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As argued by theist Bart Ehrman (and many other learned liberal theologians) the Gospels appear to be well written literature (especially the book of "Mark") and not historical documents.

The EvidenceEdit

First, there are very good reasons to question the claim that the Gospels of the New Testament are, or rely upon, actual eyewitness accounts.Edit

We begin by accepting that all of the accepted Gospels (4 out of about 30) appear to owe their existence to the first "Gospel", the book of "Mark":

All the Gospels derive their basic story of Jesus of Nazareth from a single source: whoever produced the first version of Mark. That Matthew and Luke are reworkings of Mark with extra, mostly teaching, material added is now an almost universal scholarly conclusion, while many also consider that John has drawn his framework for Jesus’ ministry and death from a Synoptic source as well. We thus have a Christian movement spanning half the empire and a full century which nevertheless has managed to produce only one version of the events that are supposed to lie at its inception. Acts, as an historical witness to Jesus and the beginnings of the Christian movement, cannot be relied upon, since it is a tendentious creation of the second century, dependent on the Gospels and designed to create a picture of Christian origins traceable to a unified body of apostles in Jerusalem who were followers of an historical Jesus. Many scholars now admit that much of Acts is sheer fabrication.
- Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle.

So, we do not have four 'accounts', we have one, followed by two revisions (Matthew and Luke) and then a much later entry that cannot possibly draw from historical data (John).

Next, we must recognize that the book of "Mark" as well as all the other "Gospel" accounts, are anonymous:Edit

http://www.rationalresponders.com/the_gospels_are_anonymous_works_and_none_are_eyewitness_accounts

As Thomas Paine first noted in "The Age of Reason", the value of testimony is based on the credibility of the witness. An anonymous witness, therefore, is of questionable value at best.

Then we must consider a serious provenance dilemma: there is no evidence of the existence of any contemporary historical sources for the later gospel writers to actually draw upon:Edit

http://www.rationalresponders.com/a_silence_that_screams_no_contemporary_historical_accounts_for_jesus

Finally, historical and literary analysis provides a good grounds for holding that the book of "Mark" is a form of 'Midrash', i.e. a set of stories that follow the rely on the Jewish practice of drawing on scriptural themes and passages to create new stories and homilies.Edit

Not only do the Gospels contain basic and irreconcilable differences in their accounts of Jesus, they have been put together according to a traditional Jewish practice known as "midrash", which involved reworking and enlarging on scripture. This could entail the retelling of older biblical stories in new settings. Thus, Mark’s Jesus of Nazareth was portrayed as a new Moses, with features that paralleled the stories of Moses. Many details were fashioned out of specific passages in scripture. The Passion story itself is a pastiche of verses from the Psalms, Isaiah and other prophets, and as a whole it retells a common tale found throughout ancient Jewish writings, that of the Suffering and Vindication of the Innocent Righteous One. It is quite possible that Mark, at least, did not intend his Gospel to represent an historical figure or historical events, and designed it to provide liturgical readings for Christian services on the Jewish model. Liberal scholars now regard the Gospels as "faith documents" and not accurate historical accounts.
- Earl Doherty, The Jesus Puzzle

Michael A. Turton's Historical Commentary on the Gospel of Mark, does a wonderful job of demonstrating that "Mark" is 'Midrash' and therefore not history.Edit

His site was formerly located here:

http://users2.ev1.net/%7Eturton/GMark/GMark_index.html

I believe it was taken down so that he could present the work as a published book. The site can still be found here:

http://web.archive.org/web/20060427175532/users2.ev1.net/~turton/GMark/GMark_index.html)

Michael Turton writes:

If Mark is history, where are the reliable methods for uncovering it? If Mark knew real traditions, why would be bother to parallel some other story every time Jesus does something major? It's not like this is a sometime thing. Almost every story in Mark draws on the OT, and Mark often tells you where he got it from one way or another (and if he doesn't, that fussbudget Matthew certainly will). The few stories that are not OT in origin have a narrative function, and of course, are so totally bound up with the supernatural that they are certainly fiction -- sometimes both (as in the Gerasene Demoniac, for example, though that has OT echoes too).

http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?s=d239f8ccf586656ab7cdeadddb5bb815&t=132440&page=2

Note: Turton's work also serves a secondary role: it serves to invalidate any argument that Gospel 'prophecies' are supportive of the Gospel's divine origin. It shows that such a claim is based on backwards logic: The Mark author isn't capturing a series of events that 'fulfills a prophecy, he's writing a story built upon Old Testament passages! Seeing as this provides us with a more parsimonious explanation for the purported prophecies of the Old Testament, the claim for Midrash follows the basic rules of valid historiography, whereas 'prophecy claims' violate them.

