The Real Jesus (revisited)

We live in a postmodernist age. People, especially the younger generation, are able to hold onto contradictory notions without batting an eye. It’s a perfect era to be a skeptic who believes in nothing, but wants to take the fast track to being a pseudo-intellectual by attacking traditional worldviews and contributing nothing positive to the conversation except to say, “The burden of proof is on the believer!”

I’ve had hundreds of comments from young postmodernists in response to my Real Jesus DVD, which is posted on YouTube and my website. The following is one such conversation with a UFO enthusiast (who doesn’t think there is evidence that Jesus existed) named “Boyinthemachine.”

The conversation took an interesting turn when I insisted that 99.99 percent of scholars accept the fact that Jesus was a real historical figure.


Jay Rogers: “That Jesus is a historical figure is accepted by 99.99 percent of secular historians.”

“Where did you get that figure? Look, even I believe there most likely was a historical Jesus. The problem is that my belief is not based on the fact that Jesus’ historicity has been proven, but rather, based on the fact that there are countless cases of men deified after their death, such as various Caesars. Last, the Epistle of James is not a Gospel. It leads no proof to a historical Jesus.”
Jay Rogers: “Can you name even five PhDs teaching history at the university level who claim Jesus never existed? If you can, I’ll revise my number to 99.98 percent. Also, what do you do about the eyewitness claims in the New Testament, especially those in the Gospel of John and 1 John?” Boyinthemachine:
“Why should I? The burden of proof is on those making the claim. “We don’t know who wrote the Gospel of John. The author was not an eyewitness, but like all the other Gospels, merely put to word oral stories, i.e. ‘The Gospel According To John.’ Most scholars believe the Gospel of John was written between 90-100 AD, with a small number of scholars suggesting earlier or later dates. Thus, like the other Gosples, John is very weak evidence for the historicity of Jesus.”
Jay Rogers: “The New Testament actually has a very good pedigree. The Apostles who knew Jesus preached and wrote from 30 to 70 A.D. Then early bishops such as Ignatius, Clement, Polycarp and Papias (35 to 115 A.D.) received the books of the Apostles and wrote their own works quoting from most of the books of the New Testament. Later second century church fathers quoted from every New Testament book and named the authors. The earliest canonical list is from the second century. There is a continual unbroken witness to the authors of the New Testament in every generation up until the great Codices of the fourth century.” Boyinthemachine:

“The Apostles were eyewitnesses, if Jesus existed. However, we don’t know who wrote the gospels. The assumption, by the Church, was that it was ‘Matthew, Mark, Luke, & John’ who wrote the Gospels. Most scholars do not accept this. Most scholars believe the gospels were written anonymously, from about 40 years after Jesus’ death to about 100 years after Jesus’ death. “It would be great if we had overwhelming evidence for the historicity of Jesus, but we just don’t have it.”

Jay Rogers: “Form critics and source critics act as scientists working from the null hypothesis. They ignore all documentary evidence and assume nothing from the beginning. They then are able to draw all kinds of conclusions. In the 1800s, the form critics had the Gospel of John written in the late second century. Then in the early 1900s a papyrus fragment of John was found that dated to about 115 A.D. One scrap of paper wiped out over 100 years of liberal conjecture! Assuming that this fragment was a copy of a copy, and since it was discovered in Egypt, the latest John could have been written was 95 A.D. The earliest would be the mid-first century.

“Liberals will almost always assume the latest dates and an unknown author. The problem for them is that all extra-biblical documentary evidence from the first and second century onward points to definite authors. Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp and Papias wrote in the late first to early second century, but they were born and lived during the time when some disciples who had seen Jesus were still alive. We see no debate among them on who the authors of the New Testament were. Then almost all the NT manuscript fragments of the second century have titles and authors. You can actually go on-line and see the titles (called supercriptions and subscriptions) of manuscript fragments.

“Another interesting thing is that form the early second century, and maybe earlier, the books of the NT were bound into five codices, the four Gospels and Acts, Paul’s Epistles, the Pastorals, the General Epistles, Revelation. As in modern times, books had titles and authors. There is no reason to think that the authors did not assign their names to the original autographs. Then in the third century, Origen wrote that there were some doubts about Hebrews and Revelation because of stylistic differences in Paul and John’s other writings.

“In modern times, this skepticism was stretched to call every book into question. But it is very easy to see these liberals have an agenda. An unbiased researcher might doubt the traditional authorship of books like 2 Peter, Revelation, Hebrews and maybe 3 John, but there is no documentary evidence that these books were ever in dispute shortly after they were written. To the contrary, they are all quoted early. According to all models of textual criticism, they ought to be considered authentic and reliable.”


