Ten Tidbits about the Gospels

Four years ago we launched a “Ten Tidbits” Series that sought to introduce some basic information about scriptural texts assumed by scholars, but not necessarily well known by Latter-day Saints. The goal was to introduce these points as the results of close readings that could lead to a more accurate understanding of the scriptural texts for LDS readers. I’d like to continue that series with a more focused look not at entire books of scripture, but smaller portions. Some of these points may be widely known, and some may not be.

1. The four gospels cannot be harmonized. They contain different ideas about who Jesus is, narrative orders of his actions, content of his teachings, meaning of his miracles, etc. None of the gospel writers imagined that their text would have been read alongside any other, and in some cases directly contradict the others. In fact, the reasons that Matthew and Luke rewrote Mark was because they wanted to replace it.

2. The earliest versions of Mark do not have an account of Jesus’ appearance after the resurrection. Originally ending at 16:8 with the women fleeing after learning about the empty tomb, later editors added post-resurrection appearances of Jesus more consistent with the other gospels. This may indicate the relatively late date of stories about Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances as a part of the accounts of his life and ministry.

3. The synoptic gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) only have one account of Jesus going to Jerusalem for Passover, suggesting that his ministry may have only lasted less than a year, as opposed to John who has Jesus attend Passover three times, marking a two year ministry.

4. The synoptic gospels depict Jesus’ symbolic action overturning the tables of the money changers as the immediate event which precipitates his arrest and execution. John instead sees this as the event which launches his ministry two years eariler, and does not occur in the final week.

5. Mark and John do not have accounts of a virgin birth and never make reference to it. Matthew and Luke tell very different, irreconcilable versions of Jesus’ birth.

6. Matthew and Luke expanded on Mark’s narrative by adding a source of Jesus’ teachings nicknamed Q (from the German word Quelle, or source). The idea was that a set of Jesus’ sayings circulated independently from other accounts of his life and death. This hypothesis which sought to explain why Matthew and Luke have the same sayings, but introduced in different narratives, seems to have been verified with the discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, which may have derived from the same source text of Jesus’ teachings as Q, and also has no narrative account of his miracles, death, or resurrection. John is not built around sayings, but dialogues.

7. In the earliest accounts of Jesus’ controversies over the law, the Pharisees are not always named as the enemies. In later accounts, the Pharisees are added into these stories, suggesting that the conflict with the Pharisees was more acute for “Christians” decades after Jesus’ death than it may have been during his life.

8. The earliest references to gospel materials (about 150 AD) do not mention the names of the authors of the gospels. There is no internal evidence to the gospels to indicate who may have written them. It is likely that all of the gospels are assigned authors sometime in the late-second century. The legends about who these authors were are all late.

9. The author of the gospel of Luke is the same as the author of the Acts of the Apostles. He wrote his two-part work as an account of the early church, seeking to harmonize the sayings traditions with Mark, and to harmonize the missions of Paul to the Gentiles with the Jewish followers of Jesus in the Jerusalem church.

10. The Twelve are called “apostles” only by Luke, or in later manuscript additions in the other gospels. Paul explicitly distinguishes between The Twelve and the apostles as two separate groups (1 Cor 15:1-7).

57 Replies to “Ten Tidbits about the Gospels”

  1. TT, could you briefly outline the main points in Matthew and Luke’s narratives of Jesus’ birth that are irreconcilable (aside from the genealogies)?

  2. Great post. Now if only we could get this into the Gospel Doctrine manual.

    Concerning #2, I recently spoke with someone here at Claremont doing his dissertation on the empty-tomb narrative of Mark. According to him, not only is the resurrection narrative an addition, but it is anti-climactic as the empty-tomb narrative was intentionally modeled after contemporary Greek myths about the lack of the body of the deceased as being evidence of their divinity.

  3. Re: the narrator’s point
    I don’t want to divert this discussion onto something else, but I was wondering what TT (and others) feel is the value of knowing these things for your average LDS, particularly if taught in Gospel Doctrine. I teach Gospel Doctrine and spent this past Sunday comparing and contrasting the Matthew and Luke accounts of Jesus’ birth and illustrating the incompatibility of the two accounts. Most of the above are the sorts of things that I would mention in my class, if not build a lesson around. I did similar things last year with the OT. I run my Gospel Doctrine class more like an Institute class, or on my better days, like a freshman NT seminar. However, a very close acquaintance of mine recently informed me that they felt this was an inappropriate way of teaching the class, because it was not spiritual enough and did not do enough to build faith. I am not planning on changing the way I teach, but how would any of you justify this?

