Monday, June 27, 2016

Dear Christians: Please name One Eyewitness to the Crucifixion who was still alive in 70 AD


Two of the biggest assumptions that many Christians make regarding the truth claims of Christianity is that, one, eyewitnesses wrote the four gospels.  The problem is, however, that the majority of scholars today do not believe this is true. The second big assumption many Christians make is that it would have been impossible for whoever wrote these four books to have invented details in their books, especially in regards to the Empty Tomb and the Resurrection appearances, due to the fact that eyewitnesses to these events would have still been alive when the gospels were written and distributed.

But consider this, dear Reader:  Most scholars date the writing of the first gospel, Mark, as circa 70 AD.  Who of the eyewitnesses to the death of Jesus and the alleged events after his death were still alive in 70 AD?  That is four decades after Jesus' death.  During that time period, tens of thousands of people living in Palestine were killed in the Jewish-Roman wars of the mid and late 60's, culminating in the destruction of Jerusalem.

How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus in circa 30 AD was still alive when the first gospel was written and distributed in circa 70 AD?  How do we know that any eyewitness to the death of Jesus ever had the opportunity to read the Gospel of Mark and proof read it for accuracy?

I challenge Christians to list in the comment section below, the name of even ONE eyewitness to the death of Jesus who was still alive in 70 AD along with the evidence to support your claim.

If you can't list any names, dear Christian, how can you be sure that details such as the Empty Tomb, the detailed resurrection appearances, and the Ascension ever really occurred?  How can you be sure that these details were not simply theological hyperbole...or...the exaggerations and embellishments of superstitious, first century, mostly uneducated people, who had retold these stories thousands of times, between thousands of people, from one language to another, from one country to another, over a period of many decades?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Did the Apostle John ever tell Polycarp the Empty Tomb Story?

St. Polycarp of Smyrna

Fundamentalist and conservative Christians claim that the Gospel of John was written by the Apostle John, son of Zebedee.  Non-Christian skeptics and even many moderate/liberal Christian scholars doubt this claim.

It is claimed by early Church Fathers that Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, was the disciple of the Apostle John.  Polycarp was executed as an old man in 155 AD.

One of the claims by Christian apologists that I desperately clung to as I saw my faith slipping away during my four month investigation in 2014 of the evidence for the claims of Christianity involved Polycarp.  As the disciple of John, one of the leading disciples of Jesus, surely John would have told Polycarp about his eyewitness experiences during the ministry of Jesus such as seeing Jesus walk on water on the Sea of Galilee, turn water into wine, raise Lazarus from the dead, witness the empty tomb, the appearances in the Upper Room and on the shores of the Sea of Tiberius, the giving of the Great Commission, and the Ascension into heaven, right?  And Polycarp would have repeated this eyewitness testimony to other Christians, right?  And when Polycarp read the four gospels in the churches, he would have confirmed that the Apostle John had personally told him about all the stories contained in these books and that all the stories were true, right?  In addition, Polycarp would have confirmed that the Apostle John wrote the Gospel of John, right?  And that this Gospel accurately reflected the testimony about Jesus which he had directly heard from the eyewitness, John son of Zebedee, right?

But here are my questions, folks:  Do we have any evidence that Polycarp claimed that John wrote the Gospel of John?  Does Polycarp ever quote the Gospel of John?  If Polycarp's alleged mentor, John the Apostle, had written the Gospel of John, wouldn't Polycarp have been inclined to quote from this gospel?  Does Polycarp ever mention that John told him about an "Empty Tomb", the smoking gun of modern Christian apologists for the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus?  And the biggest question of all:  Was Polycarp indeed a disciple of John the Apostle or is this yet another catholic tradition?  Read here for a discussion regarding why it is highly improbable that Polycarp was a disciple of John: Here are some excerpts:

There is absence of any reference to the connection between Polycarp and the apostle John in writings earlier than Irenaeus' from Asia Minor. This is surprising because there were ample opportunities and many reasons for doing so.

...Ignatius (c35-c117), as we have seen above, passed through Asia Minor almost about the same time John was supposed to have died. Indeed while he was in Smyrna (Polycarp's residence), he wrote a letter to Ephesus. If there is ever an occasion to talk about John (who according to Irenaeus appointed Polycarp bishop of Smyrna and lived in Ephesus until the "times of Trajan" (98-117)) this would be it. Yet he only mentioned the "apostle" Paul!

...Again it strains credulity to think that Polycarp would have refrained from making any reference to John had he actually been appointed by the apostle.

...Thus with certainty we can say that there was an alternate tradition, that survived until the fourth century, in which there was no connection between Polycarp and the apostle John.

...From our findings above we can conclude with some certainty that the tradition of Polycarp being a student of the apostle John and of his being appointed bishop of Smyrna by that son of Zebedee is spurious. This conclusion comes from the fact that there is no tradition earlier than Irenaeus (c 185) that makes that connection. The case is not just the lack of earlier witnesses but the fact that some of the earlier apostolic fathers (Ignatius and even Polycarp himself) had ample opportunities and reasons to bring this up in their writings but did not do so. This silence is unexplainable if the tradition had been historical. Furthermore we have very good reasons to believe that Irenaeus' statements were made based on a confusion between two Johns, one the (deceased) apostle and the other an "elder" still living (probably in Palestine) during the early years of Polycarp. Finally we find evidence of an alternate tradition which does not connect Polycarp, nor the bishopric of Smyrna, with the apostle John.

Gary:  The only independent source we have for the Church's claim that Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John comes from Irenaeus, the heresy hunter, writing at the end of the second century.  Why should we accept this man's word on this issue as we know for a fact that he made other false claims, such as that Peter and Paul founded the church of Rome?  Another excerpt from the same article above:

We see above that Irenaeus claimed that both Peter and Paul founded the church in Rome:


Against Heresies 3:3:2

 "of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul"

 

Yet this is demonstrably untrue.

First let us look at the case of Paul. [a] We know from his epistle to the Romans, written around 57 CE, where Paul explained to his readers that the reason for his delay in visiting the city was that he "did not wish to build on another man's foundation": 

Romans 15:20-23

 Thus I make it my ambition to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on someone else's foundation ... This is the reason that I have been so often hindered from coming to you. But now with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you...

Gary:  The evidence strongly suggests that Irenaeus was either a very poor historian...or a liar.  And remember, Irenaeus is the first Church Father to proclaim the traditional authorship of the four gospels...at the end of the second century!  No earlier Church Father had ever attributed the four gospels to "Matthew", "John Mark", "Luke the physician", or "John, son of Zebedee".

I have not thoroughly investigated all these issues, but in my brief search regarding the writings of Polycarp and the statements of Irenaeus about Polycarp, I see no evidence that Polycarp believed that John wrote the Gospel of John; that John had mentioned anything to him about witnessing the Empty Tomb ; or even that Polycarp was the disciple of John the Apostle!

