Friday, July 02, 2010

Why didn't the NT Writers Mention . . . .?

Re-posting part of a blog post by Barry Wallace:


The first was a reader giving what I think he considered to be an example of that kind of so-called internal evidence against Mark’s authorship. It went something like this:

If, as most scholars believe, Mark got his information from Peter, why doesn’t Mark mention that Peter walked on water (Mark 6:45-52), as Matthew does in his description of the same incident (Matt 14:23-33)? The implication is that Mark’s failure to mention Peter walking on the water–when everyone readily acknowledges that Mark got his information from Peter–should be considered evidence that Mark didn’t write the gospel.

That sounds plausible enough.

However, a follow-up comment by another reader pointed out “just how weak most arguments from silence are in historical work.” He continued with a couple of cogent examples:
Can you imagine an adventurer writing a detailed travel diary of his trip straight across China in the late 13th century and not mentioning the Great Wall? or printed books? or tea? or footbinding? How about a Civil War general publishing two volumes of memoires [sic] with day-by-day notes about the events of those tumultuous years and somehow managing to leave out the Emancipation Proclamation? Yet Marco Polo did the former, and Ulysses Grant did the latter. The simple fact is that there are many reasons that authors both ancient and modern leave out things that we, with the perspective of hindsight, cannot imagine ourselves leaving out. Our priorities are often not the same as their priorities, and our incredulity at their omissions is a poor test of the authenticity and authorship of almost any historical work — certainly of the gospels.



  1. Perhaps Mark doesn't mention it because it does not advance the story line, which is about Christ, not Mark.

    Or, perhaps Peter's failure of faith (needing to be rescued because of his doubt) was not something he was as eager to put forth.

    '...O thou of little faith...' (Matt 14:31)

    Perhaps this is evidence FOR Mark as author.

  2. ...oops...

    In the post above, I meant to say the storyline is about Christ, NOT PETER.

  3. Ah, how about the Holy Spirit, one of Three Eternal Holy Pure Right thinking and breathing Beings just didn't want to inspire Mark to put that fact and many other facts surely Mark wanted to add into the Gospel that bears his name, "helping" out Dear Old Holy Ghost?

    2Ti 3:16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
    2Ti 3:17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

  4. Ya done good over there, Andrew.
    I was not too impressed with Ehrman's argument from silence either.
    Not too impressed with the argument from silence- over John's failing to mention the destruction of Jerusalem in Revelations, either.
    Your thoughts on this, Paul?

  5. Of course, there are good scholars who argue for a pre-70 date for Revelation. So that, of itself, would be sufficient explanation for why Revelation doesn't mention the Fall of Jerusalem.

    And, of course, the primary target in Revelation is the Roman imperial cult.

    In any case, liberals date all of the NT books to the late 1C or even early 2C. In that event, *their* dating scheme has a problem with the silence of the NT on the fall of Jerusalem. That's hardly a comparable problem for conservative dating schemes, which date most or all of the NT books before 70 AD.

  6. Oh dear. You can't take the argument from silence away from radical Bible critics. What would they be left with if you did that?

    The other thing you can't do is tell them they're ignoring archaeology.