Refuting Doherty's Evolution of Jesus part 2

Doherty makes the claim that the Gospels were not received as an authoritative contribution to the Christian tradition until after the close of the first century. The importance of this claim should be obvious, if the Gospels were not authoritative the elements that make them distinct from the other tradition must be late inventions. Thus the cross, the tomb, Jesus himself are all added late and not historical elements!

But equally important is attestation. When do the Gospels start to show up in the wider record of Christian writings? If Mark is as early as 70, and all four had been written by 100, why do none of the early Fathers—the author of 1 Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, the author of the Epistle of Barnabas— writing between 90 and 130, quote or refer to any of them? How could Ignatius (around 107), so eager to convince his readers that Jesus had indeed been born of Mary and died under Pilate, that he had truly been a human man who suffered, how could he have failed to appeal to some Gospel account as verification of all this if he had known one? (Doherty, Ibid)

While it is true that Clement of Rome hardly ever quotes Gospels in is epistle (1 Clement) it is not true that he never does so at all. From the ethereal library's translation and footnote scheme of 1 Clement: he quotes or alludes to Matt 23:35 in chapter 24 (FN 102). In Chapter 56 FN 210 he alludes to Matt 18:6, 26:24, Mark 9:42, Luke 17:2. Secondly, there are good reasons why Clement wouldn't quote many Gospels. For one thing, John was from the circles of Asia minor. While these churches were probably on speaking terms with the Pauline churches there, they probably had little or no discourse with the churches in Rome. For another thing, if the traditional dates hold up John was written sometime in the 90's and 1 Clement is traditionally assigned the date of 95. So John would only have been within a five year period, and in fact might not have yet been written yet at all. So that would explain why Clement doesn't quote John. It either had not had time to reach Rome and build up authority, or it didn't exist yet. He does quote Matt, Mark, and Luke. Matthew had more authority and more ethos than did Mark. Clement quotes Matthew more than the other two Gospels.

Secondly, Doherty misses the fact that Gospels didn't have chapter and verse at that time, people didn't use footnotes, and the allusion to an author was sometimes all one Gave. Igtantus orinary habit seems to have been quoting major works without reference to who wrote them, but this was not uncommon. Clement does the same thing. Given this understanding, Ignatius quotes from or alludes to the Gospel of John a great deal.

Ethereal Library, Philip Schaff

Philip Schaff, 1882 provides several possible quotations of John by early church fathers, who are said by skeptics not to mention him. This is an outdated source, but it makes really good use of the Apostolic fathers and that information has not changed.

But we can go still farther back. The scanty writings of the Apostolic Fathers, so called, have very few allusions to the New Testament, and breathe the atmosphere of the primitive oral tradition. The author of the "Didache" was well acquainted with Matthew. The first Epistle of Clement has strong affinity with Paul. The shorter Epistles of Ignatius show the influence of John's Christology.30 Polycarp (d. a.d. 155 in extreme old age), a personal pupil of John, used the First Epistle of John, and thus furnishes an indirect testimony to the Gospel, since both these 'books must stand or fall together.31

32John 1:40-43; from which it has also been inferred that he knew the fourth Gospel. There is some reason to suppose that the disputed section on the woman taken in adultery was recorded by him in illustration of John 8:15; for, according to Eusebius, he mentioned a similar story in his lost work.3334

Here from the footnotes where he lines up the quotations. Quotations of Ignatius drawing upon the 4G..


"Comp. (FN 1065) such expressions as "I desire bread of God, which is the flesh of Jesus Christ ... and I desire as drink His blood, which is love imperishable," Ad Rom., ch. 7, with John 6:47 sqq.; "living water," Ad Rom. 7, with John 4:10, 11; "being Himself the Door of the Father," Ad Philad., 9, with John 10:9; [the Spirit] "knows whence it cometh and whither it goeth," Ad Philad., 7, with John 3:8. I quoted from the text of Zahn. See the able art. of Lightfoot in "Contemp. Rev." for February, 1875, and his S. Ignatius, 1885.

[here quotes Polycarp](FN1066)

31 Polyc., Ad Phil., ch. 7: "Every one that doth not confess that Jesus Christ hath come in the flesh is Antichrist; and whosoever doth not confess the mystery of the cross is of the devil." Comp. 1 John 4:3. On the testimony of Polycarp see Lightfoot in the "Contemp. Rev." for May, 1875. Westcott, p. xxx, says: "A testimony to one" (the Gospel or the first Ep.) "is necessarily by inference a testimony to the other."Eusebius32 According to Eusebius, III. 39. See Lightfoot in the "Contemp. Rev." for August and October, 1875.

33 Eusebius, H. E., III. 39, closes his account of Papias with the notice: "He has likewise set forth another narrative [in his Exposition of the Lord's Oracles] concerning a woman who was maliciously accused before the Lord touching many sins, which is contained in the Gospel according to the Hebrews."

