Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Neglect Of External Evidence

Several decades ago, in a landmark interdisciplinary symposium on the Gospels, noted classics scholar George Kennedy challenged New Testament scholars to take the report of Papias [concerning the origins of Mark's gospel] much more seriously. In his written response, Reginald Fuller initially expressed his "greatest surprise" over the weight Kennedy placed on external evidence regarding the authorship of the Gospels. However, in light of Kennedy's case, Fuller goes on to concede:

"New Testament scholars generally have not taken the external evidence (especially that of Papias) seriously enough....As a result of Kennedy's essay and the subsequent discussion, New Testament scholars have been challenged to take more seriously the external evidence regarding the origin of the gospels than they have been wont to do in the past....[T]hey must henceforth exercise great caution when they spin off theories about the internal evidence that flatly contradict the external evidence....This should be one item for the agenda of future studies of the relationships among the gospels." (Paul Eddy and Gregory Boyd, The Jesus Legend [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2007], pp. 392-393)

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