Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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2. Jesus of the Gospels

It’s frequently stated by skeptics that we don’t know who wrote the Gospels. Some will say that the Gospel writers never met Jesus. They believe that someone would write a story and then attach it to a well-known person in the church to give it credibility. In addition, some skeptics think that the Gospel writers were not even concerned about history; they had no desire to be historically accurate. The skeptics coined the phrase “Jesus of history” to describe who they think Jesus “really” was, and the phrase “Christ of Faith” to describe the Christ worshipped in the early church, whose identity had been shaped and molded by the creative myth-making of Paul and the Christian prophets as they retold, embellished, and even created stories about Jesus.

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Discussion questions

  1. Does it bother you that the authors of the Gospels did not put their names into their books? Would it change anything for you if it turned out that the Gospels were not written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John?
  2. Why is it important to know who wrote the Gospels?
  3. How would explain the existence of titles in the manuscripts to someone who knows almost nothing about the Bible?
  4. Who was Papias, and why is what he says so important?
  5. Why would the names of Matthew, Mark, and Luke not be attached to anonymous Gospels? How does this argument help us believe they did in fact write the Gospels?
  6. Did the church accept writings that erroneously claimed to be from well-known people? What is the significance of this?
  7. What do the phrases “Jesus of history” and “Christ of faith” mean? Why do some people feel that the “Christ of faith” is not the same as the “Jesus of history”?
  8. What role does bias play in what people believe about the Bible? Can you believe something and still accurately describe it?
  9. Why do you think it was important to the authors of the Gospels to preserve historical truth in their narratives?
  10. What are the “difficult verses” and “embarrassing questions” and how does their inclusion in the Bible argue for the historical truthfulness of the authors? Same question with the “missing verses.”
  11. In what ways do Jesus and Paul sound different? Pick a few examples and see if they are truly contradictory teachings?