Do Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, or Papias ever identify any of the New Testament books or their authors and cite them as authoritative sources?
Yes, especially Clement and Papias.

Papias is the earliest one who names all four Gospel writers and explains when, where and why the books were written.

Clement mentions that Peter and Paul were in Rome in "our generation." Polycarp and Ignatius quote from several NT books but don't cite author and book -- but that was the common style.

I will compile all the references for an article soon. In fact, I am in the process of editing a 120 page lecture paper with extensive footnotes that has all this information in the original Greek.

For now, the best resource to find all this info is:
Clement appears to be using phrases from some of Paul's letters but he never mentions that he is never indicates that he is quoting Paul when he does so. In fact, he does not event mention that mention that he is quoting anyone as he does when he quotes Old Testament sources. I don't believe he mentions Peter writing any letter and the only letter of Paul he mentions is the one that the Corinthians previously received from him. Thus, he only does verifies the authorsip of one New Testament book.

As you note Ignatius and Polycarp appear to be familiar with some New Testament writings although they never identify the writings or their authors.

Papias does describes writings by Matthew and Mark, but he does not quote from them and does not establish that they are the same documents that we associate with those names.
So you think that Clement knew (of or directly) the Apostle Paul and is quoting directly from Paul's letters, but doesn't think these are Paul's letters?

Papias mentions the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but these were DIFFERENT writings than what we know today?

And Ignatius and Polycarp knew the New Testament, but likewise didn't know it was OUR New Testament or even who was the author of these writings?

I could cite Irenaeus' account of these four early bishops to the Apostles, but I am sure you have an answer for that too.

I've read these arguments before by liberals and Jesus Seminar authors. They don't see the forest for the trees.

Or as C.S. Lewis wrote:

"These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fern-seed and can't see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight."

C. S. Lewis, "Modern Thought and Biblical Criticism," Christian Reflection, ed. Walter Hooper (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1967), p. 157.

Or as Jesus said about the Pharisees: "You strain out a gnat and swallow a camel."
I agree with your introduction. After reading up (the wikipedia entry only!) on the Cynics I was struck by demeaning the orginal meaning of the word (Cynicism) was compared to today's modern use of the term.

Any yet, I think that there is any substantive difference between the old and new "Cynicism"s.
The problem is that what I might suppose Clement thought, however reasonable, is not evidence of what he thought. The evidence of what Clement thought is what he wrote and no where does he say anything about the authorship of the phrases that appear to come from the letters that we attribute to Paul. He may have believed it, but we cannot claim that we have evidence that he did. Clement provides evidence that these letters were in circulation at the time he wrote his letter, but he does not tell us who the authors were.

I think Papias only mentions Matthew and Mark and he never quotes from their work. He only describes them and his descriptions do not unambiguously point to the books that we know as Mark and Matthew. He describes Matthew as being written in Hebrew whereas most scholars think it was originally written in Greek. He describes Mark as recording the things he learned from Peter “in no particular order” while the gospel we know is chronologically arranged. It is not clear from what we have whether Papias had access to these works or simply knew of them. We might suppose he did and that he was referring to canonical Mark and Matthew, but as far as evidence goes, Papias only gives us evidence that books attributed to Mark and Matthew were in circulation during his time.

Ignatius and Polycarp indicate familiarity with many of the documents that comprise the New Testament, but since they don’t say who they are quoting, we cannot claim them as evidence of authorship. Polycarp talks about memoirs of the Apostles which would be evidence that he believed in their apostolic origin. Once again, we might reasonably suppose that he attributed them to the same authors we do but we cannot claim to have evidence that he did.

Ireaneous is the earliest witness to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as the authors of the gospels that appear under their name in our current Bibles because he is the first one who quotes from the books and identifies the authors. It is possible that Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, and Papias may have believed the same things as Irenaeous, but we cannot consider them witnesses if they did not leave a record of their beliefs.
Well, yes and no.

Yes, if taken in isolation very strictly, skeptically and literally, as you are doing, then the early church fathers' quotations are no evidence of the authorship of certain books.

But no, you are not correct in saying these men were not acquainted with the authors. These were second generation Christians who in turn passed on what they knew to the third generation and so on.

Unlike most ancient literature, the NT has a continual running commentary in every succeeing generation. Almost the entire NT can be assembled merely out of quotations by the ante-Nicene fathers.

While it's POSSIBLE the second generation did not know the authors of the books they were quoting, it's so unlikely that it ought to be dismissed on just two grounds.

1. That they were writing their letters later in life but they also lived during the time when some of the Apostles and many of the disciples of Jesus were still alive.

