May 27, 2009 at 8:56 am (reasons to doubt)

Why the Gospels are unreliable.

1) Anonymous authorship. Genuine authors of Jesus’ day usually stated who they were, as with Paul’s genuine works. None of the Gospel writers identified themselves. It was not until 180 AD that names were finally assigned to all four Gospel authors.

2) According to the majority of Biblical scholars, the earliest Gospel (Mark) was composed at least 40 years after the death of Christ. Urban legends are known to arise in a matter of days. Forty plus years is plenty of time for serious myth-making to occur.

3) The Gospels were all written in a language foreign to the one spoken by Jesus and his disciples, indicating that they were not written by disciples. Furthermore, the disciples were mostly illiterate fishermen, not Greek scholars.

4) The Gospels were written around the same time as numerous apocryphal works on Christ. It is reasonable to assume that whatever motivated the apocryphal writers to compose fictitious works on Christ also motivated the Gospel writers to do likewise.

5) The Gospels contradict each other on numerous occasions. For example, Luke and Matthew present different birth dates, genealogies, and post birth events; John depicts a different day and time for the crucifixion than the others; post resurrection details vary between all four, etc.

6) The first Gospel upon which all others are based (Mark) contains many geographical errors indicating the author was unfamiliar with the area around Judea, and therefore was not an eyewitness to the events he describes.

7) Some of the most spectacular miracles are only mentioned by one author – miracles such as John’s resurrection of Lazarus and Matthew’s saints who rose from their graves and strolled through towns. It is inconceivable that such amazing events would be ignored by other Gospel writers if these events had actually occurred, especially when we consider that comparatively trivial passages are often repeated word for word in the synoptics.

8) There are no original Gospel documents. The earliest extant copies date to the fourth century, and none of the 5,400 extant manuscripts are the same. It is estimated that the number of variations between manuscripts total between 200,000 and 300,000.

9) There is much evidence of tampering and interpolations among the various manuscripts. As an example, the last 12 verses of Mark are not present in the earliest manuscripts, but were added later. The same goes for the story of the woman caught in adultery from John 8 and the celebrated comma Johanneum from 1 John 5.

10) The Gospels follow the pattern of an evolving myth, with the simplest and barest accounts appearing first (Mark) followed by more elaborate accounts involving birth and resurrection details (as in Matt and Luke).

11) Prophetic claims throughout the Gospels are based upon mistranslated OT texts (Matthew 2:5-6), invented OT texts (Matthew 27:3-10), and non-existent OT texts (Matthew 2:23). On close inspection, none of the claimed prophecies stand up.

12) Christ is unknown by historians of his day, who also failed to notice any major events associated with his life, such as Herod killing the innocents, three hours of darkness at the crucifixion, risen saints strolling through towns, a magic star over Bethlehem etc.

13) The Gospel of Mark – the one on which all others are based – is modeled on Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, often following almost identical grammar, story structure and events. It is a well known fact that scribes of Mark’s day strove to emulate the works of Homer, and Mark did an exceptionally good job of it. Too good, if the truth be known, since the numerous similarities cannot be explained as mere chance. Evidence for this is presented in a work called The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark, by Dennis McDonald. A summary of the book can be read here:


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