How Do You Know?


#1

I read a book recently that theorized that the gospels weren’t written until the mid to late 2nd century. If so, that would mean that the attribution to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John was false. How do we know that these books were actually written by their attributed authors?


#2

it’s all explained by how historians use the situation and writing styles. also, the fathers of the church attest to many of them, or learned from their predecessors. the history goes back chronologically to the first century. no mystery, really. it’s not as if they make a claim for an exact year or decade.

and why would you believe a book that theorized?


#3

At the website below you have What Does The Church Really Say About The Bible, by Edith Myers, The Wanderer Press, 1979
catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=3752

“…the Pontifical Biblical Commission was formally established by Pope Leo XIII in 1902, and in 1907, in Praestantia Sacrae Scripturae, Pope Pius X declared its decisions to be binding.”

“8) **On the Author, Date of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospel According to St. Matthew, 1911. **
Matthew, the Commission said, is in truth the author of the Gospel published under his name. The Gospel was originally written in Hebrew, sometime before the destruction of Jerusalem. We cannot accept the idea that the book was merely a collection of sayings compiled by an anonymous author. While the book was first written in Hebrew, the Greek is regarded as canonical, and is to be regarded as historically true, including the infancy narratives, and passages relating to the primacy of Peter (16:17-19) and to the Apostles’ profession of faith in the divinity of Christ (14:33).

“9) On the Author, Time of Composition, and Historical Truth of the Gospels According to St. Mark and St. Luke, 1912.
The Commission upheld the authorship of these books by Mark and Luke, their historicity, and their having been written before the destruction of Jerusalem. It cannot prudently be called into question, the Commission said, that Mark wrote according to the preaching of Peter, or that Luke followed the preaching of Paul. Both of them told what they had learned from “eminently trustworthy witnesses.”

In fact, the PBC in the 1964 Instruction warned that “There are others who have as their starting-point a wrong notion of faith, taking it that faith is indifferent to historical truth, and is indeed incompatible with it. Others practically deny a priori the historical value and character of the documents of revelation. Others finally there are who on the one hand underestimate the authority which the Apostles had as witnesses of Christ, and the office and influence which they wielded in the primitive community, whilst on the other hand they overestimate the creative capacity of the community itself. All these aberrations are not only opposed to Catholic doctrine, but are also devoid of any scientific foundation, and are foreign to the genuine principles of the historical method.”

Eusebius in Ecclesiastical History, gives evidence that it was known in his day that Matthew wrote his Gospel in Hebrew. Eusebius himself had quoted other writers, Papias (Book III, Chapter 39, page 127), Irenæus (Book V, Chapter 8, page 187), Origen (Book VI, Chapter 25, page 245), and Eusebius himself (Book III, Chapter 24, page 108).
ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/NEWBOOK.TXT

Even Adolf von Harnack, a rationalist historian of high repute among Rationalist and Protestants, wrote that the Synoptic Gospels were written before 70 A.D. – before the fall of Jerusalem, and accepted the tradition that St Luke derived his information on the infancy of Jesus from Mary His Mother. Theologische Quartalsch, Tubingen 1929, IV, p 443-4].
[See Sheehan/Joseph, *Apologetics and Catholic Doctrine, The Saint Austin Press, 2001, p 89, 93]


#4

Thanks for the replies. Some questions, then:

[list=1]
*]What actual, verifiable historical evidence is there that the books were written before 70 C.E.?
*]Why are some early manuscripts different from others? Some do not include verses that other contain, such as the end of Mark. Also I’ve heard it is thought 1 John 5:7-8 on the Trinity was likely added later.
*]Why are there clear conflicts in the text itself? E.g., different narration of the nativity, variations in the telling of the resurrection, etc.
[/list]


#5

Scriptural textual history is not my particular area, and so I will leave the details of this to others (and suggest that you should read this to get some idea of it), but I do want to point out that history very rarely works on the basis of incontrovertible deduction from irrefutable proof. The best that we have is almost always strong inference from sources whose reliability depends upon other sources whose reliability depends upon…

In other words, what we have is the ongoing process of nearly two millennia of scholarship thus far, providing a collection of ancient witnesses and manuscripts which currently tells us that the most probable dates for the Gospels were at least close to, possibly spot on, the traditional ones.

Why are some early manuscripts different from others? Some do not include verses that other contain, such as the end of Mark. Also I’ve heard it is thought 1 John 5:7-8 on the Trinity was likely added later.

Scribes, working for many hours a day in poorly-lit scriptoria, tended to miscopy things: they would skip words, lines, or even whole paragraphs; they would repeat words, lines, or even whole paragraphs; they would misspell things, especially when copying from languages in which they were not fluent. Some scribes wrote in styles which turned many of their letters into minims: 1 for an ‘i’, 2 for an ‘n’ or a ‘u’, 3 for an ‘m’ or a ‘w’ (later).Pages got lost, torn, burnt, wet, or just faded with age. In the case of some manuscripts, we have the joy of trying to read what was first written on a parchment across which someone else later wrote another, completely-unrelated text.