Ignatius was from Antioch, Polycarp an Papias from Asia Minor, Clement from Rome. They were each martyred or died between 96 to 115 AD when they were old men. Therefore, they lived at a time when it is recorded in the New Testament that Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, etc. were in these cities in the 50s and 60s. Ignatius would have been familiar with the elders in the Jerusalem church prior to 70 AD because the Apostolic authority of Jerusalem passed to Antioch after that.

These men had both the postion and the authority to know which books were apostolic writings -- because they likely knew the authors or were certainly close enough in time to determine this.

2. That no Jew would ever accept a writing as scripture if the authorship were unknown. The first century Fathers are quoting these passages as authoritative -- as scripture. They quote New Testament scriptures alongside Old Testament scriptures as books that are authoritative. However, lack of citation is not problematic since they don't give the names of the Old Testament prophets either. It is assumed that the reader knows the scriptural quotations by heart or is at least familiar and recognizes the passage. This means that the books were already well-known and accepted as canonical.

Wnen Papias speaks of "the elders," he is referring to the Apostles and bishops of the apostolic generation. When Irenaeus speaks of his elders he is speaking of the second generation bishops, Papias, Polycarp, and so on.

It's fairly easy to establish the generational succession that gives credence to the authenticity and authorship of the NT books.
I am not making any claim about whether these men were or were not acquainted with the authors. I am simply saying that their writings do not indicate who the authors were and are not, therefore, witnesses to the authorship of the New Testament books.

Can you give me some examples of where these individuals quoted the New Testament books as authoritative? I think this may be true of Polycarp, but I don’t think the same can be said of Clement, Ignatius, or Papias.

I have read Clement’s letter and I am reasonably certain that he does not do so. Clement regularly introduces references to the Old Testament with phrases like “the Lord says” or “scripture says.” However, when he uses phrases from Paul’s letters, he does not cite any source or even indicate that the words are not his own. It is possible that his readers would have recognized them as being Paul’s words, but Clement treats them much differently than he treats quotations from the Old Testament.

I have only read a couple of Ignatius’ letters, but my recollection is that, like Clement, he uses phrases from New Testament books without indicating that they are someone else' words or that they come from any source more authoritative than himself. I don’t know of any examples of Papias quoting from other books.
You bring up a number of good points. I thank you that you haven’t bothered me with wild ideas and trifles, as many skeptics do, but you are smart enough to get right to the heart of the matter. The writings of the church fathers are the key to the canonicity of the New Testament. If the New Testament books are not apostolic writings, then these books are forgeries and the Christian religion is based on a sham. It’s important to know what they say ABOUT the scriptures as well as which scriptures they quote. That is the heart of the matter.

A few things to begin with …

If there were hundreds of years between the writing of the NT and the later quotations, then a case would be made that we don't know who the authors were.

Usually an ancient book is thought to be an authentic writing of a particular author if a later manuscript exists with an author and a title. If there is a literary tradition in other writings that this book is by a certain author, then it is accepted almost without question.

Spurious or controversial books are noted early on and the basis usually has to do with stylistic differences between the work and other KNOWN works by the author. However, even then this is guesswork. The best witness we can hope for are contemporaneous authors who quote the work.

In the case of the New Testament we know the following. We have authors quoting the books who would have been contemporaries of the authors.

A conservative dating of the Gospels and the Epistles (40 to 70 AD) presupposes that by the time the church fathers received the books, the authenticity of these writings was known by the church.

In all cities where they lived(Rome, Smyrna, Hierapolis, Antioch) the church fathers were bishops of churches established by Apostles. The second century apologists wrote that each bishop in these cities was taught and ordained by one or more of the Apostles.

The Illogical Liberal View

If we use a liberal dating for the Gospels and other NT books (70 to 96 AD – or later) then the Church Fathers were writing practically at the same time as the New Testament authors. A late dating assumes that these books (with the exception of John’s Gospel) could not possibly been written by Matthew, Mark or Luke. Liberals usually give Paul SOME of the Epistles and think the others are spurious.

But if this is the case, then the inevitable question arises: “Why would Clement, Polycarp and Ignatius make use of these books?”

A spurious letter or Gospel would be KNOWN TO BE FALSE because at least SOME Christians at Antioch, Smyrna and Rome would recognize that this was NOT the Gospel preached by the Apostles. A forged letter would be recognized as not a genuine Epistle of an Apostle.

It’s very unlikely that ONLY quotations from Gospels we have today would have made it into the writings of the early bishops if the Gospels that have these quotes were forgeries.

