The gospels, where did they come from?

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The gospels, where did they come from?

There are four accepted gospels out of 16 total. Some were rejected for legitimate reasons (a priest said if fell from the sky after a storm) but for most of them the reason for exclusion is not clear. There is plenty of speculation but no evidence. <P>

Where did they come from? Tradition says they were written by the original disciples who are called apostles after his death. In practical fact the first mention a single gospel in the early 2nd c. where it is condemned as forgery. It is not until that late 2nd c. that there is a mention of gospels in the plural. The implication of there being four comes from the use of a Greek word which suggests four instead of simply plural.<P>

We know the styles of biographies and documentaries both today and back then. The gospels do not match. So what do they look like? <P>

One thing to note about the gospels is they are almost completely devoid of physical description, both personal and location. There is no mention of what any person looked like. The location descriptions are limited to mount, plain, temple, tree and such. There is is tree in front of the temple on the hill.<P>

We also note the dialog is almost never dialog. There is a short "prompt" and a long answer.<P>

What style is this closest to? The script of a play. The last thing a playwright wants to do is describe a character so that the choice of actors is limitied. Very few plays do it. Go back over your high school Shakespeare and find there are no descriptions of the peolpe.<P>

And then notice the description of the scenary is minimal. MacBeth is on a moor or in a banquet hall without the least detail beyond that.<P>

So the gospels started as plays? That is the style in which they are written. What kind of plays? For that we go to the dialog not being dialog. Only one person needs know the lines whereas anyone in the crowd can ask the question that leads to the long answer.<P>

So we have street corner performers, perhaps no more than two total, and getting audience participation in asking the question leading to the teaching response.<P>


This explains why they tell such great stories. There would have been hundreds of people dealing in this performance art preaching. The stories would have been improved over the decades of audience feedback. Stories that did not resonate would have been dropped. Those that did were kept and improved before tens of  thousands of audiences over the decades.<P>

What else are these like? The stories of the gods which we call mythology. So the Jesus stories were not a new style but a copy of the existing style for god stories.

















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Well, you are fine with

Well, you are fine with your first three paragraphs. Past there, your text reads as if you have pretty much decided how things must have been and are then advancing a case for that. What I am not seeing is how you came up with that and why it needs to be put out there.

The fact of the matter is that a great deal of scholarship has gone into the very same question. While no clear academic consensus has emerged (put five biblical scholars in a room for a week and ten opinions will emerges, with none of the scholars willing to take full credit for any of the opinions), there are certain things that are basically considered to be roughly agreed upon.

For example, most of the scholarly work assumes that the new testament was probably written down mostly in the time frame of AD 70 to AD 120 or so. Prior to that, it was traded as oral history, originally from the people who were there and passed on for the next few generations before it was committed to written words.

So what else is to be had of scholarly opinion on the matter? Well, if one wanted to tear the books apart in a search for textual clues, it will become apparent that the four books that are now generally accepted do not agree with each other, often in important details that one would expect an eyewitness to have down (like exactly where the crucifixion took place).

Past that, it also appears that the first three tend to line up with each other as far as the general time line of events and the people who were present. While they do disagree on trivial details, they never all three disagree on the same exact points. So many suspect that they all draw from a previous work that nobody has ever found a copy of.

John tends to be the odd man out of the four books, in that it often disagrees with the other three is somewhat more substantial ways. So that work is generally thought to have been taken from a different source.

Mark is generally considered to be the earliest written one as all but 24 verses of it also appear in Matthew and Luke, thus it is considered to be most closely based on the source document.

Luke is also interesting as it and Acts appear to be two letters written to the same person, thus Acts is often thought to be the follow-on to Luke. But then, if we start to look at the other books of the NT, we run into additional problems.

Luke appears to have been present with Paul when Paul was writing the letters to the early churches. However, Paul does not mention the gospels, nor do the Gospel authors mention that Paul was anybody special. If you go with the idea that the Gospels were written down decades later and then only based on some other hidden source, it is understandable that the authors of the Gospels as we know them would not have been privy to letters that were written earlier but not found and added into cannon until later.

