Why Four Gospels?






         The historical origins of the gospels

September 19, 2014

Implications of the Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis

Filed under: Commentary @ 4:45 pm
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(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

11:48 AM Hello bloggers,

Sorry for posting so much about me of late. I think we all need a break from that, don’t you? So, to change the subject ….

The journal New Testament Studies has kindly been allowing access to several of its essays for free. I have been reading Graham Stanton’s “The Fourfold Gospel” with great interest, since I am a proponent of the “Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis.” (See my Why Four Gospels?) The essay, of course, assumes a commitment to the Markan Priority Hypothesis.

When Matthew wrote his Gospel, he did not intend to supplement Mark: his incorporation of most of Mark’s Gospel is surely an indication that he intended that his Gospel should replace Mark’s, and that it should become the Gospel for Christians of his day. Similarly Luke. Luke’s Preface should not be dismissed merely as the evangelist’s way of honouring literary convention. There is little doubt that Luke expects that his more complete Gospel will displace his predecessors, even though he may not intend to disparage their earlier efforts. Whether or not John knew of the existence of one or more of the synoptic gospels, he seems to have expected that his Gospel would win wide acceptance as the Gospel.

If I may be permitted a few random reflections …

I deeply appreciate Stanton’s tireless work in Gospel studies. However, as I have tried to show in my book, to understand how the four Gospels got to us, one needs to forget virtually everything that has been previously accepted as fact about the Synoptic Problem. The Fourfold Gospel Hypothesis does not allow readers to acquire a new idea that can be applied to their existing solution to the problem. Simply put, students of the Gospels cannot hold to the traditional solution of Markan Priority and accept the concepts that are put forth in Why Four Gospels? Let me elucidate:

1) The Markan Priority Hypothesis — which is the “affirmed” interpretation of history based almost exclusively on the internal evidence — is fatally flawed when one takes into account the writings of the earliest Christian fathers. Regrettably, any theory of New Testament interpretation, once it is established, becomes nearly impossible to dislodge, even if new (and seemingly contradictory) evidence is produced. Any new interpretation of the events, if it is to be accepted, must be built around the old consensus and incorporated into it, even at the expense of logic. An example of this is the Farrer Hypothesis, which dispenses with “Q” while insisting on Markan Priority. Indeed, so embedded is the popular view in the public consciousness that it is nearly impossible to dismiss it. The story is “safe,” and the matter is not really open to debate. In my opinion, New Testament scholarship has become so preoccupied with maintaining the status quo that it has neglected to explore the external evidence. Moreover, I think there is insufficient curiosity, generally speaking, as to why the Gospels were written in the first place.

2) As I have noted, the accepted version of the story focuses on the external evidence. If, however, one were to seriously investigate the external evidence — the evidence provided by the patristic testimony — it would become evident that current explanations are incongruent and incompatible with the opinions of the fathers. Why, for example, did Clement of Alexandria insist that the Gospels “containing the genealogies” (i.e., Matthew and Luke) were written first? And why is Matthew always listed as the first Gospel? Why is Mark’s Gospel consistently described not as an independent work of Mark but as a record of the words of the apostle Peter? In light of this evidence, it seems illogical to believe that our earliest Gospel was written by Mark, a non-eyewitness.

3) Ensconced deeply in the affirmed version is the notion that Mark contains inferior grammar to that found in Matthew and Luke. Some Markan priorists have even gone so far as to claim that Mark contains “errors” that were subsequently “corrected” by Matthew and Luke. Yet each of these supposed “errors” allows for a plausible alternative explanation that does not require Markan priority (as I have attempted to show here). If the New Testament student desires a complete understanding of the factors that led up to the writing of the Gospels, the internal evidence alone simply does not provide it. The external evidence keeps getting in the way of the affirmed version.

4) Again, why are the fathers so adamant that Matthew came first? Why did Clement aver that Matthew and Luke came before Mark? Why do the fathers go to great lengths to show that Mark never set out to write a Gospel but simply recorded the words of Peter as they were spoken before his Roman audience? What has prevented proponents of the affirmed view from asking these vital questions? The answer, in my opinion, is that the consensus view is falsely shackled to a misguided preference for the internal evidence. In short (and this post is already way too long!), as long as the patristic testimony is ignored, the internal evidence, which by its very nature is subjective, will continue to reign supreme. And as long as the traditional view is anchored in the minds of scholars, the solution will remind hidden.

