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Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony (Read 1092 times)
TheDonald
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Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony
Apr 28th, 2017 at 7:03pm
 

JESUS: CONNECTIONS WITH EYEWITNESS TESTIMONY AND EXTRABIBLICAL SOURCES:

I'll begin with 2 points about Mark's Gospel.
(1A) Papias (C. 60-125 AD) is famous for his preference for eyewitness testimony ("a living voice") to Jesus over written records. He has directly consulted disciples of the apostles and even a couple of living disciples of Jesus (John the Elder and Aristion). What he learns is that the Gospel of Mark is based on Peter's teaching ministry and is therefore on eyewitness testimony. Mark is criticized by these disciples for changing the sequence of events in Jesus' life. Mark does not offer a chronologically historical narration, but rather one on how each story fits his thematic purpose. This explains why Jesus' itinerary in Mark makes little sense as a continuous journey. So it is irresponsible to claim that Mark is poorly informed about Palestinian geography. Mark's role as Peter's assistant and translator is attested in 1 Peter 5:13. Peter was martyred in Rome and the Latinisms in Mark attest Rome as the place of the Gospel's origin. So the Gospel's origin in Rome attests its connection to eyewitness testimony (Peter's). This fits nicely with Justin Martyr's reference in Rome to Mark's Gospel as "his (Peter's) memoirs (Dialogue with Trypho 106:3)."

(1B) The historical credibility of Mark's preservation of Peter's memoirs can be supported by striking details that are embarrassing and unlikely to be fabricated. Here are just 3 examples: (a) The Gospel concedes that Jesus' family considers him mad and actually tries to physically restrain Him (3:19-21). This rejection prompts Jesus to complain that no prophet is "honored among his own kin and in his own house (6:4)." Even John 7:5 sadly concedes, "His own brothers did not believe in Him." (b) Hostility at Nazareth creates an atmosphere in which Jesus "is unable" to perform miracles there. In other words, He apparently tries and fails! (The "except" clause in Mark 6:6 is recognized by scholars as a later gloss.). (c) Jesus does not succeed in curing the blind man at Bethsaida on His first attempt. A 2nd effort is needed to complete the healing (8:22-26). These embarrassing details are surely historical reminiscences and, as such, lend added credibility to Mark's most awesome miracle stories.
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Re: Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony
Reply #1 - Apr 30th, 2017 at 2:15am
 
2. Papias (60-120 AD) writes: "And [John] the Elder said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements."

Papias says he prefers "a living voice" to written documents. By this, he means that he prefers information that living disciples of Jesus (John the Elder and Aristion) and direct disciples of Jesus' disciples conveyed to him orally to written sources. Papias's learns form the eyewitness John that Mark was Peter's interpreter, a claim that finds independent support form 1 Peter 5:13). John's claim, mediated by Papias, that Mark wrote the Gospel that bears his name derives independent support from Justin Martyr of Rome who refers to Mark as Peter's memoirs. Justin grew up in Samaria in the early 2nd century.

Interestingly, some eyewitnesses and those close to them complain that Mark mixes up the sequence of events in Jesus' life. But Peter never wrote an sequentially correct biography of Jesus. As John tells Papias, Mark knows not the sequence of events, but the actual incidents and miracles of Jesus' ministry, which he gleaned from Peter's teaching sessions for edifying purposes. Thus, this controversy indirectly attests an eyewitness connection with Jesus.

(1c) Papias writes: "Matthew put together the SAYINGS [Greek "logia"of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could."
The Gospel of Matthew is originally composed in Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic. For this reason, some scholars claim that Papias's source is mistaken. But Papias never says that Matthew wrote the Gospel; rather, he says that Matthew wrote a "sayings" collection, and Christians "interpreted them (the sayings) as best they could." This sounds like the modern sayings source Q that the scholarly consensus identifies as a sayings source used by Matthew and Luke, but not by Mark and John. Q is from the German "quelle" (= source). It represents the major sayings collection that was circulated east of the Jordan River. The Coptic Gospel of Thomas consists of 114 sayings of Jesus and represents the sayings collection that circulated east of the Jordan, and eventually found its way to Egypt. Q, then, is a translation from the original Aramaic. When Greek authors mention "Hebrew," they include "Aramaic," which is, after all, a Hebrew dialect. Apparently, an unknown editor combined Matthew's Q with Mark to produce the Gospel of Matthew and Matthew's name was extended from the Q source to the entire Gospel by association. In any case, Papias is a legitimate witness to a large sayings source traceable to Matthew, an eyewitness of Jesus. Even apart from this, if Mark is essentially giving us Peter's teaching notes, why wouldn't the apostle Matthew use Mark as one of his source.
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Re: Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony
Reply #2 - May 22nd, 2017 at 1:53am
 
(3) Acts 16 begins the famous "we" passages in which Luke was an eyewitness to events recorded. Luke is present with Paul when Paul's companions meet with Jesus' brother James and the Jerusalem "elders," including the surviving eyewitnesses (see Acts 21). It is during these encounters that Luke evidently gains eyewitness sources for his own Gospel. Luke discusses his access to eyewitness testimony in the prologue to his Gospel (Luke 1:1-4). It is likely during this trip to Jerusalem that Luke gains access to Mark's Gospel, Q, and unique materials originally in Aramaic (called L by scholars).
Most intriguing is Luke's reference to "several" earlier Gospels. We can only be sure that uses Mark and Q. He apparently does not use Matthew or John. His allusion suggests the existence of other Gospels from eyewitnesses that got lost and might yet be discovered by archaeologists. This prospect is in my view the most exciting possibility for modern archaeological digs and searches.
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Re: Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony
Reply #3 - May 25th, 2017 at 4:33pm
 