Below is a copy of Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians.  A modern translator and editor of this document has interpolated references to passages from Paul's epistles and even from some of the Gospels which he believes Polycarp was quoting in his "epistle".  Look to see if you see anything from the Gospel of John.  If any of my readers has evidence which demonstrates that Polycarp credited John with the authorship of the Gospel of John, quotes from the Gospel of John, or mentions the Empty Tomb Story, please let me know and comment below.

Polycarp's martyrdom
The Martyrdom of Polycarp


Document below copied fromNew Advent


Polycarp's Epistle to the Philippians


Greeting


Polycarp, and the presbyters with him, to the Church of God sojourning at Philippi: Mercy to you, and peace from God Almighty, and from the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour, be multiplied.


Chapter 1. Praise of the Philippians


I have greatly rejoiced with you in our Lord Jesus Christ, because you have followed the example of true love [as displayed by God], and have accompanied, as became you, those who were bound in chains, the fitting ornaments of saints, and which are indeed the diadems of the true elect of God and our Lord; and because the strong root of your faith, spoken of in days Philippians 1:5 long gone by, endures even until now, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who for our sins suffered even unto death, [but] whom God raised from the dead, having loosed the bands of the grave. In whom, though now you see Him not, you believe, and believing, rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory; 1 Peter 1:8 into which joy many desire to enter, knowing that by grace you are saved, not of works, Ephesians 2:8-9 but by the will of God through Jesus Christ.

Chapter 2. An exhortation to virtue


Wherefore, girding up your loins, 1 Peter 1:13; Ephesians 6:14 serve the Lord in fear and truth, as those who have forsaken the vain, empty talk and error of the multitude, and believed in Him who raised up our Lord Jesus Christ from the dead, and gave Him glory, 1 Peter 1:21 and a throne at His right hand. To Him all things 1 Peter 3:22; Philippians 2:10 in heaven and on earth are subject. Him every spirit serves. He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead. Acts 17:31 His blood will God require of those who do not believe in Him. But He who raised Him up from the dead will raise up us also, if we do His will, and walk in His commandments, and love what He loved, keeping ourselves from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing, 1 Peter 3:9 or blow for blow, or cursing for cursing, but being mindful of what the Lord said in His teaching: Judge not, that you be not judged; Matthew 7:1 forgive, and it shall be forgiven unto you; be merciful, that you may obtain mercy; Luke 6:36 with what measure you mete, it shall be measured to you again; Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:38 and once more, Blessed are the poor, and those that are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of God.

Chapter 3. Expressions of personal unworthiness


These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because you have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom 2 Peter 3:15 of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, is the mother of us all. Galatians 4:26 For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin.

Chapter 4. Various exhortations


But the love of money is the root of all evils. 1 Timothy 6:10 Knowing, therefore, that as we brought nothing into the world, so we can carry nothing out, 1 Timothy 6:7 let us arm ourselves with the armour of righteousness; Ephesians 6:11 and let us teach, first of all, ourselves to walk in the commandments of the Lord. Next, [teach] your wives [to walk] in the faith given to them, and in love and purity tenderly loving their own husbands in all truth, and loving all [others] equally in all chastity; and to train up their children in the knowledge and fear of God. Teach the widows to be discreet as respects the faith of the Lord, praying continually 1 Thessalonians 5:17 for all, being far from all slandering, evil-speaking, false-witnessing, love of money, and every kind of evil; knowing that they are the altar of God, that He clearly perceives all things, and that nothing is hid from Him, neither reasonings, nor reflections, nor any one of the secret things of the heart.

Chapter 5. The duties of deacons, youths, and virgins


Knowing, then, that God is not mocked, Galatians 6:7 we ought to walk worthy of His commandment and glory. In like manner should the deacons be blameless before the face of His righteousness, as being the servants of God and Christ, and not of men. They must not be slanderers, double-tongued, 1 Timothy 3:8 or lovers of money, but temperate in all things, compassionate, industrious, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who was the servant Matthew 20:28 of all. If we please Him in this present world, we shall receive also the future world, according as He has promised to us that He will raise us again from the dead, and that if we live worthily of Him, we shall also reign together with Him, 2 Timothy 2:12 provided only we believe. In like manner, let the young men also be blameless in all things, being especially careful to preserve purity, and keeping themselves in, as with a bridle, from every kind of evil. For it is well that they should be cut off from the lusts that are in the world, since every lust wars against the spirit; 1 Peter 2:11 and neither fornicators, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, shall inherit the kingdom of God, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 nor those who do things inconsistent and unbecoming. Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ. The virgins also must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.

Chapter 6. The duties of presbyters and others


And let the presbyters be compassionate and merciful to all, bringing back those that wander, visiting all the sick, and not neglecting the widow, the orphan, or the poor, but always providing for that which is becoming in the sight of God and man; Romans 12:17; 2 Corinthians 8:31 abstaining from all wrath, respect of persons, and unjust judgment; keeping far off from all covetousness, not quickly crediting [an evil report] against any one, not severe in judgment, as knowing that we are all under a debt of sin. If then we entreat the Lord to forgive us, we ought also ourselves to forgive; Matthew 6:12-14 for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and we must all appear at the judgment-seat of Christ, and must every one give an account of himself. Romans 14:10-12; 2 Corinthians 5:10 Let us then serve Him in fear, and with all reverence, even as He Himself has commanded us, and as the apostles who preached the Gospel unto us, and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of the Lord [have alike taught us]. Let us be zealous in the pursuit of that which is good, keeping ourselves from causes of offense, from false brethren, and from those who in hypocrisy bear the name of the Lord, and draw away vain men into error.

Chapter 7. Avoid the Docetæ, and persevere in fasting and prayer


For whosoever does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is antichrist; 1 John 4:3 and whosoever does not confess the testimony of the cross, is of the devil; and whosoever perverts the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts, and says that there is neither a resurrection nor a judgment, he is the first-born of Satan. Wherefore, forsaking the vanity of many, and their false doctrines, let us return to the word which has been handed down to us from Jude 3 the beginning; watching unto prayer, 1 Peter 4:7 and persevering in fasting; beseeching in our supplications the all-seeing God not to lead us into temptation, Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41 as the Lord has said: The spirit truly is willing, but the flesh is weak. Matthew 26:41; Mark 14:38

Chapter 8. Persevere in hope and patience


Let us then continually persevere in our hope, and the earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ, who bore our sins in His own body on the tree, 1 Peter 2:24 who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth, 1 Peter 2:22 but endured all things for us, that we might live in Him. 1 John 4:9 Let us then be imitators of His patience; and if we suffer Acts 5:41; 1 Peter 4:16 for His name's sake, let us glorify Him. For He has set us this example 1 Peter 2:21 in Himself, and we have believed that such is the case.

