Posts Tagged ‘John’

The following is a re-posted article from:

Origins Science Needs Design Rehab

The following article was written by Dr John C Walton in response to an article by Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne which was published in the Guardian on 1 September 2005. Dr Walton’s response was sent to the Guardian on Tuesday 20 December 2005 but not published. Dr. Walton is Professor of Reactive Chemistry at St Andrews University.

Are highly accredited scientists like Professor John Walton “ignorant, stupid, insane (or wicked)” because they reject the ‘molecules to man’ view of origins? This is what Richard Dawkins would apply to scientists like him. With prestigious qualifications Professor Walton surely has a right to object! He can be found speaking on the Edinburgh Creation Group.

During the last decade a fresh, enlightening breeze has been blowing into every corner of the house that Darwin built. The enterprise promoting this sea change, known as Intelligent Design (ID), started to cohere in the mid 1990s. Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe published his book Darwin’s Black Box in which he convincingly showed that many biological structures display “irreducible complexity”. Structures like vision cascades, cellular cilia, bacterial flagella and other “molecular machines” require many complex and coordinated molecular working parts. Behe combed the literature in search of evolutionary scenarios involving many small steps, to account for the origin of such structures, but found them few and far between and totally inadequate. For biological machines to work, all (or most) of the molecular parts are needed at once, i.e. the complexity cannot be reduced to some much simpler state. Individual component proteins, or small selections of them, do not function at all and hence the Darwinian mechanism cannot build the observed complexity by gradual selection of increasingly efficient precursors. Irreducibly complex mechanical and electronic machines offer a pertinent analogy and are known to be the products of intelligent minds taking advantage of natural laws. Consequently, Behe argued that biological machines are powerful evidence of intelligent design in biology.

At about the same time Berkeley Law Professor, Phillip Johnson, applied his relentless logic to show that the full diversity of Darwinian evolution is not supported by compelling factual evidence from palaeontology or by empirical data from biology (see his book Darwin on Trial). Most importantly, Johnson highlighted the fact that the main support for Darwinian Theory derives from its philosophical assumptions. Evolutionists see science as essentially materialist and based on philosophical naturalism. Only chance and the laws of nature are admitted as acceptable explanatory tools. Any interpretation departing from this narrow arena will automatically be rejected as non-science or worse still as superstition.

But how is it possible to decide if something has been designed or if the design is only apparent? An important step was taken by mathematician and philosopher William Dembski who established criteria for detecting design. Dembski drew attention to the fact that detecting design is already a well established scientific activity in fields such as forensic science, archaeology and cryptology. Methods employed with obvious success in these areas to distinguish criminal from accidental activity, to differentiate artefacts from natural objects and to decode messages, should also be applicable to biological structures and to events in nature. In his book The Design Inference Dembski described a general method he called “specified complexity” for identifying design and distinguishing it from the effects of natural causes. He demonstrated that systems exhibiting high complexity combined with “specification” are always produced by intelligent agents. To be “specified” an object or event must correspond to an independent pattern or dynamic sequence. An example of specification would be a dart board with a bulls eye in the centre. The bulls eye is the specified target. Randomly throwing darts is unlikely to result in hitting a bulls eye. There is something special about hitting a bulls eye in a board on a wall that is very different from throwing darts then drawing a bulls eye around them wherever they hit. The difference is that the bulls eye is specified. It turns out that nature, and particularly biology, is equivalent to a long series of bulls eyes that have all been hit by darts. When something has the property of specified complexity it is logical and rational to conclude it was designed.

Dembski, Stephen Meyer and others have applied the specified complexity criterion to biological phenomena and find good agreement with Behe’s conclusion that their origin implies intelligent design. It is especially significant that the Intelligent Design criterion enables data from across a spectrum of scientific areas to be rationalised. Physicists have discovered that the existence of life in the universe depends on a highly improbable balance of fundamental factors, often referred to as the “fine tuning of the universe” or as “anthropic coincidences”. Application of the specified design criterion to this cosmic enigma also signals intelligent design as the most likely cause.

It is apparent that this is a fresh, logical and rational way of thinking, which enables design to be detected independently of any philosophical or religious beliefs. Objective thinkers will welcome this as a way of shedding light on some of science’s most perplexing impasses. In practise Intelligent Design is growing in influence among scientists and philosophers who are willing to consider design as a third fundamental cause along with chance and natural law. On the other hand the old school of materialists, who hold that only chance and necessity are admissible causes, oppose Intelligent Design with every means their powerful establishment positions give them.

