N.T. Wright concludes that the resurrection narratives in the four gospels develop from early accounts, accounts in which the startling fact of the resurrection is still raw, undigested (Resurrection, 610-15). Assuming Wright is correct, this feature of the gospel resurrection accounts is beyond strange. Since they are written down quite late (in all probability and as most scholars agree), after four to six decades of theological reflection one would think they would express the meaning of the resurrection clearly and thoroughly. Yet, in fact, Paul’s writings on the resurrection of Yeshua are far more developed. What are we to make of the raw accounts in the four gospels?
. . . What is it about these narratives that makes a leading historian and New Testament scholar to view them as raw, as reflecting early, unvarnished, even puzzled reactions to a virtually inexplicable event? Wright speaks of the strange absences and unusual features of the resurrection narratives under four topics: the silence of the Bible, the absence of personal hope, the inclusion of women, and the unusual descriptions of Yeshua’s body.
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Why should we regard the Gospel accounts as necessarily being late? Acts stops in mid-action, suggesting that it was written in c. 62 CE, which would put Luke a year or more earlier. (John Mauck’s Paul on Trial makes an excellent case that both books were originally Paul’s pre-trial documentation.) Almost everyone thinks that Matthew and Mark were written earlier, though tradition (putting Matthew first) is at odds with Q-hypothesis-based Markian priority. That gives us a 30-year window, maximum, on the Synoptics, with John coming later.
That being the case, it should not really surprise us that the Gospel accounts are more “raw” on the theological implications than Paul’s Epistles.
The current late-dating of the Gospel accounts is just a step back from the now-disproven documentary hypotheses that originally made them out to be 2nd Century documents. It’s only purpose is to cast doubt on the authorship and historical record. Why then should we accept their premise?
Return of Benjamin:
Sorry, but you have bad information here. The idea that Acts was written before Paul’s death is not very credible. The idea that the gospels are all pre-70 is also not very credible. Evidence of issues important to the later communities of faith at the time of the writing of the gospels abounds. The ending of Acts serves Luke’s literary purposes. If you read good dose of commentaries you will find much information here. Don’t know of John Mauck’s book, but his theory obviously gets little attention from the majority of scholars. We’re not talking second century here and I never said that. But 60’s to perhaps early 90’s, yes.
I find ascribing a late date due to vague literary purposes or suppositions about what the earlier vs. the later Messianic Community’s needs to be no more credible than attempting to late-date the writing of the Torah and carving it up into JEDPB&J authors on the same basis.
It makes no sense to stop a historical narrative on a cliffhanger unless you are a) planning a sequel, or b) not sure of the ending because it hasn’t happened at the time of publication. The attempts to do so are, IMHO, not credible.
“Yet, in fact, Paul’s writings on the resurrection of Yeshua are far more developed. What are we to make of the raw accounts in the four gospels?”
Wouldn’t your question lend support to an earlier source text hypothesis? If the Gospels tend to be more “raw accounts,” then it would make sense if they were using an earlier source text that has now become lost to us, but which would have been a much earlier witness than our current Gospels (maybe Q?).
However, this still leaves the question raised … what do we do with this? For we keep coming back to the issue that if the Gospel writers (or at least Matthew) were actual witnesses to the matter, and if Luke and Mark are second hand accounts, even if they were using a base text the reports should still be more developed and less “raw.”
So I guess I just wrote all this to come back to square one. :)
Any additional thoughts?
Well, wasn’t trying for a source theory of the gospels. Not sure I will ever speculate much on that. But if I do, I’ll need years more work on them.
Meanwhile, Q is only about sayings. It is not narratives. That is, if Q ever existed.
But oral traditions or earlier writings of deeds and sayings of Yeshua certainly could be behind the gospels. Wright seems to think oral traditions were plenty and that oral tradition passes down with far less change than skeptics have thought.
There is a huge difference between source theory of the Pentateuch and dating the gospels in the 60-90 range. The Pentateuch to some degree claims Mosaic origin. The gospels do not claim a time of writing and they do not claim authors (though the fourth gospel says that some of its parts, at least, come from the witness of the beloved disciple).
You are comparing apples and oranges. You are also implying, falsely, that I am nothing more than a source critic. Au contraire, in this podcast my major point is the authenticity and early character of the resurrection stories.