CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

The Diatessaon is an attempt at a Harmony of the four canonical Gospels. It was complied by Titian in about AD172, but it contains readings whihc imply that he used versions of the canonical gospels some of which contain pre markan elements. 

In an article published in the Back of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, William L. Petersen states: 
"Sometimes we stumble across readings which are arguably earlier than the present canonical text. One is Matthew 8:4 (and Parallels) where the canonical text runs "go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift which Moses commanded as a testimony to them" No fewer than 6 Diatessaronic witnesses...give the following (with minor variants) "Go show yourself to the priests and fulfill the law." With eastern and western support and no other known sources from which these Diatessaranic witnesses might have acquired the reading we must conclude that it is the reading of Tatian...The Diatessaronic reading is certainly more congielian to Judaic Christianity than than to the group which latter came to dominate the church and which edited its texts, Gentile Christians. We must hold open the possibility that the present canonical reading might be a revision of an earlier, stricter , more explicit and more Judeo-Christian text, here preserved only in the Diatessaron.[1] 

The Jesus Narrative In Pauline Literature 

Paul's allusions to the narrative relates to many points in the Gospels: 

He was flesh and blood(Phil 2:6, 1 Tim 3:16)
Born from the lineage of David(Rom 1:3-4, 2 Tim 2:8)
Jesus' baptism is implied(Rom 10:9)
The last supper(1 Cor 11:23ff)
Confessed his Messiahship before Pilate(1 Tim 6:13)
Died for peoples' sins(Rom 4:25, 1 Tim 2:6)
He was killed(1 Cor 15:3, Phil 2:8)
Buried(1 Cor 15:4)
Empty tomb is implied(1 Cor 15:4)
Jesus was raised from the dead(2 Tim 2:8)

Resurrected Jesus appeared to people(1 Cor 15:4ff)
James, a former skeptics, witnessed this(1 Cor 15:7)
as did Paul(1 Cor 15:8-9)
This was reported at an early date(1 Cor 15:4-8)
He asceded to heaven, glorified and exalted(1 Tim 3:16, Phil 2:6f)
Disciples were transformed by this(1 Tim 3:16)
Disciples made the Gospel center of preaching(1 Cor 15:1-4)
Resurrection was chief validation of message(Rom 1:3-4, Rom 10:9-10)
Called Son of God(Rom 1:3-4)
Called Lord(Rom 1:4, Rom 10:9, Phil 2:11)
Called God(Phil 2:6)
Called Christ or Messiah(Rom 1:4, Phil 2:11

Summary and Conclusion

Koster and Crosson both agree that the PMR was circulating in written form with empty tomb and passion narrative, as early as 50AD 

From this notion as a base line for the begining of the process of redaction, and using the traditional dates given the final product of canonical gospels as the base line for the end of the process, we can see that it is quite probable that the canonical gospels were formed between 50 and 95 AD. It appears most likely that the early phase, from the events themselves that form the Gospel, to the circulation of a written narrative, there was a controlled oral tradition that had its hay day in the 30's-40's but probably overlapped into the 60's or 70's. The say sources began to be produced, probably in the 40's, as the first written attempt to remember Jesus' teachings. The production of a written narrative in 50, or there abouts, probably sparked interest among the communities of the faithful in producing their own narrative accounts; after all, they too had eye witnesses. 

Between 50-70's those who gravitated toward Gnosticism began emphasizing those saying sources and narrative pericopes that interested them for their seeming Gonostic elements, while the Orthodox honed their own orthodox sources that are reflected in Paul's choices of material,and latter in the canonical gospels themselves. So a great "drying up" process began where by what would become Gnostic lore got it's start, and for that reason was weeded out of the orthodox pile of sayings and doings. By that I mean sayings Like "if you are near to the fire you are near to life" (Gospel of the Savior) or "cleave the stone and I am there" (Thomas) "If Heaven is in the could the birds of the air will get there before you" (Thomas) have a seeming gnostic flavor but could be construed as orthodox. These were used by the Gnsotically inclined and left by the orthodox. That makes sense as we see the earliest battles with gnosticism beginning to heat up in the Pauline literature. 

My own theory is that Mark was produced in several forms between 60-70, before finally coming to rest in the form we know it today in 70. During that time Matthew and Luke each copied from different versions of it. John bears some commonality with Mark, according to Koester, becasue both draw upon the PMR. Thus the early formation of John began in 50-s or 60s, the great schism of the group probably happened in the 70's or 80s, with the gnostic bunching leaving for Egypt and producing their own Gnostic redaction of the gospel of John, the orthodox group then producing the final form by adding the pro-luge which in effect, is the ultimate censor to those who left the group. 

The Gospel material was circularizing throughout Church hsitory, form the infancy of the Church to the final production of Canonical Gospels. Thus the skeptical retort that "they weren't written until decades latter" is totally irrelevant. It is not the case,they were being written all along, and they were the focus of the communities from which they sprang, the communities which originally witnessed the events and the ministry of Jesus Christ.

[1] William L. Petersen Titian's Diatessaron in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424

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 On CARM, (message board) Derrick writes:

It is my opinion that it is rationalizations based upon my perspective of the facts. When a Christian encounters a ridiculous amount of suffering in their life they interpret this through their beliefs that god loves them and is disciplining them, etc. This to me is rationalizing, which does not speak to whether or not it is true, but simply plausible to the person experiencing the suffering.
Tralala writes: "What bad things did god do to you? All of them? Just certain ones? How do you know which is which?Could something bad have happened just by chance with no meaning what so ever?."

