What is an autographical text?

We do not possess any original copies of the 27 written documents that constitute the New Testament or any of the Old Testament for that matter. What we do have for the New Testament is a lot of manuscript evidence (hand-written copies) and citations from Church fathers. There are many differences between the surviving manuscripts, admittedly most (not all) of these are inconsequential for major Christian doctrine. Because of this, many Christian apologists and conservative scholars often aver it was the original autographs of the New Testament that were inspired by God. It is believed that we can reconstruct them with a high degree of confidence.There are quite a few concerns with limiting the Inspiration of the Bible to the autographs, a term itself that is complicated

  1. John clearly has two endings and was redacted (by a authoritative member of the community). The Prologue is also a later edition. It also looks like it is out of order in parts indicating a complex compositional history in the community. Which John was inspired? The original writing or the final redacted version that was canonized and might be out of order?

  2. The canon edits itself. Matthew and Luke took the text of Mark and added a beginning and ending and a lot of content in addition to making subtle changes that sometimes soften Mark or even change the meaning. lf, if we accept the existence of Q and the independence of Matthew and Luke, the most common solution to the synoptic problem, there are a number of “agreements” in the extant texts of Matthew and Luke over and against the extant text of Mark, indicating they may have used a slightly different version. 2 Peter has allows swallowed up the text of Jude. But what Mark morphed into in Matthew and Luke in short order is certainly textually vexing. How do we identify an autograph for Mark?

  3. 2 Corinthians is most likely a composite of 2 or more letters of Paul edited together. it appears out of order, the tone shifts after chapter 9 and Titus is described as not in Corinth and working there a few chapters later. Were only Paul’s original epistles inspired or was the later author who merged and edited multiple letters together also inspired? What does an autograph even mean here? What is the autographical text here?

  4. Multiple composition histories are posited for Isaiah but the most common is three authors. Isaiah and then two more tacking on sequentially after him (1-39, 40-55, 56-66). The notion of a singular autograph for a text that may have had multiple authors over hundreds of years and possibly an editor is somewhat problematic. Can we even presume each version of Isaiah would have been completely stable on textual grounds in the interim between the next recension?

  5. Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch is dead as can be. It was composed by multiple authors over long periods of time and edited together. Multiple creation stories, multiple flood accounts, a bunch of doublets and lots of different authors with tensions in the text. What does it even mean to claim the autographical text was inspired here? The final redactor?

  6. There is some evidence Acts may have circulated in two versions. The Western text is almost 10% longer and a good suggestion is Luke published multiple versions. Many scholars also think Luke 3:1 is a formal beginning and that the infancy narrative was added in a later edition. His first version would have started similarly to Mark’s whom he was literarily dependent on. If Luke published multiple versions of his own work, or published his works over time, possibly updating things as new research came in, what on earth is an autograph and how could we ever detect it?

  7. Is the Septuagint Inspired or the Hebrew Autographs?
    New Testament authors frequently quoted the Old Testament through the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament rather than the extant Hebrew Bible itself–let alone its autographs that are now lost. A problem surfaces in that the point made in a few of these passages appears to rely on a mistranslation of the Hebrew original! Is the Hebrew autograph inspired or the Greek mistranslation? Both? Did God inspire the original Hebrew autograph and then inspire an author to utilize a mistranslation of it in the NT? Why is the NT not using the Hebrew “autograph” if that is the inspired version?

It may certainly be true that some of the above viewpoints are not entirely correct but rejecting them all would only reek of uncritical harmonization and confirmation bias as they are all fairly standard in critical scholarship today.

There is evidence that New Testament works, including the Gospels were living documents in the first and second centuries. The thousands of variants in the surviving manuscripts demonstrate this. Two separate endings for Mark can be traced to the second century, as a specific example. But at least the changes we can know about in the manuscript record have a silver lining. They occurred late enough to be filtered out! All of the above redactions and issues cited under bold headings, if true, would more or less have occurred before the manuscript record–meaning these changes are so early our textual repositories cannot even detect them. We have a lot of manuscript evidence but there is a dark period of 100 or more years where the truth is, we have no real evidence for what these texts were exactly like. The above examples are textually humbling!

