Saturday, May 12, 2012



Jeremiah 8:8 state 'because of the false scribes that have used their false pen to write this book has made this book false'.
People often assume that the four Gospels were written at time of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and are entirely based on his words. Yet this is not true. In fact, Biblical scholars estimate that the Gospel of Mark was written around 70, the gospel of Matthew around 80, the Gospel of Luke around 90 , and the gospel of John around 90-100. The other books of the New testament were written around the same time.
Moreover, the canonical Gospel as we know it today consists of writings that were selected from hundreds of selected texts and was established only at the Council of Nicaea.
The basic Christian tests to which we refer for information about the life of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) are the four gospels, the first four books in the new testament.
These books of the NT began to be written down around 30 to 35 years after the ascension of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) into the sight of God.
As can be seen from historical sources and the accounts in the NT, the first Christians began telling people about Prophet Jesus’ words and deeds in an oral form after his elevation to God’s presence. According to researchers, it is very likely that under the conditions in which they found themselves, the early Christians attached new meanings to the words of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and changed. Some information when they debated with the Jewish religious figures or the romans who rejected Prophet Jesus (pbuh).
According to this view, the early Christians wished to keep the belief in the messiah alive, strengthen belief in Prophet Jesus (pbuh), bring about a rapid spread of Christianity, and eliminate the despair caused by persecution.
Thus, they sought to create a new source of enthusiasm and excitement by interpreting Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) words and deeds.
They could have done this just by transmitting God’s words and the wise message of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to people.
But that is not how it happened, and God’s revelation was subsequently altered and Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) words were misinterpreted and diverted from their true essence.
During this time, some Christians may have mistakenly raised their respect for him to such a high level that they began to consider him to be divine. (Surely God is beyond that!) This view is generally shared by modern-day western researchers.
(From a Jewish Prophet to a Gentile God: The Process of the Deification of Jesus).
After a while, the apostles began dying off and , in order to prevent the disappearance of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) message, some Christians may have set about forming the texts of the NT by collecting and then combining his words and deeds according to their own understanding (E.P.Sanders, The Historical figure of Jesus (England: Penguin Books, 58-59))
Rudolf Bultmann, one of the foremost twentieth-century experts on the NT offers various interpretations about the writings of the gospels.
He says that the synoptic gospels (those of Mathew, mark and Luke) were formed in order to set out consecutive tales regarding the life of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) by the authors of the Gospels bringing together and adding unordered anecdotes. According to Bultmann, these words, constantly repeated in different societies by the individuals who comprised those societies assumed different forms from one society to another and even within one society and the words and deeds of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) assumed various forms from being used by people for different purposes.
In the early period, for instance, they were sometimes used for preaching purposes, to give people advice, and to establish the moral principles by which the members of a community had to abide Bultmann thus reveals that as a consequence of this oral tradition, the words and deeds of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) were partially altered by the early Christians. Furthermore, he suggests that the gospels contain words that were actually produced by early Christians and then ascribed to Prophet Jesus (pbuh). (The Historical Jesus from the Messiah of Faith to the Jesus of History) 47-48, Rudolf Bultman, History of the Synoptic tradition, 127)
He does not think that Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) referred to himself as the son of God. In his view, that title was developed after Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) under the influence of paganism’s motifs of divine figures portrayed as the sons of the gods, divine offspring worshipped in secret religions and savior figures in Gnostic mythology, and was then erroneously ascribed to the prophet. (Surely God is beyond that!) (Ibid,51; Rudolf Bultman, Theology of the NT, 1:51)
For that reason, the great majority of western researchers today believe that the gospels are not individual texts comprising the accurate collection of the words of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh); rather, they are texts consisting of the collection, after Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) ascension, of his words and deeds under the conditions prevailing after his time.

