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Can You Trust a Gospel? A Review of Richard Bauckham's Jesus and the Eyewitnesses

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In spite of the fact that Richard Bauckham has produced a very learned and well-stated argument, his case for the Gospels as eye-witness testimony is unconvincing. If one assumes the two-source hypothesis, as Bauckham does, there is no point in arguing over Matthew and Luke: their sources (Mark and Q) are clear, and clearly not living eye-witnesses but written sources. Bauckham's arguments that would convince one that at least Mark and John rely upon eye-witnesses ultimately succumb to strong counter indications. The pattern of naming names in the synoptics offers no peculiarities necessitating Bauckham's assertion that they are actually the names of eye-witnesses. The theory of an inclusio of eyewitness testimony falters against the fact that Bauckham's eyewitnesses (Peter for Mark and the Beloved Disciple for John) are not actually present for the crucial events they are to have witnessed. And the shift from plural to singular third person voices would be more convincing if any of our Gospels used a consistent first person voice, singular or plural. Finally, Bauckham's appeal to Gerhardsson's model of a Jerusalem school from which Paul learned to memorize Jesus traditions exposes him to all the objections raised against that earlier argument, for which Bauckham offers no remedy.


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