Monday, June 24, 2013

Seven Irrefutable Points: Part 2

Now for the second from our “Red Flag” critic:

2)…100% FACT: not only are the gospels anonymously written, but they are written in the 3rd person (deepening the anonymity of these unknown ancient authors) …RED FLAG!!!!

100% FACT: Like the last one, this is both bogus reasoning, an arbitrary criterion, and poor scholarship. 

For one thing, third person presentation does not “deepen anonymity.” Whether a work is written in first, second, or third person is not, and never has been, used by scholars to gauge authorship.

But more importantly, there’s a rather obvious reason (to informed persons) why the Gospels are written in third person: They are of the genre of ancient history/biography.

By way of example, note this from the biography of Agricola, by Tacitus:

He served his military apprenticeship in Britain to the satisfaction of Suetonius Paullinus, a painstaking and judicious officer, who, to test his merits, selected him to share his tent. Without the recklessness with which young men often make the profession of arms a mere pastime, and without indolence, he never availed himself of his tribune's rank or his inexperience to procure enjoyment or to escape from duty. He sought to make himself acquainted with the province and known to the army; he would learn from the skilful, and keep pace with the bravest, would attempt nothing for display, would avoid nothing from fear, and would be at once careful and vigilant. Never indeed had Britain been more excited, or in a more critical condition. Veteran soldiers had been massacred, colonies burnt, armies cut off. The struggle was then for safety; it was soon to be for victory. And though all this was conducted under the leadership and direction of another, though the final issue and the glory of having won back the province belonged to the general, yet skill, experience, and ambition were acquired by the young officer. His soul too was penetrated with the desire of warlike renown, a sentiment unwelcome to an age which put a sinister construction on eminent merit, and made glory as perilous as infamy.

As can be seen, this is third person through and through. Yet not one commentator would make such an absurd claim as that this somehow disqualifies Tacitus as the author.

I might add of course that some parts of the Gospel literature is not written in third person; e.g., the “we” passages in Acts. But it doesn’t really matter, because this idea that “third person” somehow disqualifies authorship is merely nonsensical.

So now, questions for this critic, to add to that last one:

Why should “third person” give us any sign of authorship?

Based on the answer to this, how do you explain that scholars do not discount e.g., Tacitus’ authorship of Agricola on this basis?

I won’t be expecting an answer. Not a real one, anyway.

Related post by Nick Peters.

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