Because the later Gospels all clearly rely on Mark to some degree (Matthew and Luke are even considered "synoptic', 'similar eyed'/same view,) demonstrating that 'Mark' is a work of fiction unseats the validity of all the supposed "Gospel' accounts. Yet we need not rely on this 'cascade' problem alone. An examination of the other "Gospels' reveals that each "Gospel' claim falls short of "Gospel Truth".

Robert Price's deconstruction of the gospels helps to invalidate the concept of a 'historical jesus'.Edit

THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING SON OF MAN
How Reliable Is the Gospel Tradition?
by Robert M. Price, Prometheus Books, 2003

http://pages.ca.inter.net/~oblio/BkrvSonofMan.htm

Price is one of the sources that Turton draws upon. This review of his work demonstrates just how poor the case is for a 'historical jesus'.

From the site:

" It is clear from this that a concern for historical accuracy played no part in the creation of the Gospels. The principle of eyewitness, perhaps even of representing history at all, was simply not operating. This is a chain of original storytelling, not a reproduction or editing of earlier tradition. Literary criticism reveals Mark as writing most of his Gospel out of his own imagination (drawing mostly on scriptural elements), while his redactors are recasting his efforts for their own purposes, with no concerns about compromising or falsifying historical truth or accuracy. That there was vast fabrication by all involved throughout the Christian documentary record has long been undeniable, and there is no reason to make any distinction in reliability between canonical and non-canonical writings."

Richard Carrier is another source that Michael Turton relies upon. Carrier's work goes far to weaken the claim for an historical jesus:Edit

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/lukeandjosephus.html

This work helps demonstrate how much Luke relied on Josephus.

From the page:

Luke and Josephus (2000)
Richard Carrier

There has long been the observation that Luke-Acts contains numerous parallels with the works of Josephus, generating three different theories to account for this: that Josephus used Luke, that Luke used Josephus, or that they both used some common but now lost source. Steve Mason has reviewed the arguments [1] and in summarizing the evidence concludes that, besides generic parallels of genre and form and the use of identical historical events, which are inconclusive as proofs, the "coincidence ... of aim, themes, and vocabulary ... seems to suggest that Luke-Acts is building its case on the foundation of Josephus' defense of Judaism," and therefore that Luke is consciously and significantly drawing on Josephus to supplement his use of Mark and Q and to create the appearance of a real history, a notable deviation from all the other Gospels which have none of the features of a historical work.

Carrier's work can be found here:

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/

Finally, one ought to consider looking at the works of Josephus himself:

http://www.ccel.org/j/josephus/works/JOSEPHUS.HTM

Josephus writes a history of the Jewish people.. one would expect that if he really had information about jesus, that jesus would dominate his telling of their history. Yet while we do hear glowing reports of John the Baptist, nothing in the works of Josephus speak of any Jesus, the Christ. ===More on Michael Turton
(Vorkosigan)

Turton writes:=== First, we'll see how much of Mark is based on the OT. The "OT Frame" represents a significant event parallel between the OT and Mark, "(OT parallels)" represents a signficant number of verses with parallels in the OT.

Pericope...OT Frame (verse origin)

