Did the Gospel Writers Feel Free to Make Stuff Up?
BY Jimmy Akin
| Posted 10/19/12 at 9:05 AM
Some people hold the view that the writers of the four gospels felt free to basically make stuff up, to freely shape the narratives they were writing about Jesus' life by either manufacturing stories about his deeds or making up teachings and putting them on his lips.
The idea is that they used the figure of Jesus as a vehicle for their own ideas, and they made up material to serve the perceived needs of their local Christian communities.
It's easy to show that by the second century there were a lot of people identifying themselves as Christians who did exactly this. That's why there were so many Gnostic gospels dating from the second to the fourth century.
But what about the first century, canonical gospels?
Let's take a look . . .
I should say a word about what I mean and what I don't mean.
I'm talking about making stuff up out of whole cloth--the kind of things that the authors of the Gnostic gospels did, telling stories and making up sayings that have absolutely no relation to the historical Jesus and what he said and did.
I'm not talking about paraphrasing what Jesus said--using different words to express the same thing. Or simplifying a story by choosing not to record certain details about what happened. Or telling a story from a certain point of view or bringing out an implication, nuance, or meaning that others might not have brought out. Or using a bit of literary artistry or reorganization in how the material is presented.
The gospel authors did all of those things, as is easy to show. John did a bit more of them than the other three.
What I'm talking about is fundamentally different. I'm talking about making stuff up.
While the Gnostics may have been into that kind of thing, there are very good reasons to think that the authors of the canonical gospels weren't.
Let's look at two reasons why . . .
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