  4. I’m not sure I would say the Gospels “cannot” be harmonized. People do harmonize them; that’s why Gospel harmonies, such as Synopsis Quattuor Evangeliorum, exist. It’s not too tough to harmonize the very different nativity accounts, for example, just by putting things in temporal sequences. (Children do it every year in their bathrobes with towels around their heads.) It would probably be more accurate to say they “should not” be harmonized.

  5. #5 I think the classes can be just as faith-promoting, or even more faith-promoting for a few reasons. 1. By recognizing these points we can better delve into the questions that the Gospel writers were trying to answer. 2 We can see that Jesus was far more concerned about confronting oppression and addressing temporal needs than the metaphysical-obsessed-hippie-flower-toting Jesus of the GD manual. 3. By recognizing these things members can avoid placing their faith in things which are most likely not true. 4. Members can start to realize that all the answers from leaders and simplistic scripture readings are not as infallible as they normally assume and start to seek more personal study and person revelation.

  6. Narrator, my feelings thus far has been similar. I think one of the genuinely incredible insights from the Book of Mormon is Alma 32:21’s emendation of Hebrews 11:1, adding “which are true” to the definition of “faith.” Therefore, we cannot have faith (or at the very least, cannot exercise an effective faith) in things that are not true. Thus, for me, these questions of how to read the scriptures must necessarily come prior to any questions of what interpretation of the scriptures is appropriate. To the extent that this kind of method is considered faith-destroying or insufficiently faith-promoting, it would seem that part of the blame should lie with the fact that members have placed faith in things that are not true.

  7. AHLDuke,
    We’ve all wrestled with this question before, and it is certainly one that we must continually return to. Personally, I deal with it on the occasions that I teach by never making these historical points the object of my teaching, but rather a means toward a “spiritual” end, or otherwise resolving a problem in the text, or pointing out multiple options available theologically in the text. In my best versions of this, I teach with a spiritual “thesis” as the overarching goal, and make historical-critical points in support of that thesis.

  8. Thanks, TT. While I said that I do not intend to change my teaching style, it is entirely possible that I have not struck an appropriate balance as you are striving to do. It is difficult for me to contain the enthusiasm that I feel for the historical-critical issues, particularly when my enthusiasm for the kinds of spiritual issues addressed through the manual has waned or is wholly absent.

  9. The relationship between biblical scholarship and devotional instruction in Sunday School comes up quite often and I know this is an area that many people have many questions as well as particularly strong feelings.

    Just by way of a gut response, I feel that success and failure in this area largely hinges on approach. I do think it is important to recognize and be cognizant of the venue, and expectations of the class. I don’t think it is unreasonable that class members expect a devotional reading of scriptures, they expect to have an experience that is of a different quality than they would find in other venues, they expect to feel the spirit. I think instructors who are able to utilize other readings in ways that enhance religious meaning and commitment and assist others in gaining a better appreciation for the scriptures are going to have few if any problems at all.

    I think instructors can sometimes cause more problems for themselves than anyone else by the approach they use. An instructor who prefaces her lesson by saying “I disagree with the manual” or “Today I want to use the insights of biblical scholars” or “Today we are going to show how the Gospel accounts are contradictory and inconsistent” have already made a tactical error in approach. It’s not about the scholarship so much as how one conceptualizes what they are doing as the instructor. Again, I’m limiting these remarks only to the Sunday School setting.

    Instructors have different styles and each member of the class may prefer some teaching styles over others, but if someone came to me with feedback about my teaching, I would seriously consider it because the goal is not merely to convey information or knowledge but to have that message well received.

  10. Great post. As to gospel doctrine and church, we have adopted, consciously or not, the early reformers’ emphasis on the benefits of Christ’s works: ‘this is to know Christ, to know his benefits’ (Melanchthon, 1521). My own experience is that most lessons turn Jesus into an icon. And I think this is part of the reason why we focus on “spiritual” message as opposed to engaging the texts which risks real changes in thinking. As NT Wright suggested,

    “The Divine Saviour to whom they pray has only a tangential relationship to first-century Palestine, and they intend to keep it that way. He can, it seems, be worshiped, but if he ever actually lived he was a very strange figure, clothed in white while all around wore drab, on his face a perpetual faraway expression of pious solemnity.”

