Presentation on theme: "The Gospels and Acts as History"— Presentation transcript:
1The Gospels and Acts as History Dr. Timothy McGrewReasonable Faith BelfastNovember 07, 2011
22 Peter 1:16For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty.
3Why defend the Gospels as history? The “minimal facts” argument dispenses with the defense of the substantial historical truthfulness of the Gospels.But if their substantial historicity can be credibly maintained, they afford much richer resources for argument than the “minimal facts” approach does.
4Two trilemmas Liar, Lunatic, or Lord Deceivers, Dupes, or Direct WitnessesEither what the authors of the Gospels said was true or it was false.If it was true, we have the word of some direct witnesses.If it was false, either they knew that it was false (deceivers) or they did not (dupes).
5Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorshipEarly use in other worksIntegration with other sourcesInternal testsOverall consistency among the booksUndesigned coincidences
6External Evidence: Attribution Augustine’s criterion (Contra Faustum 33.6)Why does no one doubt the authenticity of the books attributed to Hippocrates? “[B]ecause there is a succession of testimonies to the books from the time of Hippocrates to the present day, which makes it unreasonable either now or hereafter to have any doubt on the subject. How do we know the authorship of the works of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Varro, and other similar writers, but by the unbroken chain of evidence?”
7The attestation: summary of the facts The attestation of authorship is not only significant and early, it is also geographically diverse, coming from every quarter of the Roman empire.Irenaus in FrancePapias in Asia MinorClement in AlexandriaThere is no rival tradition of authorship for any of the four Gospels.
8Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorship: Strong and consistentEarly use in other worksIntegration with other sourcesInternal testsOverall consistency among the booksUndesigned coincidences
9External Evidence: Early use Polycarp’s Epistle to the Philippians (~108)Matthew – GalatiansMark – EphesiansLuke – PhilippiansActs – 1 ThessaloniansRomans – 2 Thessalonians1 Corinthians – Hebrews2 Corinthians – 1 Peter. . . and more . . .
11Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorship: Strong and consistentEarly use in other works: OverwhelmingIntegration with other sourcesInternal testsOverall consistency among the booksUndesigned coincidences
12External Evidence: Integration We are not looking here for non-Christian reports of the resurrection or the life of Christ.We are looking for the writers to demonstrate familiarity with the Palestinian setting and the Greco-Roman world in general.Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius illustrates what happens when the author is not a well-informed contemporary.
13External Evidence: Integration “Augustus” in Acts 25:21The denarius in Luke 20:24-25Archelaus in Matthew 2:22The titles of local and regional officialsCyprusPhilippiThessalonikaEphesusMaltaAllegations of error
14Augustus who?In Luke 2 we are told of a decree sent out by Caesar Augustus just prior to Jesus’ birth (c. 6 BC).When John the Baptist begins his ministry (Luke 3:1, 2), Augustus is long dead and we are in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar (AD 27)About 30 years later still (~AD 60), Paul makes an appeal from Festus to Augustus (Acts 25:21).No competent forger writing long after these times would make such a reference without explaining it.
15Oh, that Augustus!Nero, upon becoming Emperor, was styled Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus.The coin at right shows his preferred title clearly.Luke passes a first test.
16The denarius: Luke 20:24-25“Show me a denarius. Whose likeness and inscription does it have?” They said, “Caesar’s.” He said to them, “Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
17The image on the denarius “You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.”Exodus 20:4
18The inscription on the denarius AUGUSTUS TI CAESAR DIVI AUG F“Augustus Tiberius Caesar, son of the Divine Augustus.”“You shall have no other gods before me.” Exodus 20:3
19A curious detour: Matthew 2:22 But when [Joseph] heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee.
20A curious detour: Matthew 2:22 Since Herod the Great was dead, it was only natural that his eldest son, Archelaus, would take the throne. So why does this news cause Joseph to change plans and go into Galilee?
21The news about Archelaus Herod the great had died, and his son Archelaus had taken his place, not long before the Passover of 4 B.C.As the feast approached, a mob of angry Jews killed some Roman soldiers.
22The news about Archelaus In panic, Archelaus sent a troop of armed horsemen to surround the Temple, with orders not to let anyone outside go in and not to let anyone inside get out.He then sent in soldiers and slaughtered 3,000 Jews in the Temple.Passover was canceled.
23Joseph’s decision in context As Mary, Joseph, and the young Jesus made their way north from Egypt, they must have encountered distraught Jewish pilgrims carrying the news of Archelaus’s massacre.
