In this time and largely under the influence of Jerome and Augustine there were several councils that ratified the contents of the current Roman Catholic Bible. Because each witness tells many of the next generation of witnesses, and each make different mistakes, there becomes many different, though related, traditions. However, it is not as surprising when we realize that oral cultures contain the entire wisdom and history of their people in oral form, so much care is employed. Both Matthew and Luke agree with each other, however, on content that is not in Mark. Finally, there is material that is unique to Matthew and other material that is unique to Luke. Therefore, in order to keep the true story, it is critical that the tradition gets frozen before too much time has passed. Understanding the source of these similarities is referred to as the synoptic problem. There is substantial variation in the writings of the church fathers. Textual criticism of the New Testament can be problematic because it lends itself very strongly to non-conclusive arguments that depend more on the assumptions of the critic than the text. Papias late 1st cent. We must understand as much as we can about the authors of the New Testament and when they wrote it. Both Matthew and Luke fix this language, but often in different ways. That is to say, for passages that are in all three Gospels, Matthew agrees with Mark and Luke agrees with Mark much more than Matthew agrees with Luke against Mark. Also, we must remember that not every tradition gets retold. The Letters of John. Q is primarily composed of sayings of Jesus.
In general, I will take the position that the patristic tradition is authoritative, unless the tradition itself is murky or it is contradicted by a clear and convincing textual argument from the New Testament. At the origin of a tradition, there is the true story. John almost never uses the same words to describe events and only occasionally describes the same events. In summary, over time traditions split and are pruned. We now know that the entire New Testament was written by first-, second-, and third-hand witnesses, in the range of years after the death of Jesus. Q is primarily composed of sayings of Jesus. His preserved writings argue primarily against the Gnostics, a heretical splinter group. The church fathers did not have the current understanding of history and authorship. Because each witness tells many of the next generation of witnesses, and each make different mistakes, there becomes many different, though related, traditions. We will learn that even in the most pessimistic, but rational, reading of the data, we come to the understanding that the authors of the New Testament are close enough to the events to be able to give an accurate picture of historical events. That is, the true story gets corrupted. Note that it is popular among certain Bible scholars to discount the patristic tradition as a matter of course and rely only on the biblical texts themselves to determine questions of authorship and dating. When we have many traditions available, we can use this model to analyze the relevance of each tradition. The first was written by John the apostle, likely with the assistance of an amanuensis, A. Much will be uncertain; but this we will know; and this is what we need in order to continue our investigation of scripture and Christian history. That is to say, for passages that are in all three Gospels, Matthew agrees with Mark and Luke agrees with Mark much more than Matthew agrees with Luke against Mark. They frequently describe the same events, have events in the same order, and use the same wording in a way that implies written dependence rather than oral dependence. Mark's language is awkward or problematic in many cases. Much of the information we have about the authors of the New Testament comes from the church fathers, the leaders of the church in the post-apostolic age. Also, we must remember that not every tradition gets retold. The document itself is in bad shape, so for the most part it is difficult to interpret the absence of a particular book from this list. If a tradition is not believed, or is considered unimportant, it will not be repeated. What we have described is called the four source hypothesis, where Mark, Q, M, and L are the sources. The Letters of John. The Apocalypse , written by John the apostle, A.
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