Here From Justin Martyr The quotation is not literal but from memory, like most of his quotations: Justin, Apol., I. 61: "For Christ also said, Except ye be born again [ajnagennhqh'te, comp. 1 Pet. 3:23], ye shall in no wise enter [eijsevlqh'te, but comp. the same word In John 8:5 and 7] into the kingdom of heaven (the phrase of Matthew]. Now that it is impossible for those who have once been born to re-enter the wombs of those that bare them is manifest to all." John 3:3, 4: "Jesus answered and said to him [Nicodemus], Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born anew [or from above, gennhqh'/ a[nwqen], he cannot see [ijdei'n 3: 5, enter into] the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?" Much account has been made by the Tübingen critics of the slight differences in the quotation (ajnagennhqh'te for gennhqh'/ a[nwqen, eijselqei'n for ijdei'n and basileiva tw'n oujranw'n for ba". tou' qeou') to disprove the connection, or, as this is impossible, to prove the dependence of John on Justin! But Dr. Abbot, a most accurate and conscientious scholar, who moreover as a Unitarian cannot be charged with an orthodox bias, has produced many parallel cases of free quotations of the same passage not only from patristic writers, but even from modem divines, including no less than nine quotations of the passage by Jeremy Taylor, only two of which are alike. I think he has conclusively proven his case for every reasonable mind. See his invaluable monograph on The Authorship of the Fourth Gospel, pp. 28 sqq. and 91 sqq. Comp. also Weiss, Leben Jesu, I. 83, who sees in Justin Martyr not only "an unquestionable allusion to the Nicodemus story of the fourth Gospel," but other isolated reminiscences.

Doherty tries to deride the whole Orthodox chain of testimony by undermining the authority of Papias. Papias is a crucial link because he's one of only two early second century writers who knew eye witnesses to Jesus ministry..

Doherty:"Eusebius reports that in a now-lost work written around 125, bishop Papias mentioned two pieces of writing by "Matthew" and "Mark." But even these cannot be equated with the canonical Gospels, for Papias called the former "sayings of the Lord in Hebrew," and the description of the latter also sounds as if it was not a narrative work."

Why can't these works to which Eusebius refers, the "logia" mentioned by Papias, and the work by Mark, be equated with the Gospels of Matthew and Mark? The piece mentioned by Mark is said to be his gospel. The piece by Matthew may not be his Gospel because it is said to have been written in "his native language" (either Aramaic or Hebrew). The Gospel of Matthew was written in Greek and scholars say it was not translated from another language. On the other hand, Papias says all translated as best they could. There are arguments that Matthew uses loan words and translation words.. Another reason it can't be the Gospel is because it is called "the logia" or writings or sayings. This would seem to indicate it was not a narrative Gospel. In the Gospel section of Doxa I argue that this is probably a Matthew saying source that stands behind the Gospel of Matthew. Matthew put in the sayings and someone else reworked it into a narrative in Greek. See my page on Gospel behind the Gospels, and also my page on Matthew. I show that the Hebrew saying source to which Papias alludes probably stands beyond the Gospel of Matthew. There's no way to prove that assertion of course, but it is entirely Possible. Doherty's theory is no less speculation and is just as circumstantial as mine. Doherty is also making the mistake of thinking that the Gospels have to be written by the name sakes to have historical significance or authority. See my essay on community as author to dispel this myth.

"Moreover, it would seem that Papias had not possessed these documents himself, for he simply relays information about them that was given to him by "the elder." He makes no comment of his own on such documents (in fact, he continues to disparage written sources about the Lord), while Eusebius and other later commentators who quote from his writings are silent about him discussing anything from the "Mark" and "Matthew" he mentions. All that Papias can tell us (relayed through Eusebius) is that certain collections of sayings and anecdotes (probably miracle stories) were circulating in his time, a not uncommon thing; the ones he speaks of were being attributed to a Jesus figure and reputed to be compiled by legendary followers of him."

Of course, he totally ignores the fact that Papias says he has heard these people speak himself. He is not just quoting rumors, he actually heard the witnesses. He speaks of Arietion and the Elder John in present tense, he is in contact with them now. But Doherty goes on:

"What is most telling, on the other hand, is that even a quarter of the way into the second century, a bishop of Asia Minor writing a book called The Sayings of the Lord Interpreted did not possess a copy of a single written Gospel, nor included sayings of Jesus which are identified with those Gospels.

Of course we don't know that he doesn't quote them, because we don't have his five books. For all we know four those books might be chock full of Gospel quotations. Moreover, Doherty seems to imply that Papias comes to us only from Eusebius. That is certainly not true. A lot of what we know of Papias comes from Irenaeus, and even more from many other sources, some discovered in the middle ages. St. Jerome is one of these other sources. See my page on the testimony of Apostolic fathers to historical Jesus. This also brings us to a second category, that of extra canonical literature and the testimony of that literature to the canonical Gospels.

Pre Marcan Redaction

As we can see Doherty is quite wrong about the status and use of the Gospels among the Apostolic fathers. In addition to this problem, he also underestimates the early date and use for the same material in previous form, such as the pre Marcan redaction (PMR), early versions of Mark, the Q source and the like. In this category we can start with the Pauline corpus which demonstrates a wide use of the Gospel material, to such an extent that Koster theorizes that Paul had his own saying source that contained Q material and PMR material.