The Gospel’s authors
Although they are today known by the name of the authors Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the gospels were actually penned anonymously. It is not known whether the individuals behind these names actually wrote the Gospels or not. The Gospels only began to be known by their present names in the second half of the second century. Mathew and John are accepted as true disciples of Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh). Mark as a follower of Paul, and Luke as one of Paul’s students. In other words, the authors actually existed, but there is no evidence that the Gospels are really their work. (E.P.Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, 63)
In his The Historical Figure of Jessu, E.P. Sanders, a noted Biblical researcher, describes the writing of the Gospels in these terms:
Present evidence indicates that the gospels remained untitled until the second half of the second century… The gospels as we have them were quoted in the first half of the second century, but always anonymously. Names suddenly appear about the year 180. By then there were a lot of gospels not just our four, and the Christians had to decide which ones were authoritative. This was a major issue, on which there were very substantial differences of opinion. We know who won; those Christians who thought that four gospels, no more and no fewer, were the authoritative record of Jesus. (Ibid,. 64 (Emphasis added)
In another article, he describes the process of the naming of the anonymously penned gospels:
In the first half of the second century there were a lot of gospels, and the Christians had to decide which ones were authoritative So they named them, and thus the four gospels considered today by the church as authoritative were named Mark, Mathew, Luke and John (Ibid .,64)
Paula Fredriksen, author of From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the NT, images of Jesus, summarizes the position thus:
Eventually, some of Jesus’ sayings, now in Greek, were collected and written down in a document, now lost, which scholars designate Q (from the german Quelle, “Source”).
Meanwhile, other oral tradition- miracle stories, parables, legends, and so on –grew, circulated, and were collected in different forms by various Christian communities.
In the period around… 70 C.E., an anonymous Gentile Christian wrote some of these down into something resembling a historical narrative. The result was the Gospel of Mark. (Paula Fredriksen, From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the NT, images of Jesus, 2d ed. (Yale University Press: year?),3)
She also notes the language used in the gospels:
Jesus spoke Aramaic, his original early first-century audience was, for the most part, jewish, Palestinian, and rural. The evangelists’ language was greek…
Traditions from and about Jesus spanning this temporal, cultural, and linguisitic circulated orally’ and the reliability of oral traditions, in the absence of independent or convergent lines of evidence, is nearly impossible to assess. Further, as psychological and abthropological studies of oral materials show, even reports going back to eyewitnesses are far from historically secure. Interpretation or distortion between an event and the report of an event occurs almost inevitably, first of all because the observer is human.
If the report is communicated through different people over a period of time before it achieves written form, revision can occur at every human link in the chain of transmission. In brief, though the oral transmission of traditions about Jesus allows us to assume some relation between what the gospels report and what might actually have happened, it also requires that we acknowledge an inevitable – often incalculable –degree of distortion in those tradition as well. (Marcus J. Borg, The Historical study of Jesus and Christian Origins, s.144. John Dominic Crossan,
The Birth of Christianity, Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus, HarperSan Fransisco, 1998,s.140)
In his important work The Birth of Christianity, Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus, another Biblical scholar, John dominic Crossan, quotes Marcus J. Borg and barry Henaut about the authors of the Gospels: How are the Gospels to be used as sources for constructing an image of the historical Jesus?... The Gospels are literally the voices of their authors.
Behind them are the anonymous voices of the community talking about Jesus. And embedded within their voices is the voice of Jesus, as well as the deeds of Jesus. Constructing an image of Jesus--- Which is what the quest for the historical Jesus is about--- involves two crucial steps.
The first step is discerning what is likely to go back to Jesus. The second step is setting this material in the historical context of the first-century Jewish homeland. (Marcus J. Borg, The historical study of Jesus and Christian Origins, 144; John Dominic Crossan,
The Birth of Christianity: Discovering what happened in the years immediately after the execution of Jesus (HarperSanFransisco:1998),140 (emphasis added).)
The oral phase of the Jesus tradition is now forever lost. The spoken word is transitory by nature and exists for but a moment. It lives on only in the memory of the audience and its recovery is entirely dependent upon the accuracy of that memory to bring it back into being…
Even the written tradition continues to be edited and improved. This warns us agains assuming that the Gospels offer a directly transcribed orality: the tradition may have been thoroughly textualized and altered in the transmission process, a process that did not end with the synoptic evangelists!