Chapter 9. Patience inculcated


I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run Philippians 2:16; Galatians 2:2 in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not this present world, but Him who died for us, and for our sakes was raised again by God from the dead.

Chapter 10. Exhortation to the practice of virtue



Stand fast, therefore, in these things, and follow the example of the Lord, being firm and unchangeable in the faith, loving the brotherhood, 1 Peter 2:17 and being attached to one another, joined together in the truth, exhibiting the meekness of the Lord in your intercourse with one another, and despising no one. When you can do good, defer it not, because alms delivers from death. Tobit 4:10Tobit 12:9 Be all of you subject one to another 1 Peter 5:5 having your conduct blameless among the Gentiles, 1 Peter 2:12 that you may both receive praise for your good works, and the Lord may not be blasphemed through you. But woe to him by whom the name of the Lord is blasphemed! Isaiah 52:5 Teach, therefore, sobriety to all, and manifest it also in your own conduct.

Chapter 11. Expression of grief on account of Valens


I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]. I exhort you, therefore, that you abstain from covetousness, and that you be chaste and truthful. Abstain from every form of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:22 For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others? If a man does not keep himself from covetousness, he shall be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the heathen. But who of us are ignorant of the judgment of the Lord? Do we not know that the saints shall judge the world? 1 Corinthians 6:2 as Paul teaches. But I have neither seen nor heard of any such thing among you, in the midst of whom the blessed Paul laboured, and who are commended in the beginning of his Epistle. For he boasts of you in all those Churches which alone then knew the Lord; but we [of Smyrna] had not yet known Him. I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be then moderate in regard to this matter, and do not count such as enemies, 2 Thessalonians 3:15 but call them back as suffering and straying members, that you may save your whole body. For by so acting you shall edify yourselves. 1 Corinthians 12:26

Chapter 12. Exhortation to various graces


For I trust that you are well versed in the Sacred Scriptures, and that nothing is hid from you; but to me this privilege is not yet granted. It is declared then in these Scriptures, Be angry, and sin not, and, Let not the sun go down upon your wrath. Ephesians 4:26 Happy is he who remembers this, which I believe to be the case with you. But may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ Himself, who is the Son of God, and our everlasting High Priest, build you up in faith and truth, and in all meekness, gentleness, patience, long-suffering, forbearance, and purity; and may He bestow on you a lot and portion among His saints, and on us with you, and on all that are under heaven, who shall believe in our Lord Jesus Christ, and in His Father, who raised Him from the dead. Galatians 1:1 Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings, 1 Timothy 2:2 and potentates, and princes, and for those that persecute and hate you, Matthew 5:44 and for the enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest to all, and that you may be perfect in Him.

Chapter 13. Concerning the transmission of epistles


Both you and Ignatius wrote to me, that if any one went [from this] into Syria, he should carry your letter with him; which request I will attend to if I find a fitting opportunity, either personally, or through some other acting for me, that your desire may be fulfilled. The Epistles of Ignatius written by him to us, and all the rest [of his Epistles] which we have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are subjoined to this Epistle, and by them you may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord. Any more certain information you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and those that were with him, have the goodness to make known to us.

Chapter 14. Conclusion


These things I have written to you by Crescens, whom up to the present time I have recommended unto you, and do now recommend. For he has acted blamelessly among us, and I believe also among you. Moreover, you will hold his sister in esteem when she comes to you. Be safe in the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace be with you all. Amen.




Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A Review of LCMS Pastor John Bombaro's Defense of the Resurrection

The Resurrection
by Carl Heinrich Block
Yes.  I know.  I shouldn't do it.  I shouldn't go online and read the quarterly news bulletin from my former LCMS Lutheran parish.  But I do.  I do it for two reasons:  I care about the people.  Many were our friends.  I like hearing about them.  And secondly, I'm curious what my former pastor is saying.  He's a very intelligent man, highly regarded for his theological knowledge and his debate skills.  So when I saw the following article on the Resurrection in the recent church newsletter, written by my former pastor, Dr. John Bombaro, I was intrigued as to what he would say on this all important topic for the Christian Faith.  You can read the article in its original format by clicking on the February 2016 edition of Grace Lutheran Church's newsletter, the Wittenberg Way, here.

I have copied it below and will intersperse my comments in red.


This semester (....) and I are reading a couple of books together, one called Tactics: A Game Plan for Discussing Your Christian Convictions by apologist, Greg Koukl, and the other called,The Fallacy Detective, a primer on logic.  Having taught logic for a number of years, both books and my recent work on the resurrection of Jesus got me thinking about the genetic fallacy.  A textbook definition of the genetic fallacy is “a line of ‘reasoning’ in which a perceived defect in the origin of a claim or thing is taken to be evidence that discredits the claim or thing itself.1    Simply, the genetic fallacy is committed when an idea is either accepted or rejected because of its source, rather than its merit.   The genetic fallacy is a breach of sound logic because it commits a fallacy of irrelevance where a conclusion is suggested based solely on someone’s or something’s history, origin, or source rather than its current meaning or context.

Our  mothers  tried  to  disabuse  us  of  employing  the  genetic  fallacy  by teaching us that, ‘Even from a bad thing, something good may come’.  They taught us that we ought not to reject an idea just because of where it originates (usually a tactic of ad hominem arguments).   Equally so, even good sources may sometimes produce bad results.   So one has to be wise and discerning.   Accepting an idea because of the goodness of its source, as in appeals to authority, is therefore no better than rejecting an idea because of the malady of its source.  Both types are fallacious.

This brings up my next bit, namely the charge frequently brought against the reliability of the New Testament witnesses because they were Christians.  Critics of Christianity regularly aver that the testimony of those with vested interests in Christianity are invalid because of their personal bias toward Christianity.   Invalid?  Which prominent skeptic scholar or apologist makes this claim?  This is a gross mischaracterization of the position of the overwhelming majority of those of us who doubt the historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus.  In fact, Pastor Bombaro is arguing against one logical fallacy by using another logical fallacy.  He has created a classic "Strawman".  He has invented a position allegedly representing the thinking of skeptics which skeptics do not hold and he then, systematically attacks and dismantles this imaginary, concocted strawman position, ultimately declaring victory over skeptics for a failed position...which they do not espouse!  For a scholar of his stature, I am shocked that Pastor Bombaro would make such a fundamental error in logic.  It makes me wonder: has Pastor Bombaro ever taken the time to read the works of prominent skeptics such as Bart Ehrman?  It certainly seems that he hasn't. 

The overwhelming majority of skeptics DO accept the statements of early Christians as valid evidence.  However, we skeptics scrutinize that evidence with the caveat that there may well be bias present in their statements.  However, we would do the same in examining the statements of anyone who was an enemy of the early Christians.

