Sunday, December 16, 2007

No Other Gospel - Nick Perrin

The Fall 2007 issue of Christian History and Biography features an article of interest by Nicholas Perrin:

No Other Gospel
Despite the appearance of Gnostic "gospels," the early church decided that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were without rival.
by Nicholas Perrin
from Issue 96: The Gnostics Hunger for Secret Knowledge

It turns out that Nick was at school with Dan Brown; and he admits to
being "one of the few literate adults living who has not read Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code". Count me in the same club; and I have no intention of ever reading it. The short article is nicely written, and it provides a good introduction to the issues from a conservative perspective, though it side steps some of the issues that scholars might wish to highlight. It does not, for example, make clear that the issues under discussion are controversial within the academy, even if it is universally acknowledged in the academy that Dan Brown has no serious understanding of these issues. The most problematic paragraph is this one:
Historically speaking, those touting the apostolic origins of the apocryphal gospels had little to stand on. These texts came much later than the four-fold gospel collection. The canonical gospels were all first-century documents; all four offer credible eyewitness accounts of Jesus of Nazareth. The apocryphal gospels, written generations later, can barely compete with this claim.
This drives too strong a wedge between "canonical gospels" and "apocryphal gospels". We may not be talking about "generations"; that sounds a bit like overstatement. In contemporary New Testament scholarship, the idea that "all four offer credible eyewitness accounts" is a highly dubious claim, and one that should not be made with so little qualification. It is true that there is now a case that the canonical gospels are reliant on eyewitness testimony (Richard Bauckham) but as far as recent New Testament scholarship is concerned, this is a new and highly controversial claim that is only now beginning to be tested, and even Bauckham does not claim that the four are written by eyewitnesses (except perhaps John).


EMC said...

The idea that the 4 gospels are based on eyewitness testimony is hardly a new claim, even if it is controversial. You might wish to rephrase that sentence.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, EMC. In context I am talking about the recent scholarly literature, but I see that it could be taken another way, so I will do a slight reword as you suggest. Cheers, Mark. PS: Looking forward to the fourth annual Ralphies!

Stephen C. Carlson said...

Mark and Luke were never thought of as eyewitnesses.

Ed said...

No, but the idea that they were based on eyewitness testimony (e.g. Mark on Peter's) is an ancient idea.