We also know that in the early second century Papias at least preferred oral tradition to written sources. D. C. Parker wrote:

Papias, early in the century, is actually cited by Eusebius as preferring oral to written traditions about Jesus: ‘I supposed that things out of books did not profit me so much as the utterances of a voice which liveth and abideth.’ In such a context, it is unlikely that written texts can have been free from alterations or additions from trusted oral sources. For example, may not a saying received at one remove from an eye-witness have been more highly estimated than the version of Luke, whose authorities were, as he himself confesses, other written accounts? [The Living Text of the Gospels pg 203-204]

Judging by modern standards, many Christians played fast and loose with the Old Testament, including the New Testament authors themselves at times. Why would we not expect Christian authors and preachers to do the same with the New Testament Gospels and Epistles which were not yet even afforded the full status of sacred scripture? We already have two examples of what a text like Mark could turn into within a few decades. It might be my imagination but for each book of the Bible I get the impression that some Christians envision a single author set out, sat down and wrote down whatever God told him to in some sort of “one and done” approach to inspiration. This would be the “autographical” text that many would deem inerrant and infallible. The textual record and careful study of the texts themselves does not lend itself to such a simplistic view. Of course, the redaction of our Biblical works or compilations of smaller sections of them do not need to be attributed to deficient or imperfect authorship. God may have composed what he did in stages for the benefit of the individual persons and communities who first received these works – or for whatever reason he deemed appropriate. After all, the Holy Spirit was present and Jesus was alive and well (he was resurrected if you missed it). Christian prophets were receiving proclamations and commands from the Lord and the Church was growing and learning. Correct doctrine and the Orthodox view were still being hashed out and would be for hundreds of years as was the issue of what sources should be accepted as authoritative and which ones heretical. Before a text becomes popular enough and authoritative, full-fledged scripture it will be the most fluid and susceptible to editing. We must always remember that while we believe the Bible was written for us in its final canonized form, none of it was written to us and this process took time. A continued and softer process of inspiration over a “one and done” autographical approach might be preferable given the nature of many Biblical works.

So for those who subscribe to the notion of autographs that are inspired, what exactly is an autograph? Are there other models of inspiration that are more of an ongoing process?



Not to mention the books that are openly collections of works by multiple authors: Psalms and Proverbs. (And there’s no way that Job was written by a single author.)

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I believe in the perfect, inerrant Word of God and his name is…Jesus. But is written scripture (even the autographs) free of every possible error? I personally think not. So, I’m comfortable with the idea that the recording of scripture was not a perfect dictation-like process of God to the authors, but was transmitted through the authors’ own experience of God, and includes human editing, minor brain-farts and glitches of the authors’ memory etc. My tradition (Anabaptism) views scripture as “authoritative”, “God-breathed” and “Infallible in what it intends to teach us about God” but does not use the word “inerrant” to describe the bible, which is something the bible never claims for itself. So the mental-pretzels that inerrantists engage in to try to determine what the “pristine autographs” are, and to harmonize every detail of the gospel accounts etc…I see largely as a time-wasting exercise in missing the point of Scripture (which is to point to Christ). Read the scriptures to get to know Jesus, then follow Jesus (not any “magical” words on a page).


We have the canonized version of the Bible. Whatever the editorial history of the books were, the current version has been judged and accepted as reliable.

I do believe that the biblical scriptures were inspired. Inspired does not demand that the text was written at once. Writing was slow during that time and it is likely that the longer scriptures were written in pieces. For example, some letters of Paul look like he dictated them in pieces to the person who wrote the text. Maybe he slept between or had a break and new topics popped to his mind during the break, so the focus of the letter may have changed between the pieces.