  Both sides have a bias, but biases do NOT necessarily invalidate the evidence. 

The problem with Christian truth claims (especially the resurrection of Jesus), they say, is that the witnesses are the apostles and New Testament authors themselves the very disciples of Jesus.  The source is sour.  Consequently, the New Testament is a non-starter for considerations about the purported facticity of Jesus’ resurrection. False.  Skeptics do not say this.   We only acknowledge a potential bias.  The disciples harbor an inherent bias and thus their testimony must be considered irrelevant.  False, if scholars could point to the confirmed testimony of even ONE of the original eleven disciples, most skeptics would consider this fantastic, very relevant evidence.  But unfortunately we do not have such evidence.  All we have is second century Church tradition that claims that eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels and the Book of Acts.  It’s not that they were alleged to be bad people (ad hominem abusem) but that they were too invested in the success of Jesus to be impartial.   Police take reports from biased witnesses all the time.  Just because testimony may be biased does not mean it is worthless.  But potentially biased testimony must be compared with other evidence in order to arrive at the truth, not simply accepted as fact because someone claims it is fact.  What is more, significantly greater stock must be placed in the objective testimony of non- Christians, as opposed to the subjective testimony of Christians, as far as they are concerned.  The testimony of a nonbiased witness is almost always considered more valuable than that of a biased witness.  For instance, if John Doe is accused of robbing the local bank, whose testimony is going to be considered more reliable?:  that of his girlfriend who says he didn't do it, or, that of three business owners across the street from the bank who say they saw a robber exiting the bank with bags of money on the date of the robbery and are able to identify John Doe as that robber out of a line up? The opponent of Christianity is far more reliable in terms of attestation because, again, Christians are favorably prejudiced toward Jesus and therefore what they have to say or have written must be considered unreliable.  Now we have moved beyond "non-Christian" to an "opponent of Christianity".  Big distinction.  The testimony of an "opponent of Christianity" should be viewed with the same level of caution as the testimony of Christians on the subject of the Resurrection:  both have an inherent bias. 
  

A syllogism of this type might look like this:


Major Premise:

Christian disciples are biased toward Jesus.

Minor Premise:

Early Christian disciples bear witness to

Jesus’ resurrection.

Therefore:

New Testament witness to the resurrection

is biased.

 

Here’s another example:

Major Premise:

Christian witness to the resurrection was

pioneered in an age of superstition and

religious fanaticism.

Therefore:

Christian witness to the resurrection is

fanatical religious fiction.

 
To be sure, these syllogism could be stated in a variety of ways, but the effect remains the same: Biblical witness to the bodily resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth must be rejected as invalid historical testimony.  Wrong.  Not "invalid", just potentially biased.  Indeed, as Dan Brown and other cynics reason, since orthodoxy” won the day, it wrote Christian history from the perspective of victors. The truth about Jesus was squeezed out and Christ was mythologized beginning with a resurrection” event: hence, the ‘Jesus of Easter faith.

Dan Brown, the fiction writer?  If this is truly Mr. Brown's position it is at odds with the position of most skeptic scholars.  Most skeptics view the Bible as a mixture of truths and fiction.  The key to understanding the Bible is examining each biblical claim to determine which category it belongs to, and not assuming every claim is true or every claim is false.

Now,  there  are  a number of approaches that one could take in countering such a charge pointing  out  the  “genetic  fallacy is  one  such tactic.   However, there are many other things to consider before doing so.   For instance, the associated charge that Christianity is based on the Greco-Roman    and    Babylonian    and    Egyptian ‘mystery religions’ which have been historically invalidated by scholarship and, so, by extension invalidate Christianity, fails too.   The reason for this is quite simple: the ‘mystery religions’ were never based on historical claims, completely unlike Christianity.  Each Mediterranean region produced its own mystery religion. Out of Greece came the cults of Demeter and Dionysus, as well as the Eleusinian and Orphic mystery religions, which developed later.  Asia Minor gave birth to the cult of Cybele, the Great Mother, and her beloved, a shepherd named Attis. The cult of Isis and Osiris (later changed to  Serapis) originated in Egypt, while Syria and Palestine saw the rise of the cult of Adonis. Finally, Persia was a leading early locale for the cult of Mithras,  which   due  to  its  frequent  use  of  the imagery of war held a special appeal to Roman soldiers.    But  these  religious  societies were  entirely cultic, gnostic and esoteric in nature, not historic.
 
The mystery religions had common traits, e.g., cyclical views of time; secret ceremonies (mostly initiatory); a central myth about the deity’s origin and strengths;  little or  no  stated  doctrines  or  orthodoxy and mystical experience.  Notably, historical verity was not a specified trait, quite unlike Judeo-Christianity, for which a linear view of time was also essential for placement in real human history.  Judeo-Christianity is based on the belief in the existence of an ancient Hebrew god, Yahweh, who allegedly had no beginning; is perfect and all-powerful; but...who one day decided he wanted (needed?) to create a universe, including little creatures made in his image, which he created by blowing his breath into some dirt; a god who in times past demanded the bloody sacrifices of massive quantities of slaughtered animals all to appease himself; and, regularly slaughtered whole nations of peoples, including little children, for sometimes the most trivial of offenses, like refusing to allow land-grabbing Hebrews to trespass on their land.  Oh, and by the way...the first century Jewish preacher Jesus of Nazareth is this eternal, ancient, vindictive, baby-slaughtering, Hebrew god, Yahweh, who in circa 30 AD, used his supernatural powers to come back from the dead and later flew off into outer space to sit on a golden throne at the edge of the universe...where he rules today as King of the Cosmos.

Nope, no similarity to any of those silly ancient Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian gods with their "myths" about the deity's origin, strengths, and mystical experiences...

Significantly, the claims of Christianity are fundamentally bound to historical happenings that, at least in the lifetime of the testators, could be verified and corroborated, as Paul argued to King Agrippa, “For the king knows about these things, and to him I speak boldly. For I am persuaded that none of these events has escaped his notice, for this has not been done in a corner” (Acts 26.26).  

How do we know that this event really happened?  Who wrote the Book of Acts?  Answer:  We don't know! Church tradition says it was Luke the physician, traveling companion of Paul, but there is no solid proof of that claim.  So we have an anonymous author making this claim about Paul before Agrippa without any corroboration!  Does Paul ever mention in his epistles that he proclaimed the Gospel story of Jesus before King Agrippa?  If so, I can't find it.  For all we know this story is pure invention by a later Pauline Christian.  And even if Paul did appear before Agrippa, what difference would it make if Paul claimed to have seen a bright light on a dark desert highway?  How many loons in history have made wild supernatural claims?  What is key is this:  Did Paul claim that there was an Empty Tomb?  An Empty Tomb that was guarded round the clock by Roman guards?  Even if we accept the story of Paul before Agrippa as historical fact, there is nothing in this story that helps to confirm the supernatural, magical claim that a dead body came back to life...only that Paul and a few Galilean peasants BELEIVED that it had come back to life.

