NTA Note on “The Case for a Proto-Gospel”

I’m pleased to see that New Testament Abstracts, a leading research tool in New Testament studies, has included an abstract for my The Case for a Proto-Gospel: Recovering the Common Written Source Behind Mark and John in its most recent issue, (65/2 2021). It is serendipitously located on a page featuring a book by Bart Ehrman, Craig A. Evans and Robert Stewart. Here’s the listing.

New Testament Abstracts 65/2 • 2021

Gary Greenberg, The Case for a Proto-Gospel: Recovering the Common Written Source behind Mark and John, Studies in Biblical Literature 172 (New York—Bern: Lang, 2020, $114.95/€95.80) xvii and 719 pp., 22 tables. Bibliographies. Indexed. LCN: 2019029929. ISBN: 978-1-4331-6605-1.

Noting that NT scholars believe with near unanimity that substantial differences in style, content, and verbal description between John and the Synoptics preclude any literary relationship between them, Greenberg, author of Proving Jesus’ Authority in Mark and John (2018), proposes that Mark, John, and Luke all knew a now-lost written proto-Gospel. After a 35-page introduction, he discusses Mark 6 and 8 and John 6, the paralytic on the mat (Mk 2:1-12; Jn 5), true kindred and the devil (Mk 3:20-35; Jn 8:31-59), you can’t go home again (Mk 6:1-6, Jn 4:44; 6:42; 7:15), the mission begins (Mk 1; Jn 1–4), Jesus’ last visit to Jerusalem, the plot to kill Jesus, the Jewish trial of Jesus, the Lazarus conundrum (Jn 11:1-44; Lk 16:19-31; Mk 1:40-45; 5:22-24, 35-43), the Roman proceedings, the crucifixion, the day of Preparation, and the resurrection. Then he presents a proposed reconstructed proto-Gospel with brief commentary. He concludes that Mark and John most probably have a literary relationship based on a shared written source, since almost every non-speech episode in John has a literary parallel in Mark, the two Gospels agree on sequential order in approximately two-thirds of such stories, and in several stories outside the sequential order several details also follow a common sequential order.

Who or what are the “Generations of the Heavens and the Earth in Genesis 2:4a?

It is widely accepted among scholars of the Jewish scriptures, that the book of Genesis has two separate Creation stories, one following after the other. The first story deals with the seven days of Creation and source-critical scholars assign this to the P (Priestly) source. The second begins immediately after with the story of the Garden of Eden and is assigned to the J (Jahwist) source. The stories are inconsistent in several ways and differ on the order and substance of Creation. The problem I want to discuss today is the issue of where the P source ends and the J source begins.

The critical passage is Genesis 2:4a, which reads,  “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created.” For context, I will list this verse with the preceding verse and the following verse. I’ll place the key verse in italics.

  • So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it, because on it God rested from all the work that he had done in creation (Genesis 2:3)
  • These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created. (Genesis 2:4a)
  • In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up—for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; (Genesis 2:4b–5)

The majority of scholars, I am told, see Genesis 2:4a as the end of the P source. But a minority see it as the beginning of the J source that follows immediately after. If we look solely at the text at face value, you can make a case for either side.

On the one hand, it could be a concluding statement for what preceded it. On the other, it could be an introduction for what follows. However, the term “these are the generations of “is a literary formula that appears at least ten times in Genesis and an additional time in Ruth. The KJV uses the translation “These are the generations of…” The NRSV substitutes “descendants” for “generations” in all the KJV instances except for Gen 2:4a, clearly attempting to disassociate Genesis 2:4a from the rest of the occasions in which the same phrase is used. Here is the list of the other occasions. For consistency, I’ll use the KJV translation.

  • Genesis 2:4: These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,
  • Genesis 6:9–10: These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God. And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
  • Genesis 10.1: Now these are the generations of the sons of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japheth: and unto them were sons born after the flood.
  • Genesis 11:10: These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:
  • Genesis 11:27: Now these are the generations of Terah: Terah begat Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begat Lot.
  • Genesis 25:12: Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham:
  • Genesis 25:19: And these are the generations of Isaac, Abraham’s son: Abraham begat Isaac:
  • Genesis 36:1–2: Now these are the generations of Esau, who is Edom. Esau took his wives of the daughters of Canaan; Adah the daughter of Elon the Hittite, and Aholibamah the daughter of Anah the daughter of Zibeon the Hivite;
  • Genesis 36:9: And these are the generations of Esau the father of the Edomites in mount Seir:
  • Genesis 37:2: These are the generations of Jacob. Joseph, being seventeen years old, was feeding the flock with his brethren; and the lad was with the sons of Bilhah, and with the sons of Zilpah, his father’s wives: and Joseph brought unto his father their evil report.
  • Ruth 4:18: Now these are the generations of Pharez: Pharez begat Hezron,

In each case after Genesis 2:4a, “these are the generations of” serves to introduce a family, members of a family, and/or stories about a family. Why should Genesis 2:4a be treated any differently? The reason is that to treat Genesis 2:4a in the same way creates a major theological embarrassment.

