“Jesus was invented by the early church” (2 of 2)

This post, continued from yesterday, is based on a talk titled Can the Gospels Be Trusted? given by Dr. Art Lindsley.

Problems with the view that the gospel accounts were made up

  • All the gospels were written within the lifespan of eyewitnesses, who would have provided a corrective to free invention and creativity.
  • All of the apostles died as martyrs. If they were part of a conspiracy to invent Jesus, there would be a crack at some point. They weren’t naturally courageous people, testified by their hiding at the crucifixion. See Watergate and the Resurrection in Chuck Colson’s book Loving God to see how a conspiracy of silence quickly fell apart.
  • Time for creation of the material was too short:  the creation of myths and legends normally takes centuries. There is no precedent for a mythology developing within the lifetime of eyewitnesses.
  • The customs of Jesus’ day emphasized the scrupulous, meticulous memorisation of rabbinic teaching. Kenneth Bailey in his book Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes (Amazon, Google Books) argues that this formal tradition is important in the Middle East even today. The idea of creation is therefore countercultural.

Problems with the view that the person and character of Jesus were made up

Jesus’ teaching had features that were unusual for the time:

  • His use of ‘Abba’ in prayer was highly unusual at the time. God’s name was so holy it couldn’t be mentioned, and so the idea of addressing Him in such a familiar way was shocking.
  • The use of ‘amen’, translated in the KJV as “Verily, verily I say to you.” Normally, amen was said after the statement, and even then by the listeners. Jesus prefaced His own words with amen, thus declaring upfront the authority of His words.

Jesus used unusual forms of speech

  • Antithetic parallelism is a characteristic of Hebrew poetry in which something is said twice, with the second half being a negation of the first. Examples are found in Matthew 6:22-23, 7:17, 6:24. This teaching method is not only memorable, but it is also a mark of a personality. Joachim Jeremias details the hundred or so instances of antithetic parallelism in his book New Testament Theology.
  • The uniqueness of the use of parables. There’s no parallel in Palestinian Judaism for the use of everyday stories in teaching in Jesus’ time.

In light of this and other evidence, Dr. Lindsley concludes that the burden of proof is on those who maintain the inauthenticity of the gospels rather than those who maintain the authenticity.