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I attended Bishop Spong's talk in Williamsburg on September 17th and enjoyed it very much. I hope that he is as gratified as I am disappointed to find out the information given him at the lecture regarding the outcome of the UVA - UNC football game was incorrect. As I understand it, he should be collecting rather than paying for wagers with his daughter and granddaughter.

 

I would like to take exception to his characterization of the time gap between the death of Jesus of Nazareth and the writing of the gospels in terms of generations. If, using round numbers, the first gospel was written 40 years after the Jesus' death, there is no reason that the author could not have been an eyewitness rather than as stated by Bishop Spong, the second generation. Yes it is a long time in any case between Jesus' death and the writing of the gospels but attempting to cast uncertainty about the content using the issue of generations is just bad math. The Bishop himself can report fairly accurately on events of profound interest to him that occurred sixty years ago without having to use the second or third generations of his family to do so..

 

I also note that lack of written supporting documents from this period are not proof that they did not exist. Fire burns, moths eat and rust does corrode.

 

Please know that this is not a posting from one of those crank "conservatives." I am very much in tune with progressive Christianity espoused by Bishop Spong and others. My engineering background was just bothered by the lapse in math/logic.

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LTQEd,

 

First welcome.

 

Second, you are not alone in your idea about the time gap between Jesus' death and the writing of the Gospels. Richard Bauckham, a NT scholar, makes a very good case in his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that the Gospel writers, although not eyewitnesses themselves, had access to eyewitnesses. We would expect that eyewitnesses would have been alive and available to the Gospel writers. In fact, this is a explicit claim made by Luke in the introduction to his Gospel and there is no chronological reason to argue that it is not correct.

 

Bauckham does not claim that every word in the Gospels is based on factual accounts, but that the writers did have access to eyewitnesses and there is more historicity than some, like Bishop Spong, claim. Of course, there is some mythologizing as well.

 

George

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  • 2 weeks later...

Welcome to the forum LTQed.

In as short as I can I will do my best to discribe things as I understand it.

As I understand it we do not know who the gospel writers were. We know things like in the early writings of mark the resurrection verses were missing. We also know that the gospels were not the only writings around at the time :- http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/

It is my belief (and your free to disagree) that the writings of the NT were put together over a number of years and through a process of synthesis. I understand the NT as not being fully agreed up as scripture until 398 ad at the eighth conference at Carthage. The oldest copy of the NT we have to date is the Codex Sinaiticus which is thought to be around 1600yrs old and that still has differences to our present bible. see:- http://codexsinaiticus.org/en/manuscript.aspx

The point I am trying to make is that there was a number of differing thoughts about what happened and what was the right approach and what writings were thought legitimate.

Ebonites who remained followers of Judaism and did not like Paul. They were said to like Mark, Matthew, and Luke's gospel.

Marcionites grew out of those who would not be Jews and thought Paul was the only one who understood the Christian message.

Gnostics who wrote many things and claimed many differing sources who believe either one had to have a personal experience of God or a have secret knowledge. Many favour the book of Thomas and many others writings.

The proto orthodox who eventually gained Caesar Constantines support who became separated from Judaism and suspicous of their understanding of things.

 

Now as I understand it Spong describes a gradual development of the gospels from its Judaic roots to the gentile church. Mark writing from sources at the time which some believed had links with peter (although not proved) and was thought by Spong to be choreographed to follow Jewish ceremonies because the early followers were jews. Later with the sacking of Jerusalem by Rome and the hardening of the ideas as to what constituted a follower of Judaism by the jews there is thought to be conflict between the followers of the "new way" (early Christians) and to try build those relationships up again it is thought Matthew was written with a Judaic theme. Later I understand Luke was thought to written to keep the gentiles on board. When the two sides eventually seperated accusations were said to be being directed at Christians for refusing to support the Jews against Rome and for not following ideas adopted by Judaism notions. The view was that Christians had given up their Abrahamic inheritance. So John's Gospel was thought written to support the Christian viewpoint and declares of course Christians had a heritage with Abraham because Jesus was actually God. Therefore, suggesting it was the followers of Judaism that were out of step.

Writers of the bible were later thought to make many alterations and their opinions thought to be included. Professor Bart D. Ehram suggested that there were more variables in the writings than there were words in the NT. Sadly, we have no remaining copies of the original writings in which to check them with and therefore we do not know what was in the originals. Perhaps the metal books they found may eventually help us there, but I do not know? see:- http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-1371290/70-metal-books-Jordan-cave-change-view-Biblical-history.html

For me I do not care. I am interested in the teachings. For example, The fact that the story of Jesus and the women found in adultery was thought to be a later addition and may of not been an event in the life of Jesus, does not for me negate its lessons about not judging people and understanding Christian principles.

 

Now all this is theory and all I am saying is that the NT grew out of a period of much confusion and controversy. The Gospels were also thought to be not written by those in Jerusalem who had direct contact with Jesus. They may of got the story from others who did know Jesus or there may well of been a period of chinese whispers and other's thoughts brought to bear. As far a historic credibility goes we just do not know (IMO). Each may make up their own mind.

