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The voice of the Master--More evidence

In this post in my on-going John series, I'm going to talk about places where Jesus sounds distinctly "Johannine" in the synoptic Gospels or "synoptic" in the Gospel of John.

To be sure, there are differences of emphasis, but those differences are exaggerated by scholars, to such a point that Craig Evans says that "you have virtually nothing in Matthew, Mark, and Luke that sounds like and looks like Jesus in the Gospel of John" and that, if we took John's portrait to be just as literally historical as that of the synoptics, we would have to wonder "is there just some other Jesus we just didn't know about?" Of course, all of the posts in this series on John contribute to a rebuttal of Evans's statements. See especially here, here, here, here, and here.

Michael Licona has used the alleged great difference between the way Jesus talks in John and the synoptics to support the idea that John "adapted" the "traditions about Jesus" to such an extent as to change "My God, why have you forsaken me?" to "I thirst" on the cross (Why Are There Differences in the Gospels, p. 166), when the latter was not uttered in an historically recognizable fashion at all.

Mere differences of emphasis are, of course, a completely different matter. John and the synoptics may have recorded different statements by Jesus for reasons of theme and saliency to a particular author. Showing crossovers in Jesus' speech at precisely the points where the Gospels have been alleged to be most different is therefore relevant to the historicity of the gospels and, since John comes under such special doubt, to John in particular.

The Johannine Thunderbolt

A well-known pair of verses found in two of the synoptic Gospels (Matthew and Luke) in which Jesus talks like he does in John have become known as the "Johannine thunderbolt" (allegedly coming "out of a clear synoptic sky"). I will quote it from Matthew:

At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Matt. 11:25-27)

The same verses occur in extremely closely similar language in Luke 10:21-22.

There is no doubt that these verses would be very much at home in the Gospel of John. Jesus refers in absolute terms to "the Father" and "the Son" as he does in John. He teaches explicitly that the Father has given him "all things" and that it is not possible to know the Father except through the Son--all themes dear to John's heart.

So well-known is this passage that even in his sweeping generalizations Craig Evans had to pause and acknowledge its existence, while downplaying it. (In his sentence on there being "virtually nothing" in the synoptic Gospels that sounds and looks like Jesus in John, he paused and added, "I think there are a few verses in Matthew 11, which could be exceptional.")

But to brush off the thunderbolt as "a few verses" is to miss an important point: Johannine language and themes are supposed to be the stamp of either one very particular mind or a group of minds (a sort of "Johannine committee") writing much later than the Gospel of Matthew was written--probably around the end of the first century. The hypothetical author(s) of the Gospel of John (that is, those hypothesized by critical scholars) would have been children (at most) at the time when the Gospel of Matthew was written, and there is every reason to believe that whoever authored John had nothing whatsoever to do with the writing of the Gospel of Matthew. So what is such language and what are such explicit themes doing in Matthew at all? Or, if for whatever reason one regards Luke as earlier, in Luke? Or, if one thinks that this overlap material (given that it is shared by Luke and Matthew but not Mark) comes from the hypothetical Q document, what is it doing in Q? How did it even get there, if such a way of thinking about Jesus is the product of a human mind or minds who were not involved in writing any of these documents?

A very simple explanation is that the whole idea of a "Johannine Jesus" is wrong. The real Jesus, let us consider for a moment, really did talk like this about himself and his Father at times. The "Johannine thunderbolt" is a witness to this in the synoptic Gospels, while the author of the Gospel of John picked out and emphasized more of the places where Jesus talks this way than the synoptic Gospels did. Thus the mind behind this language is Jesus' mind, not that of an author or redactor or a person engaging in theological reflection. I suggest that this hypothesis needs to be taken very seriously.

But that's not all.

Bearing witness

Perhaps no word and concept are more important to the author of John than witness. The Greek verb for bearing witness or testifying and the related noun for testimony, in all sorts of forms, appear over and over again in the Gospel of John, both in Jesus' mouth and in the narrator's voice.

