New Book Claims Four Gospels Written Before Fall Of Jerusalem

Author: Paul Likoudis

New Book Claims Four Gospels Written Before Fall Of Jerusalem

By Paul Likoudis

The hundred years' war on the Gospels-led by Rudolf Bultmann, who charged that "we can know practically nothing about Jesus' life and personality," and escalated by some of the most prominent Catholic Bible scholars working today-has produced the intended results of religious indifference, agnosticism, and atheism.

Typical of the Bultmann-inspired Catholic exegetes is Fr. Jerome. Murphy O'Connor, O.P., who, writing in the December, 1996 issue of the Claretians' , pontificates that the Gospels are "mythical embellishments," that Jesus didn't know He was God and didn't know where His power came from, that Mary considered Him an embarrassment to the family, that she was not at the foot of the cross as the evangelists relate, and more.

"Do the Gospels Paint a Clear Picture of Jesus?," he asked. Definitely not, he tells his students and readers.

At the core of the dissident biblical exegesis which has produced such disastrous consequences for Catholic life, liturgy, catechetics, and scholarship is a refusal to believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses of the events described.

Though there has been no shortage of genuine Catholic exegetes, archaeologists, and historians who have insisted on an early dating of the Gospels to within a decade or two of Jesus' life, these scholars have often found it difficult to break through the controls put in place by an oppressive neomodernist establishment in both Catholic and Protestant institutions.

(The neomodernist stranglehold is exemplified by the treatment accorded Fr. Jean Carmignac, who died in 1986. Perhaps the greatest French Bible scholar of the century, who dated the writing of each of the four Gospels between A.D. 40 and 50, he was never allowed to publish his research, on orders of the French bishops. They accused Carmignac of "an obsession of struggling against the majority of exegetes.")

Now comes a German scientist, Carsten Peter Thiede, director of the Institute for Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, who, with Matthew D'Ancona, is about to dash to pieces the Bultmann-built edifice of modernist exegesis.

Their recently published book, (Doubleday, 1996), is about a small piece of papyrus held at Magdalen College, Oxford, which is the oldest fragment of in existence today.

The fragment contains disjointed segments of 26, but even more important than the writing style, which Thiede pinpointed to the time of Jesus' life, is the use of KS, an abbreviated form of , to refer to Jesus as Lord God- meaning that the ancient author believed that Jesus is divine.

Thiede, a papyrologist, further more concludes that must have been the first Gospel written.

The implications of this are enormous. As Thiede and D'Ancona write in their book:

"Bultmann was wrong: The authors of the Gospel could hear far more than the faintest whisper of Jesus' voice. Indeed, the first readers of may have heard the very words which the Nazarene preacher spoke during his ministry, may have listened to the parables when they were first delivered to the peasant crowd; may even have asked the wise man questions and waited respectfully for answers. The voice they heard was not a whisper but the passionate oratory of a real man of humble origins whose teaching would change the world."

The issue of the dating of the Gospels has implications, furthermore, for believers and nonbelievers alike. "... We have come to realize the extent to which this new claim is directly relevant to the fundamental faith questions which all people, Christian and non-Christian, atheist and agnostic must ask themselves. The redating of the fragments, in other words, has a life beyond the confines of the academy. . .

"The redating of the Gospels- a process which is only now beginning in earnest-may seem an enterprise appropriate to its times, to the mood of the millennium's end. There is now good reason to suppose that the , with its detailed accounts of the Sermon on the Mount and the Great Commission, was written not long after the crucifixion and certainly before the destruction of the Temple in A.D. 70; that the was distributed early enough to reach Qumran; that the belonged to the first generation of Christian codices; and that internal evidence suggests a date before A.D. 70 even for the nonsynoptic .... These are the first stirrings of a major process of scholarly reappraisal."

International Upheaval

Thiede's findings are causing an international upheaval among Bible scholars, particularly Catholic exegetes who have bought the Bultmann line that separates the Gospels to a generation or more from Jesus' contemporaries (making them the unreliable voice of an uncertain community) and-against Church councils, and the Church's fathers and doctors- that makes the the first.

The idea that Matthew's is the first Gospel is anathema to most contemporary Catholic exegetes, who are following two centuries- old Protestant propagandists who claimed that - which does not contain Christ's charge to St. Peter, "" ( 16:18)-must be first and Matthew's line a later invention.

There is an important article appearing in the December, 1996 issue of by English scholar John Beaumont, "Kulturkampf and the Gospel," which, unfortunately, will not attract the attention it deserves, especially in the Catholic community.

Beaumont builds an exceptionally persuasive case that the impetus given Protestant exegetes to backdate and give priority came from Bismarck, the political genius who committed Prussian resources to a "culture war" against the Catholic Church.

Beaumont examines the question of how it came to be that Prussian biblical scholar Heinrich Julius Holtzmann was appointed chairman of New Testament studies at the University of Strasbourg and suggests that the answer is Bismarck.

Holtzmann, writes Beaumont, "was the leading exponent of what is called the theory of Marcan priority . . . to provide . . . an ideological platform of this kind in their struggle against Rome....

"The reason is that Marcan primacy is very convenient for those who wished to take an antiCatholic position in the prevailing Kulturkampf."

And more. "What it also does is to cast doubt on the whole witness of the early Fathers. The inevitable implication is that if they get question wrong so dramatically, are they worthy of belief in other matters? And so, traditional apologetic evidence on matters like the Real Presence, where Catholic writers have appealed to references to the Catholic position as early in the Church as the time of the Fathers, is seen to be made less credible. In addition, the Church loses out here in another way. It is she who vouches in so many ways for the testimony of the Church Fathers and its importance. If she is wrong on this in such a major way here, what happens to her credibility on other matters as well?

"The downplaying of also assisted the state authorities in other ways. It allowed them to ignore those apostolic discourses in 10:18-38, in which Christ lays down the way in which His disciples must resist unjust authorities and which has strengthened the resolve of Christians down the ages."

Two hundred years ago, one of the leaders of the Enlightenment, Reimarus, described the task of Church-haters to be to "completely separate what the Apostles presented in their writings (i.e., the Gospels) from what Jesus himself actually said and taught during his lifetime."

In the waning years of the 20th century, that task has now been taken up enthusiastically by Catholic exegetes, who, following Holtzmann, Bultmann, et al., have insisted upon both a late date for the writing of the Gospels and Marcan priority.

In 1982, Beaumont reminds readers, Dom Bernard Orchard alerted Catholics to these dangers:

"Since 1946, the majority of Catholic professors of the New Testament have given their support to the hypothesis of the priority of the , on grounds . . . of internal evidence alone.

"In practice, this has meant that they deny that the Apostle St. Matthew could have published his own Gospel; and this, in turn, amounts to saying that all the Church Fathers and early Councils erred on a matter of fact in saying St. Matthew wrote his own Gospel. In other words, the modern biblical 'authorities' are committed to denying that the Church has accurately transmitted the true tradition regarding the authorship of the Gospels."


Among the brief sections of the Gospel on the Magdalen fragment is: "Then one of the XII, who was called Judas Iscariot, went to the chief priest and said, 'What will you give me for my work?'"

This article was taken from the February 13, 1997 issue of "The Wanderer," 201 Ohio Street, St. Paul, MN 55107, 612-224-5733. Subscription Price: $35.00 per year; six months $20.00.

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