Matthew is itself an odd man version as it (like Luke) seems to be a version of Mark or some other previous work but with additional details added. In this case, it is shot through with references from the OT, selected presumably to show the connection from one to the other. Hence, it may well have been written by a different author and for a different audience.


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A_Nony_Mouse wrote:There are

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

There are four accepted gospels out of 16 total. Some were rejected for legitimate reasons (a priest said if fell from the sky after a storm) but for most of them the reason for exclusion is not clear. There is plenty of speculation but no evidence. <P>

Where did they come from? Tradition says they were written by the original disciples who are called apostles after his death. In practical fact the first mention a single gospel in the early 2nd c. where it is condemned as forgery. It is not until that late 2nd c. that there is a mention of gospels in the plural. The implication of there being four comes from the use of a Greek word which suggests four instead of simply plural.<P>

I would suggest you look into some of the work of Rook Hawkins on this subject. You can find most of it here. Rook's work.

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

We know the styles of biographies and documentaries both today and back then. The gospels do not match. So what do they look like? <P>

In his work Rook suggests the Gospels are literature or fiction, not far from your position of plays.

As to why this situation has occurred that a derived religion of a Jewish messiah being the son of a god grew out of these stories/writings/literature is pure conjecture. There is no real way to determine the why or causes of the survival of the beliefs of either Judaism or Jesus believers. It is clear that both are based in the land of never was but trying to separate the fiction and creative writing from any basis in reality is virtually impossible. Most people look at the Jews and the Jesus stories with a presupposed bias. I see no way to really determine this from that which has survived 2000 -3000 years. History that has survived from other cultures suggest there were people living in ancient Palestine and they interacted in many ways such as trade, wars, and more. As to specifics it is difficult to determine. There were kings, wars, and such between people in Palestine and Assyria and Egypt. All stories have some basis in the real world but unfortunately it can't be told what part is real and what part is BS. Wherever there is a god did it there is clearly BS, but all lies and myths have some basis in the real world. The problem is which part.

It is good to investigate and research it is how we understand and learn. One needs to be careful to not jump to conclusions. I see no way presently to determine satisfactory what is real or not from the ancient lands of the Middle East. I don't wear the "Bible" glasses any more that were given me as a child but I'm aware that some remnants of the indoctrination remains hidden in my mind. One must always be aware that these remnants can cause incorrect conclusions and should never be trusted when they present themselves in analyzing the ancient world.


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According to the information which I have...

...which, admittedly, is not very recent, not one of the four Biblical gospels is thought to have been composed in Palestine.  The usual suspect is Syria.  Even that may have some legendary thought going into it: Antioch is said to have been the first See, if you will, of the Apostle Peter.  This is one reason that it is considered to be such a major See in the East.  Of course, in order for that to be true, Peter would have had to have existed, which would logically entail Jesus' existence.  I trust you see the problem, here.


EDIT: I wanted to add the following, from the notes in my New American Bible (a Roman Catholic translation.)  These are direct quotes from the notes which introduce each individual Gospel.


Before I start in with the quotes, a couple of notes of my own are in order:

     1. The authors of these prefaces which I am quoting should be understood to be using names like "Matthew" and "Mark," et al., as convenient handles for the actual authors of these documents, and they do not mean thereby to be making the traditional claims concerning authorship.


     2. You will occasionally see odd-looking ways of referencing the Bible.  These look odd because most people (including those raised Catholic, in many cases,) are accustomed to the Protestant notation.  Say, for the sake of discussion, that we wanted to refer to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 5, verses 3 through 10, and also verse 17.  The Protestant system looks like this:

          Matt 5:3-10, 17

There is, however, a Catholic system which uses differing puctuation marks.  The same verses, referenced in the Catholic system, looks like this:

          Matt 5, 3-10.17

Since the New American Bible is a Catholic translation, of course it uses the Catholic notation system. 