I've seen these two statements put over in a thousand different says in a thousands different venues. It's quite common to hear this, when good stuff happens we just credit it to God regardless of the evidence for that, when bad stuff happens we refuse to ever blame God. As though blaming God is a real option if you believe he exists. Let's stop and think about the question begging going on in these statements. Look at the loaded nature of Tra's statement "what bad things did God do to you?" Even though she's supposed to believe there is no God of any kind, she wants us to blame God for the bad things that happen. Is that rational? Or if she's just making the point that crediting God with the good  requires that we balance it out by blaming God for the bad, that makes about as much sense as blaming our parents for misfortune. Before we go any further it's important to point out that I have what I feel is a rather air tight answer to the problem of pain. So there is no logical reason to blame God.

There's nothing illogical about refusing to blame God. Calling it rationalization is just a propaganda ploy. The obvious truth is that the one saying that we should blame God is the one doing the rationaling. Look if I feel that I know God is real and that he is loving, if I feel that I have air tight reasons for such notions what kind of sense would it make to blame him for the misfortunes that befall us when in fact Jesus warns that we will have tribulation in the world? "I tell you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world," (John 16:33). That would be the essence of irrationality to say "Ok I know God is loving and would never just whip upon me for no good reason, but I'm going to chuck that because it must be rationalizing and I'm going to take the bad as a sgin that there is no God or that God is a big meanie." That makes no sense at all. Moreover Tra's statement is so loaded she needs to be careful where she points it. That's like asking "are you still beating your wife?" What bad stuff has God done to you? Fraught with silly assumptions. Why should I blame God when I know better? That is not only begging the question but also rationalizing.

Obviously the doubters are the ones doing the rationalizing. They are rationalizing the witness of good things that happen and trying to force an erroneous conclusion that we not to accept for the bad things. I know my own life, why should I accept their appraisal of it? They were not there when I had a single one of my experiences of God, where do they come off assuming that my experience is just my hysteria and their silly little bitter doubt is the right way to look at it? Derrick tells me "I was so spiritual. I was really serious firebrand for God, I knew the bible and I studied Greek." That all may be true but he didn't know God. He knew what to say in a church to sound right but he didn't know God. If he knew God he would not be denying God. If he had the experience of being born again and baptism of the Holy Spirit he could not deny that reality, unless his experiences were superficial and he didn't bother to cultivate the reality of it. Then to assume that his doubt sweeps away my reality and thus my faith has to be the rationalization is merely begging the question.

It is not logical to deny what I know. Given the primes I maintain, that God is real and God is good, that there is a logical reason  for God's allowance of pain  in life it is ratioanl, not rationalizing to credit God with blessings and refuse to blame him for crap that happens. I don't believe in God because good stuff happens. That's not my original basis for bleief. If it was they might have a point. Since it's not, financial windfall and escaping wrecks and so forth, that is just icing on the cake. I am grateful for icing, I love the icing. But it's not my reason for belief in the first place. So there's nothing inconsistent about refusing to blame God for the trammels and trials that come my way. The good stuff is confirmation, especially when it comes in answer to prayer. That's another piece of the puzzle they seek to avoid thinking about. That's a huge aspect of rationalization. Their reasons for dismissing prayer and answers to prayer is purely ideological. They have no proof that prayer doesn't work, they weren't there when my prayers were answered and they don't know the circumstances. The only reason they object is becuase it disproves their world view and their ideology tells them they must reject it out of hand without even knowing the facts.

Talking of rationalization hit the atheists with evidence of miracle and watch them come up with infinite reasons to doubt it. Meet every standard of proof they bring up and watch them continually raise the bar to ridiculous levels. Start with the general miracle claims they say there's no scientific evidence. Would Xrays be scientific evidence? No Xrays can be faked. Well what if you had Xrays of lungs ravages by TB and the new Xrays taken the very next day showed a new pair of lungs, you could guarantee it was valid Xray of the same guy really taken the next day? The only thing in the mean time that changed was prayer? That's impossible, no such case has ever been recorded. Yes I'm afraid it has, Charles Anne had such an experience in the 1920s. Xrays didn't exist then. Yes they did, they came into use in 1917 (see page 28) I believe. Then they counter, but these Xrays were fake. The recording procedures and documentation for the saint making committee is such that they could NOT fabricate such xrays. But then they began to deamnd that I find some way to verify that the xrays exist. I contacted the Lourdes miracle committee and exchanged email with a committee member who assured me that they do exist. He had seen them, he is a medical researcher and a doctor he knows how to read Xrays he knows they are not fake. Of course he's lying, you can't trust a religious guy. Member of the committee just means he's real good lying about stuff. Unless I get the actual Xrays in my hands they wont accept it. But why should they believe me? Do we see who is rationalizing the evidence away here? I went out and found evidence they previously stated could not exist, so of cousre they refuse to accept it's validity but I'm rationalizing my own faith?

