This was on Larry Hurtado’s blog. I can’t wait for the sequel.
In comments on my posting about Andrew Lincoln’s new book (Born of a Virgin?), Richard Bauckham’s views on the relationships of the Gospels to “eyewitnesses” came up. I offered a brief response, inviting Bauckham to make his own comment. He has now done so, and, given his prominence and that it is an issue in its own right (distinguishable from questions about the Gospel nativity narratives and the “virgin birth” tradition), I have taken the liberty of including his comments here in a posting. That way, they’ll get the attention that they deserve. I simply paste in his comment in the remainder of this posting without any comment from me. So, what follows is Bauckham:
“I guess I ought to clarify my position on eyewitness testimony in the Gospels, since it has been raised and you, Larry, say: ‘As I understand him, he doesn’t mean that the Gospels are “eyewitness testimony” such as a court transcript would provide, but that the Gospels draw on “eyewitness testimony” as it circulated in early Christian circles.’ Well, no, certainly nothing like a court transcript, more like “oral history.” But my point was that the Gospels are CLOSE to the eyewitnesses’ own testimony, not removed from them by decades of oral tradition. I think there is a very good case for Papias’s claim that Mark got his much of his material directly from Peter (and I will substantiate this further with quite new evidence in the sequel to [my book] Jesus and the Eyewitnesses that I’m now writing). I think that the ‘Beloved Disciple’ himself wrote the Gospel of John as we have it, and that he was a disciple of Jesus and thus an eyewitness himself, as he claims, though not John the son of Zebedee. Of course, his Gospel is the product of his life-long reflection on what he had witnessed, the most interpretative of the Gospels, but still the only one actually written by an eyewitness, who, precisely because he was close to Jesus, felt entitled to interpret quite extensively. Luke, as well as incorporating written material (Mark’s Gospel, which he knew as substantially Peter’s version of the Gospel story, and probably some of the “Q” material was in written form), also, I think, did what ancient historians did: he took every opportunity to meet eyewitnesses and interviewed them. He has probably collected material from a number of minor eyewitnesses from whom he got individual stories or sayings. Matthew is the Gospel I understand least! But whatever accounts for Matthew it is not the form-critical picture of anonymous community traditions, which we really must now abandon!”