The books were not written in isolation. For example, Luke wrote that he “investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in an orderly sequence.” (Luke 1:1). It is probable that he read some version of the text of Mark and utilized it - if I understood it right, Luke knew Mark and may have gotten text directly from Mark. It is also likely that he interviewed many eyewitnesses and those persons may have told stories about the life of Jesus to both Mark and Luke, using similar words.
Some believe there has been a written collection of words and deeds of Jesus (Q source). This Q source is just speculation but if it existed, it is likely that Luke utilized it as other available stories told by eyewitnesses.

Having the same stories told by Mark, Matthew and Luke does not make the text unreliable. In fact, it can be compared to having three witnesses in the court. One witness was not enough in the court, two or three was needed. Having three witnesses also helps to understand the stories better because one may have told details that were not told by the other two.

This stresses the importance of what we mean by the word ‘inspired’?

I do not believe that ‘inspired’ meant that the writer acted as a scribe writing down what was dictated by the Holy Spirit. Rather, the Holy Spirit lifted up matters to the mind of the author and an urge to write about the matter, with a wisdom given by God. If so, the message was given and inspired by God but the way how the writer expressed it may partly reflect the subjective thinking of the person.


First of all what do you mean by “works”? Second they werent living documents for non christians in the first and second centuries. And finally please explain to me how not a single secular historian wrote down how the Romans handed a crucified man to a supposed relative to bury him in his grave ? Because that was highly unlikely during these times. Ohhh and the guards. The guards saw all this happening yet we aint got reports of them to the governor that time.And dont start with the “they were bribed,they were silenced they were too afraid to speak” bs

I would say that a decent number of somewhat-less literal minded Christians would probably say that the later editors were inspired.

I’m curious, what exactly is the basis for that? I have yet to encounter any particularly good reasons put forward (not that I have gone thoroughly looking), but most arguments I have seen seem to rely on an assumption of the impossibility of accurate prophecy.

Again, what is the evidence cited for this? I haven’t heard any good arguments for long stretches of things by other authors, but this is absolutely some editing (“And it is there to this day”, compilation, talking about Moses’ death, etc.).

Yes, and I would hold more to that, that there is some level of original text, with later edits, all of which has been preserved sufficiently well to communicate the significant theology.

would pretty well describe my thoughts on what “inerrancy” means to me. It is inerrant, in regards to theology, but does not concern itself with science.

This is also what I would say on “inspired”.


Probably for the same reason that we don’t have any others of their reports–those records have been lost.

Which is the same issue for the question that sometimes comes up “Why don’t we have any Egyptian records of the Exodus?” 1. None of the papyrus records from the Delta area survive from before ~300 BC. 2. Is Pharoah really going to brag about “We lost part of our army chasing escaped slaves” and put it on a stone monument?.


Speculation is not an argument sorry mate.

Ahhh yes .I lost half my army OVER A SEA THAT HAS SLPIT IN TWO AND DESTROYED MY MEN isnt enough to write that down .Yes i forgot

Also people getting raises from the dead by the thousands yet no records either.Must be lost huh?

Note that this claim, and documentary hypotheses generally (such as the claim of multiple letters merged into II Cor. or multiple sources for Isaiah), assumes that we can in fact recreate a fair amount about autographs, but that they are bits and pieces from different sources.

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We don’t have any original triceratops…

Makes me wonder what conclusions we would come to if we did our biology based on the kind of piles of suppositions and speculations which are used in literary criticism of the Bible. But wait… we do know… we find a lot of that sort of stuff in previous centuries in things like phrenology.

Frankly to me a lot of this looks like a pseudoscientific way for people to hide their imposition of personal beliefs on scripture.

I am not adamantly opposed to the use of things such as literary criticism. I just see reason for considerable skepticism and I don’t see good reason for treating its conclusions as facts.