Richard Dawkins and Jerry Coyne are long-time members of this vintage group and are adamantly opposed to Intelligent Design. No surprises there! Distinguished philosopher of science Karl Popper wrote “the wrong view of science betrays itself in the craving to be right”. The intolerant tone of the article written by Dawkins and Coyne “One Side Can Be Wrong”, which appeared in the Guardian Newspaper on September 1st. 2005 is a pity, and shows an emotional and ideological attachment to their world-view has led them deeply into wrong territory. For them evolution should brook no rivals. Origins research is one of the softest sciences so proponents particularly need to avoid the craving Popper spoke of and to cultivate an impartial and objective attitude. It is worth taking time to evaluate the more coherent of the points made in the article.

One label Dawkins and Coyne immediately stick on Intelligent Design is: “There is nothing new about Intelligent Design. It is simply creationism camouflaged with a new name.” The major players in Intelligent Design science emphatically reject this assertion. Proponents of Intelligent Design regard it as a scientific research programme that investigates the effects of intelligent causes. Intelligent Design advocates such as Michael Behe and William Dembski are not young earth creationists and do not reject evolution. For Dembski the purpose of Intelligent Design is “to rehabilitate design as a mode of scientific explanation.” Meyer wrote “The question that must be asked about the origin of life is not ‘which materialistic scenario seems most adequate?’, but ‘what actually caused life to arise on the earth?’”. The specified complexity criterion for detecting design makes no appeal to sacred books and is independent of all religious authority. Phillip Johnson remarked that, “Our objective is not to impose a solution, but to open the most important areas of intellectual inquiry to fresh thinking”. Of course Intelligent Design research has important implications for creationism, but support for creationism is not its objective. Intelligent Design advocates accept evolution, but they doubt that it can do everything that Darwinists claim. Their purpose is to ‘follow the evidence wherever it leads’. This statement has become a slogan of Intelligent Design advocates, and is entirely in harmony with the open-minded attitude with which any scientific investigation should be pursued. It is important to understand that Intelligent Design is not a claim that miracles occur. Rather, it seeks to establish if design is an actual feature of the universe that cannot be duplicated by the effects of natural law and chance.

Early in their article Dawkins and Coyne say “So, why are we so sure that intelligent design is not a real scientific theory, worthy of “both sides” treatment? Isn’t that just our personal opinion? It is an opinion shared by the vast majority of professional biologists . .”. “If Intelligent Design really were a scientific theory, positive evidence for it, gathered through research, would fill peer-reviewed scientific journals. This doesn’t happen. It isn’t that editors refuse to publish Intelligent Design research.” As already mentioned, for material naturalists “real science” only admits chance and necessity as valid causes. Dawkins and the majority of his evolutionary peers automatically rule out Intelligent Design on these philosophical grounds and consider it a waste of time to evaluate the evidence. The majority of professional biologists work in institutions dedicated to evolution and its sister disciplines. Many institutes are specifically named “Evolutionary Biology” or some variant of this. The research funding, the livelihoods, the careers, the professional reputations of all these scientists depend on adherence to evolutionary orthodoxy. Objectivity on foundational questions of origins is not an option for them in these circumstances. The majority scientific opinion cannot be taken as a trustworthy yardstick for gauging the validity of Intelligent Design. In any case, Dawkins and Coyne, after making their misleading point admit that it is nonsense: “[But of course science does not proceed by majority vote among scientists.]”

It is totally unsurprising that Intelligent Design research is not reported in mainline science journals. Contrary to Dawkins and Coynes’ assertion, editors routinely refuse to publish. When Dr Richard Sternberg, editor of the Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington, published a single paper by Cambridge educated Stephen Meyer making the case for Intelligent Design, he immediately became the subject of a closet campaign of ridicule and intimidation. “They were saying I accepted money under the table, that I was a crypto-priest, that I was a sleeper cell operative for the creationists” said Sternberg. He was advised not to attend a biological society meeting because feelings were running so high order couldn’t be guaranteed. An independent agency, the US Office of Special Counsel, examined email traffic emanating from the Smithsonian Institution, where Sternberg held a fellowship, and noted that “retaliation came in many forms … Misinformation was disseminated through the Smithsonian and to outside sources. The allegations against you were later determined to be false” (see: for Sternberg’s own restrained account of the affair). Editors are well aware of the intimidation and harassment they will face so it is small wonder they shy away from publishing articles favourable to Intelligent Design. It is ironic for Dawkins of all people to denigrate Intelligent Design because, “Its advocates bypass normal scientific due process by appealing directly to the non-scientific public and – with great shrewdness – to the government officials they elect” when these are exactly the methods he adopts himself! His main contribution to science is the series of popular books expounding his brand of evolution to the general public. In fact Dawkins is following a long line of evolutionists including Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and Stephen Gould all of whom have appealed directly to the non-scientific public in books and popular articles. Dawkins and Coynes’ belief that it is fine for evolutionists to appeal directly to the public, but wrong for those who disagree with them, is deeply revealing of their ultra-partisan approach.