1:1-8..........NONE KNOWN (OT parallels)
1:9-11........(OT Parallels)
1:12-13......1 Kings 19, The Fall
1:14-20......1 Kings 19:19-21 (Galilee Isa (9:1)
1:21-28......(many OT/Jewish lit echoes)
1:29-39......NONE KNOWN
1:40-45......2 Kings 5, Nm 5:1-2
2:1-12........2 Kings 1:2-17
2:13-17......1 Kings 19:19-21
2:18-22......CHREIA SAYING
2:23-28......(v25=2 Sam 15-16)
3:1-6..........1 Kings 13:4-6
3:7-12........Invention
3:13-19......Exodus 18:2-26
3:20-30......(Zech 3:13), Exodus 18:2-26
3:31-35......CHREIA SAYING, Exodus 18:2-26
4:1-20........(many to OT/Hellenistic culture)
4:21-25......SAYING (OT/Jewish parallels)
4:26-29......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:30-34......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:35-41......Jonah through Psalm 107
5:1-20........(Isa 65:1-7)
5:21-43.....2 Kings 4:8-37
6:1-6..........CHREIA SAYING
6:7-13........MISSION CHARGE (CYNIC)
6:14-29......Esther
6:30-44......2 Kings 4:38-44
6:45-56......(Psalm 77, Isa 43, Job 9)
7:1-23........(many OT, anachronism)
7:24-30......Elijah-Elisha echoes, CHREIA SAYING
7:31-37......Isa 35:5-6
8:1-13........2 Kings 4:38-44
8:14-21......Non-Markan
8:22-26......Interpolation based on 7:31-7
8:27-33......Invention (Peter's Confession)
8:34-38......Hellenistic Philosophical Concepts
9:1-13........2 Kings 1, other OT
9:14-29......NONE KNOWN
9:30-37......Invention (2nd passion prediction
9:38-41......Num 11:26-29
9:42-50......(Isa, Num, Lev)
10:1-12......OT, CHREIA (Paul on Divorce)
10:13-16....CHREIA
10:17-31[color=white]....[/colorCHREIA
10:32-34....Invention (3rd passion prediction)
10:35-45....Invention/anachronism (OT parallels)
10:46-52....Plato? NONE KNOWN
11:1-11......2 Kings 9:13, 1 Samuel 9 & 10 (OT parallels)
11:12-14....(Jeremiah 8, 29, Joel 1, Hosea 9)
11:15-19....2 Kings (OT parallels)
11:20-25....Invention -- 2nd fig tree
11:27-33....Baptism authority? SAYING
12:1-12......PARABLE, 2 Kings 9:22-10:27 (OT parallels)
12:13-17....CHREIA (Paul?)
12:18-27....CHREIA (OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
12:28-34....(OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
12:35-44....2 Kings 12:5-17
13:1-31......2 Kings 10:26-28, anachronisms, (OT parallels)
13:32-37....PARABLE
14:1-11......2 Kings 9:1-13 (OT parallels)
14:12-25....1 Samuel 10:1-7 (Paul?)
14:26-31....(OT parallels)
14:32-42....1 Kings 19:1-5 (Psalm 78:39-41)
14:43-52....2 Samuel 15-16
14:53-65....Invention (OT parallels)
14:66-72....NONE KNOWN (Peter's denial= invention)
15:1-15......Daniel 6 (Josephus War?)
15:16-20....(OT parallels, Roman procession)
15:21-32....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:33-41....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:42-47....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
16:1-8........Daniel 6, 2 Kgs 13: 20-1 (OT parallels)

Let's now group them:

DIRECT OT PARALLELING:

1:12-13......1 Kings 19, The Fall
1:14-20......1 Kings 19:19-21 (Galilee Isa (9:1)
1:40-45......2 Kings 5, Nm 5:1-2
2:1-12........2 Kings 1:2-17
2:13-17......1 Kings 19:19-21
3:1-6..........1 Kings 13:4-6
3:13-19......Exodus 18:2-26
3:20-30......(Zech 3:13), Exodus 18:2-26
3:31-35......CHREIA SAYING, Exodus 18:2-26
4:35-41......Jonah through Psalm 107
5:21-43.....2 Kings 4:8-37, Num 5:1-2
6:14-29......Esther
6:30-44......2 Kings 4:38-44
6:45-56......(Psalm 77, Isa 43, Job 9)
7:31-37......Isa 35:5-6
8:1-13........2 Kings 4:38-44
9:1-13........2 Kings 1, other OT
9:38-41......Num 11:26-29
11:1-11......2 Kings 9:13, 1 Samuel 9 & 10 (OT parallels)
11:12-14....(OT: Jeremiah 8, 29, Joel 1, Hosea 9)
11:15-19....2 Kings (OT parallels)
12:1-12......PARABLE, 2 Kings 9:22-10:27 (OT parallels)
12:35-44....2 Kings 12:5-17
13:1-31......2 Kings 10:26-28, anachronisms, (OT parallels)
14:1-11......2 Kings 9:1-13 (OT parallels)
14:12-25....1 Samuel 10:1-7 (Paul?)
14:32-42....1 Kings 19:1-5 (Psalm 78:39-41)
14:43-52....2 Samuel 15-16
15:1-15......Daniel 6 (Josephus War?)
15:21-32....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:33-41....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
15:42-47....Daniel 6 (OT parallels)
16:1-8........Daniel 6, 2 Kgs 13: 20-1 (OT parallels)
------------------
DIRECT PARALLELS 33/71

