Has anyone read the book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”? I would appreciate thoughts, as I am considering purchasing a book which supports the historicity of the Gospels.
I’ll put in a good word about the author Richard Bauckham: he’s a good representative of the ‘conservative’ side of modern historical Jesus/NT studies/Christian origins scholarship. All you hear about in the media are the likes of John Dominic Crossan, the Jesus Seminar or Bart Ehrman, but people like Bauckham could do with a little more publicity IMHO.
Here’s a review of the book by Ben Witherington (another ‘conservative’ NT scholar):
Bauckham believes very much in the importance of eyewitness testimony, including that of Papias, which suggests that there was a close connection between various of the canonical Gospels and eyewitnesses to the ministry of Jesus, with Mark connected to Peter, and John connected to at least John the Elder (otherwise known as John of Patmos, the author of Revelation but not of the other Johannine documents), whom Papias himself met and discoursed with.
Part of Bauckham’s intention is to show that the old form-critical ways of looking at Gospel traditions were wrong. According to classic form criticism (the basis of the work of the Jesus Seminar), early Christian traditions circulated anonymously in communities that were viewed as if they were faceless collectives (for example, the “Q community”). Bauckham thinks this theory is deeply flawed and suggests instead that there were personal links from the Jesus tradition to known and named tradents (carriers of tradition) throughout the period of transmission right down to when these traditions were included in the Gospels. Bauckham is quite right to insist that analogies with modern folklore to explain how ancient Gospel traditions were handled are simply wrong and anachronistic. The period between the time of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels is relatively short (between 30 and 60-some years, depending on the Gospel), and during that entire time there were still eyewitnesses who could act as checks and balances to the formation of the early Christian tradition. The “period between the ?historical’ Jesus and the Gospels was actually spanned, not by anonymous community transmission, but by the continuing presence and testimony of eyewitnesses, who remained the authoritative sources of their traditions until their deaths,” Bauckham writes.
thanks, that was a good review. I have not heard of Papias before.
I’ve read it. It is excellent. Well written, engaging and superbly researched. He does present some innovative ideas such as on the authorship of John’s Gospel and the identity of the ‘beloved’ disciple. Even if you don’t agree on those points you will have admit he presents a solid case.
Another good one is Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace.