The Writing of the Gospels

I was glancing through the Tabor blog, when I read the following article:

Secular scholars, and sadly many ‘christian’ ones, would have you believe several things about the writing of the gospels.

First, they want you to believe that they know which Gospel was written first. They do not know. There is nothing anywhere that indicates who was the first to pen the Good News.  They would like you to believe that Mark was first, but there is no evidence to suggest such a thing. He could have been the first but we will never know.

” Scholars and historians are almost universally agreed that Mark is our earliest gospel–by several decades”

Second, they want you to believe that they know what is to be included or excluded from the gospel pages. They think they can tell what is authentic and what are not simply by looking at old manuscripts. They can’t because they do not know the history of those ancient manuscripts, who wrote them and by what motivation were they written by.

We know for a fact that many alternative thinking believers, like Marcius, wrote their own versions of the Biblical text, with some eliminating many books because their ‘faith’ did not allow for them to be included. But since the majority of texts do not come with the name of the author, or I should say copyist, we cannot tell which mss. or fragments were handled by legitimate believers and which were not.

To assume they are all the genuine article from true believers is a fatal error on the part of the one making the assumption. This means that though a ms. may be older than another, it does not guarantee that it is a legitimately God preserved product. it could be the product or an unbeliever much like the JWs, Mormons and others alter the Bible for their own purposes today.

“The evidence is clear. This ending is not found in our earliest and most reliable Greek copies of Mark”

Third, They want you to believe that they can tell the difference between a forged biblical fragment and the authentic ones.  They can’t. See point 2 above for more details. It is hard to say what fragment is forged or not 2,000 years after its original writing. Too much data is lost to make such a determination.

Also, since we do not have the original penned mss. from the Gospel writers themselves, we cannot say for certain what was included and what was excluded. To say that Mark 16:9-20 is a forgery is leaping to a conclusion without proof.

One can point to all the early mss. they want but until they know for sure that those documents are authentic themselves, they have no evidence for forgery. Then if they were authentic, it still doesn’t prove that the last half of Mark 16 was added later. There would be numerous reason s why the last bit wasn’t included and one such would be laziness. Believers today leave out passages all the time, it all depends on the whether they made a mistake and discarded the ms. or their purpose was not to focus on those verse.

“Here is that forged ending of Mark:”

Fourth, they want you to believe that what they consider to be important is what God considers to be important. They want you to think that the order written is vital but if it were God would have let us have that information.

The order in which the Gospels were written doesn’t matter, it is a distraction not a vital piece of NT theology that is part of the plan of salvation. What is important is the message and teachings the Gospel writers recorded for us and all believers from the time of Jesus onward.

Matthew and John were eye-witnesses and knew Jesus personally, along with the other disciples. They didn’t source material for their books because they were source material plus they had the help of the Holy Spirit which means that they did not need to rely on someone else’s book for their material.

Mark and Luke worked with Peter and Paul. peter an original disciple was once again source material and what Paul witnessed of Jesus we do not know; though he was old enough to lead a gang of men from the time of the stoning of Stephen we are not sure of how much of an overlap with the life of Christ he had.

Regardless, Luke said he researched but the Bible doesn’t tell sus who and where he researched. Why? Because it is not germane to the purpose of his Gospel account. Again, it is the message and commands that he records that are important not when he wrote, if he came before or after Mark or John or even who he used as His sources. He had the Holy Spirit helping him thus he would not be using false resources and would not be led to lies.

The order of authorship is just a scholarly exercise and a waste of time. People need to focus on the words written not when they were penned.

“Most general Bible readers have the mistaken impression that Matthew, the opening book of the New Testament, must be our first and earliest Gospel, with Mark, Luke, and John following.”

Fifth, They want you to believe that each gospel must say the exact same things or they are not authentic or written by the men who have their names in the title of each book. Why should God be redundant to please a bunch of secular scholars? That isn’t His purpose in writing the Gospels., there are other subject matters that need to be dealt with.

if God had each writer pen the exact same words, then these scholars and the secular world would charge God with recopying one book. God can’t win with the unbelieving world. They will find charges to aid in their disbelief no matter how God writes His word.

What good would come of having the exact same stories written in the exact same style and words? Nothing. People would become bored with the Gospels and turn them off declining to study them as they say the same thing.

Mark does not have to have a virgin birth story because it was done by Matthew and Luke. He had other things to address. Believers are to have faith that God keeps His promises and that He will preserve His words for all to read. That includes keeping the last half of Mark 16 in the Bible. I know of no divine command given to any man that states it should be removed.  Just because some scholars do not like the fact that it is not found in every ms. doesn’t mean it should be removed. We do not confuse secular ideas with divine guidance.

God placed two warnings in the Bible about adding and subtracting His words thus we should be very cautious when dealing with the Biblical words. We know it has been done before and is being done now but that doesn’t grant permission for believers to remove a passage of scripture.

I also have not read where God said to use inclusion in ancient mss. as criteria for what He said. We believers have to be careful not to construct false criteria for calling some biblical words authentic and others forgeries. The Holy Spirit will help greatly with this problem, as He knows what was written and included in the originals thus we need to rely on him more and less on secular scholars & textual criticisms.

ms. = manuscript

mss. = manuscripts


2 thoughts on “The Writing of the Gospels

  1. Hi. I am not bothered by Dr. Tabor I usually use his blog to find materials for teaching moments. I do that with as many other sources as I can. I agree with you that he is not interested in providing any accurate statements as I have caught him on several occasions where he ignores verses or evidence to ensure his theory is not ruined.

    If you have access to that evidence, especially the ones that pre-date the early mss. and they are online please feel free to post the links so everyone can see them. Thank you

  2. Hello. James Tabor is not a competent textual critic. He can’t even spell “Westcott,” one of the compilers of the 1881 Revised Text, whose work had a pivotal effect on the field. In the first edition of “Jesus Dynasty” his claims about Mark 16:9-20 were nonsensical. So please don’t let his claims bother you. It is his readers and students who should be bothered that they have paid to be told half-truths and falsehoods. It seems to me that Dr. Tabor’s comments do not look like the statements of someone who is interested in providing accurate and thorough assessments of the evidence. Otherwise he would have described the vast patristic evidence for Mark 16:9-20, some of which pre-dates the earliest extant manuscripts of Mark 16 considerably. It looks instead like he is interested in the promotion of an anti-Christian philosophy. But what should one expect from the enemies of the church?

    Yours in Christ,

    James Snapp, Jr.

Comments are closed.