24The accuracy of ActsColin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History (Tübingen: Mohr, 1989), pp , goes through the last 16 chapters of Acts almost verse-by-verse.Hemer lists 84 specific facts from those 16 chapters that have been confirmed by historical and archaeological research—ports, boundaries, landmarks, slang terminology, local languages, local deities, local industries, and proper titles for numerous regional and local officials.
25The accuracy of Acts: some examples The governor of Cyprus is called the ἀνθύπατος (proconsul) (Acts 13:7),. . . while the magistrates of Philippi were στρατηγοί (governors) (Acts 16:20, 22),. . . and those of Thessalonica are simply πολιτάρχαι (rulers) (Acts 17:6, 8),. . . the chief executive magistrate in Ephesus is a γραμματεὺς (town clerk) (Acts 19:35),. . . and the ruler of Malta is only a πρώτος (chief man) (Acts 28:7).
26Allegations of errorAn inquiry into the integration of the Gospels and Acts with external sources is not complete until we have asked what can be said against them.To avoid the charge of cherry picking, we will consider only passages that have been called errors by Christianity’s critics.
27Six alleged historical errors The Gospels err in reference to kings and governorsThe Gospels err in reference to the high priestsJohn invents a landmark to make a metaphorical pointNazareth didn’t exist at the turn of the first centuryThere were no synagogues in Capernaum in the first centuryLuke bungles the date of the census under Quirinius
28Those kings and governors … Matt 2:22, Archelaus is reigning as a king in JudeaMatt 27:2, ~ AD 30, Pilate is governor of JudeaActs 12:1, ~ AD 41, Herod is king of JudeaActs 23:33, ~ AD 56, Felix is governor of Judea
29Thomas Paine’s accusation “[T]here could be no such person as a King Herod, because the Jews and their country were then under the dominion of the Roman Emperors who governed then by tetrarchs, or governors.”—Thomas Paine, “Examination of Prophecies,” in Daniel Edwin Wheeler, ed., The Life and Writings of Thomas Paine, vol. 7 (New York: Vincent Parke and Co., 1908), p. 262.
30Flavius JosephusFlavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, was born around AD 37 and wrote The Jewish War and Antiquities of the Jews late in the first century.
31Josephus and Matthew agree Matthew 2:22 says, not that Archelaus was king, but that he was reigning as king (in Greek, βασιλεύει, “kinging”).His claim to the throne had not been certified by Caesar, and one of the complaints against him was that he had already taken the kingship over to himself, before Caesar had granted it to him. (Antiquities )
32Josephus and Luke agree There was no time during the previous thirty years, nor ever afterward, when there was a king at Jerusalem, except the last three years of the life of Herod Agrippa I.—See Josephus, Antiquities and
33The witness of the coins Matthew 2:1–“in the days of Herod the king …”ΗΡΩ∆ΟΥ ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ, “King Herod.”
34Prutot of Herod Agrippa I (AD 37-44) Each of these coins bears the inscription ΑΓΡΙΠΠΑ ΒΑCΙΛΕΟC – “Agrippa the King” (cf. Acts 12:1)
35Two high priests? Luke 3:1-2 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.
36High priest for a year? John 18:13 First they led him [Jesus] to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year.
37Did Luke and John blunder? “[A]ny person being acquainted with the history and polity of the Jews, must have known that there never was but one high priest at a time, ... no Jew could have been ignorant that the high-priest’s office was not annual, but for life, ...”–Robert Taylor, The Diegesis, 3rd ed. (1845), p. 126.
38Luke and John vindicated Annas (sometimes called Ananus) had held the office of high priest from A.D. 6-15, but Pilate’s predecessor had deposed him and then successively appointed and deposed one after another, including one of Annas’s sons. Joseph Caiaphas, his son in law, was the fourth of these.—See, Josephus, Antiquities
39Luke and John vindicated Throughout the period of the Gospel events and for more than a decade afterward, Annas kept the power of the high priesthood and controlled the Temple through his sons, five of whom were appointed high priest by Roman procurators.
40Luke and John vindicated Josephus himself uses the same language, e.g. The Jewish War (“And both Jonathan and Ananias, the high priests …”)
41How this fact sheds light on Acts Acts 23:5: “I did not know, brothers, that he was the high priest, …”Ananias had been the high priest, but he had been deposed, and his successor had then been murdered. In the meantime, Ananias took it upon himself to step back into the high priest’s role.—See Josephus, Antiquities ff.