Now let’s get to the issue of references:

The author of Clement (Clement was a bishop at Rome at the time of the writing of this letter) was able to say to the Corinthians:

“Take up the epistle of the blessed Apostle Paul. What did he write to you at the time when the Gospel first began to be preached? Truly, under the inspiration of the Spirit, he wrote to you concerning himself, and Cephas, and Apollos, because even then parties had been formed among you.”

Now let’s imagine this being either true or false.

This letter was addressed to the Corinthians sometime in the late first century. Clement is assuming two things.

1. That the Corinthians had an actual Epistle written by the Apostle Paul in their possession and it was considered to be an inspired writing.

2. That the letter was written after the Corinthians had heard the Gospel preached to them by Paul, Cephas (Peter) and Apollos.

The first letter of Clement is considered to be authentic even by most liberal commentators. Why? Let's consider the illogical idea that such a letter could be false. It would be very difficult to publicly circulate such a letter if:

1. The original letters from Paul did not exist in the churches’ possession.

2. The Epistle of First Clement was also a second century forgery.

In either hypothesis, there is too little time passing between the references to 1 Corinthians and 1 Clement and the later references to 1 Clement by the later Apologists, Hegesippus, Dionysius of Corinth, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Origen to name a few who lived within 100 years of Clement.

1 Clement simply has too much of a pedigree to be considered a spurious writing.

If this is true then the Epistles of Paul and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke have to be considered authentic as well because these are quoted throughout the letters.

Let’s consider though the opposing view, that Clement was not talking about “the Gospels” but an oral tradition. Yet Clement makes it very clear how the Gospel is to be known as authoritative:

“The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ has done so from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture a certain place, ‘I will appoint their bishops s in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.’”

Clement is saying is essence that the Gospel came from God to the Lord Jesus Christ and was preached by the Apostles, and then the elders and deacons (of which Clement is one) received the Gospel directly from the Apostles.

But was this the written Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

We know two things from 1 Clement:

1. The Gospel was first preached by the Apostles and the churches of Rome and Corinth still had bishops and deacons at that time who were eyewitnesses to this preaching.

2. By the time the Epistle of 1 Clement was written, these Gospels had been committed to written form. That much is obvious since Clement quotes the Gospels pretty much as they have come to us today.

The Gospel quotations made by Clement are more than just allusions to an oral tradition. They also appear in the context of Old Testament passages. The words of Jesus are inspired of God, and in the following passage Clement quotes the Old Testament as “the Holy Spirit saith,” then the Gospel as “the words of the Lord Jesus” and then the OT again as “the holy word saith.”

I suppose one could still doubt from this that the Gospel of Matthew was known Clement as inspired scripture, but it requires a bias beyond good reason.

“Let us therefore, brethren, be of humble mind, laying aside all haughtiness, and pride, and foolishness, and angry feelings; and let us act according to that which is written (for the Holy Spirit saith, ‘Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, neither let the rich man Story in his riches; but let him that glorieth glory in the Lord, in diligently seeking Him, and doing judgment and righteousness,’ being especially mindful of the words of the Lord Jesus which He spake, teaching us meekness and long-suffering. For thus He spoke: ‘Be ye merciful, that ye may obtain mercy; forgive, that it may be forgiven to you;
as ye do, so shall it be done unto you; as ye judge, so shall ye be judged; as ye are kind, so shall kindness be shown to you; with what measure ye mete, with the same it shall be measured to you.’
By this precept and by these rules let us establish ourselves, that we walk with all humility in obedience to His holy words. For the holy word saith, ‘On whom shall I look, but on him that is meek and peaceable, and that trembleth at My words?’

Anyone who doubts this can go to and compare the Greek text of the New Testament with the quotations by the church fathers.

I use the same method of reasoning in dealing with the fragments of Papias. Although we don’t have the books of Papias (supposedly due to Jerome’s and Eusebius’ prejudice against Papias’ premillennialist teachings) the fragments we do have show Papias claiming to have known the Apostle John and several others of the apostolic generation.

Eusebius wrote that the books of Papias still existed in whole form in the fourth century:

“For information on these points, we can merely refer our readers to the books themselves; but now, to the extracts already made, we shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which he [Papias] has given in the following words: but he only recorded the following … but now, to the extracts already made, we shall add, as being a matter of primary importance, a tradition regarding Mark who wrote the Gospel, which he [Papias] has given in the following words: ‘And the presbyter said this. Mark having become the interpreter of Peter, wrote down accurately whatsoever he remembered. It was not, however, in exact order that he related the sayings or deeds of Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter, who accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord's sayings. Wherefore Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For of one thing he took especial care, not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.’

“This is what is related by Papias regarding Mark; but with regard to Matthew he has made the following statement: ‘Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.’