In fact, it could in some cases be a matter of normal paraphrase (as distinct from invention falsely being called "paraphrase") if John used one of these words as a synonym in a context where Jesus recognizably said something like this. For example, suppose (just as a thought experiment) that in talking to Pilate Jesus said that he was born into the world "to proclaim the truth" instead of "to bear witness to the truth" (John 18:37) and John paraphrased "proclaim" as "bear witness." That would be a normal, minor paraphrase, and the saying would still be entirely recognizable.

There is no question of the fact that these words and their related concepts come up much more often in the Gospel of John than in the synoptic Gospels, and they are found in I John as well. In fact, in a complete reversal of the usual use of this emphasis in John, Leon Morris argues that this emphasis upon bearing true witness pushes against the idea that John felt free to put words into Jesus' mouth on the basis of his own theological extrapolation:

With this we should take John's stress on witness. He uses the noun [marturia] fourteen times...and the verb [martureó] thirty-three times....Obviously this is another of his characteristic concepts....This emphasis on witness is noteworthy. Witness is a legal term. It points to valid testimony, to that which will carry conviction in a court of law. It is incompatible with hearsay or with a romantic elaboration of a theological kind based on the barest minimum of fact. At the very least, John's habitual use of the category of witness shows that he is quite confident that his facts cannot be controverted....The confident appeal to witness is John's own. (Studies in the Fourth Gospel, pp. 121-122)

It is therefore interesting to find that this same concept and even language does appear in other authors, most notably Luke. In the preface to his Gospel, Luke uses the term autoptai--eyewitnesses--to describe those who have told of Jesus' life from the beginning:


Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus...Luke 1:1-13

The noun form of the word "witnesses" (related to our word "martyr") whose cognates are so prevalent in John is also prevalent in Acts. It is used in the words of Jesus himself when he tells the disciples that the Holy Spirit will empower them to be his witnesses: "you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). Peter says that Jesus rose from the dead, "and of that we all are witnesses" (Acts 2:32). He repeats the same point, using the same word, in Acts 3:15, Acts 5:32, and Acts 10:39. Paul uses the same term to express the same concept concerning the apostles in Acts 13:31.

Backing up to the words, of Jesus, in Luke 24, Jesus uses the same term:

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:45-49

I wrote here about an undesigned coincidence between Luke and John based on a remark by Richard Bauckham. That coincidence concerns this same notion of testimony or bearing witness: Jesus in John tells the disciples, "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning." John 15:26-27. The verb for "bear witness" is martyreite--a cognate of the word for "witnesses" used so frequently in Acts and used by Jesus in a similar context in Luke.

As noted by Richard Bauckham, it seems that the disciples in Acts 1 are applying the words of Jesus when they come to elect a replacement for Judas. And as I noted in the earlier post, this point is especially relevant if those words were uttered at the Last Supper and they are remembering them only a few weeks later, after Jesus' ascension, as they wait for the coming of the Holy Spirit.

The prevalence of this notion of witnesses in the early church is well-explained if it was, in fact, a term used by Jesus for the disciples, as attested both by Luke and by John. To be sure, John reports far more instances where Jesus uses this term. John also reports that Jesus refers to more persons who bear witness: The Father bears witness to Jesus (John 5:31); the Spirit bears witness to him (15:26); Jesus himself testifies of what he knows and has seen (3:11). But once again, this could easily be a matter of thematic emphasis by way of selection, not a matter of a special "Johannine adaptation of the Jesus tradition" whereby John made Jesus say things that he did not say in an historically recognizable fashion.

Jesus was sent by the Father

The theme of Jesus being sent by the Father vies with the theme of testimony and witness for being John's favorite. If we (incorrectly) took John to be indicating the percentage of times that Jesus addressed certain themes, we would come to the conclusion that Jesus scarcely ever opened his mouth without mentioning that he was sent by the Father. But this would be a mistake. We should never take any evangelist to be claiming to give us a representative sample of Jesus' teaching and thematic emphases. It is undeniable that Jesus mentions more often in John that the Father has sent him than he does in the synoptic Gospels (e.g., John 5:23-24, 30, John 6:29, 44, John 20:21, and others), but it does not follow that John portrays "a Jesus" who referred to this fact with a frequency of m/n times when he spoke while the synoptics portray "a Jesus" who referred to it on fewer occasions.

