True. Dan Brown got paid quite a bit of money for his fiction. Whoever penned Matthew, Mark, et al wrote for free.
The post title is a quote from an article I found in the Herald Scotland. Jonathan Wright is reviewing a book by Colin Humphreys called The Mystery of the Last Supper.
Humphreys seeks to solve a series of nagging problems about how Jesus’s last days are reported in the Gospels. Two issues stand out. First, Matthew, Mark and Luke describe the Last Supper as a Passover meal. John’s Gospel (well known for its ability to buck the trend) suggests that the Last Supper took place before the official date of Passover. Second, placing the Last Supper on the Thursday before the Friday crucifixion (as is the norm) causes all sorts of problems for the narrative arc. It is hard to fit in all the events. Most notably Jesus’s trial would need to have happened at night and this would apparently have broken local regulations about the processing of capital cases.
Wright includes more details covered in the book. Ultimately Humphreys figured Jesus had to be using a very old Jewish calendar and held the last supper on a Wednesday. And, “after doing his maths, he informs us the crucifixion most likely took place at about 3pm on what we’d now refer to as Friday, April 3 in 33 CE.”
I doubt that everyone will switch Easter to April 3, 4, and 5 every year and commemorate the “actual” days of this event. “Good Friday” might sometimes be a Tuesday. How confusing.
I can’t imagine being an academic who does nothing but study the gospels and look for ways to make the stories add up. I can’t help but ask why it matters. Will it make all Christians sleep better to learn the “truth” of Christ’s last days? Will fixing this inconsistent conundrum solve any real world problems? I’m thinking no. I get the appeal of getting the “facts” straight but I think it all amounts to hamster wheels. Nobody really gets anywhere by doing this.
I think it’d be better if everyone approached the bible, and the gospels in particular, with the awareness that the writers were not in a position to be accurate in their telling of what happened. There weren’t any recording devices and they didn’t witness the events first hand so all they had were word of mouth reports. There’s also the fact that people tend to have trouble keeping their facts straight at the best of times, let alone 40 years or more down the road. There’s also the fact that people added to and tweaked the gospels in the past. How much of what’s in there is completely original to the author?
This isn’t the only book about the gospels making headlines. The Pope’s been writing about these books, too, but his focus has been on revising the view of the Jews against Jesus.
Pope Benedict XVI has taken a big step forward. While acknowledging that in the Gospel according to St. John, those who pressed for the death of Jesus were indeed “the Jews,” he argues that this does not mean all the people of Israel, but only the Temple aristocracy.
In the Gospel according to St. Mark, the public demand to put Jesus to death was wider and included the “ochlos,” the mob which supported Barabbas, but, says the pope, “not the Jewish people as such.”
Then, in the Gospel according to St. Matthew, “all the people answered: ‘Let his blood be on us and our children.’” Here Pope Benedict XVI objects: How could it be all the people gathered outside the residence of Roman governor Pontius Pilate? And he concludes with a telling theological point: that for Christians the blood of Jesus should not entail vengeance or punishment, but rather reconciliation.
It’s yet to be determined if his writing will be “approved as an official Catholic doctrine” regarding this issue. Critics think he’s revising history a bit too much and in ways that make some pretty big assumptions.
Jewish scholars, like David Flusser, saw Jesus as a good Jew whose doctrine was influenced by the rabbis of his time. Forty years after his death, the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem and the Gospels, which so accurately describe this destruction, must have been written later, probably towards the end of the 1st century or the beginning of the second.
Moreover, there were about 300 Gospels with very different accounts of the key events. For instance, the Coptic Gospel of Judas, which was found about three years ago, describes Judas Iscariot as Jesus’ best friend, and asserts that Jesus asked Judas to denounce him to the Romans to enable him to accomplish his divine mission. Also the fact that the language of the Gospels is literary Greek casts a shadow of doubt on the idea that they were written by Galilean Jews who knew Jesus during his life.
Sounds like pretty damning evidence that the Pope’s blowing smoke but whatever. At least efforts are being made to reconcile differences that shouldn’t have gotten in the way of relationships between these faiths. The author of the piece, Sergio Minerbi, notes it’s not going to improve the Vatican’s relationship with Israel, however. Those political conflicts won’t evaporate just because all Jews aren’t to blame for Jesus’ death anymore.
This kind of research done into the gospels seems kind of pointless to me. Rather than just accept the fact that the bible is a jumbled collection of books that vary in their accuracy and purpose, people would rather try to explain away the conflicting journalism or justify the errors in some way. “He really meant..” they’ll write. How do they really know what the author’s intent was hundreds of years and translations later? They don’t. Whether the intent is to solve a mystery or correct a misperception, it’s all still guesswork. I think any conclusions they come to are ultimately irrelevant and won’t change or improve much of anything.