The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 6

This series of posts is an attempt to help resurrect the Hebrew Gospel from a very long and undeserved oblivion. Though little more than a name today, in the early Christian centuries the Hebrew Gospel (GHeb) was noted by many Church Fathers—sometimes positively, sometimes negatively, and sometimes simply with a neutral tone. Seventy-five references—a few with quotes—demonstrate that GHeb was significantly different from our canonical gospels. Its most critical difference was in christology, for in GHeb Jesus was a spirit: For since the apostles considered [Jesus] to be a spirit or, according to the gospel which is of the Hebrews and is read by the Nazoraeans, a demon without a body, he said to them… (Edwards 284, citing Jerome) It … Continue reading

Nazareth, Capernaum, and Tabor

The issue of Jesus’ hometown in early Christian literature is revealing. In the Gospel of Marcion (Mcn) the hometown of Jesus is Capernaum, as it is also in the Gospel of Mark. “Nazara” is only briefly mentioned in Mcn (corresponding to Lk 4:16–30). But the place does not really fit Marcion’s gospel, which locates Jesus in Capernaum both before and after a brief ‘visit’ to Nazara. Now, we know from the Gospel of Philip (Nag Hammadi) that in gnostic tradition Nazara meant “truth” (GPh 62). This interpretation fits the earlier spirit-Jesus christology, but not the new theios aner Jesus of Marcion, for which Jesus also requires a physical ‘hometown.’ Marcion’s gospel thus was apparently trying to fuse two different christologies … Continue reading

H. Detering confronts R. Carrier—Pt. 3

Paul, Mark, and other substitutions: Richard Carrier on The Fabricated Paul by Dr. Hermann Detering Edited and translated by René Salm   Division theories Finally, Carrier broaches an important view—one that many New Testament scholars discuss with self-assurance but for which they rarely give substantiation. On the basis of internal contradictions in the seven alleged authentic epistles, even conservative scholars have long adopted various ‘division theories’ whereby larger epistles are composed of several smaller ones. While they gladly assert the existence of a ‘stable common basis’ consisting of seven authentic epistles, they somehow argue the existence of a corpus consisting of more than seven epistles (thus, J. Becker). For example, most scholars today consider that Philippians consists of three authentic … Continue reading

H. Detering confronts R. Carrier—Pt. 2

Paul, Mark, and other substitutions: Richard Carrier on The Fabricated Paul by Dr. Hermann Detering Edited and translated by René Salm   I’ve long wondered that Carrier’s responses to higher critical positions give the impression of having been formed through acquaintance at second hand, as would be the case were his learning gained through casual discussions or even hearsay. He routinely (and maddeningly) simply does not substantiate his claims. In any case, what he has to offer regarding higher criticism is usually incorrect. One telling example is his failure to distinguish between the authenticity of the Pauline epistles and the historicity of the Apostle. Carrier treats the two issues as one, seeming quite unaware that the majority of the Dutch … Continue reading

H. Detering confronts R. Carrier—Pt. 1

Paul, Mark, and other substitutions: Richard Carrier on The Fabricated Paul by Dr. Hermann Detering Edited and translated by René Salm For some time now friends have asked me to respond to a certain blog entry by Dr. Richard Carrier, one entitled “The Historicity of Paul the Apostle” (dated June 6, 2015), in which the author expresses himself regarding my book The Fabricated Paul. My response has been delayed due to more pressing work, and also to my natural aversion towards engaging in a confrontation that includes a degree of unpleasantness. Being reminded by some, however, that Carrier’s statements cannot go without rebuttal, I have now acquiesced to the task. From the natural philosophy of the Early Roman Empire to … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 5

We have seen that the Jesus-as-spirit view preceded the Jesus-as-flesh-and-blood view. By Late Roman times, however, a text that represented that earlier christology would have been absolutely anathema—completely off the table of discourse. Yet, the Jesus-as-spirit view is precisely the christology presented in the Hebrew Gospel, a text that J. Edwards dates before the synoptic gospels. Thus Jerome: For since the apostles considered [Jesus] to be a spirit or, according to the gospel which is of the Hebrews and is read by the Nazoraeans, a demon without a body, he said to them… (Edwards 284.) This interesting citation suggests several things: (1) the Hebrew Gospel endorsed the Jesus-as-spirit christology, something Jerome seems to view (with disparagement, no doubt) as “a … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 4

The slide into oblivion We have seen that the Church took considerable pains to erase the Hebrew Gospel from history. The fact that no manuscripts of this text survive is telling. Its annihilation is total. What makes that fact even more astonishing is that GHeb was not always denigrated by the Church. When one reviews the approximately 75 references of the Church Fathers to the Hebrew Gospel, it becomes evident that the farther back in history one goes, the more positively GHeb was esteemed. The converse is also true: with the passage of time GHeb went from being admired, to merely tolerated, then spurned, then denigrated, and finally completely eliminated. The text’s decline was slow—it took approximately four centuries: c. … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 3

A second pre-synoptic gospel layer We must now add another source—and another layer—to the ongoing synoptic schema recently investigated on this blog. We recall that Matthias Klinghardt has elaborated a revolutionary schema of synoptic gospel development in his exhaustive 2015 volumes. His conclusions are summarized in graphic form below (left). Klinghardt shows—beyond any reasonable doubt—that the Gospel of Marcion (Mcn) preceded all the synoptic gospels, including that of Mark. Mcn is thus the first pre-synoptic gospel layer (below). Klinghardt allows a rather generous chronological window to Mcn (90–150 CE). He also leaves the door open to the possibility of one or more gospels having preceded Mcn. We can now appreciate that this latter suspicion is correct. Per the work of … Continue reading

The Hebrew Gospel—Pt. 2

In the last post we introduced the Hebrew Gospel, specifically through the work of James R. Edwards and his 2009 book The Hebrew Gospel and the Development of the Synoptic Tradition. Edwards successfully sunders the Hebrew Gospel from association with the canonical Gospel of Matthew. The Hebrew Gospel was indeed pre-Matthean and even pre-synoptic. However, it had links not with the Gospel of Matthew but with the “special Luke” material in the third gospel. Furthermore, Edwards gives indications that the Hebrew Gospel was “heretical”: it was used by Jewish Christians, was never canonized (pp. 104–05), and contained a defective christology and a rejection of Paul (192). Now, “defective christology” can mean only one thing: the Hebrew Gospel had a different … Continue reading

The “Hebrew Gospel of Matthew”—Pt. 1

It doesn’t take long for researchers into Christian origins to come across enigmatic notices in the Church Fathers regarding a gospel originally written in Hebrew. I write “enigmatic” because such a Hebrew Gospel has never been found. So, scholars have been scratching their heads for generations—nay, centuries—over numerous ancient remarks attesting to such a work which has, apparently, disappeared. Some scholars maintain that the ancient remarks about a Hebrew gospel are simply errors—the ancients didn’t know what they were talking about! How convenient… A little thought, however, quickly shows this line to be completely indefensible, because if multiple unrelated sources wrote about a Hebrew gospel, it is most unlikely that they would all be wrong. But this is the way … Continue reading