Ask a conservative Christian apologist for the evidence of his (or her) invisible god’s existence and he will point to the natural laws of science, concepts formulated by the research and consensus opinion of scientists from all over the world using the Scientific Method. Then ask the conservative Christian apologist if he accepts the scientific consensus that human beings evolved from lower life forms in the process known as Evolution, and he will reject the scientific consensus, claiming that the majority of scientists are biased.
Ask a conservative Christian apologist for the evidence that his god’s alleged human son, Jesus of Nazareth, really did come back to life after his public execution in circa 33 CE, possessing a new body with supernatural qualities and powers that allowed him to levitate into the clouds (and presumably outer space), and the apologist will point to:
-One literature search which indicates that the majority of New Testament scholars believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb.
-Majority scholarly opinion that the Gospels accurately describe a first century Jewish burial in a rock tomb.
– Majority scholarly opinion that the Romans in some cases allowed the bodies of persons crucified in the first century to be given to their families or the local authorities for burial.
-Majority scholarly opinion that first century Jews rarely if ever moved dead bodies on a Sabbath or even during the first year after the body’s burial.
-Majority scholarly opinion that it was very important to first century Jews to maintain the accuracy of their culture’s oral traditions and stories.
-Majority scholarly opinion that very soon after Jesus’ death, the early Christians believed that he had appeared to them alive again.
However, ask a conservative Christian apologist if he accepts the majority scholarly opinion that the authors of the four Gospels are unknown and that it is unlikely that these four books were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses, and the apologist will reject the majority opinion of New Testament scholars claiming that they are biased.
Just exactly who is biased in this discussion, dear Readers?
New Testament Scholar NT Wright
Links to articles regarding the authorship of the Gospels:
Why Scholars Doubt the Traditional Authors of the Gospels
The traditional authors of the canonical Gospels–Matthew the tax collector, Mark the attendant of Peter, Luke the attendant of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee–are doubted among the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars. The public is often not familiar, however, with the complex reasons and methodology that scholars use to reach well-supported conclusions about critical issues, such as assessing the authorial traditions for ancient texts. To provide a good overview of the majority opinion about the Gospels, the Oxford Annotated Bible (a compilation of multiple scholars summarizing dominant scholarly trends for the last 150 years) states (pg. 1744):
Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Lk. 1.4; Jn. 20.31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.
Unfortunately, much of the general public is not familiar with scholarly resources like the one quoted above; instead, Christian apologists often put out a lot of material, such as The Case For Christ, targeted toward lay audiences, who are not familiar with scholarly methods, in order to argue that the Gospels are the eyewitness testimonies of either Jesus’ disciples or their attendants. The mainstream scholarly view is that the Gospels are anonymous works, written in a different language than that of Jesus, in distant lands, after a substantial gap of time, by unknown persons, compiling, redacting, and inventing various traditions, in order to provide a narrative of Christianity’s central figure–Jesus Christ–to confirm the faith of their communities.
Gospel of Matthew: Early Christian Writings
Excerpt: It is the near-universal position of scholarship that the Gospel of Matthew is dependent upon the Gospel of Mark. This position is accepted whether one subscribes to the dominant Two-Source Hypothesis or instead prefers the Farrer-Goulder hypothesis.
It is also the consensus position that the evangelist was not the apostle Matthew. Such an idea is based on the second century statements of Papias and Irenaeus. As quoted by Eusebius in Hist. Eccl. 3.39, Papias states: “Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.” In Adv. Haer. 3.1.1, Irenaeus says: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome and laying the foundations of the church.” We know that Irenaeus had read Papias, and it is most likely that Irenaeus was guided by the statement he found there. That statement in Papias itself is considered to be unfounded because the Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and relied largely upon Mark, not the author’s first-hand experience.
Herman N. Ridderbos writes (Matthew, p. 7):
This means, however, that we can no longer accept the traditional view of Matthew’s authorship. At least two things forbid us to do so. First, the tradition maintains that Matthew authored an Aramaic writing, while the standpoint I have adopted does not allow us to regard our Greek text as a translation of an Aramaic original. Second, it is extremely doubtful that an eyewitness like the apostle Matthew would have made such extensive use of material as a comparison of the two Gospels indicates. Mark, after all, did not even belong to the circle of the apostles. Indeed Matthew’s Gospel surpasses those of the other synoptic writers neither in vividness of presentation nor in detail, as we would expect in an eyewitness report, yet neither Mark nor Luke had been among those who had followed Jesus from the beginning of His public ministry.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Excerpt: The questions of authorship, sources, and the time of composition of this gospel have received many answers, none of which can claim more than a greater or lesser degree of probability. The one now favored by the majority of scholars is the following.
The ancient tradition that the author was the disciple and apostle of Jesus named Matthew (see Mt 10:3) is untenable because the gospel is based, in large part, on the Gospel according to Mark (almost all the verses of that gospel have been utilized in this), and it is hardly likely that a companion of Jesus would have followed so extensively an account that came from one who admittedly never had such an association rather than rely on his own memories. The attribution of the gospel to the disciple Matthew may have been due to his having been responsible for some of the traditions found in it, but that is far from certain.
The unknown author, whom we shall continue to call Matthew for the sake of convenience, drew not only upon the Gospel according to Mark but upon a large body of material (principally, sayings of Jesus) not found in Mark that corresponds, sometimes exactly, to material found also in the Gospel according to Luke. This material, called “Q” (probably from the first letter of the German word Quelle, meaning “source”), represents traditions, written and oral, used by both Matthew and Luke. Mark and Q are sources common to the two other synoptic gospels; hence the name the “Two-Source Theory” given to this explanation of the relation among the synoptics.
The Gospel of Matthew (A Catholic Commentary on Holy Scripture)
Excerpt: Today, however, the apostolic authorship of Matthew’s Gospel is maintained by only a minority of biblical scholars.
Gary: Conservative Christian apologists will often claim that the reason why the majority of New Testament scholars reject traditional/eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is because the majority of New Testament scholars are liberals who do not believe in the supernatural. Really? If that is true, then how do conservative Christian apologists explain the above statements of NT Wright and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops? Few people would describe Wright and America’s Catholic bishops as “supernatural-denying liberals”!
Accept the evidence, my conservative Christian friends: Your supernatural belief system is based on two thousand year old hearsay and legend.