And it isn't as if the Book of Acts was written during the lifetime of Paul or within a few years of his death.  The Gospel of Luke, written by the same anonymous author, wasn't written until the 80's at the earliest, so the Book of Acts was probably not written until the last decades of the first century, if not the early second century!  Who of the Eleven disciples was still alive to verify the statements in this book?  Paul certainly wasn't alive to verify the statements in this book. 

Check this out:  If a witness to the crucifixion of Jesus was twenty years old in 30 AD, that witness would have been EIGHTY YEARS OLD in 90 AD, the approximate time that the Book of Acts was written, and, this 80 year old eyewitness to the crucifixion would have had to have survived the great slaughters of the Jewish-Roman Wars of the 60's and the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.  It is therefore quite possible that NO ONE was alive at the time of the writing and subsequent distribution of the Book of Acts who had witnessed the crucifixion of Jesus!

This is one of the greatest assumptions that Christians, including Christian pastors make:  That eyewitnesses were still alive to review the four Gospels and the Book of Acts for accuracy at the time that these books were written and distributed to the churches.  For all we know, all eyewitnesses were dead by the time the very first Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, was written in circa 70 AD!  Therefore, with no surviving eyewitnesses, the author of Mark could have embellished, for theological purposes of course, the original Jesus Story, adding such fictional details as the Empty Tomb...a fact NEVER mentioned in any of the writings of Paul!  Think about that!  Think about how often Christian pastors and apologists use the Empty Tomb as evidence for the Resurrection and yet Paul never mentions this detail ONCE!

The original Resurrection Story could very well have been based simply on a couple of "appearance" stories; appearances of the dead Jesus returning to speak to the living in vivid dreams, trances, or visions...no different than the tens of thousands of dead people who have allegedly "appeared" to their grieving and emotionally distraught family and friends over the millennia of human existence.

The death and resurrection of Jesus continued to be an event, a happening, within the living memory of eyewitnesses most certainly until the end of the first century and quite arguably into the early second century.   Evidence, please!  You are making a very bold statement, Pastor Bombaro, without presenting any evidence.  Please provide confirmed evidence that even one eyewitness to the death of Jesus lived to 70 AD, let alone the end of the first century and the beginning of the next.  Just oneRemembering that something that happened is by definition a fact, Christianity asserted the news about Jesus’ death and resurrection as precisely that factual news, real historical newsVery sincere, honest people have asserted all kinds of wild tales as fact over the history of humankind.  Sightings of ghosts, UFO's, alien abductions, to name a few.  Very sincere people can be, and often have been, very sincerely MISTAKEN.

This is why (as another point to be made) Christian testimony to Jesus cannot be compared to the stories of, say, the Buddha or Muhammad which of course emerged hundreds of years later.  No, the New Testament disciples and apostles testify to the maximal (not developmental) claim of the resurrection of Jesus contemporaneous  with  the  officials  and  capitol  city that condemned him.   False.  Please provide ONE verified statement by just ONE eyewitness who claims to have seen and touched the walking/talking dead body of Jesus.  (Sorry, Paul doesn't count.  Paul never claims to have seen a body, only a bright light.) There was no “making of Christology” in a protracted fashion, taking generations and centuries to weave an Easter myth.   It was the maximal claimJesus has conquered death and the grave through God resurrecting His once-crucified bodythat was the first Christian claim, the earliest Christian  claim.     Most skeptics do not doubt that the earliest Christians believed that Jesus had been resurrected.  The issue is WHY did they believe this?  Did early Christians really see a walking/talking dead body, or did they experience vivid dreams, trances, and visions in which they sincerely BELEIVED they had seen the resurrected Jesus?  False rumors can develop very quickly.  Isn't it possible that the Resurrection belief developed like this: 

Jesus died and his remains were tossed into an unmarked common grave with other crucified criminals.  No one but a few Roman soldiers knew the location.  Shortly after his death, his disciples had vivid dreams, visions, and trances in which they believed he had been resurrected.  The Resurrection belief was born! Decades later, after all the original eyewitnesses to Jesus' death were dead themselves, a Gentile Christian living in Rome writes a  story about Jesus, including an "Empty Tomb" which no previous Christian had ever heard of, but...he was able to explain this discrepancy by ending his book with this statement:  "the women fled, telling no one"...until his book revealed the truth.

University  of  Edinburgh  professor Larry   Hurtado   thus   explains   that   we   have   solid evidence  that  these  eyewitness  Christians,  and  all
subsequent generations of Christians, worshipped Jesus as the living God.3    How likely is the resurrection to emerge as the maximal truth claim with requisite devotion within the very city of Second Temple Jewish monotheism if the earliest Christians were just playing with myths or fabrications?  Not likely at all.  I and most other skeptics agree.  People don't die for something they know to be a myth or a lie.  But what if instead of "playing" with myths and fabrications (lies), Christians were simply mistaken based on misperceptions of reality?   Thousands of very sincere people have believed that their dead loved one has returned from the dead to visit them, even carrying on conversations with them and letting them touch them!  We don't believe these very sincere people so why should be believe a small group of grieving Galilean peasants from the first century?  There’s a better explanation: a resurrected Lord of Life made them go public with the news of the event, and go public in the most high risk locations conceivable with no perceivable gain outside the teachings of Jesus himself. Very  religious/superstitious people have been known to do some really bizarre things for no perceivable personal gain, such as walking on hot coals, handling poisonous snakes, etc., etc..  The most probable explanation for the behavior of the early Christians is the same explanation for the shocking actions of most new religious sects:   intense (to the point of hysteria) belief and devotion to a central charismatic leader.  Theirs was a public historical claim about an event of history that took place with a public figure, involving the most important public officials, in the most public settings.  If you buy the accuracy of stories written many decades after the alleged event, written by anonymous authors, writing in far away lands, containing numerous discrepancies, with zero outsider corroboration for the most incredible event to have ever happened (allegedly) on planet earth!  Earthquakes; three hour eclipses of the sun; dead people roaming the streets of a major, capital city; all of Palestine teeming with rumors of revolt because of one, pacifist Galilean preacher...and no one but a few anonymous Christians record it...and not until many decades later...in far away lands!  Dear Christians:  Admit it.  If these were any other religion's claims you would NOT buy them for one second.  They are too preposterous.


Back to the genetic fallacy.  Here are five related responses to the charge that the earliest witnesses are invalid due to irrelevance by way of bias.


