Yesterday a debate erupted on twitter. Somebody named John asked if I could prove my statement that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John did not write the four gospels attributed to them.
This knowledge is elementary; It is Bible 101. Even Christian scholars would agree with this statement. I told him that I could supply proof but asked him first if he was willing to accept what experts in the field say regarding the topic.
His response was typical. The experts were not around when the bible was written. I knew at that moment that it would be a waste of time debating with someone who refuses to use reason when debating. I told him that the documents that the experts are using to make these conclusions were around and we have them. He backed off.
Looking at John’s bio, he didn’t seem interested in the truth. He only seemed interested in arguing with people. He painted himself as a bitter man who used twitter debates to lift up his broken ego.
It is true, that when it comes to history, you can not know anything for certain. But we can learn quite a bit from the evidence that remains. We can reconstruct the most likely scenario of how things went down. There is a science to it. Biblical Scholar Bart D. Ehrman has this to say in his book Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don’t Know About Them):
“In short, who were Jesus’ disciples? Lower-class, illiterate, Aramaic-speaking peasants from Galilee.”
If you read the book, he is able to back all these claims up with a good, solid knowledge of history. He continues:
“The authors of the Gospels were highly educated, Greek-speaking Christians who probably lived outside of Palestine.”
Clearly you can see that the disciples do not match the description of the men suspected of writing the gospels. You could argue that perhaps the apostles got an education after the death of Jesus, but even if that were true, the chances that they would be able to produce extended literary works like the Gospels is far fetched indeed. Here are some facts about literacy in the Roman Empire:
- 10%, at best, could read
- Fewer could write sentences
- Even fewer than that could compose narratives on a rudimentary level
It doesn’t look good for the theory that the apostles went to night school.
Moreover, the gospels are anonymous. They never say who wrote them. The names Matthew, Mark, Luke & John were attributed to them at a much later date by the Church.
To back off from a debate is a lesson that I recently learned. I am very fiery and when someone challenges me with an easy task, I want to fight back with what I know. But what I learned is that I need to set the stage for a debate. See if my opponent is willing to agree on terms of the debate. Basically, Is the person debate worthy? If a person is not willing to accept the best evidence that we have available to us or offer opposing evidence that is supported, you are wasting your time debating that individual. This could be a challenge when dealing with religious people who think “I just know because I can feel it” is evidence for the existence of god.
So as tempted as I was to send this joker John pages and pages of supporting evidence that the four gospels were not only anonymous but that those who were attributed to writing them couldn’t have done it anyway, I decided he wasn’t debate worthy and moved on… and blogged about it instead. 😉