Again, is that something that a king would brag about by making a giant monument or big carvings on a monument? No. The only mentions of foreigners on Egyptian monuments are either “we smashed their army” or “they came to trade with us”, or similar messages. The earliest surviving record of a military defeat from the ancient Near East, outside of the Bible, is the Babylonian Chronicle, which starts about 500 years after the Exodus.

Those sorts of records would go on papyrus, in the official record storage sites. All (as far as anyone knows) of those records from that date have disappeared into the Nile delta, and are thus inaccessible to modern historians.


This is a weird response to me. I don’t understand your point. Are you telling historians not to vet their sources? People don’t hand copy triceratops bones over and over again and pass them around to have them be recopied and edited at will. We have a million examples of textual corruption in antiquity and textual criticism is a very large field that extends to way more than to just the Bible. Every historian who uses any text in antiquity has to figure out where that text came from, who copied it, how we know it wasn’t altered, etc. The reliability of source material must always be discussed.

The Bible we read is from a publisher who had a team of scholars translating it using a critical Greek edition created by textual critics. They had to decide the best reading given hundreds of thousands of variants, most of which are not very significant. But there are still a host of divergent readings for the period in which we actually have manuscript evidence and a host of patristic citations. There is a dark period in time, virtually 100 years of more where we have next to no evidence either way. I am not sure what you are advocating here?

I recommend studying textual criticism and seeing what can and did actually happen to works in antiquity when there were no copyright laws and you immediately lose creative control over a text once its sent out. I posted a bunch of examples above which clearly delineate major edits to these works in their earliest stages. This is not hyper-skepticism, its dealing with what the data tells us.

Finding a copy of a work in Egypt in 412 AD doesn’t tell you if that is exactly what the work looked like in 70 AD when it was written. Nor does it tell you who copied it, how many times it was copied, where it travelled or really much about it. Nor can we actually be certain of any work’s full compositional history even with careful study. Being a historian and doing history actually requires skepticism if you want to be good at it. I’ll take healthy and warranted skepticism over credulity any day.


I don’t disagree with anything you wrote. Do you think the text itself was inspired? If so, when in the development of these works do you think it occurred?

The current version when? Nicene Creed?

What about a text written by one author then edited by a second ten years later? Is that acceptable?

Actually, since they are literarily dependent, they only count as one independent source.

I like it. Well said.

Books. Written works.

I was writing a question to Christians who believe in the inspiration of the Bible. Of course they weren’t “inspired documents” to non Christians. The cross is usually foolishness to those who are perishing (1 For 1:18) but you completely missed the point. Living documents meant they could be edited and supplemented. They weren’t etched in stone as immutable, sacred scripture.

You are being anachronistic, Nick. E.P. Sanders writes:

“Jesus became such an important man in world history that it is sometimes hard to believe how unimportant he was during his lifetime, especially outside Palestine. Most of the first-century literature that survives was written by members of the very small elite class of the Roman empire. To them, Jesus (if they heard of him at all) was merely a troublesome rabble-rouser and magician in a small, backward part of the world. Roman sources that mention him are all dependent on Christian reports. Jesus’ trial did not make headlines in Rome, and the archives there had no record of it. If archives were kept in Jerusalem, they were destroyed when revolt broke out in 66 CE or during the subsequent war. That war also devastated Galilee. Whatever record there may have been did not survive. When he was executed, Jesus was no more important to the outside world than the two brigands or insurgents executed with him – whose names we do not know. ”[1]

There is one to care enough to write that down if it happened.

Improbable things occur all the time. There are always exceptions to the rules and given enough discrete events happening on a daily, weekly and monthly basis it is impossible for some improbable things not to occur in everyone’s lives. But history tries to reconstruct what is most probable. So methodologically speaking, reconstructing improbable occurrences will require strong evidence. The problem is we probably only have one independent source for the tomb story (Matthew, Luke and possibly John all depend on Mark). There is no corroborating data and it is possible it was created. Apologists are fond of mentioning women at the tomb but that is not very convincing. We can’t say for sure on historical grounds if it happened or not. The verdict is non liquet. There is nothing impossible about a high standing member being owed a favor or getting one granted. That happens in life all the time.