If we treat Genesis 2:4a in the same way that we treat the key phrase on the other occasions, then “heavens and earth” would have to be parents of someone, and the story that follows would be about the parents and their children. But “heavens and earth” can only be parents if they are beings that bear children. The phrase implies that we are talking about deities associated with Heaven and/or Earth and who have had children (more deities). This is highly problematic for a religion that teaches some form of monotheism.

A redactor appears to have accidentally left in a clue that the J Creation stories about Adam and Eve and their families were originally stories about deities and their children. More specifically, the implication is that Adam and Eve were originally deities associated with Heaven and Earth, and their children were also deities.

So, which deities were they? In the Babylonian Creation story known as Enuma Elish, heaven and earth are the severed portions of a water dragon’s corpse. That doesn’t sound anything like the Garden of Eden couple. Babylonian sources are overly relied upon anyway. So where else should we look?

In my forthcoming book, Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-lists Vol. II, the Mythic Period, I argue that the two deities are the Egyptian gods Geb, a male who is the Earth, and Nut, a female who is the Heavens. That would make Adam a stand-in for Geb, and Eve a stand-in for Nut. Both sets of parents had three children. Adam and Eve were the parents of Cain, Abel, and Seth. Geb and Nut were the parents of Osiris, Horus, and Set, three of Egypt’s most important deities. In each family, one of the brothers killed one of the others.

I’m not going to go into all the arguments here. I hope to have the book out and available in the early portion of 2022. Hope you’ll be curious enough to buy it.

Are the Arabs a Semitic People?

Who is a Semite? It’s a tricky question. It has two very different meanings. So when some Arabs claim that as Semites they can’t be anti-Semitic, what do they actually mean by Semite?

The term Semite has biblical roots but doesn’t appear in the bible. It was introduced into scholarly usage in the eighteenth century, initially to describe a family of languages and, then, for anti-Semitic reasons came to be used as a negative term for the Jewish people by proto-Nazis within the German scholarly community.

How long did Jesus’ mission last? Mark versus John

It is usually argued that the synoptic version of Jesus’ mission lasted less than a year while John’s gospel depicts a mission that lasted more than two years, crossing over three different Passovers. This is not technically true. The so-called short mission thesis is based on the lack of specific time markers in Mark, Matthew and Luke. Now, the absence of time markers may accurately reflect a short mission but its also possible that Mark may have removed time markers and Matthew and Luke simply accepted mark’s chronological arrangement. It’s also possible that John may have inserted time markers where none may have existed. Let me give an example of how this problem could have arisen.

Manetho’s Chronology and the Septuagint Version of Genesis 5

Genesis 5 presents a chronological record of Patriarchal births and deaths from Adam to Noah’s Flood. The chronology is presented in such a way that if you had a starting date for Adam, you could set a date for each of the births and deaths. Genesis 11 continues the chronology from the end of the Flood to the birth of Abraham. (For a detailed study of Genesis 5 and 11 see my “Genesis Chronology and Egyptian King-Lists.”

The Septuagint is a Greek translation of the Hebrew text. The almost universally accepted consensus is that the work was begun in the Egyptian city of Alexandria during the reign of the Egyptian ruler Ptolemy II (283–246 B.C.E.) and was completed sometime in the second century B.C.E. Alexandria was a major center of intellectual activity. The Septuagint was the bible used by the authors of the Gospels.

While the Septuagint is based on some versions of the Hebrew books of the bible (there was no single official canonical version of any of the books of the bible at that time), there are many differences between it and the standard Masoretic text used by Jews and modern scholars. One significant difference is in the chronological record of Genesis 5.

On the Name Palestine

The name Palestine is in the news a lot lately and it has different historical and political associations for different people. Strange conclusions are often drawn from the term. With that in mind, I thought some basic historical information about the origins of the name Palestine might be worth reading.