According to Dawkins and Coyne, Intelligent Design scientists make unreasonable demands for evidence: “One side (Evolution) is required to produce evidence, every step of the way. The other side is never required to produce one iota of evidence, but is deemed to have won automatically, the moment the first side encounters a difficulty – the sort of difficulty that all sciences encounter every day, and go to work to solve, with relish.” For over a century evolutionary scientists have been promising that laboratory science will someday discover a quantifiable mechanism for evolutionary change. Scientifically rigorous explanations have also been promised for: how life originated; how the genetic code and new genetic information could arise; how complex biological organs like eyes, cilia, etc. originated; how new biological species developed from ancestral forms and why the fossil record does not show the “innumerable transitional forms” Darwin expected. Intelligent Design scientists do not denigrate the huge progress that biologists have made in understanding how smaller changes have come about, how new varieties of animals and plants are produced, i.e. microevolution in general. Evolutionists assert that the large steps to really new structures (macroevolution) are just an accumulation of smaller steps. It is very significant however, that even after all this time, verifiable laboratory evidence is completely absent, the fossil record presents major problems, and only fanciful “scenarios” are on offer. The point Intelligent Design scientists are making is that the time has now come to examine alternative explanations in which design is evaluated alongside natural causes. The relish with which scientists work in solving origins problems could be pleasantly enhanced by adding the Intelligent Design criterion to their arsenal of scientific tools.

Dawkins and Coyne believe: “Biologists, on the other hand, can confidently claim the equivalent “cinematic” sequence of fossils for a very large number of evolutionary transitions. Not all, but very many, including our own descent from the bipedal ape Australopithecus.” This claim is seriously at odds with considered opinion in the scientific literature emanating from specialists in palaeontology. For example, Kemp says “the observed fossil pattern is invariably not compatible with a gradualistic evolutionary process” (Fossils and Evolution, Oxford University Press, 1999, p. 16; see also: Carroll, Patterns and Processes of Vertebrate Evolution, Cambridge University Press, 1997, p. 8-10.) Even evolutionist icon Stephen Gould admitted: “The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking pretty much the same as when they disappear, morphological change is usually limited and directionless; 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and fully formed.” The fossil record does not supply evidence for macroevolution. What is more, if the fossil record were really as portrayed by Dawkins and Coyne, there would have been no need for the “Punctuated Equilibria” hypothesis to have been formulated to try and explain the universal gaps.

Dawkins and Coyne keep up their courage by suggesting: “And – far more telling – not a single authentic fossil has ever been found in the “wrong” place in the evolutionary sequence. Such an anachronistic fossil, if one were ever unearthed, would blow evolution out of the water. As the great biologist J B S Haldane growled, when asked what might disprove evolution: “Fossil rabbits in the pre-Cambrian.”” This is to seriously underestimate the capacity of evolution to absorb bad news! When it comes to the fossil record, even Charles Darwin admitted that it was strong evidence against his theory and appealed to the incomplete nature of the record to try to get around this. Not surprisingly, Dawkins and Coyne also appeal to the incompleteness of the record. But appealing to fossils that have not been found, and trying to explain away those that have been found, hardly constitute strong evidence supporting Darwinism. There is a great deal of flexibility about exactly what the right evolutionary sequence is. Furthermore, geochronology is far from an exact science. Different dating methods frequently give discordant results. Samples for radioactive dating may contain contamination from younger material or from older source rock so that the classify them either as intrusive, i.e. buried at a later date by human or natural means, or they are labelled frauds. Enough doubt can always be thrown. For a recent example, consider the report by Bennett, Huddart et al. of fossil human footprints in volcanic ash near Puebla, Mexico, dated to 40,000 yr by a variety of techniques including radiocarbon analysis (“right” date can usually be found, either by “selection” from available samples or by selection from the range of dates. A nice example of this process unconsciously in action during the controversy over the date of skull KNM ER 1470 from the Lake Turkana region of Kenya is described by Roger Lewin in his book “Bones of Contention”. Nor do grossly out of place fossils like rabbits in the pre-Cambrian present any threat to evolution. Evolutionary palaeontologists “know” such fossils are impossible and therefore they always classify them either as intrusive, i.e. buried at a later date by human or natural means, or they are labelled frauds. Enough doubt can always be thrown. For a recent example, consider the report by Bennett, Huddart et al. of fossil human footprints in volcanic ash near Puebla, Mexico, dated to 40,000 yr by a variety of techniques including radiocarbon analysis which challenged evolutionary views about the timing of human entry into the Americas. No surprise that it was rapidly followed by a rebuttal from Renne et al. (Nature 2005, 438, E7) re-dating the footprints by a gigantic leap to 1.3 Myr and redefining them as “markings” caused by erosion. Although many anachronistic fossils have been found, evolution routinely shrugs them off.