But once again, the theme is by no means absent in the synoptics. In the previous post I already noted three verses in which this theme appears when Jesus makes a three-fold step-wise structure: Whoever receives or rejects the disciples (or a child) receives or rejects Jesus, and whoever does that receives or rejects the one who sent him. These are in Matt. 10:40, Luke 10:16, and Mark 9:37, all in apparently different contexts. In Luke 4:43, Jesus says that he was sent to preach the kingdom of God. In Matthew 15:24 he emphasizes that he was sent to the lost sheep of Israel. And in the parable of the wicked tenants in Matt. 21, Mark 12, and Luke 20, the owner of the vineyard at last sends his son, who is killed by the tenants. Luke 20:13 even uses the phrase "beloved son." And Luke 4:18 shows Jesus quoting the Old Testament and saying that he was sent to preach deliverance to the captives.

The difference, then, is one of frequency and emphasis, not one of a Jesus who speaks and acts so differently in the synoptics that we cannot see that he is the same except in a few exceptional verses in Matthew 11.

"Kingdom of God" vs. "eternal life"

It is often said that John substitutes "eternal life" for "kingdom of God" in his Gospel, so that "eternal life" is considered a type of "Johannine idiom." Here I want to write very precisely. One can easily imagine scenarios in which substituting "eternal life" for "kingdom of God" would be a matter of minor, normal paraphrase rather than a matter of radically "adapting the Jesus tradition" or invention under the guise of "paraphrase" such as is being pressed upon us. This would depend of course upon context, but it is fairly easy to imagine contexts in which, if Jesus said to someone, "You will inherit the kingdom of God" and John rendered this as, "You will inherit eternal life" this would be a recognizable paraphrase, well within the bounds of ordinary substitution of a synonym.

At the same time, we should not hastily conclude that John went through and systematically, self-consciously changed all the instances where he wanted to recount a scene and remembered (or in some other way knew) that Jesus said "kingdom of God" into "eternal life" just because he liked that phrase better or wanted to make some subtle theological point. While even this would not be anything like the kind of distortion that is present in the faux "paraphrases" I have highlighted being advocated by critical scholars, there is some prima facie case that, if Jesus in John often uses the phrase "eternal life," it was a phrase that Jesus used on most or even all of those occasions. And a self-conscious substitution on multiple occasions is a strong psychological thesis. There needs to be some reason to think it to be true, given John's record as a good reporter.

The interesting thing here is that these are not occasions where we can actually compare the same sayings of Jesus in John and the synoptics. Rather, precisely because of John's tendency to record unique material, "eternal life" occurs in this unique Johannine material. This greatly weakens the case for any kind of systematic substitution. That case appears to rest entirely on statistics--the much greater number of appearances of "eternal life" in John vs. "kingdom of God" in Mark and Luke.

The only passages where John uses "eternal life" that critics might even think are recounting an incident found in the synoptics are John 6:68 (Peter's confession that Jesus has "the words of eternal life") and John 12:25 (where Jesus says "whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life...will keep it for eternal life" noted in the previous post). While the context of these verses indicates that they actually recount unique incidents not found in the synoptics, for the argument here it does not matter anyway, since "kingdom of God" (or as it would probably be in Matthew if it occurred, "kingdom of heaven") does not occur anyway in the synoptic passages in a way that is parallel to John's use of "eternal life" (Matt. 16:13-20, 24-28, Mark 8:34-38, Luke 9:23-27).

Contrast here the parallels between, e.g., Matthew 3:2 and Mark 1:15; Luke 6:20 and Matthew 5:3, where an argument can be made that Matthew is recording the same saying as the other Gospel but repeatedly uses "kingdom of heaven" instead of "kingdom of God." This is conjectured to have been done in deference to Jewish sensibilities within his audience. At least in those cases it is actually possible to look at what appear to be parallel phrases in the same incident.

