In my previous post I started to summarize what I will be covering in my new book, which hopefully will be published next spring, possibly under the title Jesus Before the Gospels. After devoting the first chapter to a demonstration that everyone agrees that some early Christians were inventing stories about Jesus (as seen in the apocryphal Gospels; it should be stressed – those who read and thought about these Gospels “remembered” Jesus in light of the stories they told),and a second chapter to showing how critical scholars, for as long as there have been critical scholars (late 18th century) have argued that also in the NT there are “invented” traditions that also affected how Jesus was remembered, I move on in the next chapter as follows. (My original plan for this thread was to summarize all six major chapters of my book in one post; then it was to summarize two chapters per post; but I want to devote an entire post to this chapter! And so it goes….)
Chapter three is tentatively entitled, “Eyewitness Testimony and Our Surviving Gospels. In this chapter, I deal with two fundamental questions: Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? And if they are, does that guarantee their essential accuracy? I deal with the questions in reverse order.
The reason for dealing with the questions at all is because it is widely assumed among casual readers of the NT, and sometimes argued by serious scholars, that our Gospels represent eyewitness testimony to the life of Jesus, and that as a result they are essentially reliable. In recent times the one who has made this claim most vehemently is the conservative British New Testament scholar Richard Bauckham, in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.
Possibly the most striking feature of this hefty 500-page tome is…
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