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Friends,

 

From my non-scholarly viewpoint, there seems to be more than enough controversy among Bible scholars regarding the Gospel timeline. I suppose there are good reasons for getting to the actual facts, both of which may come to me. B)

 

The authors of the Urantia Papers provided their version of Gospel origins in 1935 when Part IV was delivered to Dr. Sadler in Chicago. Paper 121 Section 8 – Previous Written Records – includes some specifics which seem to me as plausible as any others I’ve seen being discussed.

 

121:8.2 - These New Testament records had their origin in the following circumstances:

 

All the best blessings,

Brent

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I find it disturbing that the bible writers (whoever they were) seem to be unfamiliar with Aramaic customs and culture. They don't seem to understand that weddings(such as at Cana) were extended celebrations with heavy drinking of wine provided not by the groom, but by the guests and that when the Rabbi's turn came it was customary to serve water and encourage all to sober up. They don't seem to know that middle easterners pack food on their persons wherever they go, especially when attending seminars such as Jesus was presenting. My son-in-law's mother packed a whole suitcase of delicacies whenever she came from Lebanon. There was nothing miraculous about the "feeding of the 5000". I don't see how first person eyewitnesses could make these kind of mistakes.

Edited by Navigator30
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I don't see how first person eyewitnesses could make these kind of mistakes.

 

I don't see it as a mistake but a retelling of the story over the years eventually writing it down in a time when proof that Jesus was divine was needed.

 

 

My son-in-law's mother packed a whole suitcase of delicacies whenever she came from Lebanon.

 

I heard of a youth leader who lost his job when he suggested the miracle was like a potluck.

 

I don't know if we can hold the writers of the Gospels accountable of not knowing what we know of their society. It is fair to understand bias and distortion and its purpose. The passages that I find jarring and out of place are those written with an apocalyptic world view, presumably by someone under persecution. They want God to balance the scales violently in the end.

 

Dutch

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  • 1 month later...

One response to this for what it is worth, is to point out that the average life expectancy in the time of Jesus was around 30 years. Obviously some people lived longer than this... But if we take it that Jesus was born about 4 BC and that his disciples were roughly contemporary, this would cast considerable doubt on them being the authors of the gospels. Mark is usually dated about 70 AD, which would make the disciple Mark about 74 years old - not impossible, but unlikely. When it comes to Matthew and Luke, which are generally dated about 80 - 85 AD the likelyhood of these writers being the actual disciples bearing their name seems increasingly unlikely. And as for John, dated around 90 - 100 AD the formula gets even less likely.

The other factor is that the gospels were written in Greek and there is considerable doubt whether the mostly peasant disciples would have been sufficiently educated to have been able to write in that language. But for me, the greatest factor is considering the gospels as a developing tradition - which seems likely given that the stories and words of Jesus would be passed on first orally ( imagine the game of Chinese whispers and how things change in only a small group) and only later committed to writing. The fact that many of the stories become more "miraculous" as time passes seems to reinforce this theory.

Hope these ideas help the discussion.....

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One response to this for what it is worth, is to point out that the average life expectancy in the time of Jesus was around 30 years. Obviously some people lived longer than this... But if we take it that Jesus was born about 4 BC and that his disciples were roughly contemporary, this would cast considerable doubt on them being the authors of the gospels. Mark is usually dated about 70 AD, which would make the disciple Mark about 74 years old - not impossible, but unlikely. When it comes to Matthew and Luke, which are generally dated about 80 - 85 AD the likelyhood of these writers being the actual disciples bearing their name seems increasingly unlikely.

Organist, first, welcome.

 

Second, 'life expectancy' is not the maximum life span of a person; it is an average and factors in infant mortality (high in those days), premature deaths due to war, falling off donkeys, infection, disease, etc. If one survived their youth, there was a good chance of reaching a ripe old age. As an example, if we had five infants and one dies at age one, one at age 5, two die in at 20 and one makes it to 90, the life expectancy of this group is 27.2 years. But, the one who made it past twenty lived to age 90.

 

The fact that the Gospel writers made it into adulthood raised their life expectancy considerably over that of an infant.

 

Psalm 90 expresses the expectation during biblical times, ""The span of our life is seventy years, or given the strength, eighty years . . ."

 

George

Edited by GeorgeW
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Organist, first, welcome.

 

Second, 'life expectancy' is not the maximum life span of a person; it is an average and factors in infant mortality (high in those days), premature deaths due to war, falling off donkeys, infection, disease, etc. If one survived their youth, there was a good chance of reaching a ripe old age. As an example, if we had five infants and one dies at age one, one at age 5, two die in at 20 and one makes it to 90, the life expectancy of this group is 27.2 years. But, the one who made it past twenty lived to age 90.

 

The fact that the Gospel writers made it into adulthood raised their life expectancy considerably over that of an infant.

 

Psalm 90 expresses the expectation during biblical times, ""The span of our life is seventy years, or given the strength, eighty years . . ."

 

George

George - I fully take on board your point about averages, and the fact that high infant mortality would skew the figure downwards - also that many must live well beyond that age to give an average of around 30 as I first suggested. However I would just like to add in another factor which came to me via a recent talk given by Marcus Borg. He touched on this point by introducing the issue of social class and the fact that is was usually only the ruling elite classes (5 - 10% of the population) who would achieve these longer life spans. Amongst the peasant classes, conditions of poor health and nutution together with hard manual work would mean that life expectancy would be a lot lower, and of course Jesus and his followers were for the most part from this background.

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