As a brief but important digression, I want to bring up the fact that NT scholars are far too prone to psychologize the evangelists and attribute complex motives to them for deliberate changes. A variation is never allowed to be just a variation. Hence, it isn't that Mark left out Jesus' exception clause "except for fornication" concerning divorce just because he didn't know about it. Rather, Matthew has to have added it in order to extrapolate on what he thinks Jesus really meant and put it into his mouth. Mark doesn't leave out the good thief just because nobody happened to mention him to Mark. Rather, he is conjectured to have suppressed the good thief to emphasize Jesus' forsakenness "by all." Matthew doesn't record "this is my beloved Son" instead of Mark's "You are my beloved Son" simply because he or his human sources remembered the Father's words with slight variation, as in all normal human memory. Rather, Matthew has to have deliberately changed the words (which he got from Mark) in order to make the Father's words "more personal" for the reader. These are just a few of the many real examples of over-complication and unjustified psychologizing that I could cite from (evangelical) NT scholarship. The problem is not that the differences are so great as to fall outside the bounds of normal variation in human testimony, including normal paraphrase. The problem, rather, is that the theories in question are far more deliberate than the evidence warrants, that the notion of burden of proof has been lost, and that the evangelists are unjustifiedly seen as writing far more literary compositions than testimonial compositions. Therefore, before we conclude that John systematically substitutes "eternal life" for "kingdom of God," we should ask why we should think that, and mere statistical frequency isn't sufficient in material that is different anyway.

Richard Bauckham, in whom the tendency to complex theories in NT studies is not entirely absent, believes that John does substitute "eternal life" for "kingdom of God," but only after a certain point in his Gospel. He acknowledges ("The Johannine Jesus and the Synoptic Jesus," p. 6) quite openly that "kingdom of God" appears in John in chapter 3, the conversation with Nicodemus. In vs. 3, Jesus says that unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. In vs. 5, he reiterates the point, again using "kingdom of God."

Perhaps even more interesting, the phrase "eternal life" occurs in the synoptic Gospels themselves, sometimes on the lips of Jesus and sometimes on the lips of other people. (And for what it's worth, the Greek is the same as well: Jesus and others speak of inheriting or receiving zōēn aiōnion in the synoptics as well as in John.) In Mark 10:29-30, Jesus promises that anyone who has left earthly blessings, including family, for his sake will receive in the world to come "eternal life." In Matt. 25:46, the parable of the sheep and the goats, the righteous enter into "eternal life."

The rich young ruler asks Jesus what he must do to inherit "eternal life" (Mark 10:17), and so (perhaps less sincerely) does a lawyer while testing Jesus in Luke 10:25, just before the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Perhaps the best Gospel note of all (this mentioned by Bauckham), in Mark 9:43-47, the phrase "enter into life" is used in verses 43 and 45 in a series of parallels (where Jesus is teaching that it is better to gain eternity with one hand, eye, etc., than to go to hell with both), while in vs. 47 Jesus uses "enter the kingdom of God" with apparently the very same meaning! So "Mark's Jesus" himself uses "life" and "kingdom of God" interchangeably in this passage.

The theory that John substitutes the "Johannine" phrase "eternal life" for the synoptic "kingdom of God" is also contraindicated by the fact that "eternal life" is found in Paul's epistles (Galatians 6:8, Rom. 6:23) long before John was written.

Bauckham concludes that John "can be seen as selecting and developing this aspect of the kingdom of God," which is fine as far as it goes. What he could have said, more robustly, is that the data call into question the entire hypothesis that John did any sort of systematic, self-conscious, or theological substitution of "eternal life" for "kingdom of God" in the words of Jesus that he records. After all, if the phrase "eternal life" or its Aramaic equivalent was used even by people other than Jesus at the time for a desirable end-state, then it was a known idiom and not a specially Johannine one, and John may simply be recording unique occasions on which Jesus used it. Or, if he occasionally substituted it as a synonym in normal paraphrase (which we could not know in the nature of the case when we do not have other accounts of these incidents), he can be presumed to do so un-systematically and without any theological intent. This is all the more plausible if Jesus himself used them interchangeably at times, as indicated in Mark 9.