So what is the simplest explanation of the facts — all the facts? To discover that, one must be bold. The missing pieces of the puzzle must be included if we are to assemble the whole puzzle rather than leaving them out because they do not seem to fit. Taking the external evidence into account will have serious repercussions. The answer to the Synoptic Problem will remind incomplete until a central piece of the puzzle is in place.

Think about it :-)

Dave

June 5, 2014

Affirming the Historicity and Apostolicity of the Gospels

Filed under: Commentary @ 1:47 pm

Why Four Gospels?6:56 AM Jim Wallace had penned a fine piece called How Can We Trust the Gospels When the Genealogy of Jesus Is So Different? Many New Testament scholars question the historical reliability of the four Gospel accounts of the life of Christ. They insist that the records are filled with after-the-fact embellishments — a fact that requires scholars to search for the “historical Jesus” beneath the accretions of tradition, much like peeking an opinion to its core. For example, on one of the most important points of the Jesus story — the resurrection and the empty tomb — all the Gospels agree. Yet even when confronted with this evidence many people do not find the truth of the resurrection easy to accept. Nevertheless, belief in the resurrection of Christ is essential to our faith. Apostolic preaching confirmed it and even made it a condition of salvation: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

I wrote my book Why Four Gospels? not so much to argue for Matthean priority as to affirm the complete historicity and apostolicity of the Gospels. Early in my Christian experience I discovered that the Gospels were — and needed to be — central in my understanding not only of the Good News about Jesus Christ but of life itself. Only the cross of Jesus can supply meaning to life, and that is because the cross and the resurrection are an interwoven reality. Of one thing I am quite certain: Christianity is a historical faith. It is rooted and grounded in historical fact. No “leap of faith” is required to believe in Jesus. As I once heard Francis Schaeffer put it in Switzerland, you don’t have to put your brain in park or neutral to become a Christian. His cross is the center of all history. It is the crossroads of the universe. No one can avoid confrontation with it.

It is my prayer that skeptics may come to the Gospels with an open mind and heart, for there the living Christ is ready to meet Doubting Thomases in their pessimism and the travelers to Emmaus in their intellectualism.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. 6/5/2014)

May 26, 2014

King’s Evangelical Divinity School Interview with David Alan Black

Filed under: Links @ 2:49 pm
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You can read the entire interview: Interview with David Alan Black. A good deal of the interview relates to Dr. Black’s view of gospel authorship.

February 17, 2014

The Longer Ending of Mark and Snake Handling

Filed under: Commentary @ 11:03 pm

11:36 AM Now this was a fun read: The awkward truth about snake-handling: it’s totally Biblical. It all depends on how you read Mark 16:9-20 — original or not? The commenter is correct when he says, “There are plenty of biblical inerrantists who correctly discern this long ending of Mark as extra-biblical, using basic textual criticism.” Alas, there are other biblical inerrantists would politely disagree. Which is why I published Perspectives on the Ending of Mark. Read at your own risk!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

October 15, 2013

Is Another Conversion Imminent?

Filed under: Links @ 11:20 pm
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Tim Henderson may be changing his mind, though not to the fourfold gospel hypothesis. It does appear, however, that he may abandon Q. It’s possible that the “Farrer-Goulder-Goodacre-Watson hypothesis” now has two many names in its title. :-)

June 18, 2013

A Video Review

Filed under: Reviews @ 3:44 am

By Dima Kotik

June 13, 2013

Pay Attention to Ancient Sources

Filed under: Commentary @ 2:19 pm
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5:45 AM When the great C. S. Lewis moved from Oxford to Cambridge, his inaugural lecture explored the theme of literary history. In it he questioned the age-old practice of referring to “periods” in English literature, such as the “Renaissance.” Such terms, he insisted, were myths. “The Renaissance never happened,” he said. He argued that “periods” in history are not necessarily facts but rather retrospective concepts shaped more or less by polemical factors. Thus the literature of the so-called “Middle Ages” is no less important than that produced during the Renaissance.

