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The Gospels are evidence of Jesus

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Theist claim:

Freethinking response:

Deep investigation into the gospels casts doubt about their reliability and authenticity as evidence for Jesus. Here is the problem, we have no idea who wrote the gospels, but we can learn about their character by examining the text. The gospels were written by Greek-speaking, educated, rhetorically-trained writers who were skilled in Greek composition (but never call themselves disciples), not by uneducated, illiterate, lower-class, Aramaic-speaking, disciple peasants who never went to school or possessed knowledge of literature. How did the story reach these authors? Not by the disciples, but from someone who heard the story, who heard about the story. They were telling stories to convert people; they improved and changed the story sometimes. By the time the story reached these authors, the story had already been set in motion through oral traditions for several decades, which casts serious doubt on the validity of their claims.

The common belief today is the gospels provide sufficient evidence for Jesus, since they are supposed to be written by eye-witnesses throughout his journeys. The problem with this is that none of the gospel writers met Jesus. They were written many decades after Jesus supposedly died: the earliest gospel (Mark) was probably written forty to forty-five years after Jesus died. None of the gospel's authors claim to be eye-witnesses and each gospel is written in the third-person. We have no idea who wrote the gospels or where they were written; we do not know who got to read them prior to the 2nd century or investigated their claims in any useful way, but it is clear none of them met Jesus. To further support that the gospel writers were not eye-witnesses is the large discrepancies amongst them. Many of the gospels cannot agree what Jesus did or said, with Mark in particular knowing little to nothing about them.

That is what we do not know, but here is what we do know, many parts of the gospels were added after their first version, such as the end of Mark 16, and the story of Jesus saying "let he without sin cast the first stone." There is a whole list of pieces that were later added in, and many of the books in the NT written by forgers [1] (all this done by early Christians). Since the gospels have been deliberately meddled with, mistranslated many times, and changed over the decades of oral traditions, there is no sound basis for trusting them as reliable historical documents.

Mark, the earliest gospel, displays a lack of understanding of the geography of the area, indicating he was not a local. There is also evidence that his intention was to write as a fiction[2]. The authors Matthew and Luke got most of their info from Mark, often copying Mark verbatim. The gospels themselves are admittedly propagandist: “And many other signs truly did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have through his name.” (John 20:30-31) This hardly sounds like the work of objective historical reporting.

Footnotes

  1. . [1], Forgery in Christianity by Joseph Wheless

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