Children of Light

The theme of light and darkness is certainly important to John (think of the prologue to the Gospel alone), as it also is to the Apostle Paul (2 Corinthians 4:6, I Thess. 5:4-7, etc.). But it has apparently been a critical confusion to think that the phrase "sons of light" (or "children of light") is distinctively Johannine. Leathes notes (p. 317) that it is "thought to be a specially Johannine phrase." The illusion may arise from the fact that light is so important for John and also that "children" as a form of address is thought to be Johannine (see next section), though the Greek terms used by Jesus to address his disciples as "children" are not the same as the term used in the one and only occurrence of "children of light" in any event.

The bottom line for this one is that any claim that it is "Johannine" is just false. "Children of light" (the Greek is actually "sons of light") occurs precisely one time each in the synoptics and in John. In John 12:36, Jesus urges the people to believe in the light before it is too late, that they might be the sons of light. In Luke 16:8, at the culmination of the parable of the unjust steward, Jesus remarks that the children of this world are more shrewd than the sons of light. And that's it. The phrase "children of light" (using the Greek for "children" rather than "sons") appears in Paul's epistles as well (Ephesians 5:8), urging his readers to walk as children of light. And "sons of light" appears in I Thess. 5:5, making a similar point. Such a phrase can thus be said to be at least as Pauline as it is Johannine, if not more so, and there is no particular reason to think that John's single record of Jesus' use of it in 12:36 is a Johannine adaptation.

"Children" in direct address

To address one's followers as "children" is fairly naturally thought of as "Johannine" because it is used in that way many times in I John. On p. 403 of his commentary on John's Gospel, Craig Keener refers to this usage as a "typically Johannine idiom for teacher-disciple affection," though he carefully qualifies that statement elsewhere (p. 921).

John calls the recipients of his epistle "children" or "little children" (using a diminutive form of the noun) in direct address over and over again, and it is one notable feature of the tone of the epistle. (He addresses them as "teknia," little children, in I John 2:12, 2:18, 2:28, 3:7, 3:18, 4:4, 5:21, and as "paidia," children, in I John 2:13, 18.)

In that sense, it is not illegitimate to think of such usages as "Johannine." But it is important not to be confused by the profusion of the usage in I John into thinking that Jesus himself in the Gospel of John uses such a mode of address to his disciples especially often. In fact, he does not. He addresses them as "teknia" (little children) only once, and as "paidia" only once, and that's it.

In John 13:33, Jesus uses "little children" to introduce the statement that he will not be with them much longer, in the lead-in to the new commandment that they love one another. (It may be significant, though I do not want to lean on it too much, that Judas leaves just before Jesus addresses the other disciples with this term.) In John 21:5, after his resurrection, Jesus calls from the shore to the seven fishermen, "Children, do you have any fish?" The question is not without humor, since presumably Jesus knows that they have caught nothing. The term "paidia" there may be approximately equivalent to "boys" or "lads."

These are the only uses of these forms of address in John, and it is entirely possible that John himself picked up the term from Jesus and uses it far more than Jesus himself did, though again we must be careful not to assume that either John's or the synoptics' numbers of use are statistically representative. Jesus might have used such a form of address either more or less than he does in either John or the synoptics.

For he does address his disciples as "children" once in the synoptics (as he does so twice in John--hardly a significant difference in frequency). In Mark 10:24, after the rich young ruler has walked away, Jesus calls his disciples "tekna" when stressing how difficult it is for those who are too attached to their riches to enter the kingdom. Keener mentions that the specific form "teknia" (often translated "little children") appears this way only in Johannine literature in the Bible, but he states that "the diminutive had lost most of its force by this period, hence the difference...is insubstantial" (p. 921, footnote 238). He also notes that Paul addresses his recipients using "tekna" in Galatians 4:19. (Paul, being a bit of a dramatist, continues with a metaphor: "My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you...")