O but look at the nature of religion and religious people. It's all based upon lies and religious people are hysterical and stupid so of course it has to be that I'm just rationalizing. They are not rationalizing they are brave men of science. This is kind of perpetual knee jerk doubt is just the kind of penetrating insight people have when they become incurably skeptical. But where I come from we have another name for it. It's called "bigotry." I define rationalization as the refusal to think deeply about an issue but putting up a self deceiving pretense of thought by going through the motions of critical thinking without looking deeply at one's own interest or prejudices. That's what those guys are doing. I'm not doing that becuase I was an atheist. I had doubt. I was one of those perpetual doubters who said as long I have an excuse for doubt or a breath I will continue to doubt. I struggled thought that by honestly confronting the nature of my experiences and thinking as deeply and logically as I could about them. I came to the conclusion of faith. I don't see any evidence that would disprove or overturn the warrant for belief that I have discovered. I don't see any reason not to credit God with the good and refuse to blame him for the bad. That is logical and consistent given what I know about God. What is not logical is the circular reasoning that says "there's no evidence for God's reality, but the evidence that people put forward must be wrong, must be rejected, because there's no evidence."

While people who meet me may not immediately recognize it, I am an an introvert. Fortunately, I am not the type of introvert who seeks to avoid any type of interaction with people. But at the same time, I don't particularly welcome it. When offered the opportunity to choose between going to a party and staying home with a good book or a movie, unless I am good friends with the people at the party I will always opt to stay home. 

But, of course, that's not the way it works. Being married to a wonderful woman who is much more of an extrovert than I am, I am often forced to go to social gatherings of various types where there are people with whom I am not particularly comfortable. In the past, I would hang around with my wife, but that almost always made me feel like some unwanted bystander to her conversations. So, inevitably, I would move off to a corner where I would happily smile and talk to people who took the time to approach me, but I rarely made any real effort to initiate interaction with people who I didn't know particularly well. Fortunately, learning over time that people do tend to like me has made me less of an introvert, but I remain uncomfortable at social gatherings and usually I am pushing my wife to leave earlier than she would prefer. If she didn't love me and forgive my inadequacies, I don't know how we would stay married. 

But in reading today, I found a suggestion for introverts like me that could help me (and other Christians who share the same dislike of social gatherings) to be more interactive at gatherings in a way that is pleasing the God. The book is by Robert Morris and is entitled The God I Never Knew. Chapter 2 has a small section where Pastor Morris speaks about his own difficulties at parties which I found very similar to my own. He writes: 
When we were first married, I used to dread Debbie's dragging me to Christmas parties. She naturally has a happy and outgoing personality, and she would invariably run off to chat with a friend while I was left to fend for myself.At the end of the night, when we got in the car to go home, I'd be upset with her. She couldn't understand why. She didn't know she had done anything wrong because, of course, she hadn't. But I would get a pathetic tone in my voice and say, "You left me!""What do you mean, Robert? I was there all night!""You left me. And I was all alone. And ... and people came up to me ... and talked to me. It was horrible."

Now, I don't know if anyone else can relate to this, but I certainly can. If what Pastor Morris is describing is foreign to you, this post is not for you. But if this conversation rings true to you, or you recognize yourself in this conversation, Pastor Morris continues to relate how he now deals with these situations that I believe can help Christian introverts make it through the gathering in a God-pleasing way. 

First, he relates on a time when he went to a party with the usual introverted sullen approach, and his wife went off to speak to her friends leaving him alone. He grumbled in his heart about being left alone, but the Holy Spirit spoke to Pastor Morris and said, "I'm here, Robert, and you're not alone!" Truer words were never spoken. 

From that point, Pastor Morris used those times at the party to engage in conversation with our mutual friend, the Holy Spirit. Not that he is shutting himself into a little pocket where he refuses to engage with people while speaking with the Spirit. Rather, he is asking the Spirit to use him to bless the other people in the room or to help them out in some way that only the Spirit would know. Pastor Morris relates another story that illustrates how this might happen. 

At one point a man walked up and started a conversation. Instead of looking for a window to climb out of, I asked the Holy Spirit to use me to bless or help this person. The Holy Spirit prompted me to ask him about an area of his life and seemed quite personal. Still, I obeyed his prompting, and said, "Are you doing okay with...?" and then mentioned with the Holy Spirit had revealed to me. The man looked at me in shock for a few seconds and then begin to cry. I had the humble privilege of praying for him and giving him some desperately needed encouragement.

Of course, this is an apologetics blog. Still, it seems to me that there is no reason that we cannot apply Pastor Morris' principle of using time at social gatherings to speak with the Spirit and ask Him to direct us to the person or persons also in attendance who are most open to hearing the message of the Gospel.

So here's my suggestion: if you find yourself at a social gathering where you don't know many people and your introvert nature makes you inclined to shrink into the corner and not interact with people, take the time to pray silently and ask the Holy Spirit to point out to you where you can help someone along the path to Christianity. Now you should beware: the Holy Spirit is under no obligation to give you an apologetics mission. The Holy Spirit may tell you that you need to pray with a particular person. This may be outside your comfort zone, but it is something that you ought to do if God is asking you to do it through the working of his Holy Spirit.

However, perhaps, just perhaps, the Holy Spirit will direct you to someone in the room with whom we need to plant a seed, or a water a seed, or may direct you to that person who is ready to harvest. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to use your apologetics learning in a way that is directed by the Holy Spirit to the person most likely to respond at that time? If you're like me, this is an attractive option to spending time sitting in the corner of the party feeling miserable about being there. I would much rather take the time to reach other people about Jesus, and appealing to the Spirit for direction is certainly the best way to get there.

Today, I decided to focus on a certain atheist that seems to take issue with the writings of several Christians on the internet. He has been banned from several sites (like Feser’s and Reppert’s, for example) for excessive trolling. You know him as Im Skeptical (also known as Skep, also known as IMS).