    Now this is certainly a little tangential to the post but in line with some of the comments when I suggest that I think we should grapple with the textual problems at church. There is so much proof texting going on and attempts to make Jesus into what we already decided he is that we rarely ask what is going on in a historical and textual context. We rarely grapple with the radicalness of his teachings on socio-economic issues and violence. My view is that a more scholarly approach will by necessity lead to questions about the author’s intent, the historical context of first century palestine, and allow us to see the political ramifications of jesus’ life.

  11. Excellent post. It’s always fascinating that people take 4 different stories and try to create one single narrative, rather than take each for what it is and try to learn what you can from them individually. Trying to mix them together and make one big story just eliminates the meaning the author was trying to convey.

  12. One question that this discussion brings up is, what is spiritual? I wonder if in attempts to “spiritualize” the gospel we can divorce it from any real world application. For example, I have seen a number of discussion in sunday school on the sermon on the mount that take radical stuff like “turn the other cheek” or “love your enemies” into things like I should be nice to neighbors and not hate people which is good but rarely do we talk about what it might mean to love the enemies of your nation state or turn the other cheek when physically attacked. Because after all that is political, temporal, etc and not “spiritual”

    Dont we have to grapple with scholarship or run the risk of just making the scriptures mean whatever we want them to mean?

  13. i really like the ending of mark, not to mention the rest of the gospel.

    jesus foretells his resurrection three times throughout the text, which ends with the empty tomb, leaving readers to complete the ending. it’s clever. i don’t see it as anti-climactic.

    whatever happened, i think it happened soon after the crucifixion, while the trauma was still fresh. the date that the accounts were written down is of course another matter. and surely memory, with all its virtues and vices, comes into play.

  14. Also, I’m under the impression (though I really don’t know if there’s a current consensus) that the death/resurrection foretellings are later interpolations, given how they conflict with clear indications in the Markan text that Jesus does not know what is coming.

  15. Brad,
    I’d say that’s probably a stretch. There isnt any textual evidence for it that I’m aware of, so it would just be a scholarly reconstruction. Those predictions were certainly there by the time Matt and Luke reworked it. It seems like a clever solution to the Messianic secret in Mark, though.

  16. TT,

    Thanks, this is great.


    Can I come to your class? Mine is just a tedious 40 minute retelling of all the basics of the story. No discussion. No application. Mind numbing. Diet Coke runs during Sunday School are becoming more and more common.

  17. One of my favorite zingers: Luke does not believe in Jesus’ death as an Atonement, or at the least he took pains to change Mark’s atonement theology to a “Jesus as faithful martyr” theology.

    Luke 22:19-20 (last supper, body and blood for you) was added by a later scribe. Peter in Acts 2 describes how Jesus’ death works to bring salvation: We ponder our sins, especially the miscarriage of justice that was Jesus’ death, which “pricks our hearts” and makes us want to return to God.

  18. Which assumptions Todd?

    Brad, by “later interpolations” do you mean the historical Jesus did not make such detailed predications, but they were added in by later traditions? If so most scholars would agree with you. But as far as we can tell they were there by the time Mark was written, which I believe was TT’s point.

  19. The interest in history and textual analysis aside, I tend to think that both are out of scope for a Gospel Doctrine class. Gospel Doctrine should primarily be about teaching what the scriptures teach (or at least what the church teaches the scriptures teach) and not so much about resolving historical errata.

    That is not so much a problem with a sometimes over academic approach to teaching these classes, but with the the temporal structure and ordering of the manuals themselves. Gospel Doctrine class is not organized as a gospel doctrine class at all, it is organized as a repeating chronological tour of important passages of scripture. And always the same ones, unfortunately.

    A real gospel doctrine class would be more like Gospel Principles, except kicked up several notches. Subject or topic oriented, rather than historically or chronologically oriented. Roughly to the level of Doctrines of Salvation for example, except relying much more closely on the scriptures themselves than any commentary on the scriptures. As a rule of thumb, I tend to think that scriptural commentaries are worthless. Unless they stick to dry technical errata, of course, which is more than overkill for a doctrine class.

  20. Looking at tidbit #3 I wonder if Jesus really could have had multiple passovers in Jerusalem, pace John, particularly if his rhetoric was similar to what we read occurred in his last week.

    As to #1, is there any scholarship on why Matthew and Luke wanted to replace Mark. I think its pretty great.

  21. Mark D.,

    I think many of the points that TT has illuminated are precisely geared toward what the gospels teach. How can you get Matthew’s message when you’re harmonizing it with Luke, for example? And if you don’t recognize Mark’s truncated ending, doesn’t it inexorably change his message? Asking what Mark could have meant with such an ending is crucial to the basic understanding of the book. And gospel doctrine classes could bring this out. See many of the comments above on this.

