the eyewitnesses have not colluded to give a false report. He does not acknowledge that any of these differences (contradictions) suggest that the reports do NOT come from eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses, as most scholars believe.


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