42The pool at Bethesda: John 5:2 In a passing remark, John describes the pool at Bethesda as having five στοας —roofed colonnades, or walkways. “Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda, which has five roofed colonnades.”
43Alfred Loisy on the pool of Bethesda «Les anciens qui croyaient trouver dans la source un symbole du judaïsme, et dans les cinq portiques une allusion aux cinq livres de la Loi, rencontraient sans doute la pensée de l'évangéliste.»—Alfred Firimin Loisy, Le Quatrième Évangelie (Paris: Alphonse Picard et fils, 1903), p. 386.
45The pool of BethesdaArchaeological work at the pool of Bethesda in 1956 revealed that it was located near the Sheep Gate, just as John said, surrounded by four roofed colonnades—and spanned across the middle by a fifth.
46Frank Zindler on Nazareth “[A]t the turn of the era, there was no place called Nazareth, and we do not know when the place now called by that name became so identified Nazareth was as mythical as the Mary, Joseph, and Jesus family that was supposed to have lived there.”—Frank Zindler, “Where Jesus Never Walked,” American Atheist 36 (1996-7), pp
47A Jewish archaeologist on recent excavations in Nazareth “The discovery is of the utmost impor-tance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus. The building that we found is small and modest and it is most likely typical of the dwellings in Nazareth in that period.”— Yardenna Alexandre, excavation director for the Israeli Antiquities Authority, “For the Very First Time: A Residential Building from the Time of Jesus was Exposed in the Heart of Nazareth” (12/21/09)
48Robert M. Price on Synagogues and Pharisees in Capernaum “A major collision between the gospel tradition and archaeology concerns the existence of synagogues and Pharisees in pre-70 C.E. Galilee. Historical logic implies that there would not have been any, since Pharisees fled to Galilee only after the fall of Jerusalem.”—Robert M. Price, The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003), p. 14
49Frank Zindler on the existence of Capernaum “Capernaum, like Nazareth, is unknown outside the gospels before the end of the first century.”—Frank Zindler, “Where Jesus Never Walked”
50Luke 7: 1-5 on CapernaumAfter [Jesus] had finished all his sayings in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. Now a centurion had a servant who was sick and at the point of death, who was highly valued by him. When the centurion heard about Jesus, he sent to him elders of the Jews, asking him to come and heal his servant. And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.”
51Implications of the Gospel statements Luke’s language suggests that the synagogue at Capernaum was a particularly impressive structure that required considerable funds to construct.Other passages in the Gospels (e.g. Mark 1, Matthew 4) make it plain that Capernaum was Jesus’ principal base of operations in Galilee.Have the Gospel authors been caught in a huge mistake?
52Archaeologists on excavations at Capernaum “The first-century Capernaum synagogue in which Jesus preached has probably been found. Because more than one synagogue may have existed in Capernaum at this time, we cannot be sure that this new find was Jesus’ synagogue. But this recently discovered first-century building is certainly a likely candidate The conclusion that this was a first-century A.D. synagogue seems inescapable.”—James F. Strange and Hershel Shanks, “Synagogue Where Jesus Preached Found at Capernaum,” Biblical Archaeology Review 9 (1983).
53Excavations at Capernaum Trench 25 at Capernaum, showing:Limestone walls of the 4th or 5th century synagogue (A),Basalt wall of the 1st century synagogue (B), andCobbled pavement of the 1st century synagogue (C)
54The synagogue at Capernaum The walls of the 1st century synagogue at Capernaum are unusually thick—well over a meter—and its floor plan shows it to have been a building with an interior space of nearly 450 square meters, larger than most 1st century synagogues discovered elsewhere in Galilee.This fits very well with the implication in Luke 7:1-5 that this synagogue was particularly magnificent.
55Luke 2:1-2 on Quirinius and the census A common translation: In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. This first taxation was made when Quirinius was governor of Syria.Two problems:There is no record that Caesar Augustus ever taxed the entire Roman empireQuirinius did not become governor of Syria until about twelve years later
56Looking closely at the Greek of Luke 2:1-2 In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the land (οἰκουμένη) should be registered (ἀπογράφεσθαι). This first registration was set in motion (ἐγένετο) when Quirinius was governor of Syria.Luke uses οἰκουμένη to mean Judea (Acts 11:28)The registration (ἀπογραφή) is not a taxing per seThe verb ἐγένετο indicates that the initial registration was used as a basis for the taxation that was made or set in motion when Quirinius became governor a dozen years later. Luke uses this verb in this fashion to indicate that something subsequently transpires (Acts 11:28)
57Consequences of this reading Luke’s passing mention of the census under Quirinius (Acts 5:37) does not have to be explained away.Luke’s brief reference to the registration corresponds to an allusion in Josephus, Antiquities , to an oath of allegiance to Caesar in Judea near the end of the reign of Herod the Great—which would be taken at the time of a registration.There is no need to pre-date the governorship of Quirinius to 6 BC. All apparent chronological discrepancies disappear.