First up, I would like to focus on these posts:

The Skeptic Zone: Religionist Frothing at Mouth

Skeppo is responding to an article that Mikey (from Shadow to Light) did recently:

Shadow to Light: More on the Authoritarian Nature of New Atheism

Mikey is talking about a You Tube video that was made by a 17-year old atheist named Cosmic Skeptic, who had this to say:

I think the most important thing a parent can be in terms of religion and the upbringing of a child is secular. I don’t really care what you believe, as long as you let the children come to their own conclusions when they’re old enough.

Mikey brought up another “Gnu” (a term that atheists coined to call themselves, I think) named Travis (a previous commenter on his site) that believes the same thing. Then, he had this to say:

Look, I don’t share these authoritarian tendencies. For the record, I think atheist parents should be able to raise their children however they think best. If they want to teach their children atheism, send them to Camp Quest, and have them read Dawkins and Harris. It’s none of my business to tell them otherwise (even though the children will receive plenty of misinformation). I’m more of a live and let live type.

But this younger generation of Gnus, indoctrinated by Richard Dawkins’ ideology on these matters, have more of an authoritarian nature. They insist that religious people behave and talk as secular parents around their children. They insist that religious parents raise children by acting as if atheism was true.

In response, IMS basically claimed in his article that Secularism is religiously neutral, and that the USSR wasn’t secular (in the comments section of Mike’s entry, people took issue to that).

Next, there is this:

The Skeptic Zone: Children of a Lack of Objectivity

IMS took issue with this article:

Christian CADRE: Children of a Lack of God

Skep: Joe Hinman raises an issue that is worth considering. It is the question of how we can relate to something for which we have no familiarity and no experience. It may not be easy to understand something that you’ve never seen or never experienced. He (Joe Hinman asks this question):

Joe:How could someone born blind understand the difference in blue and green or yellow?

Skep: After calling atheists’ theorizing about religious belief “simplistic and totally wrong headed” and “shallow and senseless”, He sums it up this way:

Joe: Religion doesn’t exist because people tried to explain why it rains. It exists because people sense the numinous. They sense this aspect of something, the sublime, the spiritual, the nether regions but something that is special and beyond our understanding.

Skep: What Hinman wants us to think is that atheists have no understanding of Christians’ belief in God because they haven’t experienced it for themselves. Of course, this is the same old trope that we hear over and over again. And it’s just not true.

 Yesterday, Joe made a response to IMS on his site:

Metacrock's Blog: Children of a Lack of Reading Material

Here is Joe’s response to what Skep said above:

He assumes that there is nothing there to explain so therefore any human feeling is as good as another therefore he knows all about it. That is manifest nonsense. One of the major things that body of research I used in writing my book proves is that religious experience is not had by all humans and there is a huge difference in any old religious feeling and the kind we call “mystical”. That is the point of having an M scale in the first place because all experiences are not the same. Some atheists (small group) do have mystical experiences and the studies show that these atheists react to the experiences the same way that religious people do but they use different terminology, but they are the same experiences. I did write about this in my book. Some atheists do wind up converting to religious belief as did I.
Of course, in the comments section (of a site that he should be banned from), IMS still seems to dismiss it as pseudo-scientific hucksterism, but that’s what he does to anything that goes against his  hardcore materialist-atheist views.

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Church of nativity Bethlehem

Non Canonical Gospels (Lost Gospels)

Non canonical Gospels includes those we have in full such as G Peter and G Thomas and "lost Gospels" which tend to be theoretical such as Q or fragmentary such as Egerton 2. Of course a lot of what is found imn non canonical gospels is latter material from second an d third centuries and has less historical value for our purposes. But even in some late material there are traces of early readings, Of this early material we can't really know what reflects truth and what reflects drift from the truth of the events. One thing is certain when this kind of material agrees with the canonical gospels it increases the odds that the canonical gospels represent historical reality at leas in those matters of agreement,

Following I reproduce excerpts from a newspaper story about these lost gospels and non canonical gospels,

Story by Kay Albright, (785) 864-8858

University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997

LAWRENCE - Fragments of a fourth-century Egyptian manuscript contain a lost gospel dating from the first or second century, according to Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas.

Mirecki discovered the manuscript in the vast holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museums in 1991. The book contains a rare "dialogue gospel" with conversations between Jesus and his disciples, shedding light on the origins of early Judaisms and Christianities.

The lost gospel, whose original title has not survived, has similarities to the Gospel of John and the most famous lost gospel, the gospel of Thomas, which was discovered in Egypt in 1945.

The newly discovered gospel is written in Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language using Greek letters. Mirecki said the gospel was probably the product of a Christian minority group called Gnostics, or "knowers."

Mirecki said the discussion between Jesus and his disciples probably takes place after the resurrection, since the text is in the same literary genre as other post-resurrection dialogues, though the condition of the manuscript makes the time element difficult to determine.

"This lost gospel presents us with more primary evidence that the origins of early Christianity were far more diverse than medieval church historians would tell us," Mirecki said. "Early orthodox histories denigrated and then banished from political memory the existence of these peaceful people and their sacred texts, of which this gospel is one."

Mirecki is editing the manuscript with Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield. Both men independently studied the manuscript while working on similar projects in Berlin.

A chance encounter at a professional convention in 1995 in Philadelphia made both men realize that they were working on the same project. They decided to collaborate, and their book will be published this summer by Brill Publishers in the Netherlands.

