Friday, April 06, 2007

Holy Historiographical Changes, Batman!

Very interesting:

...a new approach [of examining the origin and relationship of the three synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Luke and Mark]... has been proposed by Richard Bauckham, a scholar who already has an impressive record of research into Christian origins. In a previous book – Gospel Women (2002) – he was able to show, by a close study of personal names both in our texts and in the records of Palestinian culture, that a particular group of individuals in the New Testament, and their relationships with one another, have a striking internal consistency with regard to names and provenance and also reflect accurately the naming and family connections that were customary in their culture. In the face of such evidence, it is hard to believe either that these names could have been fabricated or that there was any serious loss of accuracy in remembering and recording them by the time the Gospels came to be written. In Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, Bauckham continues his investigation into named individuals, and shows that the same conclusion holds for all. We have every reason, therefore, to assume a faithful and unbroken link between the original witnesses of Jesus’ life and death and the record of these things in the Gospels.

Following this clue, Bauckham then suggests we should take seriously the testimony of two second-century churchmen, Papias and Irenaeus – the first of whom has usually been dismissed by scholars as unreliable. Carefully examining the relevant texts – including the famous statement of Papias that Mark’s Gospel is derived from anecdotes heard from St Peter – Bauckham concludes that these writers gave absolute priority to eyewitness accounts of Jesus, many of which are likely to have been given by his closest followers; indeed, he argues that the fact that some minor characters in the Gospels are named, while others remain anonymous, strongly suggests that it was the named ones who were consulted for their personal recollections and that the Gospel writers, or those whom they consulted, were drawing on first-hand evidence that was inherently reliable and consistent, though with the inevitable variations and slight lapses which attend the exercise of memory in any age or culture – hence both the close similarities and the sporadic divergences exhibited by the Synoptic Gospels.

{via A&L Daily}

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