(4) In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 Paul lists the sequence of resurrection appearances that he "in turn had received." Received from whom? Well, the answer can be found in Galatians 1:11-17 and 2:1-10. There Paul makes it clear that he made 2 trips to Jerusalem to consult first with Peter and Jesus' brother James, and then with Peter, James, and John, to validate His Jesus' story with eyewitness testimony. Paul notes that they made no corrections in his version of the Gospel. We can safely assume that the series of Easter appearances that Paul reports found confirmation in their testimony. More importantly, Paul is the last witness of the Risen Jesus and his resurrection appearance transforms him from a guilt-free hitman for the Pharisees into the greatest and most effective apostle. 3 times Paul celebrates his life-changing resurrection appearance, thus giving support to his travel companion, Dr. Luke's accounts in the Book of Acts.
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Re: Jesus: Connections with Eyewitness Testimony
Reply #4 - May 31st, 2017 at 12:22am
 

(5) Atheist Morton Smith is a genuine scholar. In his unique book, "Jesus the Magician," he reconstructs the version of Jesus' life as told by His Jewish detractors. I have summarized his findings in the paragraph below. The main source is the Platonist Celsus (170 AD), who interviewed Jewish leaders to get their version of Jesus' life. Some of what they share can be independently corroborated by earlier sources traceable to the first century. I have cited other sources in parentheses for certain negative Jewish traditions about Jesus.

Jesus is the illegitimate son of a Roman soldier named Panthera and a spinner woman (Rabbi Eliezer--70 AD). Her husband disowned her for her adultery and Jesus was born while she was on the run. He got a job in Egypt as a laborer and took the opportunity to become an adept in magic there. Jesus even had himself tatooed with magical spells (Celsus--170 AD--also responsible for the ensuing claims). Returning to Galilee Jesus hung out with sailors of the worst sort, and wandered from place to place, making his living shamefully as a beggar. He recruited 10 (not 12) disciples and taught them to indulge in secret orgies in defiance of the Law of Moses. He persuaded the masses that he was the Messiah by his miracles, which were either demonically powered or nothing more than magically induced hallucinations. His cures were not real and did not last (Quadratus--100-125 AD). Even his own family rejected his claims. He was tried and executed by Pilate for sedition and the practice of magic. His disciples stole his body and then claimed that they saw him after he rose from the dead. Some say the gardener at the tomb site removed the body to discourage sightseers from stepping on his lettuce (Tertullian--208 AD). But the false claim that he rose from the dead has gained him a huge following.

Some slanderous lies, to be sure; but perhaps this polemical portrait unwittingly provides independent confirmation of how Jesus' contemporaries experienced his faith healing ministry. Considering what these Jewish critics concede about Jesus, the following possibilities have varying degrees of merit for our consideration:

(a) Even the skeptics concede that Jesus put on a great show--that He seemed to perform miracles. They just dismiss these miracles as either demonic or as magically produced hallucinations. No one claims that Jesus was just a teacher and that all miracle claims about Him are legendary.

(b) We learn from Hegesippus's sources (180 AD) that Clopas was Joseph's brother. The bishop of Antioch, John Chrysostom (347-407 AD), claims that, after Joseph's death, Mary lived with Clopas as if she were his wife. Now marrying your husband's brother is deemed incestuous by contemporary Judaism, but is mandatory if the husband (Joseph) died childless. If Mary married Clopas after Joseph's untimely death, 2 spectacular inferences can be drawn: (1) Jesus' family recognizes the Jesus is not the natural child of Joseph, in which case we have another reason to believe in Jesus' virgin birth. (2) Jesus' so-called siblings are really children of Clopas after his marriage to Mary. This marriage would explain the puzzling early tradition that Jesus' former cousins are now by law his brothers as well. This would explain how the tradition arose of Jesus as the son of Panthera. In Greek pentherides" means "the husband's brother." In Aramaic, the suffix "ides" would be dropped, leaving just "panther." An intriguing hypothesis is that the Panthera tradition arises from the confusion of Penther with Panthera and masks an early recognition of the tradition preserved by John Chrysostom that, after Joseph's death, Mary entered a Levirate marriage with Clopas, Joseph's brother. Legally, at the time of Jesus' ministry, He would be the son of Clopas.

(c) Matthew tells us that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt to escape Herod's massacre of Bethlehem babies. The version of Jesus' life from His detractors suggests that Jesus stayed in Egypt much longer and became a laborer there. Probably untrue, but an interesting tradition!

(d) Paul says, "I bear on my body the marks of the Lord Jesus." These marks are normally construed as the marks of Paul's beatings incurred as torture for preaching the Gospel. What if they are imitations of Jesus' tattoos? Unlikely, but perhaps His Jewish detractors construed Paul's marks this way. In any case, they claim that Jesus was tattooed!
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