In my forthcoming book on the authorship of Hebrews, I argue that the reception history of the book of Hebrews, a book that always circulated in the early church among the Pauline letters, has shared a similar fate. The evidence for its Paulinity has not so much been refuted as overlooked or ignored. In my book Why Four Gospels? I have argued similarly for Matthean priority based upon the unanimous testimony of the earliest church that Matthew (and not Mark) was the first written record of the life and teachings of Jesus. Throughout my studies of the Gospels I’ve been struck by one thing: how Jesus’ ministry broke like a thunderclap on Galilee. The earthquake and tsunami in Japan were of the same degree, I would imagine. In Mark we often read that Jesus’ hearers were completely amazed at His teaching and shocked beyond words at His scandalous deeds.

I will be the first to confess that Jesus’ teachings did not always strike me in this manner. For many years I was much more attracted to the detailed logic and complex semotaxis of Paul’s writings. But if I am correct in arguing that Matthew is our earliest Gospel and that it may have been written within a decade of the resurrection, then it seems likely that the apostle Paul was well aware of its contents and, indeed, may well have a had a copy of Matthew’s scroll with him on his various missionary journeys. It is not hard to imagine the impact this Gospel of Matthew might have had on Paul’s life and ministry. For throughout the whole account of Jesus’ ministry in Matthew there is a singular and profound focus on the Great Commission to reach the unevangelized nations, ta ethne. The Great Commission requires, not discussion, but obedience. Jesus demands it — of Paul, and no less of us today. And Matthew has provided not only for his own community (in Palestine) but for all Christians of all times and places a marvelous tool for carrying out this commission to the ends of the earth.

This, then, is why I think it is so important for us to read and study the Gospels. And I do hope, in this light, that my students and I do not get so distracted by the many marvelous details in the Gospel accounts that we fail to live out the “Good News” that so captivated and transformed the first followers of Jesus.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

April 5, 2013

Irenaeus Not the Inventor of the Fourfold Gospel Canon

Filed under: Commentary @ 5:07 pm
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4:42 PM Michael Kruger has posted an interesting essay in which he argues that the Fourfold Gospel canon was not invented by Irenaeus.

Not only did his contemporaries have this same view, but this view was even shared by those before him. Thus, we must consider the possibility that Irenaeus was actually telling the truth when he says that the fourfold gospel was something that was “handed down” to him.

Wonderful. And a good reminder why Bernard Orchard called his view of synoptic origins the “Fourfold-Gospel Hypothesis.” (For details, see my book on the subject.)

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

February 23, 2013

Filed under: Commentary @ 11:44 pm

8:10 AM Saw this today:

One of the many curiosities in the study of the NT and earliest Christianity is the early history and fortunes of the Gospel of Mark (hereafter, GMark). On the one hand (assuming the dominant view of Mark’s priority), the GMark appears to have been very influential. It is widely thought that the authors of the Gospels of Matthew and Luke were likely prompted to write the kind of Jesus-books that they did by GMark.

“Assuming the dominant view of Mark’s priority.” This is precisely, I argue, what we cannot and must not do today.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

September 8, 2012

Gospel Dates in Relation to Philippians

Filed under: Commentary @ 1:27 am
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7:16 PM Mark over at Alternation continues his excellent discussion of the book of Philippians, which we are now studying in Greek 3. His current passage is 1:12-18. In verse 14 Paul refers to the “word” which the Romans believers were speaking boldly and fearlessly. Concerning this word, Mark states:

The word is not yet written down in the four Gospels or any creed, but it has been summarized in creed-like confessions and hymns, and is contained in a recognized body of traditional teaching.

This view is, of course, possible, but it is my contention (as argued in Why Four Gospels?) that the Gospel of Matthew was written within 10 years of the resurrection and that Paul quite possibly had a copy of it with him on his missionary journeys. It’s a fascinating hypothesis, isn’t it, that Paul may have actually possessed a copy of the First Gospel in his hands and that he may have alluded to or quoted from it in his earliest writings (e.g., 1 Thessalonians). I imagine that very few students today realize that there is more than a handful of sound arguments for this theory. Mark’s point nevertheless holds:

The word they are speaking is the story of Jesus Christ, how he defeated sin, death, and hatred by enduring them on the cross and rising again, how he will come again to finish the work of transforming all creation into the place where God’s will is done on earth as in heaven, and how he empowers his followers through the Spirit of God to live a life that is a foretaste of and witness to the glory and victory that is to come.

And that is very well put.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission)

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