Thursday, November 24, 2016

Reasons to Believe in the corruption of the Gospels


In a previous post three reasons to believe in the corruption of the Torah were offered. In this post the same will be done for the four Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

1- Christological Evolution

There’s disagreement surrounding exactly when the four gospels were written, but if we were to be generous with the dates:

Mark, written ~60 CE
Matthew and Luke, written ~75 CE
John, written ~90 CE

For reference, 'Isa (عليه السلام) is believed to have died sometime after the year 30 CE.

If one were to compare earlier gospels with later ones, one will find that there is a general trend of embellishing Jesus’ character over time, from Mark, to Matthew and Luke, to John. I.e. Jesus is evolving with every passing account to become more and more god-like. Three examples will be given:

1.1 “God” or “Father”?

We read in Mark 3:35 that Jesus says:
Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.

The same statement is reported in Matthew 12:50, but with an important twist:
For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.

The earlier gospel (Mark) has Jesus saying “God” where the later gospel (Matthew) has this changed to Jesus calling God “Father”. Such an embellishment serves to portray Jesus as more than just a human who is subservient to his Lord.

1.2 Peter’s Response

In the gospels of Mark and Matthew, Jesus is reported to have asked his disciples: “Who do you say I am?”

In Mark 8:29 Peter’s response was:
“You are the Messiah.”

In Matthew 16:16 Peter’s response is recorded as:
“You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Notice how the later gospel (Matthew) adds the phrase “the Son of the living God”, which is lacking from the earlier gospel (Mark). Ask yourselves, which is more likely: Mark simply choosing not to record this very significant phrase? Or Matthew coming along and deliberately adding it onto the text to make a point?

1.3 Judas’ Betrayal

The gospels record the moment when Judas betrays Jesus, and calls for the soldiers to come and arrest him. Let us take the accounts of Mark, Luke and John for comparison:

According to Mark 14:44-46:
Now the betrayer [Judas] had arranged a signal with them [the guards]: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him and lead him away under guard.” Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. The men seized Jesus and arrested him.

According to Luke 22:47-48:
While he [Jesus] was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”

According to John 18:3-6:
So Judas came to the garden, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, “Who is it you want?”
“Jesus of Nazareth,” they replied.
“I am he,” Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) When Jesus said, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.

Again a huge difference between the three accounts, where Jesus is portrayed as more powerful according to the later gospels when compared to the earlier ones.

According to the earliest account found in Mark: The soldiers did not know who Jesus was, so Judas had to single him out for them by kissing Jesus’ hand. Judas approaches Jesus, kisses his hand, and immediately afterwards the guards seize Jesus. That's it for Mark's version of the story.

Then comes the account in Luke. According to Luke, when Jesus sees Judas approaching he immediately realizes that Judas was betraying him. Before Judas could even kiss his hand, Jesus asks him: “are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?” A clear embellishment from Mark’s depiction, implying that Jesus is more knowledgeable.

Finally we have the latest account in John. According to John, Judas doesn’t even get to approach Jesus, let alone kiss him. As soon as Jesus sees Judas he immediately knows of his treachery. In fact, John explicitly states that Jesus knew exactly what was going to happen to him. The gospel of John then takes this story one step further- according to John the soldiers don’t arrest Jesus, rather it is implied that he gives himself up to them. Jesus is the one who asks the approaching soldiers “Who is it you want?” and when he proclaims that he is indeed Jesus of Nazareth, they all fall to the ground in awe of his power. According to John, Jesus is completely in control of the entire situation.

1.4 Jesus being called “Lord” by his disciples

In Mark 4:38 we read:
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

The same event is reported in Matthew 8:25, but again with a twist:
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”

The wording of the earlier gospel of Mark has the disciples calling Jesus “Teacher”. The later gospel of Matthew has the disciples calling Jesus “Lord”.

1.5 God as the “Father in Heaven”

As we move away from the time of Jesus, the number of times God is referred to as “Father” by him increases in each account.

