Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Are some parts of the Gospels the stuff of legends?

dominoThough stated very simply, this a very complicated insight and a good question about the reliability of the historical accuracy and reliability of the Gospels.

In answering this we need to view them into two separate issues.

1. The standard scholarly dating for the earliest documents of Mark was in the AD 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s and John in the 90s AD. Now even with these dates, some contemporary followers of Christ and even unbelievers would have been alived at that time. These were within their lifetimes so we could have heard arguments against them.

2. Alexander the Great's two earliest biographies were written by Arrian and Plutarch 400 years after Alexander's death in 323 B.C. Yet scholars find them as trustworthy and consider only material as legendary after 500 years of Alexander's death.

Compared to Alexander the Great's biographies, the Gospels were a news flash in ancient times. It's just like getting a report from CNN.

Dr. Bloomberg even suggests that the Gospels could have been written much earlier than that considered by scholars above. Here are some of his points:

1. The Book of Acts was written unfinished because it does not discuss the death of Paul. Paul was a main character in Acts but the story stops with his house arrest in Rome. So we can say that Acts was written before the death of Paul in 62 AD.

2. But since Acts is the second of two parts written by Luke (the first was Luke in the Gospels), we can say that the Gospel of Luke was written earlier than 80 AD. And since scholars agree that Luke incorporated parts of Mark in his book ,then mark would be earlier too. Much earlier than 70 AD.

In fact if there was just a one year gap between, Mark to Luke and to Acts then Mark would be written in the AD 60's or late 50s. Jesus' crucifixion was in AD 30 or 33!

So we can consider the Gospels as very fresh news indeed by ancient historical standards!

Now another part of the Gospels where we can say that legend creeps in is about the early teachings of the church. The creeds or system belief of early Christians could be questioned as well. Scholars consider this creed as very important.

1 Corinthians 15:3-8
"For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born."

Here are some points to consider when reading this creed accordingt to Dr. Bloomberg:

1. You have the statements here about Jesus's death, resurrection and His appearance to other disciples.

2. That Paul was saying that this was given to him orally.

3. That if the crucifixion was early 30 AD, then Paul must have converted in 32 AD. He then met the apostles around 35 AD and was subsequently given this creed.

We can then see that this creed or statement about the nature of Christ and what happened to Him was considered as a creed less than 5 years from the time of the crucifixion.

Again in ancient times, 5 years is such a short time to be considered as a legend.

Based on the book The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel

First posted at Pinoyexchange

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