In my previous post I argued that critical scholars who insist that the Gospels are not historically accurate accounts of what happened in the life of Jesus – even though they do contain some historically accurate information, which needs to be carefully and cautiously ferretted out of their narratives – are not trashing the Gospels. They are trashing unfounded fundamentalist assumptions about the Gospels. In this post I’d like to argue that this view — that the Gospels are not sacrosanct-historically-accurate-to-the-very-detail accounts of what really happened in the life of Jesus — is not merely a modern notion that emerged during the Enlightenment. It is that, to be sure; but it’s not merely that. In fact, I would argue that this is the earliest attested view of the Gospels from earliest Christianity.
Let’s assume for this argument a view that most scholars hold and that I could demonstrate if I wanted to spend a lot of time doing so, that Mark was the first of our Gospels and that Matthew and Luke both had access to Mark. If that’s what we think (and it’s what “we,” speaking with the “royal we,” in fact do think, along with 99% of the biblical scholars on the planet), then we can ask: did the authors of Matthew and Luke consider Mark to be in inviolable, sacrosanct, completely accurate account of what Jesus said and did?
The answer is obvious – so obvious that it’s amazing that it’s never struck most readers (including most of us! It didn’t strike me for about ten years after starting to read the Gospels carefully).
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