“The same person uses proofs from the First Epistle of John, and from the Epistle of Peter in like manner. And he also gives another story of a woman who was accused of many sins before the Lord, which is to be found in the Gospel according to the Hebrews.”
It’s very unlikely that ONLY quotations from Gospels we have today would have made it into the writings of the early bishops if the Gospels that have these quotes were forgeries.

In fact, Papias seems to have passed along considerable non-canonical material. He tells a story about Judas growing so incredibly fat that he was wider than a chariot. He also quotes a Jesus prophesying vines “each having ten thousand branches, and in each branch ten thousand twigs, and in each true twig ten thousand shoots, and in each one of the shoots ten thousand clusters, and on every one of the clusters ten thousand grapes.” (I think I have read that there are some apochryphal references in some of the other early fathers, but I cannot recall at the moment where I saw this.)

In any case, I would think the fact that Clement and Ignatius do not indicate when they are quoting other works makes it very difficult to determine that they only used canonical sources. What I mean is that we only know that Clement and Ignatius are quoting Paul’s letters because we have Paul’s letters and we can see the similarity. Without Paul’s letters, we would have assumed that these phrases were the words of Clement or Ignatius. How could we be certain that they did not draw phrases from other sources which have not survived?

If this is true then the Epistles of Paul and the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke have to be considered authentic as well because these are quoted throughout the letters.

As far as using Clement as a witness to the canonical gospels, I think that is really stretching the evidence. Clement only quotes two sayings of Jesus and they are not exact quotes from the gospels. They could be from some Q-like collection of sayings or from the oral tradition. What I find most significant is that Clement doesn’t refer to any of the gospel stories about Jesus’ life. In fact, he discusses the resurrection in terms of the mythological story of the phoenix rather than using gospel accounts of the resurrection. I find it hard to believe that he would resort to Greek mythology if he knew the gospels and considered them authoritative.

Moreover, the passage you quote expressly refers to the gospel being “preached,” not written. The writing referenced is a quote from Isaiah.

Regarding the epistles, I think Clement is a much better witness because he uses so many phrases from Paul’s letters and he does refer expressly to the letter Paul wrote to the Corinthians. However, he never cites Paul as the source for the quotations and does not indicate that he is quoting at all. Since he always introduces his Old Testament quotes with “the Lord says” or “Scripture says,” it seems clear that Clement does not equate Paul’s writings to scripture.
You certainly know your 1 Clement criticism. I've actually countered all these arguments before elsewhere on one of my blogs, so I suppose your source is someone like Doherty or Crosson?

There are actually LOTS of scholarly rebuttals to the Jesus Seminar. I don't need to rebut everything here.

Clement says Paul was writing "under the inspiration of the spirit" -- if that is not evidence that he equated Paul's writings as scripture, then I don't know what is.

The Phoenix reference is also used by Tertullian in On the Resurrection of the Flesh:

God even in His own Scripture says: "The righteous shall flourish like the phoenix;" that is, shall flourish or revive, from death, from the grave-to teach you to believe that a bodily substance may be recovered even from the fire. Our Lord has declared that we are "better than many sparrows": well, if not better than many a phoenix too, it were no great thing. But must men die once for all, while birds in Arabia are sure of a resurrection?

The Scripture passage Tertullian refers to here is Ps 92:12; Tertullian says Δίκαιος ὡς φοίνιξ ἀνθρήσει, dikaios os phoenix anthresei, but it is really "like a PALM tree." The word for PALM in Hebrew when transliterated to Greek sounds the same as PHOENIX. They probably thought the Phoenix was referenced in scripture and that is the reason they use the metaphor -- not that they ascribed to Egyptian mythology. It's apparent that this was a play on words. Or that Clement was reading the Septuagint literally here and didn't know the Hebrew word for PALM.

The key to understanding the Gospel author attributions among the church fathers lies with just a few presuppositions.

1. They are not writing scripture, so much of what they say is subject to human error. It would be incredibly useful if someone were to find Papias' lost books: "The Exegesis of the Words of the Lord." However, the reason why these were not preserved in the fourth century is that Papias' theology contradicted that of Eusebius and Jerome, both of whom had heretical leanings themselves. Eusebius considered Papias to be an unlearned man. They only preserved the parts of his writings they felt were indispensable. I also think that much of what Papias taught is repeated later by Irenaeus -- and the bulk of the EXEGESIS may already be contained in Irenaeus, since he was Polycarp's and Papias' pupil.