The two instances in which Jesus calls his disciples "children" or "little children" in John, then, do not constitute any significant evidence for the "adaptation of the Jesus tradition" by the author of the Gospel. There is not even a significant difference between the number of such uses in John in the synoptic Gospels, and John's own frequent use of the term in his epistle should not be read back into the Gospel.

The instances of Jesus "sounding like John" and "sounding different than he does in the synoptics" that I have examined here fall into one of two categories: 1) The difference is a purely statistical one of emphasis. Jesus does also use the allegedly "Johannine" theme or language in the synoptics or uses the allegedly "synoptic" terminology in John, but merely with different frequencies. (And in some cases the allegedly "Johannine" phraseology is also found in Paul.) The statistical difference between John and the synoptics can readily be explained by different thematic emphasis in John rather than by an alteration of the portrait of Jesus by John. 2) There is not even a significant statistical difference, and the perception that a phrase or usage is notably distinctive of John's Gospel is an illusion.

All of this may seem all too obvious to those who have never been influenced by critical scholarship. As reader Joe Lightfoot pointed out here, if four different people followed one of us around for three years, each one might record such different sayings--real, historical things we actually said--that an historian centuries later would say that one portrait or other must have been a highly "interpretive" and "dramatic" (aka partially fictionalized) adaptation of the facts. But real people are multi-faceted, and all the more so the Son of God. And real, honest recorders focus on different themes and usages.

Unfortunately the full relevance of this point is not as obvious as it should be to scholars when it comes to the Gospels, and the pathologies of critical scholarship are beginning to have an effect upon practical apologetics work. Just one effect of the hesitance about John is the unwillingness to use Jesus' words in John to support his deity. "Let's do it from Mark instead," we are told, "since scholars question John so much." In this way we tie one hand, and more than one hand, behind our backs. The question mark hanging over John affects debates as well, since Bart Ehrman is very fond of challenging John. Will anyone stand up to him and rebut him directly, rather than conceding that John is a "horse of another color altogether"?

We would be immeasurably impoverished if we did not have the Gospel of John, and we need to admit openly that to put John into a more "interpreted" and less historical category than the synoptic Gospels is in itself to take away the Gospel for many important purposes. Why would we do that lightly? Instead of deferring to scholarship, let us examine the alleged scholarly basis for the question mark over John. And when we see that that basis is unsound, let us erase the question mark.

Comments (9)

Another impressive post. I particularly found the suggestion that John might have merely adopted with more frequency the practice of addressing his listeners as "children" from Jesus than put the expression in Christ's mouth by way of design illustrative of the naturalness of your arguments so far. I've noticed myself picking up ways of speaking or expressions from authors I find informative or useful. (And who would be a better speaker to imitate that Christ, particularly if your the belived disciple doing the imitating?)

And your comments on Jesus being sent by the Father illustrate the gap between "having different emphasises" and "altering the Jesus tradition beyond what is recognizably historical". Particularly if, as you say, we shouldn't assume that the Gospels give us a representative sample of the way Jesus talked and the time he spent on every subject. I think this last point is obvious, or at least suggested by the that that half of the Gospels, or about half, cover the last week or so of his live and much on the last day or so. This suggests much of the first half is a sample, and not obviously a sample that have equal representation to all he said.

And, why do you think there a tendency to not chalk up quasi-parallels to Christ saying the same thing on a different occasion but to taking it as an evangelist removing it from its original context by way of some literary device? I'm not saying things are exactly the same today as they were then, but it is not uncommon to see an author use the same words or expressions or images at various times. For instance, I can't count how many times Feser has talked about melting rubber balls in his books or posts to illustrate some point of his. Must have got them all at the dollar store, I suppose.

And, why do you think there a tendency to not chalk up quasi-parallels to Christ saying the same thing on a different occasion but to taking it as an evangelist removing it from its original context by way of some literary device?