There is nothing to report if a favor was granted and the request was granted by Rome. Remember, the high priest was appointed by Rome–some of the officials on both sides would have greased each other’s palms.

I think the big one is mentioning a King’s name that existed 200 or something years later. it is considered an ex eventu prophecy. The second set is supposed to presuppose the destruction of Jerusalem already. it is standard fare in dating a work that it must come after the latest events it mentions.

Fair enough.

I’ve heard a lot. Obviously the death of Moses is there and as you mentioned “and it is there to this day.” If you want to argue Moses wrote it then you would have to argue Moses put a bunch of sources together. You would have to try to make him the editor. You would need evidence for this though. Mosaic authorship is not a default position granted any presumption. Any and every historical claim must be justified by historical evidence and I would honestly say there is not actual good historical evidence Moses wrote the Pentateuch. Can you cite any sources from 1400 BS claiming Moses wrote it? Or cite any sources within a generation or two with credible lines of transmission? Heck, some folks aren’t even sure there was a Moses! Some may want to believe a late jewish tradition about Mosaic authorship or just take Jesus too literally when he said “Moses wrote about me” or “what does Moses command you?”

The standard fare is there are doublets, two distinct flood accounts put together, two distinct creation stories, two different calls, offend these are in connection with two different names for God, and others. II’ve heard some authors say the Hebrew is just different in different parts as well.

This is what the NJBC writes on the issue:

Exactly which part was written when and by who and when the final redaction was is certainly a hot topic. But most scholars thing there were quite a few authors over a period of time that put it together. I mean its ONLY fundamentalists and evangelicals who still think Moses wrote the brunt of the Pentateuch. They are on an island by themselves and its not cause of some conspiracy against scripture. Certain obvious facts suggest that Mosaic authorship is not the right fit. Moses’ death is recorded in Deut 34. Various formulas suggest a time after the Mosaic period ( until this day,” Deut 34:6; “when the Canaanites dwelt in the land,”Gen13:7; the designation of the land E of the Jordan as“the other side,”indicating the point of view of a resident of Palestine, which Moses never entered, Gen 50:10; and various anachronisms, such as the mention of Philistines, Gen 26:14-18). One of the striking features which early on prompted the investigation of the books was the alternation of the sacred name Yahweh with the generic name for divinity, Elohim. This indication of differences is relatively superficial; it has to be supported by some consistent factors that can explain the formation of the Torah. It was when the divine names came to be associated with characteristic vocabulary, narrative styles and content (hence “con¬ stants” which suggested different authorial hands), that J (for Yahwist) and E (for Elohist) began to emerge as plausible sources in the actual text. Another telling argument was the recognition of doublets (the same event related twice), such as the call of Moses (Exod 3,6), or the endangerment of the ancestress (Gen 12:9-13:1; 20:1-18; 26:1-17). The complexity of the Torah called for the recognition of various strands within it.

When you couple this with a complete lack or any actual historical evidence that Moses wrote the Pentateuch, what is there to even consider?

So the edits are a part of the inspiration of the Bible? What abut competing edits in various manuscripts?

What about internal contradictions and historical errors? If you were convinced Archaeology showed that there were no walls of Jericho to knock down at the time would you be okay with this?

[1] E.P. Sanders, p 49, The Historical Figure of Jesus.

The problem with many of your assertions is that they represent the opinions of some scholars. But others would disagree. For example, scholars such as Richard Bauckham have argued that John does not have 2 endings, but rather a 2 stage ending - "John’s Gospel does not have two endings, but a two-stage ending, the two parts of which (20:30-31 and 21:24-45) frame an epilogue (21:1-23).” Bauckham cites word counts and syllable counts to make this case. For example, the Prologue consists of 496 syllables and the Epilogue consists of 496 words. Hardly a coincidence, John is clearly framing his Gospel. He liked his numbers, did John. So in his view, John was written by a single author.

I think they are all true but admit it’s possible some are not. They explain the evidence the best to me. Some
of them are the opinion of the vast majority of all scholars (e.g. Mosaic authorship and Markan priority). There is nothing fringe in what I wrote. All of those are well established mainline views.

I would call the view you are espousing the result of confirmation bias. Why? Well, why can’t the redactor be responsible for that just as easily as an original author? See the problem? But it is my view that both the prologue and epilogue are secondary additions. Imagine that, the redactor decided to have some numbers match up.

Original John deciding to write two endings (which is what you and Bauckham are basically saying) seems odd as opposed to just changing it and getting the numerical pattern another way. Scholars also posit stylistic differences in addition to there being two completely different endings to John. So if that numerical find is genuine and not coincidence, I don’t see how it helps.

The better view is that whoever tacked on wanted to address the mistaken belief that the beloved disciple would not die before Jesus returned (because he was now dead!) and posit Galilean appearances (the gospels tend to contradict in this area). Maybe even something with Peter that we could speculate about. The editor didn’t want to alter the text of John or limit that out of respect so they attached a second ending. You don’t have to change what an author originally wrote to add to the beginning or ending. But John also appears to have a lot of disorder. It’s a complicated issue.

Sorry but most of what you’ve just said is pure speculation with little to no evidence. Confirmation bias works for sceptics too. As I said John does not have 2 endings, but a single ending with 2 stages. Theyre not the same thing, and show no evidence of tacking on. John portrays Peter as the disciple who through failure and grace is enabled by Jesus to become the chief pastor of the church, hence his inclusion of the account of meeting Jesus on the lakeshore. There is no need to make up non-existent ‘editors’.

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Most critical scholars disagree with you and Bauckham. John has two perfectly good endings. I have no idea what a “two-stage” ending even is to be honest. Sounds more like apologetical back-peddling with a bunch of speculative theology on why John did that rather than just accepting what is otherwise obvious. NT Wright and Michael Bird wrote:

“It may well be that this chapter was drafted after the beloved disciple himself had died, when some in the church, having misunderstood Jesus’ words (‘If it’s my intention that he should remain here until I come, what’s that got to do with you?’), worried that Jesus should have returned by now. That was never the point (21.20-23). The final editor adds a note verifying that the beloved disciple was the real author, and ‘we know that his evidence is true’."

The disciples also appear as if they are back home resuming their work right after being commissioned in chapter 20. Not bullet proof but narrative-wise, it has struck many exegetes as odd.

Christians were also disappointed at times by their eschatology and expectation of the imminent return of Jesus. In 1Thessalonians 4:13-18, possibly the earliest written New Testament work, there seems to have been a concern about those who have died before Jesus had returned in the late 40s and very early 50s (see also 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Jesus was probably expected to return soon and it may have been his own words that led to this belief.[1] John 20:22-23 says about as much, claiming Jesus was misinterpreted:

22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”

It would seem a belief had originated in the Johannine community that this beloved disciple would not die before Jesus returned. Once this beloved disciples passed away and the Lord had not returned, this issue needed to be addressed. The original author was probably not the redactor. If the interpretation I just offered is true then that is self-evident. The beloved disciple is deceased when chapter 21 was written. N

[1] The saying about some not tasting death until they see the kingdom come is now fixed to the transfiguration in the Gospels. Whether or not this was its original context or meaning is a point of contention.

Some extra reading material if you want it:

Brown on unity in John:

Some thought on disorder in John
Since Tatian in the late second century onward, some exegetes have thought the original order of John was out of place and needed to be corrected. Aside from clearly having two separate endings there are several other breaks in sequence apparent in the Gospel.