1.  The rhetorical response.  Ask the person who dismisses the New Testament authors in favor of detractors and hostile witnesses this question: Does a person who studies something without believing it have no bias themselves?  Of course they do.  What makes their uninvested testimony intrinsically more relevant, especially since they’re not eyewitnesses and their testimony is at best second or third-hand or, worse, inadmissible hearsay?   Such testimony may be more interesting but not necessarily more decisive and certainly not more relevant than eyewitnesses.  I believe that many skeptics, especially skeptics who are scholars, would be just as suspicious of "hostile" witnesses as they would "friendly" witnesses.  The ideal witness is one who has no  perceived biases and no interest in the outcome of the decision.


2.  When detractors charge that the disciples wanted/needed to believe something’ so they perpetuated the Jesus movement, eventually through the myth of the resurrection and that their psychological state then rendered them irrelevant testators, kindly remind them that for the first decade of Christianity the Church was comprised almost entirely of Jews, who lacked nothing in terms of religion.  Indeed, the first converts to the Way of Christ were in Jerusalem (not some back woods), in the very Temple itself, on the Hebrew holiday of Pentecost!  They were utterly and in every way immersed in a religion that gave them identity, status, standing, heritage, belonging, history, and hope.  No environment could have been more hostile and antithetical to the engendering of Jesus’ kingdom of God movement than his post-crucifixion context.    This  new  “religion offered  nothing  but  took  away  everything  if  not  convincingly  true. Something does not have to be true for human beings to believe it to be true.  Intense, devout belief is no guarantee of the validity of the belief.  Moreover, within first- and second-century Christianity, the greater portion of believers were not raised as Christians.  There’s no religious heritage here or multigenerational Christianity at this point in history. Instead,  these  various  converts  heard  the  reports,  looked  at  the  historic  accounts,  considered  the evidence, investigated where necessary and possible, and were convinced by it.  The fact of the matter is that the overwhelming majority of Jews did NOT believe this story.  They had the means, the motive and the opportunity to do so, even Paul admits as much to the Corinthians.  Eyewitnesses lived throughout the first century (proof?)and the living memory of Jesus and his resurrection continued well into the second century (Assumption, Pastor.  You have not provided any evidence to verify this oft repeated claim).  In other words, these converts to Christianity had criteria for factual truth claims and the criteria of their day was satisfied and they conserved the transmission of these sacred truths, even defending them with their lives.   Again, if the evidence for these "truths" was as strong as you suggest, why did the overwhelming majority of Jews reject this story and why do they continue to reject it today? This supernatural tale was initially believed by just a very few, mostly uneducated, Jewish peasants.  It then quickly became a Gentile religion, people who had little if any knowledge of Jewish traditions and laws.

3.   Consider the resurrection as a truth-telling moment.   Why?  It is just a claim.  It's truthfulness should be determined in the same manner that all other truth claims are examined.  Sacred traditions require faithful and formulaic transmission, not only for their preservation, but as basic obedience by the faithful themselves.  It has been a necessary element of discipleship to Jesus that one tells the truth, especially the sacred truth about him.   The followers of Jesus were human beings with the same propensity to exaggerate, be mistaken, and yes, even lie, as all other human beings. That is precisely what we have with the resurrection accounts: They are purported and proclaimed by a famously truth-telling people, not given to self-aggrandizement or historical hyperbole, but report matters of their holy faith with brutal, self-defamatory honesty warts and all, as it were. The  Jews  didnt  re-write  their  history  glamorizing  their  leaders  and  extolling  their  obedience  and successes.  What??  The overwhelming majority of archeologists believe that the Passover Story, the Exodus, the Forty Years in the Sinai, the Conquest of Canaan, and the great kingdoms of David and Solomon are pure myth!  And only a few fundamentalist Christian scholars still believe that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, something that Jews (and Christians) have proclaimed as fact for several thousand years!  How did these stories come about?  Either someone lied, or, more likely, these stories developed in a legendary manner, just as the stories of an empty tomb, guards at the tomb, and dead saints roaming the streets of Jerusalem very likely are legendary developments.  Quite the opposite.  Their kings, their rebellion, their idolatry resulted in repeated downfalls and continued occupation as a conquered people for nearly eight centuries.  They told the truth about themselves.   (Not according to the overwhelming majority of archeologists and scholars of the Near East.) Truth-telling was essential to their religious culture and faith-identity as a people of God because it was bound up in an intimate relationship and covenant with God.   It was from amidst this sacred heritage that we find the retelling of a story as accurately as possible.  Here is an ideology that requires truth-telling entering Christianity at the ground level.  Indeed, it was into the mouths of these Jews who were under the strongest moral obligation to speak the truth of God now having to bear witness about God Himself.  The postulation that the resurrection was confected by the earliest Jewish converts to Jesus betrays everything we know about the times, the people, and the culture.  This is another major assumption of Christians:  that first century Jews were incapable of lying; incapable of misperceiving reality; incapable of ever violating Jewish customs and laws; incapable of allowing legendary development into their oral stories. 

One only has to read the New Testament to see how superstitious and gullible these people were.  For instance, the Bible claims that many Jews believed that John the Baptist was the reincarnated Elijah and some Jews believed that Jesus was the reincarnated John the Baptist after John had been beheaded.  The disciples saw a human figure on a lake and believed it was a ghost.  Peter, a Jew,  is infamous for his lying and exaggeration.  These people were mostly uneducated, lower class, very superstitious people.  Let's not make them out to be something they were not.

4.   Reject  the  criterion  of  the  impartial  skeptic.
Harkening  back  to  point  1,  recognize  that  the
work   of   University   of   St   Andrews   Professor
Richard Bauckham has established that the case
in  the  ancient  world  and  for  the  first  several
centuries   of   Christianity   was   precisely   the
opposite  of  today’s  scholarly  skepticism.    The
skeptical criterion of form criticism” asserts that
those   antithetical   to   Christianity   are   more
authentic and valid witnesses to Christianity than
Christians.   Hogwash, says Professor Bauckham.
A    dispassionate,    uninvolved    historian    was
credulous in the days of the Roman Empire.   It
was   the   eyewitnesses,   the   ones   with   the
experience  and  understanding  of  not  only  the
event (or person) but also what it meant, that
was  so  important  as  a  criterion  for  first-  and
second-century  adjudicators  of  the  Gospel  of Jesus Christ.4   The genetic fallacy is exposed most conclusively at this point

We have no confirmed eyewitness testimony, Pastor Bombaro.  If we had even a couple of confirmed, eyewitness, contemporaneous accounts that we could be certain were independent of one another most skeptics would consider those accounts as very strong evidence.  But all we have are four accounts written decades later, two of which and maybe three borrow heavily (plagiarize) from the first, by anonymous persons writing in far away lands, whom most scholars do NOT believe were eyewitnesses.  Yes, dear Reader, you read that correctly:  the majority of New Testament scholars living today do NOT believe that eyewitnesses wrote the four Gospels and the Book of Acts.  If you don't believe me, do a google search and find out for yourself.
 
