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Yeshua in Context » Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Formation of the Gospels, Gospels as History » The Eyewitness Theory of Gospel Formation #1

The Eyewitness Theory of Gospel Formation #1

I haven’t forgotten that I started a series called “Chronicling the Formation of the Gospels.” I’ve just been busy…too busy. I’m reading Mark Goodacre’s The Case Against Q and Richard Bauckham’s Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Soon I plan to read Paul Anderson’s The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus. Alongside my “Chronicling the Formation of the Gospels” series, I plan to write a simpler explanation of Bauckham’s eyewitness theory. I think there is something solid here which future researchers will not be able to ignore. Bauckham makes some points so well, I would have to think his book will leave a mark on historical Jesus studies and gospels research.

What are some of the kinds of observations and questions that lead Richard Bauckham to the eyewitness theory of the formation of the gospels? The first is foundational to the whole theory:

(1) Why are some characters named and some unnamed in the gospels?

That question and a few other considerations lead to a chain of questions, which are behind and in support of the eyewitness theory.

(2) Why are some characters named in some gospels but unnamed in one or more parallels?

(3) Were there conventions in comparable historiographical writings concerning witnesses and naming them in accounts? (Bauckham discusses at length the use of inclusio as a convention).

(4) What do the names, patronymics, variant forms of names, nicknames, and so on in the gospels tell us when compared with our knowledge of Palestinian Jewish names?

(5) What internal evidence is there in the apostolic writings for the importance of eyewitnesses? (Bauckham discusses, for example, the phrase “witnesses from the beginning”).

(6) A common theory of gospel formation has been one of long “oral tradition.” Does the use of names in the gospels support the common theory? (There is a difference between “oral tradition” and “oral history”).

(7) Is there external evidence for the importance of eyewitnesses in gospel formation? (Hint: Papias).

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Filed under: Disciples & Named Characters, Eyewitnesses, Formation of the Gospels, Gospels as History

2 Responses to "The Eyewitness Theory of Gospel Formation #1"

  1. Todd says:

    I also found Bauckham’s book very compelling. His analysis of “names” made a strong impression. Also, I found his reading of Papias to be the most persuasive I have read (and I have read a couple). Derek it is a good deed you are bringing this book to the attention of your community.

  2. yeshuain says:

    Thanks, Todd. I asked Scot McKnight about it and he thinks there is more literary dependence than Bauckham is taking into account. I ordered a Greek harmony of the gospels and will follow McKnight’s advice to underline all the verbatim parallels and see the amount of direct literary dependence.

    But, I suspect this will not cause me to abandon the good insights of Bauckham. I think he has some solid observations that literary dependence will not erase.

    Oy, it takes time to work through these issues and I am impatient.

    Derek Leman

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