Helmut Koester writes

“Another aspect of the question of the integrity of the extant text of the Gospel concerns the order of its chapters an sections. Major disorder exists in two instances. The first concerns the sequence of chapters 4-7. At the end of chapter 4, Jesus is in Galilee, at the beginning of chapter 5 he goes to Jerusalem, chapter 6:1 says, “And after this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee,” and 7:1 reports that Jesus left Jerusalem and went about in Galilee, because the Jews were trying to kill him. Moreover, John 7 continue the discussion of the theme of judgment which had been initiated in chapter 5. If the order were chapters 4,6,5,7, all these difficulties would be removed.”[1]

It is important to note that in antiquity, where travel was by foot or livestock, a distance of 80 miles between Jerusalem and Galilee is rather significant. For any geographically inclined individuals, this hopping back and forth between locales seems rather puzzling. Raymond Brown highlights another problem in order:

“In 14:31, Jesus concludes His remarks at the Last Supper and gives the command to depart; yet this is followed by three more chapters of discourse so that the departure does not seem to take place until 18:1”[2]

John 14:30-31 30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He has no power over me; 31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us be on our way.

John 18:1 1 After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.

The “Rise, let us be on our way” does look out of place and the three chapters of lengthy discourses separating them appear to interrupt this flow. As Koester remarked,

“It has been suggested that chapters 15-17 are a later interpolation. But in language, style and content, these three chapters belong with 13-14. It is clear, therefore, that they are not in the right place. Chapters 15-16 may have followed John 13:34-35, because 15:1-17 is a commentary on the commandment to love each other, and 13:36-38 seems a good continuation of 16:31. This leaves John 17, the farewell prayer of Jesus. No satisfactory solution has been found for the placement of this chapter. That John 17 was added after the displacement of chapters 15-16 had already occurred, is also possible because chapter 17 is characterized by a theological interpretation of Jesus’ departure that differs markedly from the farewell discourses in chapters 13-16; it orientation is more explicitly Gnostic.”[3]

We are also left to wonder whether or not 12:44-50 is a public discourse by Jesus after he goes into hiding right before it (12:36)? In additions to several repetitions in discourses, Raymond Brown notes some additional internal problems with the order of the Gospel:

“There also seems to be a twofold conclusion to the public ministry in 10:40-42 and 12:37-43, although here the evidence is not as clear. The disciples of JBap, who were present when he identified Jesus and explained his mission in 1:29-34, do not seem to understand anything about Jesus in 3:26-30. After Jesus’ first sign at Cana (2:11), he works signs in Jerusalem (2:23); yet his next miracle at Cana is apparently designated as his second sign (4:54), as if there were no signs intervening. In 7:3-5, his brother speak as if Jesus had never worked sings in Judea, despite the Jerusalem signs just mentioned and another miracle in ch. 5. At the Last Supper, Peter asks Jesus where he is going (13:36, also 14:5); yet in the same setting in 16:5 Jesus complains that no one has asked him, “Where are you going” Throughout ch. 3, Jesus has been at Jerusalem which is in Judea; yet in mid-chapter (3:22) we are suddenly told that he came into Judea. Some of these difficulties may be explained away, but not all of the,. It appears that in John we have on the one hand the elements of a planned and cohesive outline, and on other, elements that seem to indicate alterations, insertions or reeditings. On the one hand there are dramatic scenes that betray minute editorial care (ch. 9, and the trial before Pilate in 18-19); on the other, there are scenes that lack finish and organization.”[4]

I think it is important to note that as Brown has, some of these difficulties may be explained away but the cumulative case they make seems rather strong. All of these differences might suggest a multi-stage compositional history for the extant Gospel.[5] Originally Raymond Brown posited there were two different versions of John along with a redactor. In his latest work he did still think it likely the original evangelist touched up his own work which was then redacted. Other scholars have also proposed complicated theories and sources behind the odd nature of some of the material. It should be noted that large blocks of material being out of order can be explained by pages in a early codex becoming mixed up but I am not sure they have been satisfactorily. Smaller blocks of material cannot be explained in this fashion. I honestly can’t make heads or tails of all of it. What I feel very confident of is that the extant form of the Gospel of John was not entirely composed by one author and the original author may have edited his own work one or more times. John definitely felt the hand of a redactor. This is no way detracts from the authenticity of material. As Brown notes,

“The fact that this material was added at the end of the Johannine Gospel formation does not mean that overall it was any less ancient than the material that appeared in the evangelist’s Gospel.”[6]

Thinking of the two-document hypothesis, that Matthew and Luke supplemented Mark’s gospel with Q and special material independently in no way means those traditions are not early or authentic. Whatever fluidity happened during the Gospel of John’s composition, it happened early as aside from scenes like the women caught in adultery, there is no hint of it in the textual record. The additions, such as the second ending which leaves the first on entirely intact, indicate an authoritative disciple within the Johannine community. We are not dealing with some nefarious, agenda driven later Christian corrupting the text but a confidant of the evangelist who had respect for the Gospel as it stood. To a large degree the process must be viewed as enrichment as opposed to correction.

Good luck sorting this mess out!

[1] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, pg 249

[2] Brown. Introduction to the Gospel of John, pg 41-42

[3] Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels, pg 249

[4] Brown. Introduction to the Gospel of John, pg 41-42

[5] I specifically said compositional as opposed to textual because this is a stage of development far before we can talk about the textual history of the extant form of the Gospel of John.

[6] Brown. Introduction to the Gospel of John, pg 83


My understanding of the canonization is that the church council confirmed that certain scriptures were widely accepted as reliable. It is unlikely that those scriptures changed after the canonization, between the canonization and modern times.

They were not fully independent in the modern sense of the word. Yet, all authors probably used multiple sources - Luke tells it, the others not. They told about the same events, probably many of the interviewed eyewitnesses were the same. It was not just copy-paste, the gospels were three separate reports of the same events. In that sense, they were independent although two latter writers apparently included much of the text of Mark among the sources.

This kind of interpretation and dating only tells about the beliefs of those dating the text. They do not have evidence that the texts were written after the events mentioned in the prophecy. If you do not believe that God can give accurate prophecies, then you end up claiming that the prophecies were ex eventu prophecies.

Moses was an educated person and I believe that he wrote something. Probably also compiled texts telling the stories in Genesis. It is evident that anything written by Moses needed to be translated because Moses could not write using modern hebrew language - the language evolved after the death of Moses. Later scribes added comments to the text. In this sense, it is obvious that some parts in Torah have been edited. How much is another question.

From the scriptures of NT, there are hundreds of early fragments that can be compared. The problem with OT (Hebrew Bible) is that there are no early copies of the texts, as far as I know. This makes any guesses about the origin and dating of the text dependent on the interpretation of the current version of the text. The interpretations are made through subjective basic assumptions and pet hypotheses. This makes the comments of modern scholars prone to subjective bias - it is not wise to accept everything that has been written by scholars. An additional problem with the interpretations of scholars is that they tend to present their educated guesses as the truth, claiming something without telling which parts of their conclusions are just hypotheses.

Ummm you can tell EP Sanders that he needs to realize that there were secular non elite historians during that time at Jerusalem.And they were enough of them to write that down. No one expects the elite of Rome to care. I was talking about local authorities and historians.
We have biographies of philosophers in Greece.Philosophers who the elite didnt matter at all.Heck even Diogenes who was far from a pholosopher and lived a controvesial life we do have sources writing of him.
So you are telling me we have sources of a man who lived naked in the streets ,cusing the others,beign vile and insane yet we dont have of the man who amognst all the others who claimed to be the messiah in Palestine he was the only one who managed to do mirracles and got ressurected ? Right

A member of the Sandherin as Joseph of Arimathea was ,if done such a thing he would have been stoned the next day.

I was talking asbout the Guards at the tomb

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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