How the New Testament Gospels developed? - The Authority of the Gospels as Scripture

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Chris Louw

Puritan Board Freshman
In the Biblical Archaeology Review of November/December 2009, prof Helmut Koester writes on page 55:
Finds of ancient manuscripts, often fragmentary, and quotations by the Church Fathers have shown that during the first and the second centuries, at least ten gospels were circulating. The New Testament had not yet been canonized. That the Gospels were joined together in a collection of four and became part of what we know now as the canon of the "New Testament" is a process that began at the end of the second century; the first manuscript containing all four canonical Gospels appears only in the third century.
Even during the following centuries, changes were made by scribes who copied the texts. For example, the Gospel of John received an additional chapter, John 21; the original ending of this gospel stands, after the three stories of the appearance of Jesus in John 20:30-31: "Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through that believing you may have life in his name.
Similarly, the Gospel of Mark originally ended with the story of the empty tomb in Mark 16:8. Later, scribes added a story of the appearance of the resurrected Jesus to the disciples (Mark 16:9-20), which is still missing in all older manuscripts.
The Gospel of Luke is preserved in two different versions, one found in manuscripts from Egypt, the other appearing in the so-called Western Text found in the old Latin translation and in one bilingual (Greek and Latin) codex. Some scholars have suggested that Luke himself issued both language editions of his work.
Additions within the text of the Gospels also appear. Bishop Papias of Hierapolis (early second century) writes that the story of the "Woman Taken in Adultery" (John 7:53-8:11) could be found only in the Gospel According to the Hebrews; all older manuscripts of the Gospel of John do not include it. It was inserted into the Gospel of John at a later time.

Is the quoted passage true? I hope not... but if so, what does it mean if we say that the Bible is inerrant in the original manuscripts? When did the New Testament become inspired, before passages was added, or thereafter?

I've googled prof Helmut Koester. He seems to be a German-born American. I know that the Germans are very liberal in their theology... most of them. Is prof Koester erring, because of his German roots?

I don't know, but if the above is true, it has serious implications for how to understand the inspiration of the New Testament. It is almost on the same level as the question about the vowel signs in the Hebrew language, discussed somewhere else on the forum. Fascinating...
 

py3ak

Unshaven and anonymous
Staff member
I would keep a saltshaker handy when reading this kind of thing. It's heavy on dogmatic generalizations, and weak on providing supporting particulars. It also ignores the fact that what the Church had to do was not create a canon, but recognize which books God had inspired. Herman Ridderbos' Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures is a good read on that topic.
 

Skyler

Puritan Board Graduate
I would keep a saltshaker handy when reading this kind of thing. It's heavy on dogmatic generalizations, and weak on providing supporting particulars. It also ignores the fact that what the Church had to do was not create a canon, but recognize which books God had inspired. Herman Ridderbos' Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures is a good read on that topic.

I don't know, I keep running out of salt. It gets kind of expensive after a while. :)
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
Respecting the other (presumably six?) gospels that were circulating, these were all Gnostic "Christian" texts and were never accepted by the Church as canonical. The Church has never been gnostic and gnosticism is explicitly rejected as an antichrist (an idol put iin the place of Christ and true Christianity) in the NT Epistles and does not comport at all with the Gospels.

Moreover even a brief perusal of these "gospels" will show you how the Church could recognise the difference between God's Word and gnostic material in the same way that we know the difference between wheat and chaff or cheese and chalk. I can well believe that even a non-Christian would be able to tell the value of the Four Gospels compared with the valuelessness of the gnostic "gospels."

It is only people with a critical and liberal agenda to grind who talk about "other gospels circulating" without pointing out how easy it was to distinguish God's authoritative Word from the poison and chaff that must have been produced by a demon very inexperienced in such deceptions.

We are told in Revelation

The serpent poured water like a river out of his mouth after the woman, to sweep her away with a flood.But the earth came to the help of the woman, and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth. (Rev 12:15-16, ESV)

I wonder if this is anything to do with the production and dissemination and forgetting of the gnostic "gospels"

This is a good book on the subject:-

Why Twenty Seven?: How Can We Be Sure That We Have the Right Books in the New Testament?: Amazon.co.uk: Brian H. Edwards: Books

There is no comparison between the Gospels and any other old rubbish that was floating around at the time.

To use an artistic analogy it's like comparing the work of Leonardo with the scribblings of a post-60s conceptual random artist on cannabis.

Read the above book as an intro to this subject. You'll see the difference for your self.
 
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