The calfskin manuscript is damaged, and only 15 pages remain. Mirecki said it was probably the victim of an orthodox book burning in about the fifth century.[1]

The 34 Gospels

Charles W. Hendrick, professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us

Mirecki and I are not the first scholars to find a new ancient gospel. In fact scholars now have copies of 19 gospels (either complete, in fragments or in quotations), written in the first and second centuries A.D— nine of which were discovered in the 20th century. Two more are preserved, in part, in other andent writings, and we know the names of several others, but do not have copies of them. Clearly, Luke was not exaggerating when he wrote in his opening verse: "Many undertook to compile narratives [aboutJesus]" (Luke 1:1). Every one of these gospels was deemed true and sacred by at least some early Christians. [2]

These Gospels demonstrate a great diversity among the early Church, they  diminish the claims of an orthodox purity. On the other hand, they tell us more about the historical Jesus as well. One thing they all have in common is to that they show Jesus as a historical figure, working in public and conducting his teachings before people, not as a spirit being devoid of human life.Hendrick says,"Gospels-whether canonical or not- are collections of anecdotes from Jesus' public career."

Many of these lost Gospels pre date the canonical gospels, which puts them prior to AD 60 for Mark:


The Gospel of the Saviour, too. fits this description. Contrary' to popular opinion, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not included m the canon simply because they were the earliest gospels or because they were eyewitness accounts. Some non canonical gospels are dated roughly to the same period, and the canonical gospels and other early Christian accounts appear to rely on earlier reports.Thus, as far as the physical evidence is concerned, the canonical gospels do not take precedence over the noncanonical gospels. The fragments of John, Thomas and theEgerton Gospel share the distinction of being the earliest extant pieces of Christian writing known. And although the existing manuscript evidence for Thomas dates to the mid-second century, the scholars who first published the Greek fragments held open the possibility that it was actually composed in the first century, which would put it around the time John was composed.[3]

The unknown Gospel of Papyrus Egerton 2

The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniels in his Clairmont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources.[4] Daniels states "Egerton's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract).[5]  The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice vers.[6]The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

This is very significant because it indicates a reading independent of and therefore prior to Mark;s redaction,

Comparison of readings Egerton 2 and Mark

Egerton 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Egerton 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"?Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"

This reading is from Koseter's book Ancient Christian Gospels [7]


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)[8]

Gospel of Peter

Fragments of the Gospel of Peter were found in 1886 /87 in Akhimim, upper Egypt. These framents were from the 8th or 9th century. No other fragment was found for a long time until one turned up at Oxyrahynchus, which were written in 200 AD. Bishop Serapion of Antioch made the statement prior to 200 that a Gospel had been put forward in the name of Peter. This statement is preserved by Eusebius who places Serapion around 180. But the Akhimim fragment contains three periciopes. The Resurrection, to which the guards at the tomb are witnesses, the empty tomb, or which the women are witnesses, and an epiphany of Jesus appearing to Peter and the 12, which end the book abruptly.

Many features of the Gospel of Peter are clearly from secondary sources, that is reworked versions of the canonical story. These mainly consist of 1) exaggerated miracles; 2) anti-Jewish polemic.The cross follows Jesus out of the tomb, a voice from heaven says "did you preach the gospel to all?" The cross says "Yea." And Pilate is totally exonerated, the Jews are blamed for the crucifixion.[9] However, "there are other traces in the Gospel of Peter which demonstrate an old and independent tradition." The way the suffering of Jesus is described by the use of passages from the old Testament without quotation formulae is, in terms of the tradition, older than the explicit scriptural proof; it represents the oldest form of the passion of Jesus.[10] Jurgen Denker argues that the Gospel of Peter shares this tradition of OT quotation with the Canonicals but is not dependent upon them.[11] Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century![12]

Corosson's Cross Gospel is this material in the Gospel of Peter through which, with the canonical and other non-canonical Gospels Crosson constructs a whole text. According to the theory, the earliest of all written passion narratives is given in this material, is used by Mark, Luke, Matthew, and by John, and also Peter. Peter becomes a very important 5th witness.Koester may not be as famous as Crosson but he is just as expert and just as liberal. He takes issue with Crosson on three counts:

1) no extant text,its all coming form a late copy of Peter,

2) it assumes the literary composition of latter Gospels can be understood to relate to the compositions of earlier ones;

3) Koester believes that the account ends with the empty tomb and has independent sources for the epihanal material.


"A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source....Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based."[13] 

So Koester differs from Crosson mainly in that he divides the epiphanies up into different sources. Another major distinction between the two is that Crosson finds the story of Jesus burial to be an interpolation from Mark to John. Koester argues that there is no evidence to understand this story as dependent upon Mark.[14]  Unfortunately we don't' have space to go through all of the fascinating analysis which leads Koester to his conclusions. Essentially he is comparing the placement of the pericopes and the dependence of one source upon another. What he finds is mutual use made by the canonical and Peter of a an older source that all of the barrow from, but Peter does not come by that material through the canonical, it is independent of them. That source is the Pre Mark Passion Narrative (PMPN)
"The Gospel of Peter, as a whole, is not dependent upon any of the canonical gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospel of Mark and John. All three writings, independently of each other, use older passion narrative which is based upon an exegetical tradition that was still alive when these gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access. All five gospels under consideration, Mark, John, and Peter, as well as Matthew and Luke, concluded their gospels with narratives of the appearances of Jesus on the basis of different epiphany stories that were told in different contexts. However, fragments of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised form the tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." [15]

Also see my essay Have Gaurds, Will Aruge in which Jurgen Denker and Raymond Brown also agree about the indpeendent nature of GPete. Brown made his reputation proving the case, and pubulshes a huge chart in Death of the Messiah which shows the idendepnt nature and traces it line for line. Unfortunately I can't reproduce the chart.