5.   That  brings  up  our  last  point:  Applying  the genetic fallacy against the early Christians   to invalidate their attestation as irrelevant because they were Christians is the opposite way of thinking from the reasons why we use Yelp!® and Amazon® reviews or how we choose our vacation destinations  and  even  purchase  cars  or computers both you and I want to hear from people who experienced it, been there, know the times,  cultures,  circumstances,  etc.     It’s  how news is reported everyday through virtually every media outlet eyewitness testimony from those who are in the know, who were there, who experienced  it.     That  testimony  is  altogether relevant.  So, too, with the eyewitness testimony to the resurrected Jesus no testimony could be more relevant than hearing from those who encountered the risen Christ and learned from him the precise meaning and significance of the resurrectionIf we had confirmed eyewitness testimony for the alleged Resurrection of Jesus all this would be true...but we don't...and that's the problem with Dr. Bombaro's entire argument.

 

Prima facie a strong case could be made for the fact that much of the New Testament, including the Gospels and the sources behind them, was written by eyewitnesses.

Prima facie definition:

"based on the first impression; accepted as correct until proved otherwise."

 

My, my, my.  Based on this logic we should all believe as fact every supernatural tale from Antiquity...until proven wrong.  So let's see, Zeus lives on Mt. Olympus; Hercules is half human/half god, there is a god named Poseidon living under the sea, etc., etc..  Come on, Pastor Bombaro.  You know better, or at least you should.  The majority of New Testament scholars living today do NOT believe that any of the Gospels or the Book of Acts were written by eyewitnesses to the stories told in those books.  Don't take my word for it, dear Reader, google the topic and find out for yourself.
 
This is mentioned explicitly in a number of places (Luke 1.1-4; Gal 1; 2 Pet 1.16).   Wow!  The anonymous author of the Gospel of Luke expressly states that he was not an eyewitness, only that he believed that he was passing on eyewitness testimony, and, the Epistle of Second Peter is a known work of fraud!  No scholar that I know of believes that Peter or any other eyewitness wrote that epistle.  Further, apostolic position in the early church was widely known to include the qualification of being an eyewitness  (Acts  1.21-22;  Heb  2.3),  a qualification which shows that the early church valued the testimony of eyewitnesses and believed she had eyewitnesses leading her. Just because the early Church claimed its male leaders had seen a resurrected Jesus doesn't mean they did.  Based on cumulative human history and experience, it is very possible that all these appearance claims were based solely on vivid dreams, trances, and visions and not on reality.  The early speeches in Acts refer to the knowledge of unbelieving audiences (e. g., Acts 2.22), How do we know that the early speeches in Acts are historical and not the theological embellishments of the anonymous author of Acts who most scholars believe was NOT an eyewitness?  and no historian I know of doubts that Christianity started  in  Jerusalem  just  a  few  weeks after the death of Jesus in the presence of friendly and hostile eyewitnesses. Eyewitnesses to WHAT is the question, Pastor Bombaro.  Eyewitnesses to an empty tomb that had been guarded round the clock by crack Roman guards; a location that every resident of Jerusalem could go and visit?  Or, eyewitnesses to the crucifixion of one convicted rabble rouser, whose body was tossed into a secret, unmarked common grave; eyewitnesses who then experienced vivid dreams and trances in which they believed that their dead leader had returned to visit them?  Finally, there is indirect testimony to eyewitness evidence in the Gospels. For example, if a number of pronouns in Mark (see 1.21, 29) are changed from the third-person plural they to the first-person plural we, they can easily be seen as eyewitness reminiscences of Peter, who gave Mark much  of  the  material  for  his  Gospel.     Wow!  While we are changing things, let's just add at the beginning of the Gospel of Mark that John Mark wrote this gospel; that he wrote down word for word every sentence in the Gospel as he sat at the feet of the Apostle Peter one afternoon, as Peter dictated it to him, as God whispered the words into Peter's ear! The tradition that John Mark wrote this Gospel, copying down what Peter had preached, is based on a brief, vague statement by one second century mystic, Papias, who is infamous for his tall tales and superstitions. 

With  a mountain (more accurately, a "mole hill") of evidence like this, why would a person opt for hostile witnesses of a later date dismissing the earliest witnesses as irrelevant, unless, of course, there  might  be  a  bias  at  play  and  not  with  the earliest Christian witnesses either.  Your evidence, Pastor, is based on nothing but assumptions, second century hearsay, and gigantic leaps of faith.  How about we back up and you provide ONE confirmed eyewitness testimony of anyone seeing the walking/talking dead body of Jesus; or an empty tomb; or a three hour eclipse; or the tearing of the Temple veil, or...etc., etc...
 
Pastor John
Lent, 2016

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---"The traditional authors of the canonical Gospels — Matthew the tax collector, Mark the attendant of Peter, Luke the attendant of Paul, and John the son of Zebedee — are doubted among the majority of mainstream New Testament scholars. However, the public is often not familiar with the complex reasons and methodology that scholars use to reach definitive and well-supported consensuses about critical issues, such as assessing the authorial traditions for ancient texts. To provide a good overview of the majority opinion about the Gospels, the Oxford Annotated Bible (a compilation of multiple scholars summarizing dominant scholarly trends for the last 150 years) states (pg. 1744):
“Neither the evangelists nor their first readers engaged in historical analysis. Their aim was to confirm Christian faith (Lk 1.4; Jn 20.31). Scholars generally agree that the Gospels were written forty to sixty years after the death of Jesus. They thus do not present eyewitness or contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life and teachings.”
Unfortunately, much of the general public is not familiar with scholarly resources like the one quoted above; instead, Christian apologists often put out a lot of material, such as The Case For Christ, targeted towards lay audiences, who are not familiar with scholarly methods, in order to argue that the Gospels are the eyewitness testimonies of either Jesus’ disciples or their attendants. The mainstream scholarly view is that the Gospels are anonymous works, written in a different language than that of Jesus, in distant lands, after a substantial gap of time, by unknown persons, compiling, redacting, and inventing various traditions, in order to provide a narrative of Christianity’s central figure — Jesus Christ — to confirm the faith of their communities."  

Source:  https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/why-scholars-doubt-the-traditional-authors-of-the-gospels/






---"Even though there may well have been eyewitnesses alive some 35-40 years after Jesus’ death, there is no guarantee – or, I would argue, no reason to think – that any of them were consulted by the authors of the Gospels when writing their accounts. The eyewitnesses would have been Aramaic speaking peasants almost entirely from rural Galilee. Mark was a highly educated, Greek speaking Christian living in an urban area outside of Palestine (Rome?), who never traveled, probably, to Galilee. So the existence of eyewitnesses would not have much if any effect on his Gospel.

