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2012-03-26 11:06 AM
A-Week: Testimony of the Evangelists: No Eye Witnesses: Part 4
Continuing my posts about The Testimony of the Evangelists by Simon Greenleaf...
The remaining thrust of Greenleaf's attempt to qualify the Gospels as real evidence has to do with rules surrounding eye-witness testimony. He feels that his previous arguments for the validity of accepting the Gospels as evidence can be used to equate these writings with eye-witness testimony. First, he reviews who each of the supposed authors of the Gospels were according to the stories and then reviews the legal rules he'll base his eye-witness argument upon. Let's review the Gospels:
Greenleaf states that Matthew is considered to be the author of the first Gospel written (pg 19) between 37-64 AD. To be fair, this was a generally accepted belief in the 1800s. However, modern scholarship which has used more information, better attempts at analysis, etc. disagree with that assessment. The majority opinion of Biblical scholars states that Matthew is NOT the author of this Gospel and that it didn't come first either. It is generally considered that the majority of content of Matthew is taken from the Gospel of Mark as well as what is known as the Q source or Q document. (Q is short for the German 'Quelle' or 'source')) The Gospel of Mark is now considered to be the earliest of the Gospels.
The current majority opinion, again something not available to Greenleaf, is that the author of the Gospel of Mark is unknown. It is considered to be the first Gospel, written after 70 AD (that's about 40 YEARS after the supposed death of Jesus).
Mark is simply not an eye-witness. The Gospel of Mark is supposedly Mark re-telling the stories from Simon Peter. Mark was not present for the events described in this Gospel. Greenleaf attempts to overcome this problem by stating that Simon Peter "dictated" the gospel to Mark, however, modern scholars conclude that Simon Peter was killed in 64 AD around the time of Nero and the Great Fire of Rome... but Mark wasn't written until after the Temple of Jerusalem was destroyed which happened in 70 AD.
So, Mark is unlikely to be the author. The Gospel was written years after the death of the person who supposedly "dictated" it... there is just no eye-witness here for Greenleaf to even try to apply his rules to.
There is no majority opinion about the identity of the author of the Gospel of Luke. Some say it was Luke some say it couldn't be, some just say the author is unknown. What we DO know is that the author of Luke was self-admittedly NOT an eye-witness to the events. Greenleaf attempts to overcome this obvious problem with his argument by claiming that it can be inferred that he was an eye-witness based on certain translations of the above verses claiming "perfect understanding" of the events. However, that directly contradicts the verse before it which says that the original eye-witnesses passed the information down.
During Greenleaf's time, John was considered to be the author of this Gospel, however, the majority opinion of Biblical scholars today do not believe this Gospel to be written by John or any other eye-witnesses. It's not Greenleaf's fault, the information that modern scholars have access to hadn't been uncovered in Greenleaf's day. Some scholars (not a majority opinion) think the Gospel of John was composed over a long period of time, by several different people, creating a layering effect throughout the Gospel. Some scholars think composition started before 70 AD (so before Mark was written) but continued to be changed until 100 AD (after all the other Gospels had been written).
The whole point? Not a single one of the Gospels was written by an eye-witness. Not a single one. Any possible argument that Greenleaf puts forward to show the truth of these accounts based on their eye-witness nature falls flat because none of them are even written by eye-witnesses. I'm still going to post one more entry about his eye-witness arguments, but given the above, we already know his arguments will fail.
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