Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? Bart Ehrman vs Richard Bauckham

ehrman-bauckham

On April 9 and 16, 2016, Professors Bart Ehrman and Richard Bauckham engaged in a debate on the radio show Unbelievable about the topic of Bauckham’s most well-known book, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.

Bart Ehrman’s new book “Jesus Before the Gospels” makes the case that the stories about Jesus would have changed and evolved before they were written down as the Gospels.

Richard Bauckham, author of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, defends the view that the Gospels were written by those with access to eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ first followers. They debate who wrote Mark, whether the the Gospels came from anonymous traditions and how they received their titles.

The shows are available on iTunes:

Saturday 9th April 2016 

Saturday 16th April 2016

Here is a transcript of the end of the discussion from the first episode:

Ehrman: What they’re doing [in the time of Irenaeus, ca. 180 CE] is that they’re naming these gospels in order to provide them with apostolic credentials […]

Bauckham: To maintain this, you have to say that Papias’s discussion of gospels he ascribes to Mark and Matthew are to other gospels, gospels we know nothing about, rather than to the gospels we know as Mark and Matthew’s gospels. I find that a very…

Ehrman: Well one thing we can say about Papias is: he tells us two things about Matthew’s gospel. He says that the Gospel of Matthew is written in Hebrew, and he says that it is a collection of the sayings of Jesus, the logia, the sayings of Jesus. Matthew’s gospel that we have was not written in Hebrew; it was written in Greek. And it is not the sayings of Jesus; it is an account of his words and his deeds and his passion. So what Papias is describing isn’t anything like our Matthew.

Bauckham: Well, I think Papias made a mistake when he thought it was written in Hebrew, certainly. It is a very brief account. Papias calls his own book, “An account of the sayings, logia, of Jesus.” And actually Papias clearly told stories about Jesus, because we have two or three of them. But I think what really interested Papias were the words of Jesus, so he tended to use logia to cover the context of the Gospel, because the sayings of Jesus were what mattered to Papias.

Ehrman: Well that’s right, but he doesn’t call his book “The logia of Jesus”.

Bauckham: Yes he does…

Ehrman: His book is the “Exposition of the logia of Jesus”. He’s giving explanatory comments on the sayings of Jesus. And he says that Matthew wrote logia. Well, Matthew’s Gospel is not a collection of logia. Matthew’s Gospel is a narrative gospel. And so both of the things that Papias said about “Matthew” aren’t true of our Matthew. And so, no, I don’t think he’s talking about our Matthew.

Bauckham: The translation of Papias’s title is debatable, and I think it means “Account of the Sayings of Jesus”. In other words, Papias wrote something like a Gospel book, a collection of sayings and stories about Jesus. And we have some of the stories; it wasn’t just sayings.

Ehrman: I don’t think Papias’s book could be just an account of the logia of Jesus, because it’s five volumes long. He’s actually giving an exposition of the teachings of Jesus.

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3 thoughts on “Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? Bart Ehrman vs Richard Bauckham

  1. Wait a sec. This doesn’t make sense.

    “Richard Bauckham, author of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, defends the view that the Gospels were written by those with access to eyewitness testimony of Jesus’ first followers. ”

    So he already lost. If it was written by people who had access to eyewitness testimony, then it wasn’t written by eyewitnesses but by a third party. Even if it was written by someone who was talking to the eyewitnesses, it still isn’t eyewitness testimony.

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    • No buddy, he considers two of the writers to be eyewitnesses (Matthew and John), what this article says is not infallible representation of Richard’s views. Ehrman’s objection to Papias is ridiculously ambiguois and unscholarly to say the least.

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