    As for your general points on the manuals and approach, agreed on all counts!

  22. Yes, sorry for the confusion. My understanding is that the sayings in question are in the original Markan text, but believed to not have originated with the historical Jesus. The non-canonical ending was a later addition to the original text (a point I understand to be totally non-controversial among non-LDS NT scholars, believing and unbelieving alike).

  23. @Kevin (#6),

    I don’t think the fact that people try to harmonize the gospels means they are successful harmonizations as opposed to midrashic conflations. How do you (successfully) reconcile, for example, a hometown at Bethlehem, flight to Egypt, and return to Nazareth (Matthew) with hometown at Nazareth, census at Bethlehem, return to Nazareth (Luke)? Or Peter denying Jesus three times before the cock crows once versus twice? There is certainly great historical precedent for such harmonies, (and this is basically how it happened in the Pentateuch), but, as with the Pentateuch, the failure of the harmonies is instructive.

  24. One more re: end of Mark.

    While it is certainly beyond disproof that vv. 9ff were much later additions, and while I agree that seeing Mark’s ending at v. 8 is enticing for the reasons outlined above, what do people make of the fact that ending a sentence, let alone a literary work, with gar is almost unheard of in Greek? Does it suggest that something has been lost? (Again, not at all to say that what we have is the original ending, but isn’t it strange?)

  25. #32 If it ends in gar that certainly would be odd. One would expect something to follow. I’ll have to look that up in my smyth and another greek grammar when I get home to see if that occurs.

  26. Another quick thought on Mark. Does anyone have an opinion of BWIII and others suggestion that Peter is the author or at least source for most of the material in Mark. Ill have to look it up but I remember him suggesting that Peter may have relied on Mark who was proficient in Greek, to put together his recollections of Jesus. Im not sure if he gets this from Papias or another source.

  27. There is nothing particularly strange about ending in “gar.” It never comes at the beginning of a sentence. It is always the second word, which makes it the last word in a two word phrase, “for they were afraid.” Other mss have “de” instead of “gar,” which takes the same position in the sentence.

  28. JMadson,
    BWIII is a pretty conservative evangelical scholar. I personally can’t stand him, but that is neither here nor there. His theory that Peter is the sourcet of Mark is based entirely on a second century pious account in Papias that says as much, which is where the idea that Mark was a companion/scribe to Peter comes from. No one really takes it seriously, except those who have an agenda to establish the authority of the texts as close to Jesus himself as possible. There is no reason internal to the text to believe Papias’ story, and since we have no other writings from Peter we have nothing to compare it to. Everything about what that relationship was like, or if it even existed, is entirely speculative.

  29. tt


    Also I found BWII source. It was Papias recounting what John the elder (Patmos) told him. There is more in Richard Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”

    “And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he [i.e. Peter] remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he [Mark] neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, and formed his [Peter’s] instructions into chreiae, but with no intention of giving a complete 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.”

  30. Was writing as you posted. You are right that he is pretty conservative. I havent read much of his stuff personally but I appreciate your take on his position.

  31. jupiterschild, we don’t disagree, I just thought “cannot” was an infelicitous choice of words, because unless there’s an outright contradiction (as there sometimes is, of course), people do try to harmonize biblical accounts all the time. So one passage says Judas hanged himself, and another says he fell and his guts spilled out. Harmonizable? Sure, just put them in a temporal sequence–he hung himself and THEN he fell prostrate and his guts spilled out. Easy as pie. Indeed, both Luther and Joseph did exactly that. SHOULD we do it this way? No. So in my view it’s a “should not,” as opposed to a “cannot.”

  32. Kevin, I’m not sure I’d say either should not or could not. Rather that things are complicated. I think it fair to say that we don’t have eye witness accounts and that folks are compiling different accounts. One of my favorite things to do in order to teach a bit of skepticism in all this is to break out the accounts of the King Follet Discourse and note that all these are eye witness accounts. Then I point out that for a later editor who attempts to harmonize things errors creep it. Then you add the complexity of folks editing accounts with unknown providence with very different takes. Such an account might technically be ascribed to a particular person (say Joseph Smith) but in practice it might get complex. (Introduce the notion of ghost writers and editors)

    Typically when I’ve explained all this no one sees it as a particularly faith trying moment. Rather they gain a deeper appreciation for the difficulties of reading the scripture. I then typically quote 1 Ne 14:23 and note it talks about the teachings when they proceeded out of the mouth of the Jew. I note that it doesn’t talk about textual corruption but emphasizes the difference between what gets transmitted versus what was originally said.