In or about the year 132, the Jewish people launched their third revolt against persecution and abuse by the Roman colonizers of Judea. (The first revolt was in the year 60, leading to the destruction of the Temple; the second occurred in the year 110, mostly in the diaspora.) The emperor at the time was the Jew-hating Hadrian. The leader of the revolt was Simon Bar Kochba. His name translates as “Simon, son of the star” and, pursuant to Numbers 24:117,  has messianic implications. “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near— a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.” Tradition holds that the name was bestowed on Simon by the great Hebrew sage Rabbi Akiba.

I’m presenting a paper at the 7th Birmingham Egyptology Annual Symposium on May 21st, 2021 and you can virtually attend

I’ll be presenting my paper Towards a Theory of Egypt’s God-King Chronology on May 21st at 9 A.M. EST (2 P.M UK time.). The conference is being presented by the 7th Birmingham Egyptology Annual Symposium in conjunction with the Egypt Exploration Society. It is a virtual conference over Zoom and attendance is free. You can use this link to register and get details.

I have placed my abstract below along with a copy of the program schedule. The schedule lists event times in UK and Egypt.

After I present this paper, I plan to get back to more active blogging. I have had a busy month or so.


Ancient Egypt’s only known multi-dynasty chronologies, the Turin Canon of Kings (c. 12th century B.C.E.) and Manetho’s Aegyptiaca (c. 3rd century B.C.E.), indicate that the First Dynasty was preceded by a long list of god-kings with assigned lengths of reign. Unfortunately, the Turin Canon papyrus is very badly damaged in this section and many of the god names and much of the associated chronology are either damaged or missing. As to Manetho’s history, his original text is lost and what we know about this time frame was preserved in wildly inconsistent versions preserved by several Christian scribes several centuries later who took great liberties with Manetho’s chronology and who explained why they made many changes to what Manetho wrote. 

This paper introduces the theory that behind these two chronological texts stands a systematic unfolding of the Theban Creation theology with lengths of reign based on solar, lunar and stellar cycles,  and that this data can be recovered by tracing error patterns in the Manetho sources. As an introduction to the thesis, this paper will focus on the Manetho texts and (1) outline several arithmetic errors made by the scribes who passed on the manuscripts, (2) demonstrate several interpretive errors by the redactors that led to erroneous data being used in the various Manetho sources, and (3) offer one major new insight as to what the redactors misunderstood, which, when placed in context, will provide the key to unlocking the chronological and sequential arrays and explain the various inconsistencies in the Manetho sources. 


7th Annual Birmingham Egyptology Symposium Schedule
‘Biography in Ancient Egypt’

10:15– 10:30 (UK)                 Welcome

11:15 – 11.30 (Egypt)

10:30– 11:00 (UK)                 Keynote Talk

11:30– 12:00 (Egypt)            Dr Leire Olabarria, University of Birmingham

 Session One

11:00 – 11:30 (UK)                Small Image, Big Picture. Theoretical Approaches to Scenes of Daily Life

12:00 -12:30 (Egypt)            Genevieve Holt (Macquarie University, Sydney)

11:30 – 12:00 (UK)                The Chronicle of Prince Osorkon (B): some illuminations on the

12:30 – 13:00 (Egypt)           professional career system

Karim Mohsen El Ridy (Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities and Cairo University)

12:00 – 12:30 (UK)                Deciphering Ptolemy I: a study of archaeological evidence to establish

13:00 – 13:30 (Egypt)           his provenance and later role as Pharaoh                     
Ana Rumi (Universidad Complutense de Madrid)

12:30 – 13:30 (UK)                Lunch break

13:30 – 14:30 (Egypt)

 Session Two:

13:30 – 14:00 (UK)                Investigating the language of Amarna Period                                    

14:30 – 15:00 (Egypt)          Sherouk Shehada (Helwan University)

14:00 – 14:30 (UK)                Towards a Theory of Egypt’s God-Kings

15:00 – 15:30 (Egypt)           Gary Greenberg (Independent Researcher)

14:30 – 15:00 (UK)                Break

15.30 – 16.00 (Egypt)

 Session Three

15:00 – 15:30 (UK)                Expressions of Female Agency & Morality in ancient Egyptian               

16:00 – 16:30 (Egypt)           Biographical Texts
Mariam Ayad (The American University in Cairo)

15:30 – 16:00 (UK)                Biography of Representations of Ancient Egyptian Culture in Video Game

16:30 – 17:00 (Egypt)           Matthew Stapleton (University of Central Florida)

16:00 – 16:30 (UK)                Biography of Ancient Egyptian Bead nets 

17:00 – 17.30 (Egypt)           Debora Spizzichino (Independent Researcher)