2. They were quoting scripture from memory or from a manuscript that may have had variants.

3. All the evidence has to be taken as a whole. I am actually in the process now of compiling all of this. There is a paper by Dr. Henry David Ludlum that I've posted on-line. I'll be doing a series of blog entries summarizing Ludlum's research. There is overwhelming evidence that the earliest church fathers knew the Gospel authors, we see it in the manuscript subscriptions and superscriptions, we also see it in the Latin prologues. All of which are second century.

4. Although Papias seems to be the "smoking gun" evidence of the author attributions, one has to remember that Papias is explaining the occasion of the writing of the Gospels. He assumes that the reader already knows the works of Matthew, Mark, John, Peter, Paul, etc.

5. Some of the church fathers quote apocryphal material or versions of Gospels that are not known to us today. What for instance is the "Gospel according to the Hebrews” that Papias mentions? I'll be posting my ideas on this soon. Suffice it to say for now, I don't believe in "Q" the way that the liberals imagine it. I think there was for about ten years a proto-Matthew in oral form that was essentially the Gospel preached in Jerusalem and Antioch. Several early sources relate that the first Gospel was written in Hebrew by Matthew at the time when the Apostles began to preach in other regions. It was given so theat they could preach in other languages. Then the Greek versions appeared later. I also think that Mark's Gospel was composed in Rome (the earliest version) in Latin rather than Greek –- and that it was, as Papias’ said, Peter’s Gospel, which Mark, his interpreter was used to preaching in Latin.
According to the Latin prologues, the Gospel of Luke had its origins in Greece and John wrote his Gospel in Ephesus. But like I said before, I am in the process of compiling all the sources that relate this.
The only scholar I can specifically cite as a source is Richard Carrier. I wouldn't be surprised to learn that some of my arguments can be traced to Doherty and Crossan, although I may have first encountered them on some blog that did not give them credit.

Clement says Paul was writing "under the inspiration of the spirit" -- if that is not evidence that he equated Paul's writings as scripture, then I don't know what is.

With all do respect, I think you do know what is. Clement could have acknowledged the quotations of Paul in a manner similar to the quotations of the Old Testament and Jesus. By using a phrase like “Paul says,” Clement would have unambiguously indicated to his readers that these words, like the words of Jesus and the words of the Old Testament had a particular authority that was superior to anything that Clement himself might write.

We understand that “writing under the inspiration of spirit” means scripture because we read the phrase in light of Timothy 3:16, but we don’t know that Clement understood it that way or intended that way. Clement might have meant that Paul was doing the Lord’s work when he wrote the letter rather than Paul was communicating the Lord’s words. On the other hand we do know how Clement indicated that he was quoting from an authoritative source and he did not do this with Paul’s letters.
Writing under the inspiration of the Spirit means prophecy. Inspiration isn't an invention of Paul, it was a Jewish requisite for canonicity.

To a Jew, inspiration cannot mean anything but writing with the authority of prophetic scripture.

Further, Paul's letters to the Corinthians, which are being quoted by 1 Clement, have an internal claim to be inspired of God.

The last lengthy debate I had about the authorship issue went on for several months. Most of this was covered. There are literally hundreds of pages. At some point I ought to cull it into and outline for an on-line book

To me, it is somewhat baffling that someone can look at a direct quote from a Gospel in a letter that almost everyone -- even liberals -- affirms to be first century and not be convinced that this is a quote from that Gospel.

It's also unthinkable to me that the church fathers would have had doubts about the authorship of the four Gospels and that this would never be mentioned.

Even Marcion did not dispute the authorship of the Gospels -- he merely disputed their inspiration and doctrinal authority.

In fact, we don't find skepticism of this sort until the 19th century.

Further, the New Testament quotes and allusions in 1 Clement are far more extensive than you realize.


According to this paper, there are 25 direct quotations of the New Testament and over 200 possible allusions.


Gospels 26
Acts 11
Paul 4
General Epistles 67
Revelation 4
Hebrews 37

Check out the paper. It is fascinating.
I am going to here post some of my other responses to similar debates. I obviously find this kind of discussion fascinating, but after a certain point debates over the basics tend to go around in circles.

OBJECTION: Papias didn't claim or imply that the disciple wrote a Gospel.

It depends on what you mean by that. Papias is explaining HOW the Gospels were written not trying to prove who wrote them.

Matthew's Hebrew account was rendered in Greek by others.
Mark wrote Peter's account.
Luke wrote Paul's account.
John wrote his own account.

With this explanation such inventions as "Q" or "M" are totally unnecessary. I'll allow that there could have been early written VERSIONS of what became Greek Matthew, but I disagree that the final version could have been written after the Fall of Jerusalem -- otherwise it would be explicitly stated that the Temple is no more.