As a result, part of the process of textual criticism for any historical text is the collection and comparison of as many different samples as possible, so as to trace “lines of descent” and hopefully identify the original form. All of this, by the way, applies to a great many other texts beside the Bible: there are some enthusiastic arguments about who “really” wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Why are there clear conflicts in the text itself? E.g., different narration of the nativity, variations in the telling of the resurrection, etc.

Have you ever listened to eye-witness reports? They can contradict one another on very significant and supposedly-obvious details within minutes of witnessing the event. Some people will tell you that, in the Bible, these differences highlight important spiritual aspects of the events. Personally, I just go with the fact that the inclusion of those differences is good evidence that no one came along later and “tidied up” the accounts of what happened.


#6

How did the first statement leads to the conclusion of the second? Time is not the factor with respect to the contents of the Gospels. Even if those were written a few hundred years later, it can still be correctly attributed to the source.

How do we know that these books were actually written by their attributed authors?

It is not claimed that the attributed authors actually wrote it. That’s why it is claimed “according to”.

ewtn.com/library/ANSWERS/REALWROT.HTM


#7

seeker of God #4
Some questions, then:

What actual, verifiable historical evidence is there that the books were written before 70 C.E.?
Why are some early manuscripts different from others? Some do not include verses that other contain, such as the end of Mark. Also I’ve heard it is thought 1 John 5:7-8 on the Trinity was likely added later.
Why are there clear conflicts in the text itself? E.g., different narration of the nativity, variations in the telling of the resurrection, etc.

You have the decisions of the Pontifical Biblical Commission on the books written before the destruction of Jerusalem, declared binding by Pope Pius X. [Post #3]. Real Catholics do not pay any attention to “hearsay”.

You also have the authority of the Magisterium established by Christ as to the Books, no more no less, declared by the Magisterium as the Word of God.

There are no doctrinal contradictions and the attempts by detractors to portray such out of acceptable differences from the different authors betray the efforts to discredit Christ and the Church He established.

‘Christ’s Church teaches infallibly that what the inspired authors affirmed teach the truth which God wants written down in Scripture “for the sake of our salvation.” This truth – the Council’s dogmatic constitution on divine revelation insists – is taught “firmly, faithfully and without error.” ’ [Citing Vatican II’s *Dei Verbum, #11, The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, 1983, Servant Books, p 158].


#8

, #11, The New Biblical Theorists, Msgr George A Kelly, 1983, Servant Books, p 158].

No offense, but I couldn’t care less what the Church might say is true. Just because they say something true does not, therefore, make it true.


#9

Well we have a fragment of the Gospel of John which dates to 100-150AD.

en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rylands_Library_Papyrus_P52

Kinda blows a hole in that theory, since John is the last Gospel written.


#10

Every reputable scholar in the subject has found that Matthew, Mark and Luke were written in the mid/late 1st century and John no later then 90-100 A.D. Any other contention is in the category of Dan Brown fiction.


#11

seeker of God #8
I couldn’t care less what the Church might say is true. Just because they say something true does not, therefore, make it true.

A real Catholic believes that Christ is God and that He gave us His Church to lead us to all truth. The reality here is concerning the truths of the Catholic Church which Christ established on St Peter as His Supreme Vicar and His Apostles, sending the Holy Spirit as He promised: “I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you." (John 14:15-18) “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in My name, He will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you.” (John 14:26) “But when He comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on His own, but He will speak what He hears, and will declare to you the things that are coming. He will glorify Me, because He will take from what is mine and declare it to you. Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that He will take from what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-15)

The Church is "the pillar and bulwark of the truth” (1 Tim 3:16).

The facts are as in posts #3, 7. That’s how we know.


#12

Sorry, but doesn’t believing the Church constitute the definition of Catholicism?


#13

Sorry, but doesn’t believing the Church constitute the definition of Catholicism?
[/quote]

Maybe seeker of God forgot that he claimed he was Catholic


#14

Alternatively, s/he may merely be closer to the centre of Catholic orthopraxy than the centre of Catholic orthodoxy. That is not (from my perspective) necessarily a bad thing, but it is something which s/he probably ought to take into account when self-identifying to others as a Catholic.


#15

Correct. Even if people disagree on whether the gospels are written before or after AD 70, or which gospel came first, nobody nowadays seriously believes that the gospels are later than the late 1st-early 2nd century. Everyone who claims so simply rely on outdated 19th-century theories; they are misled or are seeking to mislead.

Yes, this is actually a mistake many people (including Christians) make. In reality, the date of composition of a New Testament gospel in relation to the events reported is not relevant for its historicity or accuracy. An ‘early’ date does not automatically guarantee that it would be 100% accurate, nor does a ‘late’ date automatically guarantee that it is unreliable and useless. The Christian message or the historicity of the events reported in the gospels is not dependent on what year the gospels are written in or in what order they were written; they’re just side issues that have gathered an undue level of attention. In fact, look at other ancient biographies: at times they could be written a century or so after the subject had died, but people are still willing to accept them as being accurate, even if at least on a basic level. The same should have held true for the gospels.

We only got into this mess because (1) many pre-modern scholars with an axe to grind against Christianity used the supposed late dates for the gospels as an excuse to attack the historicity of the Jesus story and/or Christianity, which (2) led some people (mostly Christians) to push even earlier dates for the gospels, all in the name of making the canonical gospels appear all the more reliable.


closed #16

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