Good question. What's interesting is that you will see these acknowledgements that Jesus might have said the same thing on more than one occasion, followed by giving quite high probability to the "moving" of an event or saying! It seems often like the acknowledgement is merely pro forma and has no real effect, epistemologically, on the evaluation of hypotheses. Well, yes, Jesus *might* have said the same thing on more than one occasion, but I'm not going to conclude that he actually did so! I think in someone like Licona this takes the form most often of simply laying out a kind of smorgasbord of options where the wildest ideas appear to be given equal probability with sensible ideas. To give an example not related to a saying, but that is a good illustration: When one gospel records that Jesus healed two demoniacs and another gospel, apparently recording the same incident, mentions only one demoniac, Licona lays out the options 1) that there were two but one gospel just focuses on mentioning one of them (sensible), 2) that the gospel mentioning two "doubled up" the demoniacs to illustrate many demons (!!), and 3) that the gospel mentioning two "doubled up" the demoniacs to make up for not having related a completely different story that he could have related about Jesus healing a demoniac (!!!). These are all laid out as a kind of "take your pick" menu, which just doesn't make sense, epistemically. So he'll do that as well with doubling sayings: Well, maybe Jesus said this on more than one occasion or maybe so-and-so moved the event.

I think part of it is a very, very confused notion of Occam's razor. What the scholars don't see is that it's actually *simpler* to hypothesize that something very generally similar happened on more than one occasion than to hypothesize these highly complex mental states for the gospel authors that are otherwise not commonly met in human experience. They think they are simplifying by hypothesizing that there was only one instance where a certain kind of miracle took place or Jesus said something of a particular kind. There is a failure to realize *just how common* it is for people to repeat themselves and so forth.

Also, frankly, I think there is a huge amount of social pressure among such scholars in that direction, by way of making fun of saying that something was duplicated.

I had a lengthy e-mail exchange with a NT scholar some months ago. In the course of it I indicated (as our correspondence ranged over various things he was asking me about and I was asking him about) that I thought that a) Jesus cleansed the Temple twice, b) Jesus was "rejected" at Nazareth twice (the one time they tried to throw him off a hill; the other time they didn't), and c) the healing of the centurion's servant was different from the healing of the royal official's son. On this last point he actually agreed with me! But despite that, his manner indicated pretty clearly that he didn't think much of my knowledge given that I thought all these three things were multiple incidents. He sniffed at a certain point, "We haven't even gotten to Peter's denials yet."

What was the implication? The implication was that I, being a naive and unlearned person, would have an enormous problem with harmonizing Peter's denials because I (allegedly) had an "always duplicate" principle and hence would be forced to hypothesize that Peter denied Jesus six times. But I had never articulated any such principle, and in fact don't hold it. In point of fact, I happen to know from other evidence that this scholar and I would probably *agree* in the approach we would take to harmonizing the accounts of Peter's denials. But the fact that I considered there to be two events in these other incidents (in one of which he actually agreed with me) made him *classify* me as someone who naively duplicates in the attempt to harmonize.

He also said at one point, "How often are you gonna do this?" Implication: There is some kind of penalty for saying that two accounts indicate two incidents, and you can't do it "too often." This is a confused notion of ad hocness, as though this was part of some Grand Unified Theory and as though I was saddling myself with more and more epicycles.

Of course, the proper answers were, "As often as the evidence warrants it" and "How often are you going to try to conflate two incidents into one?"

So if they are out there talking this way to each other about harmonization that involves thinking two accounts recount more than one incident, that creates a lot of social pressure.

Of course, in the case of John, specifically, I would often consider that saying John moved something or "radically reworked" something is just a part of the overall prejudice against John. And again, I think there is a lot of intramural pressure here.

I read an article by David Wenham (son of John Wenham) on John that was quite good *right up until the last few paragraphs*. The article for the most part sounded a lot like Leathes, though I think Leathes's examples are even better. He was noting similarities conceptually between Jesus in John and the synoptics. But suddenly at the very end he throws in there, as if it's equally probable, the hypothesis that these conceptual parallels in prima facie completely different settings and even with different partial content were John's "paraphrase" (there's that word again) of the historical saying, taken to be (you guessed it) the one in the synoptics! Two examples were 1) the parable of the lost sheep in Luke and the Good Shepherd sayings/short discourse in John and 2) the saying in the synoptics that the gate is narrow that leads to life and Jesus' saying to the disciples, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."

These aren't even all that close as far as parallels are concerned. I won't spell out all of the content differences, but they are pretty obvious, not to mention the setting differences. "I am the way" is tied up with a dialogue with the disciples. *Why* would Wenham suggest, as if it were equally probable, that John *invented* (because frankly that's what it comes to) these different settings and this non-overlapping content? Rather than just taking it that Jesus said some very broadly similar things on different occasions?

Someone made a very interesting suggestion to me: He suggested that a reviewer of the paper for the journal requested that this theory be put into the paper. That would explain its sudden appearance at the end and the way that it doesn't seem to fit with the rest of the article. Having long experience publishing in philosophy and knowing that reviewers do make such requests, I found this plausible. We can't know for sure, of course. The suggestion may have come from some other source or just from the "milieu" of NT studies in which one is made to feel that one must always tip the hat to the possibility of radical re-working by John.

In his debate with John Dominic Crossan, James White uses a analogy that the gospels are kinda like quadraphonic stereo. That they augment one another and complement one another. I realize the limitations of some analogies, but what do you think of that analogy Lydia?

Well, I shd. just admit up front that, though I'm a musician, I'm ignorant about quadraphonic stereo, and I don't want to pretend otherwise.

But if one of your speakers is playing the bass (for example) one could argue that it isn't playing the music at all. The musical composition involves the melody as well. Whereas each Gospel really is giving scenes from Jesus' life in which Jesus speaks, so it's more like each one playing a certain number of pieces by the same composer, when the composer wrote many different kinds of pieces.

On the other hand, if all four speakers really are playing all the registers, then they are perhaps not different enough to be like the Gospels.

So I'd have to know more about quadraphonic stereo, but my initial inclination is to think that there might be better analogies. But that's not to say it's a terrible analogy, either.

Well, I don't know if the analogy is worth pursuing all that much, but I would suggest that it is more like polyphony: music in 4 parts (or more), where each part has its own full melody that is good on its own, but the composer makes the separate but related melodies gel together so that in some places they work as counterpoint, in some places as harmony, etc, so that all four together make a whole composition that is much more than any one of them independently. Each one of the gospels is a work in its own right, and can be read apart from the others. But God intended that they stand together as more. (As Lydia points out, the output of any one speaker in quadraphonic sound may or may not actually be music properly speaking.)

Given the number of different sorts of bad kinds of arguments used (which Lydia has revealed to our eyes so well), and the wide variety of places in which they are used over and over by modernist NT scholars, one might be tempted to delve into the root causes of these various pathologies. I am not sure such an investigation would be "rewarding", as one usually would use that term, but it would probably be helpful. Even more helpful, most likely, would be taking some of the more iconic such treatments, putting it through a filter in which we throw out all of the instances of false use of "paraphrase", and erroneous use of "chreia" and unjustified argument from silence, etc, and see how much of the work is left after all that. If anything, that is. But I sure am not going to do the work. I wouldn't have the patience, even if I had sufficient technical knowledge.

and see how much of the work is left after all that. If anything, that is

Based on my research, I'd say what's left are some apparent discrepancies we don't know for sure how to resolve (usually on minor points), some places where we don't know precisely what order things happened in, some places where it looks like author A didn't know a particular fact and honestly wrote in a way that would naturally be taken to indicate the contrary, but without saying so explicitly (you can decide whether and when to include these in the apparent discrepancies), and some places where it looks like witnesses remembered and (normally) paraphrased words somewhat differently. And that's about it.

Lydia, that was my impression also, but only based on extremely incomplete exposure to their work: minor apparent discrepancies, and differently and maybe paraphrased "quotes" (which, at least in some cases, is explainable as Jesus speaking slightly differently on different occasions, using almost the same words).

I sometimes feel that in a century or two, the pathologies must be recognized as such, but being realistic I know that is not the case: there are still, after 250 years, people who think Hume and Kant were good philosophers, and after 1400 years, people who think Muhammad was a real prophet. Error, even blatant error, can last a long, long time. And when people tire of one, another error can pop up to take its place, of course. Like scientism.

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