What all of this means is, that there were independent traditions of the same stories, the same documents, used by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which were still alive and circulating even when these canonical gospels were written. They represent much older sources and the basic work which all of these others use, goes back to the middle of the first century. It definitely posited Jesus as a flesh and blood man, living in historical context with other humans, and dying on the cross in historical context with other humans, and raising from the dead in historical context, not in some ethereal realm or in outer space. He was not the airy fairy Gnostic redeemer of Doherty, but the living flesh and blood "Son of Man."

Moreover, since the breakdown of Ur gospel and epiphany sources (independent of each other) demands the logical necessity of still other sources, and since the other material described above amounts to the same thing, we can push the envelope even further and say that at the very latest there were independent gospel source circulating in the 40s, well within the life span of eye witnesses, which were based upon the assumption that Jesus was a flesh and blood man, that he had an historical existence. Note: all these "other Gospels" are not merely oriented around the same stories, events, or ideas, but basically they are oriented around the same sentences. There is very little actual new material in any of them, and no new stories. They all essentially assume the same sayings. There is some new material in Thomas, and others, but essentially they are all about the same things. Even the Gospel of Mary which creates a new setting, Mary discussing with the Apostles after Jesus has returned to heaven, but the words are basically patterned after the canonical. It is as though there is an original repository of the words and events and all other versions follow that repository. This repository is most logically explained as the original events! Jesus actual teachings!


[1]  Kay Albright,"KU PROFESSOR DISCOVERS LOST GOSPEL," (March 10, 1997
Research), on line This site is maintained by University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997, the University of Kansas Office of University Relations, Lawrence, KS, U.S.A. Images may be reused with notice of copyright, but not altered. KU news releases may be reprinted without permission. URL:  (accessed 10/23/16)

phone number listed for QA.bright (785) 864-8858

[2] Charles W. Hendrick, quoted in Bible Review, (June 2002), 20-31; 46-47

 professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us

[3] Ibid,
[4] John B. Daniels, The Egerton Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont, CA 1990. Cited in  Helmutt Koester, History and Literature of Early Christianity,second Edition, New York, Berlin: Walter D. Gruyter, 186.

This is from a dissertation cited by major scholar Helmutt KIoester., so apparently Daniels did good work as a graduate student, Koester is New Testamemt Studies at Harvard.

[5] Ibid.
[6] Joachim Jeremias, "Unknown Sayings,An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha vol 1. Westminster John Knox Press; Rev Sub edition (December 1, 1990,96.
[7] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, London. Oxford, New York: Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2nd prt. edition, 1992, 
[8] Ibid .215
[9] Koester, 218).
[10] Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte,Geschichte der Urchristlichen Literatur

einleitung in das Neue Testament, die Apokryphen und die Apostolischen Väter

 (1975) 646
Philip Vielhauer, History of The original Christian Literature: Introduction to thev New Testment, the Apocrypha, and the Apostolic Fathers. (cited by Koester)
[11] In Koester, 218
[12] Ibid, 218-220
[13] Ibid. 220
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid, 240
[16] William L. Petersen Titian's Diatessaron in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424

The law of supply and demand is the bedrock principle of economics. Most often the idea is expressed as a simple function of price: When price decreases, supply decreases while demand increases. When price increases, supply increases while demand decreases. Common experience confirms what economists teach. Every worker wants a job that pays more, for example, so that supply of labor increases as wages increase; just as every consumer wants to pay less for tennis shoes, so that consumers buy more tennis shoes marked down than at regular price. One consequence of the law of supply and demand is that of shortage and surplus: When the price of a good exceeds the market-clearing price, a surplus results, and when the price is below the market-clearing price, a shortage results. Everyone wants the most bang for the buck.
The truth of all this holds not just for tangible goods, but for most anything imaginable that could potentially enhance human well-being. As economist Roger Arnold has noted,
[A] good is anything from which individuals receive utility or satisfaction. In everyday conversations, the word good usually applies to something tangible that is bought or sold in a market. But there are more goods in the world than just the tangible items sold in markets. Friendship and love are both goods, although neither is tangible and neither is bought and sold in a market...[1]
What about the Christian life, or as some have called it, "the good life"? Clearly a majority of people, in America at least, consider being a Christian somewhat valuable. With various levels of zeal we support Christian causes, read Christian books, attend Christian churches, defend Christian causes. Professing Christians are everywhere you look. At the same time, skeptics and critics point out that in behavioral terms Christians are scarcely distinguishable from anyone else: Indeed, statistically we are no less likely than anyone else to divorce, have children out of wedlock, get caught in a financial scandal, or commit a violent crime.
Why the inconsistency? Perhaps economics can provide further insight. If the church is experiencing non-stop numerical growth with little spiritual growth to show for it, the problem may have to do with what Dietrich Bonhoeffer referred to contemptuously as "cheap grace." That is, the advertised price for following Christ is simply too low and consequently everyone wants in on the deal. But the Christian life is not cheap. It cost Jesus an agonizing death to provide us access to eternal life and communion with himself, the same Jesus who directed that each of his disciples would have to "take up his cross" in order to follow him. It should not surprise us, then, that Jesus compared the life of discipleship to a costly all-out war or an expensive long-term building project, and then urged us to "count the cost" before presuming to be his disciples: "So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple" (Luke 14:33).
On this point I believe the skepticism of our atheist friends may prove illustrative. Atheists are quite unwilling, after all, to acknowledge Jesus as Savior and Lord, let alone as God incarnate. Now most often this aversion to faith is passed off as a strictly intellectual matter – Christian theism is incoherent, there is no evidence for it, and so forth – so that atheism is said to be more rational than Christianity. But the argument could be made that atheism is not so much intellectually but rather economically rational. That is, if genuine faith costs a person everything, atheism (often defined as simple "lack of belief") would be the rational outcome of simply refusing to pay such a high price for faith. From that perspective casual Christianity is no more, or less, rational than atheism. Supposing that there is no God makes as much sense as supposing that Christ places no demands upon us.

