As I pointed out yesterday, the "Gospel of Peter" that we have today, discovered in 1886, is unfortunately, only a portion – the only surviving portion – of what was once a complete Gospel. But was it a complete Gospel? Or was it only a passion Gospel (like the later Gospel of Nicodemus) that gave an account only of the trial, death, and resurrection of Jesus? That has long been debated. I discussed one intriguing view of the matter some years ago on the blog, as follows: In recent years a German scholar named Dieter Luhrmann has argued that other portions of the Gospel of Peter have shown up, in very small fragments of papyrus discovered in Egypt. It is a controversial claim. The most interesting possibility, for me, is a papyrus fragment that Luhrmann published called Papyrus Oxyrhynchus 4009 (it is the 4009th papyrus published from the huge find of papyri in the trash heap of ancient Oxyrhynchus Egypt). To understand why this *might* be a fragment of the Gospel of Peter requires a [...]
My Readers’ Mailbag is stuffed, and I need to clear out a few questions to make room for others that come in. So I may be answering more than normal over the next couple of weeks. Here is one that I find intriguing: QUESTION If you could choose any currently-fragmentary or otherwise lacunose document from antiquity and magically receive a reconstructed version to read, what would it be? RESPONSE Wow. There are lots to choose from. I would probably come up with different answers on different days of the week, but the first thing that springs to mind is the Gospel of Peter, one of the most interesting of the ancient non-canonical Gospels. We have only a fragment of the book, which begins smack dab in the middle of an episode and ends, literally, in the middle of a sentence. To show why that’s so tantalizing, let me first say a bit about what the Gospel is (at least that part of it we still have!). The Gospel comes from one of the [...]
I have received a lot of questions about Q this week. If you’re wondering about why blog members are interested in a figure from Star Trek, you may want to review this week’s posts. Here is a question that I find particularly intriguing. QUESTION: It is hard to believe that Q, if it existed, circulated enough to be used by both but then dropped off the face of the Earth without so much as a mention by an early church father, while references to so many other documents survived (with some being found). RESPONSE: Ah, this is an interesting observation and involves a set of questions that I’m very interested in but have never published (much of) anything about. How much of the early Christian literature was lost? Could early Christians simply have allowed important writings to disappear (even if independent once knew them)? To the historian’s eternal chagrin, the answer appears to be yes. My guess is that most early Christians simply didn’t see a need to preserve their writings for posterity [...]
I will be having dinner with several blog members this Thursday in Durham NC, my home turf. We have had a cancellation, and so there is one more open spot at the table. If anyone is interested in coming, please contact me at [email protected] There are no obligations other than showing up, paying for your dinner, and talking about whatever suits your fancy for a couple of hours!
In a previous post I explained why scholars have long held to "Markan Priority," the view that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke both used it for constructing their own narratives. One great pay-off for this conclusion (it really is significant) is that it is possible, given this result, to see how Matthew and Luke have each *modified* Mark in the stories they received from him. This approach is called "redaction criticism." A "redactor" is an editor. Redaction criticism looks at the editing decisions made by an editor of a source. Years ago I described the method and gave an illustration of how it worked on the blog, in part to show that finding the differences between the Gospels is not necessarily a *negative* thing, but can have very *positive* results for interpreting the message each one has. This is what I said then: ********************************************************************* I have stressed that knowing that there are differences, even discrepancies, among the Gospels does not need to be considered in a purely negative [...]