Monday, May 22, 2006

Plenty of missing pieces

In the previous post I discussed how flimsy the evidence is that any of the Christian doctrines regarding Jesus are true. They are all based on the New Testament which is not a reliable account of the life of Jesus. Here are some reasons that explain why this is so.

Let’s start out with the best estimates as to when Jesus died. It could have been as early as 27 AD or as late as 36 AD. But what accounts of his life and teachings do we have? Well both the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke purport to give us eyewitness accounts. The Gospel of Matthew is estimated to have been written no earlier than 24 years after Jesus died and possibly as late as 63 years later. The Gospel of Luke has is the same except it could have been written 73 years later. But even these estimates are probably too favorable. As Andrew Bernhard notes in the Journal of Biblical Studies, “Matthew and Luke must have been written after Titus’ siege of Jerusalem because they allude to it (Matt 22:7; Luke 19:43-44, 21:20-24)...” In other words they were not written before 70 AD. So the earliest they would have been written was around 30 years after the death of Jesus. Now you would think that if these men believed Jesus was God in the flesh that they would have put something in writing a bit sooner than three decades later.

The Gospel of Mark is thought to be the first of the four gospels written. And the authors of Matthew and Luke copied from it. That is the main assumption of scholars but some think that Mark may have copied from Matthew and Luke as an abbreviated version of those two manuscripts. But there is also a theory that there is another manuscript, now lost, from which all three borrowed. But various versions of the Gospel of Mark have appeared over the centuries as well. Some have material added that previous versions did not and some deleted items from earlier versions. Of course there is no proof that the earliest versions discovered are themselves not edited versions of an even earlier copy.

And the Gospel of John could have been written as late 120 AD or almost one century after the death of Jesus. So it may well have been the last of the Gospels written. Yet the earliest known fragment of any of the Gospels comes from this later book. It has been claimed that a fragment of the manuscript discovered in 1920 dates to the first half of the second century. So even if other Gospels were written earlier we don’t know if the versions we have are the same as the earlier ones, which is unlikely, and how significantly they changed from the time they were originally written to the earliest copies we have on record.

There are also interesting differences between the manuscript attributed to John and those other “gospels”. John never speaks of Satan, devils, etc. He never mentions the Sermon on the Mount either. It is the only gospel to mention that Jesus allegedly washed the feet of his disciples. And it says that Mary Magdalene alone witnessed the resurrection.

So the Gospels, which account for much of the New Testament have some real problems regarding reliability. And most the rest of the New Testament is the work of Paul. Most Christian theology comes from the teachings of Paul yet he is a man who never read any of the four Gospels since all were written after his death. Nor did he ever meet Jesus. But some 13 books of the New Testament are attributed to him.

And of course there were numerous other gospels floating about, many of them earlier than the ones which were included in the New Testament. So we have this messy beginning for the New Testament. We have the problem of scribes making errors in copying. We have the political squabbles about which books to include and which to exclude, since God never made it clear himself which was which. How anyone can say that the New Testament they hold is reliable alludes me.

I have previously mentioned the problem of translations. But we should also remember that Jesus spoke in Aramaic. Yet the Gospels and Paul's writings are in Koine Greek. So somewhere along the line they had to translate anything Jesus is alleged to have said from one language into another. And this was done decades after the quotes were supposedly made. Not a reliable way of passing on the word of God.


Blogger Derreck said...

The Bible is unreliable, but I believe it is truethfull in the Story of Jesus, the Lord.

Extremists are the blinbd who follow the Bible to the word, and want to prevent you from doing your lawn on a sunday afternoon. I didn't know you could go to hell by lawnmowing on sundays... How could I know? The Bible didn't say anything about my grass.

May 24, 2006


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