[1] Roger Arnold, Microeconomics, South-Western, 2001. At the moment I don't have access to my old college text from which I originally took this quotation, so I don't know the page number. But Arnold has made similar statements elsewhere.



Skeptics of the New Testament usually assume a long gap exists between the events in the gospels and the recording of the events in writing, They further tend to assume that the first source of writing about these events was the gospel of Mark. Thus they assume events were exaggerated and miracles were made up and so on during this gap period. In this essay I am going to dispel this myth by demonstrating that there were written records of the gospel events that existed before the writing of Marks gospel. I will further demonstrate that there were multiple sources transmitting the information. Mark's was not the first gospel written but merely the first of the canonical gospels to be written. None of the early works survive in MS form but we find traces of them in copies of latter works.

Traces of Gospel Material in Gap

The circulation of Gospel material can be shown in four areas: 

(1) Oral tradition 

(2) saying source Material 

(3) Non canonical Gospels 

(4) traces of pre Markan redaction (PMR) 

(canonical material that pre-date Mark, assumed the to be the first Gospel, also called Pre Mark Passion narrative PMPN). 

(1) Oral Tradition (in Two Major Sources)

Scholars have always recognized that the telling of the gospel stories began with the transmission of oral tradition. Of course the problem with oral tradition is that it'snot written, Once written it becomes written tradition. Yet the form of the oral transmission can cling to the writing, It is possible to identify sources of oral tradition even when written down. We see oral tradition reflected in the New Testament in two major sources:

(A) Pauline references to sayings 

The great scholar Edgar Goodspeed held that oral tradition was not haphazard rumor but tightly controlled process,and that all new converts were required to learn certain oral traditions and spit them back from memory: 

Our earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul, gives us glimpses of the form in which the story of Jesus and his teaching first circulated. That form was evidently an oral tradition, not fluid but fixed, and evidently learned by all Christians when they entered the church. This is why Paul can say, "I myself received from the Lord the account that I passed on to you," I Cor. 11:23. The words "received, passed on" [1] reflect the practice of tradition—the handing-down from one to another of a fixed form of words. How congenial this would be to the Jewish mind a moment's reflection on the Tradition of the Elders will show. The Jews at this very time possessed in Hebrew, unwritten, the scribal interpretation of the Law and in Aramaic a Targum or translation of most or all of their Scriptures. It was a point of pride with them not to commit these to writing but to preserve them.[1]
In my essay :Community as author" I will deal with the validity of oral tradition At this point I give examples of the traces of oral tradition in Paul's writings: 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 has long been understood as a formula saying like a creedal statement. 
"For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

1Cr 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1Cr 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

1Cr 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

1Cr 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

1Cr 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Two problems: (1) Doesn't conform to a canonical reading; (2) seems to contradict the order of appearances of the epiphanies (the post resurrection sightings in Gospels--in fact doesn't even mention the women, ). Nevertheless it is in general agreement with the resurrection story, and seems to indicate an oral tradition already in circulation by the AD 50s, and probably some time before that since it has had tome to be formed into a formulation statement. This is because Paul was writing in the 50s. These are clear references to events mentioned in the Gospels written decades before the Gospels were written,

Second major source o oral tradition: 

(B)The nature of pericopes 

Pericopes are little story units we find imn the Gospels like the good Samaritan. The nature of the pericopes themselves shows us that the synoptic gospels are made up of units of oral tradition. Many skpetics seem to think that Mark indented the story in the Gospel and that's the first time they came to exist. But no, Mark wrote down stories that the church had told for decades. Each unit or story is called a "pericope" (per-ic-o-pee). T?his is "A term used in Latin by Jerome for sections of scripture and taken over by Form Critics to designate a unit, or paragraph, of material, especially in the gospels, such as a single parable, or a single story of a miracle."[2] Terence C. Mournet tells us, "Dunn Suggests, during the course of his investigations, that the variation within the pericopes under examination is reflective of is reflective of their indebtedness to the oral transitioning process described by Bailey where traditions are changed (flexible) during their retelling but remain within the boundaries established by the communities." [3] There is room in oral form or a minor variations but along an agreed upon range, the rage is no doubt set by the first telling of the eye witnesses and what the community certain it originally heard. That range of agreement constitutes a control om the dissemination of information
On this basis Baultmann developed "form criticism" because the important aspect was the form the oral tradition too, weather parable, narration, or other oral form. 