Other church fathers elaborate that John was chosen the leader of a committee of sorts that wanted to write down some of the other things that Jesus said and did not recorded in the other Gospels.
OBJECTION: The title "Gospel According to Matthew" may have come from the fact (or belief) that it incorporated material that came originally from the disciple Matthew.

Yes, it's very possible that Greek Matthew MAY have written by Matthew's disciples. There is no record of this, but it is probable. In fact, many of the books in the Bible were not written by the authors directly but by scribes who were followers of the Prophet or Apostle. There is sometimes a statement to this effect explicitly in the books themselves.

Here's the big question: If Matthew wasn't the author or originator, why did "According to Matthew" become the universal title very early on?

Some of the early Latin subscripts and prologues to the letters of Paul explain who was the scribe and in what city it was written in. Some have information on who delivered the letter. These were part of the Textus Receptus and are still preserved in the King James version. Most think they were not part of the original autographs but explanations added later. I agree that they are not part of scripture and therefore not authoritative, but there is no reason to think that they don't contain reliable information since they are very early -- late second century or even earlier.


The usual counter argument is to claim that Papias' gave either bad or apocryphal in other fragments (which is true) and to discredit his accounts of the Gospel authors on the basis of some of his other suspect information.

The other strategy s to cite the fact that Papias' work is lost and only appears in fragments in Irenaeus and Eusebius.

If Papias was the sole source of this information, then the case would be weak -- but Irenaeus account isn't simply copied from Papias. It contains some unique information and otherwise corroborates what Papias says.

The second century writers are just matter-of-factly stating some common beliefs of the orthodox churches of the day to counter the threat of the Gnostics and the Marcionites who wanted to either subtract or add to the number of Gospels.

Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and Tertullian cite Papias, Polycarp, Clement and Ignatius to prove the orthodox view was held from the beginning. They were concerned with competing views on the Godhead and the nature of Jesus as both fully God and fully man -- not one or the other as the Docetic and Ebionite heretics taught.

But their arguments did NOT deal with authorship of the Gospels. Even the heretics such as Marcion did not dispute the authenticity of authorship.
Early acounts have Matthew composing a Gospel in Hebrew prior to the time when he traveled to Parthia on a missionary journey about 10 years after the resurrection.

Is this possible or even likely? And if so, why is it not mentioned in the book of Acts?

First, we should mention the obvious. The Gospel of Luke was composed prior to the book of Acts. In Luke's prologue, it is mentioned that other Gospels had existed for some time. The writing of Acts can be placed as early as 59 AD (the early date for the end of Paul's first imprisonment in Rome) and at latest early 67 AD (the probably date of Paul's martyrdom.

It seems likely that Luke was written not to long before Acts. If we place Luke in the early 60s, then the idea that there had been a written Gospel of Matthew for at least a decade before that is very tenable.

Also, we should look at when the gospel was first preached outside of Judea?

One of the seven evangelists, Philip, is in Caesarea, Antioch, Gaza, Samaria as recorded in about 35 A.D. Several other of the 12 Apostles are traveling outside of Judea very early in the account of Acts.

Paul mentions that Cephas (Peter) was in Corinth or at least that Peter had disciples who were in Corinth.

“… the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing …” (Col. 1:5b-6).

… the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven” (Col. 1:23b).

By the time Paul wrote this, the Gospel had been preached all over the known world.

It's also a fact that there were other "apostles" besides the twelve who established churches.

The impression is that all of the Apostles were constantly traveling for about 35 years (35 to 70 AD) and some probably outlived Nero's persecution.

John is probably permanently located in Ephesus by the mid-60s.

The three great apostolic centers after Jerusalem in the first century were Antioch, Ephesus and Rome.

By the early second century there are churches mentioned in Irenaeus' writings in Gaul (France), Spain and northern Africa.

Either Apostles went there in the first century or they trained men who went there.

It's not unreasonable to say that Matthew was in Parthia. There were roads that ran along trade routes to these areas. It was dangerous to travel, but people did it all the time.
To a Jew, inspiration cannot mean anything but writing with the authority of prophetic scripture.

That still does not explain why Clement wouldn’t cite Paul as the source of those phrases? The whole point of his letter was to persuade the Corinthians to submit to proper authority. Why would Clement let the Corinthians think that those phrases were his words rather than Paul’s if he viewed Paul’s words as authoritative scripture?

To me, it is somewhat baffling that someone can look at a direct quote from a Gospel in a letter that almost everyone -- even liberals -- affirms to be first century and not be convinced that this is a quote from that Gospel.

