Friday, June 21, 2013

Seven Irrefutable Points? Part 1

Over the next few entries, we’re going to have a look at some claimed “FACTS” posted by a rather ill-informed critic who has a rather inflated self-assessment, but not the scholarship or the courage to back it up with a direct debate on TheologyWeb (see link below). We won't name him in this post, because he likes the attention, but we will put a label on the post so that search engines can find it.

1)…100% FACT: we don’t know who wrote the gospels (guess all you want but at the end of the day we don’t know who wrote them because no one signed their name to them) …RED FLAG!!!!

100% FACT: This is not only bogus reasoning and arbitrary criterion, it’s poor scholarship.

To begin, it is hard to tell if what is meant here is literal and personal  written signatures,  or else some sort of simple affixing of a name (by any writer, including a copyist). If the former is meant, then there is virtually no document that passes this test even today. Tacitus certainly didn’t personally sign any copy of the Annals, Histories, or Agricola we have in our possession. Edmund Morris didn’t personally sign my copies of his (alleged) multi-volume history of the life of Theodore Roosevelt. This “100% FACT” effectively declares a direct causal relationship between a signature not being affixed and being able to determine authorship of a document, so the conclusion would have to be that any document not personally signed by the author is one we can only “guess” at the authorship of.  

I have surveyed large number of volumes on classical and historical literature, as well as thousands of other books in my lifetime, and I can count on one hand the number I have had in my possession that have such a signature affixed to them – like Earl Doherty’s Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. But then again – I didn’t see him sign it; it could have been his publicist, or some faker, so I can’t even be sure then, if we’re going to be strict about this. I have also yet to find any scholar that believes that an affixed, personal signature is a requirement to determine authorship.

On the other hand, if this means simply any affixing of a name, not necessarily a personal signature, then by this reasoning, we do know who wrote the Gospels – the names of the authors are affixed at the very beginning, just as they are for the works of Tacitus and multiple other ancient documents, whether histories, biographies, or poetry. 

In Trusting the New Testament , I surveyed the evidence for authorship of New Testament document, and compared the evidence for their authorship to that of secular documents like the works of Tacitus. Compared to those, even the NT document with the weakest evidence, 2 Peter, wins hands down in terms of volume and quality of evidence.  

The real questions are: 

What criteria does Our critic use to decide the authorship of documents?

How would they fare when applied to sources like Tacitus’ Annals, which are universally acknowledged by serious scholars as the work of Tacitus?

And more to the point…is our critic really looking for objective tests for authorship, or just making up things as he goes along as a way of excluding the New Testament, by arbitrarily raising the bar of evidence to unjustified, artificially stratospheric heights?

I’ve checked our critic’s record on other blogs when confronted with these points. His response has been one of the following:

       Leave the blog, sometimes saying he’s busy.

    Repeat back the same argument as though nothing has happened – along with one or more of many other slogans he has collected.

That’s a pretty clear indicating he’s making the rules up as he goes along.

Link to forum thread

Link to another treatment by Nick Peters

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