We have explored some of the historical facts concerning Jesus . The last blog dealt only perhaps on the surface the mechanics behind an oral society. How events were retold, and how the accuracy of the event was safeguarded against exploitation or embellishment of facts. So let us take a refresher course.
In an oral society there are three ways to retell an event;
- Informal uncontrolled, which means anyone could tell the event with no controls as to the accuracy of the story.
- Formal control, this meant that only the Rabbinical priest could retell the story.
- Informal control, this meant during the first century of Christ the apostles or disciples would retell the story. This is where you see the different versions of events in the gospels between Matthew, Mark or Luke. However if you were retelling an event. You had respected folks in the community that would correct you on your story. Perhaps they were an eyewitness to something or that was not the way they were taught. So you have differences in the story but it does not take away the core of the story. The differences boiled down to the use of grammar that is individualized to each of us . The way we use words.
We are talking here about the synoptic gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. If you got down to it no one is sure who wrote these three books. The current thinking is that the names were not assigned until these manuscripts were put into a codex that the Church created some 60 yrs after the events of Christ. So how do we resolve the issue of authorship of the synoptic gospels?
Mark was written sometime around 50 AD to 60 AD. Matthew and Mark were written around 80 AD to 90 Ad. Luke was written around 80 AD to 110 Ad. So we see all these gospels were written about 60 yrs after the events happen. This seems like a long time but in an oral society this would not be the case. You have a gap between the oral traditions and the written manuscript.
If you look at the exploits of Alexander the Great about 325 BC his autobiography was not written down till the latter part of the first century. This was 400 yrs after the events happened. So time in itself becomes irrelevant. So in looking at the synoptic gospels these were written by people who knew Christ or walk with him or with the disciples as in the case of Luke. So the authorship can be ascribe to the individuals. The Church would not have just picked any name and assigned it. This would fall out of the concept of formal control.
We know that Matthew was a tax collector hated by the Jews because he collected taxes and gave it to the Romans. We know that Mark was writing the memories of Peter and Luke was a gentile that walked with Paul. It must be noted that gentiles were consider heathens by the Jews at the time. To convert a gentile to Christ had to been an achievement in itself. I know this to be true just by looking at my own life and how I came to Christ.
Matthew was a hated tax collector. Why would the church put his name to the gospel? We know Mark was writing about the events of Peter. Why not call it the book of Peter. We know Luke was not an eyewitness to Christ or to the events of Christ. Why not assign the authorship to someone else?
The early 1st century church had strict criteria for the inclusion and authentication of authorship for the three gospels. The only gospel that was known for sure of the author was the book of John. However this does not take away from the authenticity of the other three gospels. The Rabbinical Rabbis had strict controls on the telling of events and this was passed on to the early church. Even though something can not be proved true this does not mean that it is not true.
Like a court of law a person can be convicted on circumstantial evidence. The evidence in this case points to Matthew, Mark and Luke as the authors of their manuscripts. There has been no other evidence over 2000 years to suggest otherwise. A parallel to record keeping is the Mormon Church and their archives of over 2.4 million genealogical records of people’s ancestry. To argue that such orality controls were not present 2000 yrs ago would I think stretch the imagination. The early church did not have all the distractions that we have in today’s society. They dealt with death and sin ever day so truth would have been a light in a dark world.
Remember to read your Bible and immerse yourself in truth accept Christs hand and put on the clothes of righteousness.