58The moral of the storyThe New Testament authors get these details right even though they are only incidental to their purpose.These writers are not setting out to write the history of Palestine in the first century. But they are intimately familiar with that history.
59An historian sums it up“It is evident that the entire historical framework, in which the Gospel picture is set, is real; that the facts of the civil history, small and great, are true, and the personages correctly depicted ”
60An historian sums it up“. . . To suppose that there is this minute historical accuracy in all the accessories of the story, and that the story itself is mythic, is absurd.”—George Rawlinson, The Historical Evidences of the Truth of the Scripture Records (New York: John B. Alden, 1884), p. 204.
61Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorship: Strong and consistentEarly use in other works: OverwhelmingIntegration with other sources: Extensive and strongInternal testsOverall consistency among the booksUndesigned coincidences
62Internal Evidence: Overall Consistency The Gospels tell broadly the same storyDifferences in emphasis or selectionChronological vs. thematic organization
63An example of minute consistency Luke 3:1—“In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar … the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.”Tiberius began to reign in the year AD 12, and he became sole emperor upon the death of Augustus in AD 14. Coins indicate that his reign was dated from the earlier year.Calculating from the earlier date, John the Baptist began his ministry in about AD 27.
64An example of minute consistency John 2:20—“The Jews then said, ‘It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?’”Herod the Great began construction of the Temple in about 18 BC.Calculating from this day, Jesus’ first confrontation in the Temple, at the beginning of his public ministry, took place in about AD 28.
65Some alleged inconsistencies Luke has Jesus’ ascension on the same day as the resurrection, unlike the other Gospels.The four Gospels disagree as to which women went to the tomb on the morning of the resurrection.Mark 16:8 says the women “told no one,” contradicting all three of the other Gospels.
66Luke and the ascensionAt the end of his Gospel, Luke gives a selective and telescoped narrative of events without clear chronological indicators. He does not, however, say that Jesus ascended on the day of the resurrection. (And in Acts 1 he goes into great detail on the subject.)Verdict: FALSE—Overreading
67The women at the tombEach Evangelist names one or more women who went to the tomb on Easter morning. All of them indicate that there were multiple women there. None of them claims to give an exhaustive list. Luke (24:10) expressly says that there were others whom he leaves unnamed.Verdict: FALSE—Misreading
68Mark 16:8—Do the women never tell? The best manuscripts of Mark do terminate abruptly at Mark 16:8, but this is almost certainly not the end of the account as Mark originally wrote it: the original ending of Mark is lost.Mark regularly uses “no one … but …” constructionsMark 5:37 (no man ... but),Mark 9:9 (no one … except Jesus alone)Mark 10:18 (no one is good … except God alone)Verdict: FALSE—Misrepresenting the state of the text
69Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorship: Strong and consistentEarly use in other works: OverwhelmingIntegration with other sources: Extensive and strongInternal testsOverall consistency among the books: Very goodUndesigned coincidences
70Undesigned Coincidences Sometimes two works by different authors interlock in a way that would be very unlikely if one of them were copied from the other or both were copied from a common source.For example, one book may mention in passing a detail that answers some question raised by the other. The two records fit together like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle.
71What Such Interlocking Shows Fictions and forgeries aren’t like this.But we would expect to find such undesigned coincidences in authentic records of the same real event told by different people who knew what they were talking about.
72A Simple Example: Matthew 26:67-68 Then they spit in his face and struck him. And some slapped him, saying, “Prophesy to us, you Christ! Who is it that struck you?”
73An Example: Matthew 26:67-68What is the point of this taunt? Why couldn’t Jesus simply see who had struck him?
74The Explanation: Luke 22:63-64 Now the men who were holding Jesus in custody were mocking him as they beat him. They also blindfolded him and kept asking him, “Prophesy! Who is it that struck you?”Luke’s account supplies a detail that Matthew had left out, and that detail explains what is puzzling in Matthew.
75The Cumulative Force of Undesigned Coincidences One undesigned coincidence might be an accident—like having two unrelated pieces of a jigsaw puzzle fit together, just by chance.
