Περί του χρόνου συγγραφής των Ευαγγελίων / About when the Gospels were written

Why could not the majority of the passages in the Gospels, or at least bits and pieces of them, have been written down shortly after, or even during, the earthly life of Jesus?

The apostles began preaching the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ from the time the Holy Spirit descended upon them on the day of Pentecost. What would have prevented them from also having set down in written form from the very beginning the essentials of their preaching? Or within the next few decades at least? What would have prevented some of their hearers from taking notes on their preaching, the preaching of the apostles? Why, finally, decades later would the evangelical literary activity suddenly be begun along very similar lines, but in widely separated places?

Why could there not have been an oral transmission, especially an oral preaching, accompanied by a simultaneous setting down in writing of at least some of the key stories, words, and larger narratives such as the accounts of the passion of Christ? All of these events took place within a Jewish milieu which had been characterized for centuries by the existence of the sacred books of the Old Covenant; they took place in a milieu in which Aramaic and Hebrew were the favored means of communication.

Why cannot the background of persecutions of the Christians that can already be read between the lines of the Gospels refer to the persecutions of the years A.D. 35 to 65? Why could not these persecutions have been those that arose out of the con­flicts between “the religion of Moses”, maintained in the synagogues, and the “new Way”? This hypothesis fits the texts better than the hypothesis that the Roman persecutions beginning under Nero from A.D. 64 on are the ones referred to. The New Testament writings almost never warn against the Romans; they almost always warn against the votaries of the religion of Moses.

Or, let us consider the usual interpretation of “the sign of Jonah”, as mentioned in the New Testament. Could the references to this really be to the beginnings of preaching the good news to non-Jews? The latter effort began with Paul around the years A.D. 45-50. This preaching was enthusiastically received by the non-Jewish pagans, just as, according to the Old Testament, the preaching of Jonah was received by the inhabitants of Nineveh.

Then there is the eloquent silence of the written Gospels on the subject of the destruction of the Jewish Temple. The destruction of the Temple had profound consequences for the entire Jewish world. What can we make of the typically prophetic biblical style that announces future events, if the Gospels were truly written after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD. 70?

This list of examples could be extended.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. x, xi.

All this appears clearly when we study the Gospel according to Matthew. This Gospel is a translation into Greek of documents that were first written in Hebrew. This translation is a very ancient one. It does not date only from the end of the first century A.D., as the majority of exegetes still hold today. All the indications, signs, and characteristics in the book we call the Gospel according to Matthew point to a very ancient period, a period only shortly after the momentous events of A.D. 30—certainly before the first joyous proclamation of the good news of Christ to the pagans and the uncircumcised which occurred around A.D. 36-40. There is absolutely nothing in this Gospel that would lead us to suppose that it was composed later; there is no text, nor any fragment of a text; there is not so much as a mark; there is nothing. The claim that the Gospel according to Matthew was only composed toward the end of the first century is a totally arbitrary claim. The only thing this claim has going for it is the fact that the majority opinion among exegetes today supports it. That is simply to say that the opinion rests upon nothing but itself. This view is the plainest kind of begging of the question: the majority of exegetes today hold to this view; therefore, this is the view that must be held to. There is no more logic to the position than that.

The history of sciences amply demonstrates that this sort of attitude and behavior, that is, following the prevailing opinion among those in a given field, whether cosmology, physics, biology, medicine, or what have you, has for many centuries been a major cause of the persistence of gross errors in all these disciplines. That a majority holds a given view is not an argument in science; every scholar or researcher is obliged in conscience to examine his own discipline and to ask himself what the assumptions and presuppositions in his discipline that are taken for granted really consist of and what kind of basis they rest on. The history of science also demonstrates that, when a scholar or researcher does undertake to look honestly at the presuppositions and a prioris in his field, the results are often surprising and sometimes even revolutionary.

Claude Tresmontant, The Hebrew Christ, σελ. 9, 10.

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