Do the Gospels burst with content which is demonstrably non-legendary (i.e. honest non-fiction)?

  • Our question

    two men are standing on the top of a book. One man is talking to the other. The man who is talking has both a speech and a thought bubble that have Christ's face on it.

    As one reads through Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, does one find content which adept modern historians are able to—from simply analyzing content—identify as “probably non-legendary”? Most of these tools were introduced into New Testament studies as “criteria of authenticity” (or more recently: “indicators of authenticity”). So we mean to ask here whether Gospel stories about in content which receive some decent measure of confirmation through consideration of these sorts of indicators, i.e. qualifies that we would not expect to find coming off the lips of legend-makers.

“Yes, after all…
  • Gospel stories spew Un-churchy content

    a bible is open with a crowd walking left and jesus walking right

    The Gospel stories are often quite “dissimilar” to the AD 31-90 church; i.e. they display behavior and language which was discontinuous with post-Jesus beliefs, expectations, styles, preferred vocabulary, background, understanding, natural authorial intent, and so forth.

    The page analyzes 3 arguments:

    • Speakers in Gospels think-talk as pre-Christians.
    • Gospel stories spew church-hated content.
    • Gospel Jesus-sayings repeat consistent quirks.

    This is relevant because created or otherwise legendary Gospel content would have sooner mirrored the thinking, expectations, and style of the later Christians who were forming it it, rather than the thinking, expectations, and style of Christians in AD 30 Palestine. These non-churchy stories are likely all non-legendary.

  • Gospels spew liar self-exposing content

    an open book has a suprised man on the left side, the right side has a tree that has just been cut down by a chainsaw which is falling towards the man

    Throughout the Gospels, there are stories which—if lies or legends—would have almost certainly resulted in being exposed as such by other Christians or even enemies.1

    Two branches of evidence for this include:

    • In general, faking Jesus-bio overtly risked self-exposure.2
    • Gospels stories spew doomed-to-be falsified content.3

    This is relevant because Christians—more than normal folk and more than on non-spiritual issues—did not want to be exposed in their communities as liars and inventors of Jesus-biography. In other words, if the given Gospel story never took place, insofar as it risked being exposed as a lie, it wouldn’t be invented in the first place.

    But so what? Plausibly…

    • Christians didn’t mind being caught fabricating a Jesus story.4
    1. J. P. Holding: “[t]he NT writers made detailed assertions that invited inspection and interrogation, and did so in the context of a collectivist, behavior-controlling society which would have been eager to suppress deviant claims.” [“Robert Price's ‘Beyond Born Again’: A Critique,” online]
    2. There are several lines of evidence in support of this. First, Christians knew inventing Jesus-biography meant being questioned on it, and for a liar to be seriously questioned meant he was taking a risk. We know he would be questioned because, in this era, checking was easy to do (e.g. witnesses abounded, and churches were well-networked to the Jerusalem church where the apostles and prime witnesses operated). Second, in addition to it being easy, Christians were highly motivated to check. We have several reasons for thinking they were quite zealous for exposing and rejecting any false prophets (including those with deviant Jesus-biography).
    3. The idear here is that, a given liar would generally not have expected his lie to take hold in the first place, which makes it quite irrational to even try. Christians would have been familiar with the checks and balances in place.
    4. The idea that Christians wouldn't mind being exposed as liars is quite absurd. There are a series of reasons to think they would endure super-shaming from the community for inventing, of all things, stories about Jesus. And given that Christians generally had to sacrifice other relationships and truly invest in Christianity at this time, having their social circle shun or excommunicate them would result in serious suffering. This is especially so for any Christians in a teaching position.
  • Gospels spew overtly doomed-if-fake content

    This is relevant because, if the content were doomed to falsification, then many would think-twice before even trying to introduce the lie into circulation. This doomed-if-fake content did not die off, which by definition means it was not fake (i.e. not legendary).

  • Gospels spew early content

    The Gospel reports abound in content which dates to Jesus’ life or close (pre AD 40).

    This page analyzes 6 arguments:

    • Gospels spew multiple attested material.
    • Gospel traditions were originally passed down orally.
    • Gospels got witness-approval or close on Jesus-bio.
    • Gospels spew Aramaic content.
    • Gospels spew non-legendary content.
    • Gospel details super-fit AD 30 Palestine.

    This is relevant because legend takes time. Dishonest content would tend to form later, and so would tend to be formed by Christians well outside of AD 30 Palestine (e.g. legend would far more easily form in AD 60 Corinth).

  • Gospels spew witness-based content

    A book is open and has several eyes on it. Two of the eyes have speech bubbles that have nothing in them, the last eye has a speech bubble that has Jesus in it.

    The Gospels abound in content reflecting direct or indirect witness testimony.

    This page analyzes 5 arguments:

    • Gospel stories spew witness-level detail (30+).
    • Gospels spew complex internal coherences.
    • Gospels spew details fine-tuned to AD 30 Palestine.
    • Gospels spew non-legendary content.
    • Gospel stories are a subset of what witnesses say

    This is relevant because, of course, witness-based content is not legendary content.

  • In general, Gospel stories are not lies/legends

    two men are standing on the top of a book. One man is talking to the other. The man who is talking has both a speech and a thought bubble that have Christ's face on it.

    The Gospel traditions originated honestly, rather than as lies or legends.

    This page analyzes 5 arguments:

    • Gospels spew confirmed non-legendary content.
    • AD 30 Palestine’s name-ratios match the NT’s.
    • Gospel characters behaviorally fit their character profile.
    • Gospel stories lack hellenistic influence/motifs.
    • The Gospels lack time-place absurdities.
    • Gospels spew non-legendary content.
    • Gospel stories are a subset of what witnesses said.
    • Christian Jesus-biography wasn’t invented.