POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

The Passion Movie and The Gospel Truth

From Newsweek...So why was the Gospel story, the story Gibson has drawn on told in a way that makes "the Jews" look worse than the Romans? The Bible did not descend from heaven fully formed and edged in gilt. The writers of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John shaped their narratives several decades after Jesus' death to attract converts and make their young religion understood by many Christians to be a faction of Judaism attractive to as broad an audience as possible. See article here - Who Killed Jesus? Newsweek Magazine Feb 8, 2004 A book by a "Jesus Scholar"... Who Killed Jesus? is a study of the gospel accounts of the arrest, trial, crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. It is both a popularization of Crossan's earlier work The Cross That Spoke and a response to Raymond Brown's The Death of the Messiah. As motivation, Crossan argues that the anti-Jewish core of the passion narrative and its use in subsequent history make careful study of its historicity more than just an academic exercise. (He doesn't mention that the faith of many conservative Christians depends on the historicity of the passion narrative -- but then perhaps he doesn't expect them to be reading his book.) A book review by Danny Yee - © 1996 http://dannyreviews.com/ As the day approaches to the release of Mel Gibson's film The Passion of the Christ there will be a considerable buzz surrounding the film. Just last week the cover story of Newsweek Magazine featured a look at the question "Who Killed Jesus?" with a discussion of the history of the gospels upon which this film is based. Monday night, Mel Gibson's interview on ABC with Diane Sawyer, featured additional questioning about the "history and facts" of the gospel depictions as well as the usual parade of "scholars" that question the gospels as political fabrications by 2nd or 3rd century Christians. ABC seems to be rolling out several other dramatic works as well, two I have noticed coming are about "Judas" and one about "St. Paul" - perhaps they will be very Biblical, perhaps not. The fact that the script of The Passion is based on the canonical gospels will have biblical critics and "experts" singing throughout the mainstream media. As these things occur I have found that students and others to whom I minister will have questions. Even mature believers and leaders may not have been exposed to some of the arguments they may hear on television interviews or in a religion class on campus. I thought it wise that we be prepared to intelligently discuss the issues, state our side of things effectively, and strengthen other believers confidence in the gospel accounts. By no means can one do this effectively in a short blog posting, but I thought I would point us towards some basic arguments in the debate and then some further reading. Most of all we should be in vigilant prayer, ready to give a reason for our hope in Jesus, and trusting God to be God and use his self-attesting word for his purposes in his world. A preliminary remark - members of the so called and self-anointed "Jesus Seminar" may be raising their heads in these days, for a quick sketch of this group see the following: Jesus Seminar Under Fire The question which I have already heard aired in public is one somewhat like this - Are the gospel accounts reliable depictions of the life, teaching, death and resurrection of Jesus? The main arguments against the gospels is usually some sort of concocted conspiracy theory of latter disciples making up parts of the story to fit their own political agendas in the situations they were writing. The disciples were writing "religious propaganda" full of legendary development so to speak, to promote a cause and a Jesus they probably knew very little about. To answer this charge we can go several directions, I will just do a brief sketch here as an example of what evangelicals have said: 1) We know that the text we have is as it was written (within a reasonable limit) based on number of manuscript copies we have in Greek, Syriac, the Latin Vulgate, and quotations of close to the entire NT in the writings/sermons of the church fathers. Much of this is well established prior to 400AD. 2) We establish the early dates of the NT books and argue for the traditional authorship. The gospel tradition (our tradition) holds that authors, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote down either their own eyewitness accounts or carefully recorded the accounts of eyewitnesses (in the case of Mark - Peter's account, and Luke recording the results of his investigation with "who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word" - I have a paper on the Gospel Tradition drop me a note at monaghan@powerofchange.org if interested)...early dates for the gospels rules out the long periods of time needed for legendary developments in church tradition. Legends take a long time to grow and usually don't do to well when the actual people involved are still alive and could correct the story. 3) There is no good reason not to believe the testimony of these witnesses if - 1) they were able to tell the truth and desired to do so 2) their testimony was accurately reported and 3) there is external corroboration of the testimony. The following is suggested for your own investigation: Reference Materials on the Web
  • This one is a bit lengthy - A thorough treatment and defense of the NT accounts is found here: Bias
  • Josh McDowell's work on the NT reliability is still helpful and found here - Ready Defense
  • Gary Habermas has great paper on the topic - NT Reliability
  • A summary of the extra biblical corroboration of the biblical history
Books of Reference
  • The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel is a good popular level treatment
  • The works of Craig Blomberg (The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Jesus and the Gospels), Gary Habermas (Historical Jesus: Ancient Evidence for the Life of Christ), JP Moreland (Jesus under Fire, Scaling the Secular City) and FF Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? are excellent resources.
  • Can I trust the Bible - A short yet excellent booklet by Darrel Bock - Part of the RZIM critical question series.
Other resources "Lost books of the Bible" such as the gospels of Thomas, Peter, Mary Magdelene, Phillip, etc. have been popularized of late by several books...even in the bestselling novel The Davinci Code. These "other gospels" can cause people to doubt the uniqueness and authenticity of the New Testament accounting of Matt, Mark, Luke and John. These resources may be helpful. Two Resources to Use in MinistryA few final thoughts as some of us will soon "watch Jesus on screen" again. Reminder about Jesus - he was Jewish as were the disciples and the early church was predominately Jewish...Jesus on film or in pictures can never be the real deal. We know that the Nordic European blue-eyed Jesus' are not accurate. Nor is afro-Jesus, nor Asian Jesus. The Jesus who walked our earth was a middle eastern Semitic Jewish Jesus....A seed of Abraham, of the line of David, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, A and O, the risen one, the same yesterday, today and forever, the one in whom the promises of God are YES! and the one through whom we speak the "Amen!!!!" Praying that we follow Him well, receiving his grace, as we labor for him in this season. May God bring forth the gospel greatly through this film and his servants. ...