76The Cumulative Force of Undesigned Coincidences But if we discover numerous undesigned coincidences crisscrossing the documents, it becomes ridiculous to insist that they are all just accidental.
77Example #2: Matthew 8:14-16And when Jesus entered Peter’s house, he saw his mother-in-law lying sick with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she rose and began to serve him. That evening they brought to him many who were oppressed by demons, and he cast out the spirits with a word and healed all who were sick.
78Example #2: Matthew 8:14-16If the people believed that Jesus could truly heal the sick, why did they wait until evening to come to Him?
79The Explanation: Mark 1:21, 29-32 On the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. ... And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, …That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons.
80The Explanation: Mark 1:21, 29-32 The people waited until sundown because they did not want to violate the Jewish prohibition against work on the Sabbath.Mark supplies the detail that Matthew leaves out.
82Example #3: The Transfiguration (Luke 9:28-35) Jesus’ face is altered and his clothing becomes dazzling white.Moses and Elijah appear in glory and speak with him of his departure.A cloud covers them, and a voice comes out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”
83Example #3: Luke 9:36And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen.
85The Explanation: Mark 9:9 And as they were coming down the mountain, [Jesus] charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
86The Explanation: Mark 9:9 Mark gives us the command but doesn’t say whether they obeyed it; Luke records their obedience but omits the command.
87A Growing Network of Explanations Matthew MarkLuke John
88Interlude: Inventing a Gospel story The challenge: you want to invent—forge—a miracle story about Jesus and pass it off as an authentic account.At the beginning, you’re going to set it up by having Jesus ask one of his disciples a question.
89Interlude: Inventing a gospel story The setup for the miracle story is going to have to do with money and food.Which disciple do you pick?
90Example #4: John 6:5Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?”Why Philip?
91Putting the Pieces Together Luke 9:10-11—On their return the apostles told him all that they had done. And he took them and withdrew apart to a town called Bethsaida. When the crowds learned it, they followed him, …
92Putting the pieces together John 12:21—So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee …
93Luke and John fit together like pieces of a puzzle Luke doesn’t mention Philip in this context at all; John doesn’t mention Bethsaida as the setting of the miracle.Only by putting them together can we understand why Jesus speaks to Philip in John 6:5.
95Example #5: John 21:15When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?”Why does Jesus ask Peter whether he loves him more than the others do?
96The Explanation: Mark 14:29 Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.”Mark records (though John does not) Peter’s boast that he was the most faithful of Jesus’ disciples.
97Example #6: Mark 6:31,39And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
99The Explanation: John 6:4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.
100Each Gospel contains something explained in one or more of the others Matthew MarkLuke John
101Example #7: Luke 23:2-4And they began to accuse him, saying, “We found this man misleading our nation and forbidding us to give tribute to Caesar, and saying that he himself is Christ, a king.” And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no guilt in this man.”
102Example #7: Luke 23:1-4This sequence of events is completely baffling.The Jews make a grave accusation,Pilate questions Jesus on this very point,Jesus admits to the charge, andPilate promptly declares him to be innocent!
103The Explanation: John 18:33-38 Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. ... Pilate … went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. …”
104Two Undesigned Coincidences In John’s account, Pilate’s question to Jesus seems to come out of nowhere.Luke gives the accusation but not the full answer; John gives the full answer but not the accusation.
105Malchus’s earJohn 18:10 tells us that Peter cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant.In John 18:36, Jesus tells Pilate, “… If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews.”Doesn’t cutting off someone’s ear with a sword count as fighting?
106The answer: Luke 22:51But Jesus said, “No more of this!” And he touched his ear and healed him.Peter could not be arrested for assault, nor Jesus contradicted, because there was no physical evidence of the struggle.
107The Ring of TruthThe numerous undesigned coincidences show that the Gospels were written by people who knew what really happened and reported it honestly.
108The Ring of TruthThe separate narratives are independently grounded in the same actual facts. The details of four different Gospels, written by four different authors, interlock with one another and explain one another.
109Assessing historical credibility External testsAttributions of authorship: Strong and consistentEarly use in other works: OverwhelmingIntegration with other sources: Extensive and strongInternal testsOverall consistency among the books: Very goodUndesigned coincidences: Extensive and convincing
110Extra material on attribution of authorship Augustine’s criterion, cont’d.IrenaeusPapiasClement of AlexandriaApology of Aristides (~AD 125)“The Evangelical Holy Scriptures”