Koster, Crosson, Cameron and other textual critics have found PMR to constitute an independent source, barrowed by the canonical sources but not dependent upon them. They trace this to AD 50, and that is where the writing of Egerton 2 is placed. This involves the use of anther kind of literature, writings from outside the Bible, Gnostic ms and fragments of "other Gospels." There are three main sources that Doherty uses to indicate another church tradition, one without Jesus in the beginning, and without the cross and the empty tomb. These three sources include: Q, which is a hypothetical source derived from sayings in the "synoptic Gospels" (Matt, Mark and Luke) but supposedly representing another source which we no longer have. I will deal with Q latter, as it is the lynch pin of Doherty's argument. Also there is "The Unknown Gospel of Papyrus Egerton 2 (E2) and the Gospel of Thomas (GThom).

Peter Kirby summarizes the facts about E2:

"The Egerton Gospel is also known as Papyrus Egerton 2. It is known from an ancient manuscript that is rivaled only by the John Rylands fragment p52 in its antiquity. Ron Cameron states in his introduction in The Other Gospels, "On paleographical grounds the papyrus has been assigned a date in the first half of the second century C.E. This makes it one of the two earliest preserved papyrus witnesses to the gospel tradition."

E2, Q, and Thomas all date to middle of the first century for their initial writing of their primary material. Egerton 2 demonstrates many canonical parallels:

Parallels between Egerton 2 and Canonicals

Debate over Credentials (l. 1-24)

John 5:39, 5:45, 9:29, (John 3:2, 5:46-47, 7:27-28, 8:14, 10:25, 12:31)

Attempt to Seize Jesus (l. 25-34) [Further Violence Against Jesus (l. 89-94)]

John 7:30, 7:44, 8:20, 8:59, 10:30-31, 10:39, Luke 4:30

The Healing of the Leper (l. 35-47)

Mt 8:2-4, Mk 1:40-44, Lk 5:12-14, 17:12-19, (John 5:14, 8:11)

Debate with False Questioners (l. 50-66)

Mt 22:15-22, Mk 12:13-17, Lk 20:20-26, (Mt 15:7-9, Mk 7:6-7, Lk 6:46, John 3:2)

Miraculous Fruit (l. 67-82)

No exact parallels, but words and reminiscences.

The ancient use of Q material

Helmut Koester comments on the provenance of Q (Ancient Christian Gospels, p. 164):

"Even the sayings used for the original composition of Q were known and used elsewhere at an early date: they were known to Paul, were used in Corinth by his opponents, employed perhaps in eastern Syria for the composition of the Gospel of Thomas, and quoted by 1 Clement in Rome at the end of the 1st century. The document itself, in its final redacted form, was used for the composition of two gospel writings, Matthew and Luke, which both originated in the Greek-speaking church outside of Palestine."

Udo Schnelle writes about the dating of Q (The History and Theology of the New Testament Writings, p. 186):

The Sayings Source was composed before the destruction of the temple, since the sayings against Jerusalem and the temple in Luke 13.34-35Q do not presuppose any military events. A more precise determination of the time of composition must remain hypothetical, but a few indications point to the period between 40 and 50 CE: (1) Bearers of the sayings tradition, which possibly extends all the way back to pre-Easter times, included both wandering preachers of the Jesus movement as well as local congregations. Thus the conditions in which the Sayings Source originated included both continuity with the beginnings and with the developing congregational structures across the region. (2) The Sayings Source presupposes persecution of the young congregations by Palestinian Jews (cf. Luke 6.22-23 Q; Luke 11.49-51 Q; Luke 12.4-5 Q; 12.11-12 Q). About 50 CE Paul mentions in 1 Thess. 2.14-16 a persecution of Christians in Judea that had already taken place. The execution of James the son of Zebedee by Agrippa I (cf. Acts 12.2) occurred around 44 CE. (3) The positive references to Gentiles in Q (cf. Luke 10.13-15Q; Luke 11.29-31Q; Matt. 8.5-13 Q; Matt. 5.47 Q; Matt. 22.1-10 Q) indicate that the Gentile mission had begun, which is probably to be located in the period between 40 and 50 CE.

Thus the material in Egerton 2, Q, and Thomas (some of which overlaps between Q and Thomas) was existing at a very early date. The problem is the Doherty assumption that it constitutes a separate and therefore earlier tradition and was taken over by canonical sources latter and pressed into service for the cross and tomb crowd, but originally is found independently of any group that assumed Jesus was crucified or risen. He also argues that much of the saying source material originated among cynics and stoics and wasn't even Christian at all. We will deal with these assertions on the next page. At this point is important to observe that the Cross and Tomb were just as ancient and present in the PMR as Koster observes based upon Diatesseronic readings and textual criticism. Doherty has no leverage from which he can demonstrate that the non Cross/tomb groups were any older or that their stories came first.


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