I have been advised by Peter Lang Publishers that a paperback version of “The Case for a Proto-Gospel”, my peer-reviewed treatise on the literary origins of the Gospels, should be at the printers by mid-June. Because this is an academic work from a scholarly publisher, it is not cheap, but the paperback edition will be substantially less expensive that the hardcover version.
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.
I previously mentioned the publication at the Bible and Interpretation site of my essay titled “Was Mary the Name of Jesus’ Mother: A Source Critical Perspective.” I am now making it available here and through a link on my Selected Writings page. Here is the opening paragraph. Click on the link to read the rest of the article.
If we had no reliable written sources mentioning the name of Jesus’ mother, a good guess would be Mary. Statistically, it was one of the most popular, if not the most popular, name for Jewish women in the first century. In the Christian scriptures, more women have the name Mary than any other name. The question I wish to raise here is whether we have any reliable written evidence that Mary was the name of Jesus’ mother. Click here to read the rest
My essay, Was Mary the Name of Jesus’ Mother? A Source-Critical Perspective has just been published on the Bible and Interpretation Web Site. The thrust of the article is that while statistically it is likely that Mary was the name of Jesus’ mother, there is no reliable textual evidence in the New Testament that Mary was the name of Jesus’ mother. The article examines the textual evidence as it relates to this issue. Check it out and tell me what you think.
I have been doing a series of posts on my new book The Case for a Proto-Gospel. Here are links to previous entries.
Mark 8:22-26 tells of Jesus healing a blind man at Bethsaida. According to the story, some people brought a blind man to Jesus and asked for help. Jesus put saliva in the man’s eye and laid hands upon him. When he finished he asked if the man could see anything. The man indicated that he had some vision but it was not clear. Jesus laid hands on him again, and the man’s vison was restored and he could see clearly. The laying of hands suggests that Jesus healed the blind man through an exorcism.
Scholarly commentaries on this story focus on two elements. First, they are troubled by the allegation that Jesus used saliva to heal the man, and many scholars see this as an indication that the story goes back to an early primitive layer in the Jesus tradition. Matthew and Luke also seem to have been troubled by Jesus’ use of saliva to heal as they both chose not to include this story in their respective gospels. This suggests that as time went by, some Jesus followers were troubled by the way this story portrayed Jesus.
Mark 2 and John 5 both have stories about Jesus healing a paralytic lying on a mat that seem to share some common features. Yet the details of the respective stories are so different that many (most?) scholars question whether the two stories share a common literary heritage. The consensus seems to be that they two accounts are unrelated and evolved from different sources. In The Case for a Proto-Gospel I argue otherwise.
Was Jesus Born in Bethlehem?
Luke and Matthew both place Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. These are the only references in the New Testament to Bethlehem as Jesus’ place of birth. There are problems with those claims and I’ll come back to them in a moment. First, let’s look at Mark, the first gospel written, and John, the last gospel written.
In my previous post on The case for a Proto-Gospel I outlined the theological reasons behind John’s rewriting of Mark’s source document. In this post I will examine some of John’s editorial practices that frequently make it hard to recognize his use of a story appearing in Mark.
A major Johannine practice was to take multiple stories that shared a similar theme or some other common story details and integrating them into a single narrative such that the constituent stories no longer look like the original versions.
While it is almost universally recognized that Matthew and Luke used Mark as their prime source of information for their respective gospels, it is also well recognized that Matthew and Luke frequently add to, omit or change details present in Mark’s source story, occasionally in significant ways. This is largely attributed to Matthew and Luke editing Mark to fit their respective theological agendas. Yet, when stories in John appear to intersect with stories in the synoptic gospels, John is rarely accorded the same privilege.
While there is obviously a vast library of writings describing John’s theology and how it might differ from the synoptic gospels, there appears to be almost no effort to apply John’s theological principles to any of the synoptic gospels, using the theology as a filter for examining what changes John would likely have made if he knew the story. While there may be an isolated comparison between a Johannine story and a synoptic story here and there, I believe The Case for a Proto-Gospel presents the first scholarly study to provide a full-scale systemic look at all of John and how his theological principles interact with the synoptic gospel stories.
In this post, I will outline how John’s theological concerns can function as a filter for reading the synoptic gospels, which enables us to identify theological problems that would bother John and require corrections if he were to edit the synoptic story. In the next post, I’ll identify some of the editorial techniques John used to make these corrections. In subsequent posts, I’ll examine various synoptic stories and show how John’s theology and editorial practice come together to transform synoptic stories into Johannine versions that share the same underlying story elements present in the synoptic story but which often looks so different from the synoptic story.
An interesting discussion between Mark Goodacre and Chris Keith about John’s interaction with the synoptic gospels. Both are well-respected scholars and they raise questions about the current consensus that John did not know the synoptic gospels. As a predicate (or follow-up) you may want to look at my article at the Bible and Interpretation site, Is John a Synoptic Gospel?
And, of course, if you want the full story, check out my new book, The Case for a Proto-Gospel: Recovering the Common Written Source behind Mark and John