(2) Saying Source Material

The saying source was the forerunner of the narrative Gospel. Church father Papias who studied with Apostle John said that Matthew first wrote his gospel as a list of Jesus' teachings in Hebrew,called The Loggia. There's hypothetical Q source, Gospel of Thomas,k Egerton 2 and others. Here I will focus just On Thomas, and deal with others in part II. We see traces of pre Mark redaction imn all of those I just mentioned (except Loggia we don't have a copy)..

A. Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas which was found in a Coptic version at Nag Hammadi, but also exists in another form in several Greek fragments, is a prime example of a saying source. The narratival elements are very minimal, amounting to things like "Jesus said" or "Mary asked him about this,and he said..." The Gospel is apt to be dismissed by conservatives and Evangelicals due to its Gnostic elements and lack of canonicity. While it is true that Thomas contains heavily Gnostic elements of the second century or latter, it also contains a core of sayings which are so close to Q sayings from the synoptics that some have proposed that it may be Q (see Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels).[4] There are 46 sayings that parallel Q sayings in Thomas. This is what I call the orthodox core of the book.[5]

Be that as it may, there is good evidence that the material in Thomas comes from an independent tradition,t hat it is not merely copied out of the synoptics but represents a PMR.  Through Statistical Correlation Analysis of Thomas and the Synoptic, Steven Davies argues that the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonical gospels on account of differences in order of the sayings. [6] Lisa Haygood of Fullerton states "serious probability exists that Thomas preserves an older tradition of the historical Jesus than that of the synoptic Gospels." [7]  Stephen J. Patterson compares the wording of each saying in Thomas to its synoptic counterpart with the conclusion that Thomas represents an autonomous stream of tradition:

If Thomas were dependent upon the synoptic gospels, it would be possible to detect in the case of every Thomas-synoptic parallel the same tradition-historical development behind both the Thomas version of the saying and one or more of the synoptic versions. That is, Thomas' author/editor, in taking up the synoptic version, would have inherited all of the accumulated tradition-historical baggage owned by the synoptic text, and then added to it his or her own redactional twist. In the following texts this is not the case. Rather than reflecting the same tradition-historical development that stands behind their synoptic counterparts, these Thomas sayings seem to be the product of a tradition-history which, though exhibiting the same tendencies operative within the synoptic tradition, is in its own specific details quite unique. This means, of course, that these sayings are not dependent upon their synoptic counterparts, but rather derive from a parallel and separate tradition.[8]

There are several other non canonical Gospels perhaps the most important for apologetic is Gospel of Peter and I will deal with thyiat and others in part II.

B. evidence of saying source in Pauline references 

Koster theorizes that Paul probably had a saying source like that of Q available to him. Paul's use of Jesus' teachings indicates that he probably worked from his own saying source which contained at least aspects of Q. That indicates wide connection with the Jerusalem chruch and the proto "Orthodox" faith. 

Parable of Sower1 Corinthians 3:6Matt.
Stumbling StoneRomans 9: 33Jer 8:14/Synoptics
Ruling against divorce1 cor 7:10Mark 10:11
Support for Apostles1 Cor 9:14Q /Luke 10:7
Institution of Lord's Supper1 Cor 11:23-26Mark 14
command concerning prophets1Cor 14:37Synoptic
Apocalyptic saying1 Thes. 4:1521
Blessing of the PersecutedRomans 12:14Q/Luke 6:27
Not repaying evil with evilRomans 12:17 and I Thes 5:15Mark 12:12-17
Paying Taxes to authoritiesRomans 13:7Mark 9:42
No Stumbling BlockRomans 14:13Mark 9:42
Nothing is uncleanRomans 14:14Mark 7:15
Thief in the Night1 Thes 5:2Q/ Luke 12:39
Peace among yourselves1 ThesMark 9:50
Have peace with EveryoneRomans 12:18Mar 9:50
Do not judgeRomans 13: 10Q /Luke 6:37

These passages indicate that Paul knew versions off Jesus' teaching and Gospel stories two decades before Mark was written, What this means is the Gospel material was being transmitted in an era decades before the writing of Mark. This material also indicates oral tradition (as with the pericopes) we can assume this material goes back to era of the events themselves since we only abouit about 18 years between Crucifixion and Paul's early epistles


[1] Edgar J. GoodspeedAn Introduction to the New Testament, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1937 

[2] "Pericope," Oxford Biblical Studies Online, Oxford University Press, 2016 online resource  (accessed 10/14/16)

[3] Terence C. Mournet, Oral Tradition and Literary Dependency: Variability and Stability in the Synoptic Tradition and Q..Tubingen,Germany: Mohr Siebeck, 2005, 98.
[4] Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: their /History and Development, Edinburgh:
 Bloomsbury T&T Clark; 2nd prt. edition, March 1, 1992.

[5] Mahlon H. Smith, "Gospel of Thomas," Synoptic Gospels Pro,er 1997, online resource  (accessed 10/14/16)

[6] Stevan L. Davies, The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained (Skylight Paths Pub 2002)

[7] Lisa Haygood,  "The Battle To Authenticate 'The Gospel of Thomas'," LUX: A Journal of Transdisciplinary Writing and Research from Claremont Graduate University: Vol. 3: Iss. 1, Article 6. Available at:

PDF  (accessed 10'/12/16)

[8]  Stephen J. Patterson ,The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, p. 18

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