In the earliest gospel, Mark, Jesus refers to God as “Father” only 5 times.

Between Matthew and Luke, Jesus refers to God as “Father” a total of 41 times (14 times in Luke, 27 in Matthew)

In the latest gospel of John, Jesus refers to God as “Father” 117 times- more times than the other three gospels combined.

Implying a theological agenda on the part of the later gospel authors to depict Jesus as the Son of God, the emphasis for this increasing over time. Source for the count.

1.6 Prayer of Gethsemane

Before his arrest, Jesus is reported to have entered the garden of Gethsemane, and prayed to God to save him.

In Mark 14:35-36 we read:
Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”

A similar prayer is found in Matthew (26:39) and Luke (22:42).

However, this prayer- which depicts Jesus as weak and helpless before God, and most importantly unwilling to be crucified- is missing from the latest Gospel of John. Again, an embellishment which serves to portray Jesus as more able than he is. Instead what we have in the gospel of John, is Jesus entering the garden and then the episode of his arrest begins immediately after. The only mention of the Garden goes by very quickly:

In John 18:1 we read:

When he had finished praying, Jesus left with his disciples and crossed the Kidron Valley. On the other side there was a garden, and he and his disciples went into it.

1.7 Matthew’s Donkey Mess-up

In the earliest Gospel of Mark, we read of Jesus asking his disciples to bring him a colt (young donkey) so that he could ride into Jerusalem on its back. Mark 11:2 reads:
[Jesus] saying to them [the disciples], “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here.”

In Matthew however this is changed to TWO donkeys. We read in Matthew 21:2:
[Jesus] saying to them [the disciples], “Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me.”

Later on in verse 7 of the same chapter, Matthew has Jesus riding into Jerusalem on top of both animals:
They [the disciples] brought the donkey and the colt and placed their cloaks on them for Jesus to sit on.

Two donkeys are better than one, right? Well things get even funnier. This is actually a serious attempt at an embellishment on the part of Matthew’s author. Matthew evidently was skimming through the Old Testament, trying to see what in there he can squeeze into his story about Jesus (so that he can then turn around and say: “Aha! See? The Old Testament hundreds of years ago prophesied about Jesus here!”). Matthew comes across a passage from the book of Zechariah (9:9) which reads:
Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Matthew (being someone who obviously doesn’t understand the Old Testament very well) thought Zechariah 9:9 depicted the King of Jerusalem riding on a donkey AND a colt. In an attempt to project this image from Zechariah 9:9 onto Jesus, Matthew in his Gospel then has Jesus riding on both an adult donkey and a colt.

Obviously Matthew misunderstood Zechariah 9:9. For example, if I said: “Billy is a good Christian, an honest man” the intended meaning is that there is a single person named Billy, and that this single person is both a good Christian, and an honest man. I do not mean that there are two people, the first being a Christian named Billy, and the second being an honest man. Likewise with Zechariah 9:9. When the author of Zechariah says the King of Jerusalem will be “riding on a donkey, on a colt” he does not mean the King of Jerusalem will be riding on both an adult donkey AND a colt. Rather on a single animal, who is both a donkey and a colt (i.e. a young donkey).

What does Matthew’s terrible mess-up tell us? It tells us that the gospels were written in retrospect of the Old Testament- that the gospel authors did not mind perverting the story of Jesus’ life for theological reasons. In other words, that the authors of the Gospels were more interested in selling the reader Christian theology, than they were in relaying historical events accurately.

1.8 Jesus Stabbed

In the first three Gospels (Mark, Matthew and Luke) Jesus is allegedly put on the cross on a Friday. The following day being the Sabbath, the Jews had to take him down on Friday’s eve. This meant Jesus was put on the cross for only a few hours. This is very strange, because crucifixion is supposed to be a long and agonizing death. The person being crucified is supposed to suffer on the cross for several days before dying from exhaustion/starvation. But Jesus was only up there for a few hours. In fact this was so strange, that even Pontius Pilate (the governor who had sentenced Jesus to death) was surprised at Jesus’ early death. In Mark 15:44 we read:
Pilate was surprised to hear that he [Jesus] was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him if Jesus had already died.