    Mormons tend to think the apostasy and loss of scripture was shady priests hiding books. I personally find that dubious, although there are some elements of truth in it. But more on that margins. The real issue, as I think the Book of Mormon teaches, is that what gets recorded versus what was said were different. (It’s also important to note the “book” in these verses isn’t a literal book but a more figurative sense of book as the word of God – something I think foiks miss as well)

  33. To add, I think that it pretty easy to harmonize the insights of philology and related studies with Mormon thought. I don’t think there’s any need for this to a crisis for anyone, although I understand why it becomes such. Rather I think our own view of scripture really provides a great way to think through these things. The very notion of the Book of Mormon as a highly edited text, collected from various sources is helpful. The translation process is also a helpful thing to go into (especially if we distinguish a tight control over writing by Joseph from a tight or loose translation of the underlying text – something that I don’t think gets clarified enough for people)

    There’s all sorts of examples from regular life that is very helpful in all this, I’ve found, when I’ve had to teach this. Although honestly I don’t think these issues are necessary to raise in a Sunday School class. It’s better to just teach the received text and then perhaps raise a few issues about apostasy with regards to the Bible when encountering questions about problematic texts. I’ve noticed though that even in less “academic” oriented wards people tend to adopt a fairly suspicious hermeneutic when encountering such passages. (Especially with regards to last year’s reading of the Old Testament) I think people are far more open to the idea of corrupted and incomplete accounts of history than many Mormon intellectuals are willing to give them credit for. Even amongst literalists.

  34. Kevin,

    I see what you mean, and it holds for the Judas death discrepancies, though I think in some cases “can’t” is more appropriate, at least under normal narrative conditions. Jesus “can’t” be in two places at once, for example. Now it’s possible to harmonize such a difference through creative interpretations (alternate universes, tesseracts, or outright changing the text), but I think at that point it’s less harmonization of two separate texts and more a midrashic conflation. But I guess I’m just splitting hairs at this point.

  35. TT: My hard-core classics colleagues tell me that gar is a most unusual way to end a sentence (and a narrative). I understand the grammatical rules about its not coming first, but (and I’m relying mostly on others here) it is also irregular for it to come last. I’ll have to check again, too, but I know that this point has been cited as a factor impelling the creation of another ending (or two). I don’t have much of a dog in the fight, since I’m quite happy to see it as a dissonant ending, but the grammatical situation doesn’t seem so cut and dry as to make us completely certain that we do indeed have the original ending at v. 8.

  36. i remember some discussion of the oddity of the ‘gar’ ending in prof huntsman’s greek nt gospels class circa 2005. one of the commentaries we were reading along in was by witherington, and if memory serves his arguement is that the last bit of one of the early copies must have gotten lost or worn out or something.

    glancing at metzger’s textual commentary, i see that withington is not alone:

    “Three possibilities are open: (a) the evangelist intended to close his Gospel at this place; or (b) the Gospel was never finished; or, as seems most probable, (c) the Gospel accidentally lost its last leaf before it was multiplied by transcription.”

    i don’t have any way to check at the moment, but i would be surprised to see many final occurences of ‘gar.’

    two thoughts though:

    maybe the author didn’t have herbert weir smyth to refer to. on second thought, maybe he did and was so clever that he punctuated his cliff hanger with a cliff hanger.

  37. g.wesley, with (b), Metzger set up David Parker for one of the best lines ever written. In his Living Text of the Gospels Parker wrote, “Idiosyncratic grammar is no proof of sudden death” (p. 143, responding to Metzger’s musings that perhaps Mark was prevented from finishing his gospel because he died).

  38. The question regarding gar is interesting; I had never focused on that before. I took a quick look at Smyth, and there was nothing relevant there. I would say there’s no grammatical impediment, for the reason TT states above. The problem is really more a stylistic one; ending a book with the conjunction gar would be very odd indeed. But we have no reason to think of Mark as an elegant Greek stylist, and if it were indeed intentional, it would be rhetorically effective in stopping sort of mid-thought.

  39. fun, enoch.

    kevin, i mentioned smyth because he was already mentioned above. i would think that concordances and word indices (such as to editions of papyri) and searching via thesaurus linguae graecae are the way to go about finding ‘gar’ elsewhere in final position. maybe denniston’s book on greek particles would help. i can only imagine how mind numbing the process would be! might as well try researching something as common as the definite article.