OT VERSE CONSTRUCTION (built out of individual Verses)

1:9-11........(OT Parallels)
1:21-28......(many OT echoes) also 1 Enoch, Tobit
9:42-50......(Isa, Num, Lev)
12:28-34....(OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
14:26-31....(OT parallels)
15:16-20....(OT parallels, Roman procession)
14:53-65....Invention (OT parallels)
6:7-13........MISSION CHARGE (CYNIC) (OT parallels)
4:1-20........PARABLE (many to OT/Hellenistic culture)
4:21-25......SAYING (OT/Jewish parallels)
4:26-29......SAYING (OT parallels)
4:30-34......SAYING (OT parallels)
------------------
plus 12 = 45/71 or 63.3%

CHREIA

2:18-22......CHREIA SAYING
2:23-28......CHREIA (OT parallels)
6:1-6..........CHREIA SAYING
7:24-30......Elijah-Elisha echoes, CHREIA SAYING
10:1-12......OT, CHREIA (Paul on Divorce)
10:13-16....CHREIA
10:17-31....CHREIA
12:13-17....CHREIA (Paul?)
12:18-27....CHREIA (OT/Jewish parallels, Paul?)
-------------------

9/71

OUTRIGHT INVENTION

3:7-12........Invention
7:1-23........(many OT, anachronism)
8:27-33......Invention (Peter's Confession)
9:30-37......Invention (2nd passion prediction
10:32-34....Invention (3rd passion prediction)
10:35-45....Invention/anachronism (OT parallels)
11:20-25....Invention -- 2nd fig tree
13:32-37....PARABLE
14:66-72....NONE KNOWN (Peter's denial= invention)
----------------
8/71

UNKNOWN or SOURCE NOT OT

9:14-29......NONE KNOWN
10:46-52....Plato? NONE KNOWN
5:1-20........Josephus? (OT Parallels=Isa 65:1-7)
8:34-38......Hellenistic Philosophical Concepts
8:22-26......Interpolation based on 7:31-7
8:14-21......NONE KNOWN Non-Markan
11:27-33....Baptism authority? SAYING
1:1-8..........NONE KNOWN (OT parallels)
1:29-39......NONE KNOWN



9/71 = 13.8%


Well, about 65% of Markan pericopes are built off of the OT one way or another, sometimes by direct paralleling of events, sometimes by verse inspiration. The rest is either Chreia from the culture or hand of Mark, or obvious invention. Some things are difficult to classify, of course....

Mark is fiction. If there was really a community spurring Mark to write this, where are the traditions? There is nothing in Mark that does not go back to the OT, Paul, or something Hellenistic. Exegetes are found of arguing that Matthew cannot be a disciple, else why would have copied Mark? That is just as true of Mark: if he knew stories about the HJ, why did he bother to parallel the OT?

- Vorkosigan

I wish to return again to a point made earlier by Michael Turton: Those who argue that a 'real jesus' can be pulled from amongst the clear mythical/Midrash writings have a problem: historians lack any reliable and widely accepted methodology for determining what is historical and what is not. As J. D. Crossan, a well respected scholar of early Christianity, comments, "I do not think, after two hundred years of experimentation, that there is any way acceptable in public discourse or scholarly debate, by which you can go directly into the great mound of the Jesus tradition and separate out the historical Jesus layer from all later strata"

The original chatboard post site:

http://www.iidb.org/vbb/showthread.php?t=122535

On chiasms or pericopes

http://www.textexcavation.com/turtonchiasms.html Note: While we can only speculate on the existence of another source, Q (although the reasoning is good), assuming that it does record anything about the Jesus of the gospels may not be a sound assumption: the 'Q" document may not even make references to a Jesus at all, it may well be a work of sayings of various cynics that were similar in nature to the statements a Jesus might make.

Those who know the good, do the good. - Socrates

  

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