Thursday, June 4, 2015

Questions And Answers

Question: What credibility do you think the so-called Gospel of Judas has when it talks about who the most beloved disciple was and that the betrayal of Jesus was actually orchestrated by Jesus himself?

AP: Well, as far as how does it help us understand the historical Jesus, it has no credibility. It is important in that it helps us understand gnostic ideas, probably from the second or third century when it was written in Greek. I have a number of posts over at my blog in Spanish devoted to this Gospel. You can see this first installment to one series here. You can find the rest by using the search box. The best translation of this Gospel in Spanish, with Coptic, translation, and notes is published by Fernando Bermejo (Salamanca: Editorial Sígueme, 2011; available here). I have an overview of the book here, if you are interested.

TWH: If we want to know who Jesus is, the canonical Gospels give us the best description of his person, life, and ministry.


Question: Which came first, the accounts of the empty tomb or the accounts of Jesus' resurrection appearances to his disciples in Galilee or Jerusalem?

AP: We have no material that specifically helps us answer that question. Dating the manuscripts (the oldest are from around the late second or early third century) won't help us. And an internal study of the data that we do have will leave the question unanswered also. It is normal to think that the account of the empty tomb and the resurrection accounts form a block, with two perspectives, to "prove" that the resurrection of Jesus was a historical fact, and trustworthy.

TWH: Accounts of the empty tomb and Jesus' resurrection appearances began to circulate as soon as the events happened. When the women arrived at the tomb and found it empty, they immediately ran back to tell the other disciples. When it happened, people started talking about it–immediately.


Question: Is it really true that none of the apocryphal Gospels have reliable information concerning the historical Jesus? Aren't there any exceptions?

AP: Yes, there are some. There are certain sayings collected in the Gospel of Thomas (c. A.D. 150; discovered in 1945), for example. It is accepted that some details of the Passion, gathered in the Gospel of Peter (c. A.D. 130-150) could be authentic. And there are fragments of Gospel stories preserved in papyri, more or less ancient, such as Papyrus Egerton 2 or Oxyrhynchus 840, which receive lots of attention.

Nevertheless, these usually just confirm what was said in the canonical Gospels.

TWH: If you ask me, the doctrine of biblical inspiration is critical. With the inspiration of biblical texts, we have all the reliability that we could want or need. Whether or not, there is a record of something Jesus did or said, that is not found in the Synoptics and John, that did actually occur, I couldn't say. I suppose it is possible that something through oral tradition did survive and accurately reflects something that Jesus said or did, but such a search is hopeless. There is no criteria by which someone could reach a satisfactory and trustworthy answer. But with the Gospels that we have in our Bible, written by eyewitnesses, apostles, or, in the case of Luke, through heavy investigative research and trustworthy sources–not to mention, through the direction of the Holy Spirit–we can see who Jesus is, what he taught, what he did, and, most importantly, the significance of the last week of Jesus' life, which the Gospels all focus on.

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