     Matthew:  "As for the place where the gospel was composed, a plausible suggestion is that it was Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria.  That large and important city had a mixed population of Greek-speaking Gentiles and Jews.  The tensions between Jewish and Gentile Christians there in the time of Paul (see Gal 2, 1-14) in respect to Christian obligation to observe Mosaic law are partially similar to tensions that can be seen between the two groups in Matthew's gospel."


     Mark:  "Traditionally, the gospel is said to have been written shortly before A.D. 70 in Rome, at a time of impending persecution and when destruction loomed over Jerusalem.  Its audience seems to have been Gentile, unfamiliar with Jewish customs (hence 7, 3-4.11).  The book aimed to equip such Christians to stand faithful in the face of persecution (13, 9-13), while going on with the proclamation of the gospel begun in Galilee (13,10; 14,9).  Modern research often proposes as the author an unknown Hellenistic Jewish Christian, possibly in Syria, and perhaps shortly after the year 70."


Luke:  "Luke's consistent substitution of Greek names for the Aramaic or Hebrew names occuring in his sources (e.g., 23,33//Mk 15,22; 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 (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."


John:  "The final editing of the gospel and its arrangement in its present form probably dates from between A.D. 90 and 100.  Traditionally, Ephesus has been favored as the place of composition, though many support a location in Syria, perhaps the city of Antioch, while some have suggested other places, including Alexandria."



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A_Nony_Mouse wrote:What

A_Nony_Mouse wrote:

What style is this closest to? The script of a play.

or the socratic dialogues.  or the confucian analects.  or the upanishads.  or the whole hebrew bible, which is also pretty crappy with scenery and physical descriptions (though tediously detailed with building regulations).

and just what sort of "plays" are you referring to?  because if it's greek or roman drama (the "plays" that anyone in first century judea would have seen), i gotta disagree with you, and i majored in the stuff.  i had to read aeschylus, sophocles, euripides, aristophanes, seneca, plautus, terence--pretty much all the big ones, and no doubt a few small ones i've by now forgotten.  first of all, the gospels contain narrative, sometimes for extended periods, and you never see that in classical drama (or any drama that i know of).  second of all, there's no chorus, and for the greeks and romans, that was a must.  third of all, i'd appreciate it if you'd point me to the "short prompts" and the subsequent long answers in classical drama,  because i don't recall any.  if there were some, they must have been negligible.  pretty much everyone in those plays was long-winded.

you do, however, see PLENTY of short prompts and long answers in, as i said, the socratic dialogues, as well as sayings literature, which are not dramas at all, and under which are classed the gospel of thomas and Q.  the most accepted theory in new testament criticism (generally speaking) is that the gospels, especially the synoptics, are primarily collections of sayings or dialogues between master and disciple(s), with narrative added to form a sort of quasi-biographical backdrop.  this narrative preserved traditions about the life of the sect's founder, and was also used to prove the writer's credentials as either an eyewitness or the keeper of an eyewitness's traditions.

i personally see no reason to believe that the earliest jewish christians didn't, for the most part, believe in the literal truth of most of the traditions handed down to them, which later manifested themselves in the gospels.  of course, there are easily identifiable mythical motifs present in all four accepted gospels, and especially in luke-acts, but not everything in them can be identified as mythical, and i am not convinced that the earliest christians saw the traditional stories primarily as myths or allegories or "fiction" of any kind.  most of the obvious mythical motifs (among them the resurrection and the virgin birth) were probably later additions to the traditions, to make them more palatable to a hellenistic audience.  however, judean and, to a lesser degree, hellenized jews would have been indifferent to the presence of hellenistic mythical motifs, so the idea that the traditions of a judean teacher began as an aping of greek or roman mythology, and especially a "play," seems suspect to me.

long story short, somebody or bodies (among them paul) had a vested interest in prolonging the sayings and traditions of one of many first century jewish apocalyptic sects, and, in order to do that, said traditions had to be encased in a packaging intelligible to the wider ancient world, i.e., mythology.  but peel away the layers and you don't find mithras or a playwright: you find a crazy jew.  (i say that with all love for woody allen.)   

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