The early Christian intellectual Justin Martyr (c. 100 -c.165) habitually referred to the Gospels as if they were widely known as the “memoirs” (απομνημονεύματα [recollections, memoranda]) of the apostles.
• See also 1 Apol. 66.3.
• See also Dial. 101.3; 103.6; 104.1; 105.6; 106.3; 107.1.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John eached claimed to be relayings of witness-testimony, or witness-based history more broadly.
• Lk 1:1 explicitly says Lk is witness-based.
• E.g. Gospel traditions appeal-cite witness names.
• Lk, Mt etc. endorsed Mk & Q etc. as witness-based.
• ECs circulated the gospels (popular lit).
• Greco-Roman histories self-identify as witness grounded.
• The Gospels are witness-based.
In the Greco-Roman world, one could inquire about widely-witness 60 year-old events and obtain reliable witness-based information quite easily.
• E.g. Herodotus’, in worst-case, can’t lose truth in 60 years.
• E.g. Arrian & Plutarch can’t lose truth within 60 years.
• E.g. Historians habitually break through any recent legend.
In AD 30-70, witness testimony on Jesus predominated over any Jesus legends. That is to say, a Jesus-biographer was in an environment which made it easy for him to obtain and discern truth. In fact, the overwhelming pervasiveness of witness-based Jesus stories arguably made it too hard to fail.
• Witness-based truth always beats legend for 50+ years.
• Warranted Jesus-bio thrived in AD 30-70 Med.1
• False Jesus-bio did not thrive.
• Gospel content is a subset of what witnesses say.
• For ECs, false Jesus-bio circulated easily/naturally.
• Witness-based Jesus-bio did not thrive
Rather than inventing Jesus-biography, the authors of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—as editors/redactors—were honest in writing their Gospel reports.
• The Gospels are Greco-Roman histories.
• Gospel claims are all inherited/sourced.
• Gospel authors strove to know true Jesus-bio.
• In general, Gospel traditions aren’t lies/legends.
1st-2nd century Greco-Roman historiographers tended to successfully ground their material in witness testimony or approval.
• E.g. Bios of Ortho (Seutonius-Tacitus-Plutarch’s) super-cohere.
• E.g. Diaspora Jewish works stuck to sources.
• Greco-Roman histories self-claim to be true.
• Greco-Roman histories self-identify as witness-grounded.
• GrRom histories strove to be 1st-hand-as-possible.
• Historians felt 2nd hand+ was unacceptable.
• Craig Keener: “…reinforces the likelihood that the Evangelists had significant interest in recounting genuine historical information about their biographee. That they speak about a figure within living memory suggests that they had substantial information available. … [t]he evidence already surveyed supports the likelihood that works composed as soon after the events as the Gospels ordinarily would depend especially on material that the Evangelists believed went back to the eyewitnesses, and that they had good reason to believe that it did.” [Christobiography (Eerdmans, 2019), 97, 273.]
Most of the Jesus-biographical content reported in the gospels faithfully falls within what the relevant witnesses were themselves saying and approving.
• Gospel authors got it all witness-approved or close.
• Gospels spew witness-based stories.
• Gospel stories are not lies/legends.
• Gospel stories are a subset of 1st church’s.
• The Gospels are historically reliable.
• Pop Jesus-bio was a subset of what witnesses said.
• The Gospels are not historically reliable.
• The Gospel stories are lies/legends.
• Gospels only ask to be read as myth.
• They inherited it as alleged witness testimony, but only 3rd hand, 4th hand, 5th hand or worse.
• Mt and Lk just got it from Mk.
But so what?
• Witness-based testimony can easily have errors (e.g. as a result of misrembering, or misperceiving).
[Forthcoming.] This is relevant is Mark is a Gospel (which of course it is), but also if Lk and Mt are gospels which depend on Mk.1
[Forthcoming.] This would be relevant if much of the Gospel content was styled.
But no... [Forthcoming]
• Re-told auto-bio naturally gets stylized.
• Auto-bio designed to spread naturally gets stylized.
• E.g. The Jlao Kru people, when witnesses, stylize their reports.