It is not a direct quote from a Gospel. It is a saying of Jesus whose source is unidentified. The fact that this saying also appears in one of the Gospels is not enough to establish the Gospel as its source. In theory, Clement could have been the source for the Gospel although this seems improbable to me. However, there is nothing unreasonable about thinking that Clement and the Gospel both drew from another source either written or oral.

It's also unthinkable to me that the church fathers would have had doubts about the authorship of the four Gospels and that this would never be mentioned.

For me, it is unthinkable that the early church fathers would have knowledge of the authors and without anyone mentioning it before Irenaeous in 180 A.D.

Even Marcion did not dispute the authorship of the Gospels -- he merely disputed their inspiration and doctrinal authority.

Do we have any evidence that Marcion conceded the authorship of the gospel?

Further, the New Testament quotes and allusions in 1 Clement are far more extensive than you realize.

Thanks for the cite. I’ll take a closer look at it when I get a chance but from what I saw, it confirms that Clement did not introduce Paul’s words in a way that showed he deemed the authoritative.
I am not sure I understand the premises you are arguing from except for it being pure cynicism.

You can always use argumentation even to reject what the meaning of the word "is" is.

By the Jewish and Christian definition, Holy Scripture is any writing inspired by the Holy Spirit. We do not have non-canonical books that are "inspired" of God.

This is not a recent theological innovation since it was used to determine the Old Testament canon prior to Christ. Clement uses the term the same way the rabbinically trained Apostle Paul uses it in 2 Timothy 3:16.

The whole point of his letter was to persuade the Corinthians to submit to proper authority. Why would Clement let the Corinthians think that those phrases were his words rather than Paul’s if he viewed Paul’s words as authoritative scripture?

But that's exactly the reason why Clement uses New Testament passages along with the Old as having authoritative weight when making his argument against disunity.

Clement does not cite the authors because his hearers already knew both Old and New Testament the writings!

In fact, the only writings from the New Testament that do not have at least some possible references in 1 Clement are 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, 2 and 3 John.

If anything this is evidence that the NT canon was established far earlier than the liberal view ever imagined!

You also make the argument from silence several times here, saying that if a church father quotes a passage from a Gospel verbatim, then it cannot be assumed that the source is the Gospel that we know today.

You also use the argument from silence to say that because the church fathers do not name the authors, therefore they did not know the authors. This is specious reasoning since Clement most often quotes the Old Testament and does not one time name the authors.

What you describe here is the scenario first proposed by the German Higher Critics in the 1800s. Their contention was that the latest possible dates for Gospel writings is the time when the quotations first appear in Irenaeus in the late second century.

But in the last 100 years, there have been several New Testament manuscript fragments dated before this time. The most significant find, The Rylands fragment, discovered in 1934, has been almost universally dated by paleographers to the late first to early second century.

The complete manuscript of the First Epistle of Clement was rediscovered in 1873. This too has almost universally been recognized as an authentic writing from the first century.

I find it tiresome that many want to prop up the arguments of the German Critics when their most basic presuppositions were refuted so long ago.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of authentic authorship is the fact that form the earliest centuries this was never in dispute until the German critics came along in the 1800s.

Further, ALL the documentary evidence we have available points to four named authors of four gospels. There is exactly ZERO documentary evidence that the authors were unknown or disputed.

The "anonymous" or "pseudonymous" attribution hypothesis is something that is literally invented out of thin air. The so-called evidence taken from form criticism and source criticism led the liberal critics to conclusions that have long since been refuted.

I am amazed that some will throw up a defense using the argument from silence and the most unyielding curmudgeonly skepticism.
Thanks for the discussion.
Hey, why can't I leave a comment on your newest blog "Harrowing of Hell?"
"The following is one such conversation with a UFO enthusiast (who doesn't think there is evidence that Jesus existed) named "Boyinthemachine."

Can you read? Because I clearly wrote:

"...even I believe there most likely was a historical Jesus. The problem is that my belief is not based on the fact that Jesus' historicity has been proven, but rather, based on the fact that there are countless cases of men deified after their death..."
Thanks to Dagoods for pointing out an error I made here:

I wrote that Papias mentions all four Gospel writers when I should have written two of four.


Great discussion. Learned a lot about Clement.

One point where I disagree a bit “the Gospel of Luke had its origins in Greece”. The Prologue appears to be writen to the high priest Theophilus, who was h.p. through 41 AD. Notice how Luke was very familiar with the internals such as the great company of priests that came to faith.

Jay, you probably are familiar with this, it really seems to fit in well to your excellent overall understanding of the authorship of the NT. (Although it might scrunch the timeline for Matthew to precede Luke.)

Yours in Jesus,
Steven Avery
Bayside, NY

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