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Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony


I'll begin with 2 points about Mark's Gospel.
(1A) Papias (C. 60-125 AD) is famous for his preference for eyewitness testimony ("a living voice") to Jesus over written records. He has directly consulted disciples of the apostles and even a couple of living disciples of Jesus (John the Elder and Aristion). What he learns is that the Gospel of Mark is based on Peter's teaching ministry and is therefore on eyewitness testimony. Mark is criticized by these disciples for changing the sequence of events in Jesus' life. Mark does not offer a chronologically historical narration, but rather one on how each story fits his thematic purpose. This explains why Jesus' itinerary in Mark makes little sense as a continuous journey. So it is irresponsible to claim that Mark is poorly informed about Palestinian geography. Mark's role as Peter's assistant and translator is attested in 1 Peter 5:13. Peter was martyred in Rome and the Latinisms in Mark attest Rome as the place of the Gospel's origin. So the Gospel's origin in Rome attests its connection to eyewitness testimony (Peter's). This fits nicely with Justin Martyr's reference in Rome to Mark's Gospel as "his (Peter's) memoirs (Dialogue with Trypho 106:3)."

(1B) The historical credibility of Mark's preservation of Peter's memoirs can be supported by striking details that are embarrassing and unlikely to be fabricated. Here are just 3 examples: (a) The Gospel concedes that Jesus' family considers him mad and actually tries to physically restrain Him (3:19-21). This rejection prompts Jesus to complain that no prophet is "honored among his own kin and in his own house (6:4)." Even John 7:5 sadly concedes, "His own brothers did not believe in Him." (b) Hostility at Nazareth creates an atmosphere in which Jesus "is unable" to perform miracles there. In other words, He apparently tries and fails! (The "except" clause in Mark 6:6 is recognized by scholars as a later gloss.). © Jesus does not succeed in curing the blind man at Bethsaida on His first attempt. A 2nd effort is needed to complete the healing (8:22-26). These embarrassing details are surely historical reminiscences and, as such, lend added credibility to Mark's most awesome miracle stories.

Great post, thanks for sharing. I am very interested in learning more about extrabiblical sources that confirm what the bible says. I just finished my first run of the bible, and am starting my second go. I plan on looking into extrabiblical books such as Enoch and other sources that complement the bible after my second round, but in the mean time I'll keep an eye out for future posts here.
What about the amount of people who claim marks gospel is a hoax or made up?
(06-24-2017, 06:39 AM)UglyNRude Wrote: What about the amount of people who claim marks gospel is a hoax or made up?

...or, in fact, claim any biblical scripture is a hoax or made up? From Genesis to Revelation there really isn't anything exempt from this allegation. At some point a believer just chooses what he wants to believe.

Subject: I have a black cat.
Believer: Black cats are bad luck.
Non-believer: It's just a cat.
Crackpot: Black cats are part of the New World Order government conspiracy.
Skeptic: I can test if black cats are more or less lucky than another cat.
Cynic: You only have a black cat to gain power and prestige.

(06-24-2017, 06:39 AM)UglyNRude Wrote: What about the amount of people who claim marks gospel is a hoax or made up?

It's an issue of analyzing the evidence for and against the position and deciding for yourself what makes the most sense. Most people aren't honest enough to critically and openly investigate both sides of a debate. Tell us, what is the evidence for this claim you have brought up, and what is the evidence contrary to that position? The amount of bible scholars who recognize the authenticity of Mark's gospel may be an indication that many of these people you are alluding to may simply be uninformed.

(2) Papias (60-120 AD) writes: "And [John] the Elder said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

Papias says he prefers "a living voice" to written documents. By this, he means that he prefers information that living disciples of Jesus (John the Elder and Aristion) and direct disciples of Jesus' disciples conveyed to him orally to written sources. Papias's learns form the eyewitness John that Mark was Peter's interpreter, a claim that finds independent support form 1 Peter 5:13). John's claim, mediated by Papias, that Mark wrote the Gospel that bears his name derives independent support from Justin Martyr of Rome who refers to Mark as Peter's memoirs. Justin grew up in Samaria in the early 2nd century.

Interestingly, some eyewitnesses and those close to them complain that Mark mixes up the sequence of events in Jesus' life. But Peter never wrote an sequentially correct biography of Jesus. As John tells Papias, Mark knows not the sequence of events, but the actual incidents and miracles of Jesus' ministry, which he gleaned from Peter's teaching sessions for edifying purposes. Thus, this controversy indirectly attests an eyewitness connection with Jesus.

(3) Papias writes: "Matthew put together the SAYINGS [Greek "logia"of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could."
The Gospel of Matthew is originally composed in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. For this reason, some scholars claim that Papias's source is mistaken. But Papias never says that Matthew wrote the Gospel; rather, he says that Matthew wrote a "sayings" collection, and Christians "interpreted them (the sayings) as best they could." This sounds like the modern sayings source Q that the scholarly consensus identifies as a sayings source used by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark and John. Q is from the German "quelle" (= source). It represents the major sayings collection that was circulated east of the Jordan River. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas consists of 114 sayings of Jesus and represents the sayings collection that circulated east of the Jordan, and eventually found its way to Egypt. Q, then, is a translation from the original Aramaic. When Greek authors mention "Hebrew," they include "Aramaic," which is, after all, a Hebrew dialect. Apparently, an unknown editor combined Matthew's Q with Mark to produce the Gospel of Matthew and Matthew's name was extended from the Q source to the entire Gospel by association. In any case, Papias is a legitimate witness to a large sayings source traceable to Matthew, an eyewitness of Jesus. Even apart from this, if Mark is essentially giving us Peter's teaching notes, why wouldn't the apostle Matthew use Mark as one of his source

(4) Acts 16 begins the famous "we" passages in which Luke was an eyewitness to events recorded. Luke is present with Paul when Paul's companions meet with Jesus' brother James and the Jerusalem "elders," including the surviving eyewitnesses (see Acts 21). It is during these encounters that Luke evidently gains eyewitness sources for his own Gospel. Luke discusses his access to eyewitness testimony in the prologue to his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4). It is likely during this trip to Jerusalem that Luke gains access to Mark's Gospel, Q, and unique materials originally in Aramaic (called L by scholars).
Most intriguing is Luke's reference to "several" earlier Gospels. We can only be sure that uses Mark and Q. He apparently does not use Matthew or John. His allusion suggests the existence of other Gospels from eyewitnesses that got lost and might yet be discovered by archaeologists. This prospect is in my view the most exciting possibility for modern archaeological digs and searches.

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