Monthly Archives: January 2009

Jesus and the other “Gospels” (conclusion)

I want to say a few things here to wrap our material on the other Gospels that some people claim give us just as early and reliable a picture of Jesus as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. To put it simply, they in fact do nothing of the kind. They give us a good picture of what certain Gnostic-influenced “Christian” groups in the late second and early third centuries thought about Jesus, but they do not give us anything new about Jesus himself. I say “new” because in some cases they do report reliable and early information about Jesus, but only when they rely on the four Gospels that made it into the Bible. This does leave us with one unanswered question, however: If these Gospels are not legitimate, why are they so popular and why do many scholars believe in them? Continue reading

Jesus and the Other “Gospels” (pt 3)

In this post I want to offer a few thoughts about the most popular of the “other Gospels” – The Gospel of Thomas. Before Thomas was discovered, we knew of about half a dozen references to a Gospel in his name. Once again, it is not that anyone believed that the actual Thomas – one of Jesus’ disciples, the one who gets a bad rap for demanding to see Jesus’ actual wounds – wrote it, but that it was assigned to his name. Then, in the 1890s, archaeologists dug up thousands of papyri (fragments of old “books”) in Egypt, a few of which were portions of The Gospel of Thomas. But they didn’t know what it was until 1945 when the Nag Hammadi library was discovered elsewhere in Egypt. There we found a copy of Thomas in an ancient language called “coptic.” The book consists of 114 sayings supposedly attributed to Jesus. I will make just a few points about Thomas, all of which will indicate that while fascinating, it gives us no new insight into the real Jesus of first century Palestine. Continue reading

Jesus and the Other “Gospels” (pt 2)

In this post I’ll offer a brief synopsis of The Gospels of Peter, Mary, Philip, and Judas, sprinkling in some basic points about their historical unreliability. I’m not trying to be harsh but rather to follow the evidence, and the evidence stands squarely against them.

The Gospel of Peter was found in Akhmim, Egypt, in the 1880s, in a cave with a few other writings. There was no name attached to the Gospel, but Peter was mentioned in some other writings in the cave, so it was given the name The Gospel of Peter. Continue reading

Jesus and the Other “Gospels” (pt 1)

By now most of you will have heard about other so-called “gospels” other than the Big Four that made it into the Bible – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Our class time is devoted to investigating the reliability of those four, but we cannot (and should not) avoid the reality of other possible records of Jesus’ life and ministry. So in the next few posts, we will examine these other gospels. First, let’s answer a few basic questions.

How many Gospels are there, and what are their names? Continue reading

How the Gospels Became “the Gospels” (summary)

This past week we began our investigation of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, by noting that people in our world are saying all sorts of things about Jesus. C. S. Lewis once famously wrote that we have to consider Jesus “Lord, a liar, or a lunatic,” but we’ve proven to be much more creative and diverse! To us Jesus has become everything from a good moral teacher to “my homeboy” to a legendary reincarnation of ancient pagan myths.

This variety begs one very important question: Who gets to determine who Jesus really is? The traditional answer to this question would be the four “canonical” Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But many today balk at such a response. Our goal is to dig into these controversial issues, and we started by examining the process by which these four books became part of the Bible. We learned that this process can be divided into five sections or “stages.” Continue reading

Short delay

My day is looking a little different than I had planned, so here’s what I’m thinking. This afternoon I will post a summary of our material from Sunday. If I have time, I will also post on the other “Gospels” (of Mary, Thomas, Peter, Judas); if not, I will post on them tomorrow. Before the end of the week, I’ll also offer some thoughts on how the Old Testament was put together. Feel free to ask any other related questions in the comments. Thanks for being patient!

In the meantime, I’m also trying to find a new location for our class. I’ll keep you posted!

Welcome…

Welcome to our Life Groups Blog! We will use this blog a forum for teaching, discussion, and probably some occasional entertainment! We’re excited to have this new venue to keep in touch with all of you, and we hope that it will provide many opportunities for us all to stay connected and to learn from one another.

For the next six weeks, the blog will focus on a class that I (Michael) am teaching at Real Life: Can We Trust the Gospels? In this class we are investigating the historical reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Time permitting, each week you can expect a few things from the blog:

1.  I will post links to the audio recording of the previous week’s class, as well as the outline provided to follow along.

2.  I will offer a basic summary of the material we covered in our time together, highlighting the main points.

3.  I will follow-up the class material with further information on related topics that we weren’t able to cover in class.

4.  In addition to #3, in which I’ll cover topics I’ve already chosen, I will try to answer any other questions we didn’t cover during our time together.

For the last two, I may at times point you in the direction of other online resources. It will depend on how much time I have that week.

I am very excited to take this journey with you! Please feel free to comment – offer your questions, reflections, objections, anything at all. The only rule is that when we disagree, we do so respectfully. I promised to post something of substance by noon today, and I will do my best to stick to that promise!