This is very problematic for Christian theology. Jesus had to have died on the cross for the entire religion to make sense, and there can be no doubts about this pivotal event. So what does the author of the last Gospel (John) do? He has a guard stab Jesus with a spear for good measure. And to not leave readers with any doubts about Jesus’ death on the cross, John describes how blood and water flowed out of Jesus’ stabbed body. In John 19:34:
Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.

John's gospel is the only one that mentions this stab.

Of course, this is amongst the many other examples one can give to highlight this evolutionary trend, from the earlier gospels to the later ones. The main point is however, if one extrapolates this trend of embellishing Jesus backwards, to even before Mark was complied, you'd probably get a very human Jesus. A Jesus that’s even more human than Mark’s depiction. And a Jesus that fits perfectly with how Islam sees him.

2- The New Testament says there were earlier Gospels

The New Testament reports that Paul had heated debates against ‘false’ apostles who were teaching ‘false’ gospels.

We read in Galatians 1:6-7:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel, which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ.

And in 2 Corinthians 11:13:
For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ

This is significant for obvious reasons. It suggests there were alternative, competing, Christian traditions to the Pauline narrative. Moreover, those alternative traditions were contemporaneous with Paul himself. What’s even more significant, is that Paul’s material predates the four Gospels. This means those ‘false apostles’, preaching the ‘false gospel’ (according to Paul) predate the four canonical Gospels!

So how can the Christian today prove that the Pauline narrative is the theologically correct one amongst the other early traditions that were competing against it? Why does the Christian trust the Pauline narrative at all? What if one of those - now lost - gospels preached by those who Paul called ‘false apostles’ is actually the true gospel of Christ?

Obviously the modern Christian cannot appeal to the four Gospels to support Paul’s narrative. This is because the four Gospels were written after Paul's work (possibly deliberately crafted to conform with his teachings). All the Christian today has to appeal to, is the Old Testament. And this problematic for two reasons:
-A- Because the Old Testament itself is not reliable (as discussed in another post found here).
-B- There is a huge difference between how Jews have traditionally interpreted the Old Testament, and how Christians interpret it.

3- Fabricated Verses

Modern scholarship had already detected (and removed) many fabricated verses from the New Testament.

Those include, but are not limited to:

3.1 The Pericope de Adultera

The story, where Jesus refuses to stone a woman for committing adultery. Where Jesus famously declares: “Let those without sin cast the first stone”… turns out this story is a fabrication.

The story is found in John 8. Most modern English translations of the Bible will now warn you about this fabrication.

3.2 The Ending of Mark
Verses 16:9-20 of the gospel of Mark, are now considered fabrications by most New Testament scholars. Once again, you will find a warning about this in most modern English translations of the Bible.

What this means is that the Gospel of Mark (or what we have left of it) ends at Mark 16:8:
Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.

So according to Mark, no one is informed of Jesus’ resurrection… he doesn’t appear to his disciples after his alleged death… nothing. The greatest pillar of Christianity, the resurrection, is not supported by the earliest Gospel.

3.3 The verse of the Trinity

Not part of the gospels per se, but significant nonetheless. The only verse in the entire New Testament which explicitly mentions the trinity is a fabrication.

1 John 5:7 used to read:
For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.

But this verse has now been taken out from the translations that utilize the earliest manuscripts.

The implications are huge. Not only are those fabrications of great theological importance to the Christian, but the fact fabrications even exist also casts doubt on the veracity of the New Testament’s preservation. If one knows fabrications have crept into their scriptures, how can one be certain that nothing else is a fabrication?


There are many other reasons to doubt in the preservation of the New Testament (anonymous authorship, contradictions between the gospel accounts, the fact none of the authors even claim to have been inspired…etc.) but those were just the three most interesting ones in my opinion.

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