(Barry W. Henaut, Oral Tradition and the gospels, 295,296-97,299, and 304; Crossan, The birth of Christianity,403)
Neither the authors of the gospels nor those of the New Testament’s other books were actual eye witnesses to the events they describe.
They were people who made texts out of the oral and written traditions transmitted from generation to generation for a few decades after Prophet Jesus’ (pbuh) ascension. For that reason, various experts who have researched the texts over the centuries have stressed that various factors played a role in the texts of the Gospels assuming their present forms. In one article, this influence is described as follows: The original first-hand memories of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) were preserved by various means, edited, developed, elevated, and partially destroyed
1)    by the early Christians’ efforts to gain a universal religious identity for their own religion by elevating its leaders;
2)    by allowing the pagan deity motifs of the time to enter their texts;
3)    by the first Church established by Gentile (Non-Jewish) Christians opposing the Judaism from which it had broken away;
4)    by the debates that led to serious disputes within the Christian community itself; and
5)    by portraying the promises of events given by the OT prophets as being fulfilled in the life of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), thereby claiming that he was the final component of OT prophethood… In addition, since the Gospels were written by the early Chruch that was struggling to survive jewish pressure and Roman persecution, and because of the prevailing circumstances, they are not an account of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and his life, but the early Church’s interpretation of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) words and deeds in connection with its struggle against its opponents.
6)    Based on that fact, it can be seen that the Gospels do not provide enough information to write the biography of Prophet Jesus (pbuh)
Therefore, in examining his position and status in the interpretation of the four gospels, we have to take into account the lives of the first Christian communities, the beliefs, ideas, opinions, preconceptions, and debates of which are reflected both in the gospels and the other books of the NT
Again in examining his position, we must not forget that the gospels, our essential source, were written 40-60 years after Prophet Jesus (pbuh) ascension, in a rather different climate to that of the original events that took place in his life. Moreover, they were not written in Aramaic, his mother tongue, but in Greek…
In short, the gospels are books collected not by the Disciples who personally witnessed the words and deeds of Prophet Jesus (pbuh), but by people who became Christians at a later date, in a manner appropriate to the new circumstances that gradually emerged.
In other words, the gospels are not first-hand accounts of Prophet Jesus (pbuh) words and deeds, but are based on second-and third-hand accounts. (Mahmut Aydin, Yahudi Bir Peygamberden, no.4,51)
These historical facts are extremely important. Independent researchers who have compared the gospels texts stress that the four gospels are very different form one another.
The differences among the four gospels:
The generally accepted view is that  the four gospels were written between 65-100. (Some researchers propose later dates, such as 75-115. (Hugh Schonfield,
The Passover Plot: A new interpretation of the life and death of Jesus (London: Element Books Ltd., 1996),259.)
This means that the earliest Gospel was written some 30 years after Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was raised to God’s presence.
Researchers also believe that the texts do not fully reflect his life and message, but rather concentrate on the authors’ imagination of how he was.
The Gospels of Mathew, mark and Luke largely parallel each other, and thus are known as the synoptic Gospels. Synoptic means from the same eye, and thus expresses their common perpective. Of these, the earliest one is Mark, despite its being in second place in the NT.
It is accepted that Mathew and Luke wrote their gospels based upon Mark’s as a source, making a few additions. The Gospel of John, is very different from the Synoptic Gospels. Furthermore, one incident described in John may be described very differently in the other Gospels.
The Synoptic Gospels also contradict one another from time to time.
NT scholars note that the four gospels concentrate on rather different subjects, that the texts were written in different styles, that they contain historical inconsistencies, and emphasize that every passage cannot be considered a direct quotations from Prophet Jesus (pbuh).
The tradition may have been thoroughly textualized and altered in the transmission process, a process that did not end with the synoptic evangelists! which is why Bible is still in work in progress!

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