There are a few references to Jesus outside of the gospels in Roman and Jewish sources. The Roman historian Tacitus, writing about 115 CE, reports "Christus... was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius" (Annals 15.44). Jospephus, the Jewish historian, gives a brief description of Jesus in his Antiquities of the Jews (to be examined later). The only major literary sources the major literary sources for a reconstruction of Jesus' life, however, are the four canonical gospels.
Papias on the Gospel of Mark “And the elder used to say this, Mark became Peter's interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord. For he had not heard the Lord, nor had followed him, but later on, followed Peter, who used to give teaching as necessity demanded but not making, as it were, an arrangement of the Lord's oracles, so that Mark did nothing wrong in thus writing down single points as he remembered them. For to one thing he gave attention, to leave out nothing of what he had heard and to make no false statements in them.” H.E. 3.39 The Gospel of Mark Origin of the Gospel of Mark The Synoptic Gospels
Papias on the Gospel of Mark Pros tas chreias: “As necessity demanded" or "in the form of chreia“? The Gospel of Mark Origin of the Gospel of Mark The Synoptic Gospels Aelius Theon, the Alexandrian sophist, defines a chreia as "a concise and pointed account of something said or done, attributed to some particular person" (Progymnasmata 3.2-3).
The Gospel of Mark The Synoptic Gospels The existence of three synoptic gospels does not mean three independent sources for a reconstruction of the life and teaching of Jesus. Although not accepted by all scholars, the literary evidence suggests that the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark or something very close to it as a source for their own gospels. This accounts for the similarity of content and order of pericopes in the triple tradition (the content shared by the synoptic gospels).
Matt 12: 9 Departing from there, he went into their synagogue. 10 And behold a man was there who had a withered hand. And they questioned Jesus, asking, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?” – in order that they might accuse him. 11 And he said to them, “What man is there among you who has a sheep, and if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will he not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 “How much more valuable then is a man than a sheep! So that it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand!” Mark 3 1 He entered again into a synagogue; and a man was there who had a withered hand. 2 They were watching him to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath, in order that they might accuse him. 3 He says to the man with the withered hand, “Get up and come forward!” 4 And he says to them, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the Sabbath, to save a life or to kill?” But they kept silent. 5 After looking around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, he says to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” On the assumption of Markan priority, how would you as a historian explain the differences between Mark and Matthew? How might this make a difference to the task of historical reconstruction?
Double Tradition Matthew and Luke have a large amount of material in common (c. 200 verses), the so-called double tradition, absent from Mark; almost all of this is sayings material as opposed to narrative. The divergent amount of verbatim agreement and the lack of a common order suggests that the double tradition did not originate as a single document. There is no credible explanation as to why Matthew and/or Luke would use this document in such an inconsistent manner. The Synoptic Gospels It must be remembered that there is no direct evidence that this hypothetical document ever existed: no manuscript evidence or references to it in other text exists.
Double Tradition The Synoptic Gospels Many of the differences between pericopes of the double tradition probably result from there being more than one written or oral sayings collections with different versions of the same saying and with different, but similar sayings. A less simple explanation than that Matthew and Luke independently made use of a common written source is required.
Luke 15:3-7 3 Then Jesus told them this parable: 4 "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? 5 And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders 6 and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.' 7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety- nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Matthew 18:12-14 12 "What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off? 13 And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he is happier about that one sheep than about the ninety-nine that did not wander off. 14 In the same way your Father in heaven is not willing that any of these little ones should be lost. If one assumes that the double tradition originated in a single document (so-called Q-source) how must one explain the differences between the Matthean and Lukan accounts of the parable of the lost sheep? If there was no such source, how else can one explain the differences between the two?
Since it was concluded that there was no single document ("Q- source”) to which Matthew and Luke both had access, it makes no sense to speak of Lukan and Matthean special sources. The So-Called Special Lukan and Matthean Sources The Synoptic Gospels
Question How do the synoptic gospels relate to one another literarily? How does this affect the historian's use of them in the task of historical reconstruction?
The Gospel Tradition before the Synoptic Gospels Luke 1:1-4: Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, in order that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. The Oral Period
The Gospel Tradition before the Synoptic Gospels 1 Corinthians 15:1-7: “Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” The Oral Period
Papias: “And I shall not hesitate to append to the interpretations all that I ever learned well from the elders and remember well, for of their truth I am confident....But if ever anyone came who had followed the elders, I inquired into the words of the elders, what Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples had said, and what Aristion and the elder John, the Lord's disciples, were saying. For I did not suppose that information from books would help me so much as the word of a living and surviving voice.” (H.E. 3.39.3-4) The Gospel Tradition before the Synoptic Gospels The Oral Period
Irenaeus: “For when I was a boy, I saw you in lower Asia with Polycarp…. So that I am able to describe the very place in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts that he gave of his interactions with John and with the others who had seen the Lord, how he remembered their word, and what were the things concerning the Lord that he had heard from them, concerning his miracles and his teaching, and how Polycarp received them from eyewitnesses of the word of life [1 John 1:1]. He related all things in harmony with the Scriptures. These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And continually, through God's grace, I recall them faithfully” (H.E. 5.20.5-7) The Gospel Tradition before the Synoptic Gospels The Oral Period
Questions How does the fact that the synoptic tradition has its origin as oral tradition affect the use of the synoptic gospels in historical reconstruction?
The Gospel of John The Apostolic Origin of Gospel of John John 21:20 Peter, turning around, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following them; the one who also had leaned back on his breast at the supper and said, "Lord, who is the one who betrays you?" 21 So Peter seeing him said to Jesus, "Lord, and what about this man?" 22 Jesus said to him, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me." 23 Therefore this saying went out among the brethren that that disciple would not die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he would not die, but only, "If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you?" 24 This is the disciple who is testifying to these things and wrote these things, and we know that his testimony is true. Internal, Direct Evidence
“But when God wished to make all that He determined on, He begot this Word, uttered, the first-born of all creation, not Himself being emptied of the Word [Reason], but having begotten Reason, and always conversing with his Reason. And hence the holy writings teach us, and all the spirit-bearing [inspired] men, one of whom, John, says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God," showing that at first God was alone, and the Word in Him.” (Theophilos of Antioch, Autol. 2. 22) “Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.” (Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. 3. 1. 1.) The Gospel of John The Apostolic Origin of Gospel of John External Evidence
Question How should the historian use the Gospel of John in conjunction with the synoptic gospels in reconstruction the life of Jesus?