  40. All this talk of ending with ‘gar’ is reminding me of something else:

    KNIGHT: There! Look!
    LAUNCELOT: What does it say?
    GALAHAD: What language is that?
    ARTHUR: Brother Maynard, you’re our scholar!
    MAYNARD: It’s Aramaic!
    GALAHAD: Of course! Joseph of Aramathea!
    LAUNCELOT: Course!
    KNIGHT: What does it say?
    MAYNARD: It reads, ‘Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Aramathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of uuggggggh’.
    ARTHUR: What?
    MAYNARD: ‘… the Castle of uuggggggh’.
    BEDEMIR: What is that?
    MAYNARD: He must have died while carving it.
    LAUNCELOT: Oh, come on!
    MAYNARD: Well, that’s what it says.
    ARTHUR: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn’t bother to carve ‘aaggggh’. He’d just say it!
    MAYNARD: Well, that’s what’s carved in the rock!
    GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating.
    ARTHUR: Oh, shut up. Well, does it say anything else?
    MAYNARD: No. Just, ‘uuggggggh’.
    LAUNCELOT: Aauuggghhh.
    KNIGHT: Aaauggh.
    BEDEMIR: You don’t suppose he meant the Camauuuugh?
    KNIGHT: Where’s that?
    BEDEMIR: France, I think.
    LAUNCELOT: Isn’t there a Saint Aauuuves in Cornwall?
    ARTHUR: No, that’s Saint Ives.
    LAUNCELOT: Oh, yes. Saint Iiiives.
    SEVERAL: Iiiiives.
    BEDEMIR: Oooohoohohooo!
    LAUNCELOT: No, no, aauuuuugh, at the back of the throat. Aauuugh.
    BEDEMIR: No, no, no, oooooooh, in surprise and alarm.
    LAUNCELOT: Oh, you mean sort of a aaaagh!
    BEDEMIR: Yes, but I– Aaaaagh!
    KNIGHT: Oooh!
    KNIGHT: Oh, no!
    MAYNARD: It’s the legendary Black Beast of aaauuugh!
    ARTHUR: Run away!
    ALL: Run away! Run away!

  41. jupiterschild, I am all in favor of including historical context in Gospel Doctrine class where it is necessary to have any reasonable sense of what the pertinent passages are talking about. I just hate to see such classes reduced into expositions of doctrinally irrelevant historical trivia and furthermore, the very idea of reducing gospel doctrine to a tour of sacred events, many of which may be of questionable veracity in the first place.

    Gospel doctrine should primarily be about principles, not history, and I am not particularly convinced that sacred history is a particularly effective way to go about teaching principles, except at a relatively superficial level. Most of the NT books are doctrinally interesting when recording someone’s teaching, not some series of events.

    Discussions of the four “gospels” often seem to have this backwards. In fact the four “gospels” themselves often do. Except at a summary level, the details of what may or may not have happened, in what order, are doctrinally irrelevant. As in no principle that might reasonably govern the way people think and act can be derived therefrom. And yet, inevitably any course on the New Testament tends to be reduced primarily to a history of what happened, rather than what principles were taught.

    I believe Jesus the Christ for example, would be a far better book at a tenth the size, with all the traditional historical trivia left out, and the teachings and principles left in. Detailed academic inquiries into the history are great, I just don’t see them having much of a place in Gospel Doctrine, except perhaps as part of a separate class devoted to history rather than principle per se.

  42. g.wesley
    Regarding searching indices and TLG to find a precedent, several such searches have already been done (given that this is such a major point of contention), and several examples have been found (but their significance is disputed given the huge corpus from which these relatively few examples have been found). P.W. van der Horst wrote in the 70’s about Porphyry’s edition of one of Plotinus’ treaties ended with γαρ, establishing a prior instance of a book ending in the particle. This caused quite a splash and most scholars thereafter could dig a concluding γαρ. Since then, TLG searches have been published that are more comprehensive (e.g. Kelly Iverson’s article in CBQ January 2006). Still, examples culled from so many different genres and provenances in all of Greek literature still don’t definitively resolve the issue. I, like you, tend to favor the literary implication of resurrection idea.

  43. yes, thanks for the info.

    leave it to van der horst to do something like this.

    i will have to read the pieces you mention.

    with plotinus, i have mixed feelings. though mark could hardly be in better company in a lot of ways, on the other hand plotinus’ most devoted student said he was half blind and prone to mispelling.

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