The same is true, even more so, with the later Gospels. Luke begins his Gospel by saying that eyewitnesses started passing along the oral traditions he had heard (Luke 1:1-4), but he never indicates that he had ever talked to one. He has simply heard stories that had been around from the days of the eyewitnesses. And if the standard dating of his Gospel – and Matthew’s – is correct, they were writing about 50 years or more after Jesus’ death. John’s Gospel was even later.

My sense is that most of the eyewitnesses (and who knows how many there were?! Hundreds? Probably not. Dozens?) had died before the Gospels were written; those that survived were carrying on their lives in rural Galilee or Jerusalem. And the Gospel writers, who never say they consulted any of them, probably never did consult with any of them. The Gospels are based on oral traditions that had been in circulation – and changed as a result – for decades before the Gospel writers had even heard them.

And as anyone knows who has been subject to oral traditions – this would include all of us – the stories told about a person can change absolutely overnight! It happens all the time. What happens, then, to stories in circulation for 40 or 50 years, in different countries, told in different languages, among people who never laid an eye on an eyewitness or on anyone else who had? My sense is that the stories get changed, often a lot; and many of the stories simply get made up. It’s just the way it happens And it can be shown to have happened with the Gospels, since the same story is often told in very different ways. Every historian will tell you: evidence matters! "     ---NT scholar, Bart Ehrman

Source:  http://ehrmanblog.org/question-about-eyewitnesses-and-the-gospels/






The Roman Catholic position on the authorship of the Gospels:

---"They (the Gospels) were anonymously written. In fact most scholars today do not believe that the evangelists were eyewitnesses for the simple reason that their chronology of events and theological interpretations are different. The titles of the gospels were added in the second century and very well could designate the authority behind the finished gospel or the one who wrote one of the main sources of the gospel. The Church takes no official stance on their authorship. It is important to understand that the Church by its authority and the guidance of the Holy Spirit canonized these four gospels over many others that were circulated and read in the early centuries."

Source:  http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/what-are-the-gospels/






---"Robert Kysar writes the following on the authorship of the Gospel of John (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, v. 3, pp. 919-920):
The supposition that the author was one and the same with the beloved disciple is often advanced as a means of insuring that the evangelist did witness Jesus' ministry. Two other passages are advanced as evidence of the same - 19:35 and 21:24. But both falter under close scrutiny. 19:35 does not claim that the author was the one who witnessed the scene but only that the scene is related on the sound basis of eyewitness. 21:24 is part of the appendix of the gospel and should not be assumed to have come from the same hand as that responsible for the body of the gospel. Neither of these passages, therefore, persuades many Johannine scholars that the author claims eyewitness status. "
...If the author of the Gospel of John were an eyewitness, presumably the author would have known that Jesus and his compatriots were permitted to enter the synagogues. But at one several points it is stated that those who acknowledged Jesus as the Christ during the life of Jesus were put out of the synagogue. This anachronism is inconceivable as the product of an eyewitness.

Kysar states that most scholars today see the historical setting of the Gospel of John in the expulsion of the community from the synagogue (op. cit., p. 918). The word aposynagogos is found three times in the gospel (9:22, 12:42, 16:2). The high claims made for Jesus and the response to them (5:18), the polemic against "the Jews" (9:18, 10:31, 18:12, 19:12), and the assertion of a superiority of Christian revelation to the Hebrew (1:18, 6:49-50, 8:58) show that "the Johannine community stood in opposition to the synagogue from which it had been expelled." (p. 918)"

Source:  http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/john.html






---"The primary historical evidence we have about Jesus Christ comes from the four Gospels of the New Testament. As is well-known, there are many views today on who wrote the gospels. These views can be divided into two broad categories. One category is the view that the Gospels have been written by the disciples of Jesus whose names appear on the Greek manuscripts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and published by them. This is the minority view among NT scholars. The other category encompasses a variety of views based on the conclusion that they were written by others. This category represents the majority of current New Testament scholars with a variety of theories on the identity of these individuals or groups who wrote and edited the Gospels."   ---Ron Jones, The Titus Institute

Source:  https://www.academia.edu/9269890/Early_Church_Fathers_on_the_Authorship_of_the_NT_Gospels






"The four Gospels originally circulated anonymously; none of them bear the name of their authors. The names that are presently attached to our canonical Gospels are the product of second-century speculation, and they are intended to stress the apostolic credentials of the Gospels. Most of us assume that the Gospels are the direct products of either Jesus' apostles (John and Matthew) or their loyal lieutenants (Mark and Luke); however, this is not the overwhelming view of the majority of biblical scholars.

 
There is no doubt that there is a minority of ultra-conservative scholars who accept uncritically such an assumption. And that is all it is, an assumption based on Patristic speculation. Accordingly such a view begs many questions that are often overlooked by conservative scholars. In fact, neither I nor the overwhelming majority of objective biblical scholars would accept all of the implications suggested by this assumption."  ---Ian Elmer

Source:  http://www.catholica.com.au/ianstake/043_it_print.php





---"There are extant writings accredited to the Apostolic Fathers, Clement of Rome, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp; written, for the most part, early in the second century. These writings contain no mention of the Four Gospels. This also is admitted by Christian scholars. Dr. Dodwell says: “We have at this day certain most authentic ecclesiastical writers of the times, as Clemens Romanus, Barnabas, Hermas, Ignatius, and Polycarp, who wrote in the order wherein I have named them, and after all the writers of the New Testament. But in Hermas you will not find one passage or any mention of the New Testament, nor in all the rest is any one of the Evangelists named” (Dissertations upon Irenaeus).
 
The Four Gospels were unknown to the early Christian Fathers. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote about the middle of the second century. His writings in proof of the divinity of Christ demanded the use of these Gospels had they existed in his time. He makes more than three hundred quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books of the New Testament; but none from the Four Gospels. The Rev. Dr. Giles says: “The very names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, are never mentioned by him [Justin] — do not occur once in all his writings” (Christian Records, p. 71).
 
Even though the Gospels go under the names of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they were, in fact, written anonymously. These names first appeared in the second century and were assigned to the anonymous writings  to give the writings apostolic authority. The Gospel of Mark was written before any of the other canonical gospels and was written after the fall of the second temple  which occurred in 70 CE.
 
Theophilus, who wrote after the middle of the latter half of the second century, mentions the Gospel of John, and Irenaeus, who wrote a little later, mentions all of the Gospels, and makes numerous quotations from them. In the latter half of the second century, then, between the time of Justin and Papias, and the time of Theophilus and Irenaeus, the Four Gospels were undoubtedly written or compiled.

 Source:  https://thechurchoftruth.org/synoptic-gospels-not-writen-by-matt-mark-luke-or-john/