Dawkins and Coyne assure us that: “In fact, the bacterial flagellum is certainly not too complex to have evolved, nor is any other living structure that has ever been carefully studied. Biologists have located plausible series of intermediates, using ingredients to be found elsewhere in living systems”; but this is largely wishful thinking. What is meant by “located”? Does this mean located in the fossil record, located in laboratories or located in the imagination? When it comes to explaining the origin of the bacterial flagellum, and similarly complex, information-rich biological organelles, evolutionary ingenuity has found little to offer, as recourse to biochemistry textbooks and journals has demonstrated. Of course, a few, short “plausible series of intermediates” for these organelles may be “located” in imaginary scenarios regarded even by their originators as incomplete and highly tentative. Scientific imagination knows no limits! But the broad picture of this area of evolution is noteworthy for the scarcity of ideas and their insubstantial character.

The oft repeated dictum “evolution is fact” has become a password ritually affirmed by orthodox Darwinians. Even distinguished academics like Dawkins and Coyne clutch this shaky prop. “The weight of the evidence has become so heavy that opposition to the fact of evolution is laughable to all who are acquainted with even a fraction of the published data. Evolution is a fact: as much a fact as plate tectonics or the heliocentric solar system.” The trouble is, the word evolution has become too ambiguous in its meaning. In many contexts “evolution” means simply change, and who would deny change in the natural world? There is indeed a large volume of evidence that microevolution happens. This is not in dispute; but neither is this the process Intelligent Design scientists are addressing. To quote Phillip Johnson “The point … is whether it (microevolution) tells us anything important about the processes responsible for creating birds, insects and trees in the first place.” All the evidence favouring evolution is of the “finch beak” kind; small variations within a known species or closely related group of species. Fossil sequences of trilobites showing size gradations are well known, as are the laboratory experiments developing fruit flies with divergent morphology. The problem is that this kind of evidence does little to advance knowledge of how trilobites or fruit flies came into existence in the first place. That evolution was supposed to be about the origin of species has become lost in a maze of trivia.

For about 150 years science has striven mightily to explain the origins of everything in terms of only chance, allied with the laws of nature. Dawkins and Coyne offer nothing new, just the same unsubstantiated assertions and unfulfilled promises that have led origins science into decades of sterile wandering. Origins science seems gripped in a mesmeric addiction to games of chance. It is now time to check into design rehab. Their article shows that Dawkins and Coyne are still in full denial. The prime objective of the Intelligent Design enterprise is to establish design as a basic cause, along with chance and natural law, and hence to advance understanding of how complex biological and other structures originated. There are hopeful signs that a new generation is recognising this as a logically sound, rational and reasonable programme.

John C Walton (St Andrews, December 2005)

The four Gospels of the New Testament go by the name Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which tradition holds are the authors of these stories. But how do we know who really wrote them? Couldn’t anyone have written them and claimed to be Matthew, or John? How do we really know the Gospels are actual accounts of Jesus and not accounts far removed of the people and events described? The conspiracy theories on this subject are vast. There is a group called the Jesus Seminar, and books like Bart Ehrman’s, Misquoting Jesus and Timothy Freke’s, The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom, all of which testify to the NT Gospels not being authentic firsthand accounts from the people from which the names are ascribed. So how can we know for sure just who wrote the Gospels?

Today when you want to know who wrote a book you might flip to the copyright and publishing info in the first couple pages, or maybe even flip to the referenced sources to see how old they are to give you and idea of when the book was written. At the very least the author’s name will be printed largely under the title about 20 times in the pages preceding the actual text. But in Biblical times this was not the case. The earliest Gospel manuscripts didn’t have the author’s names printed up top like we find in our Bibles today. In fact, the first manuscripts to actually list the author’s names were from the 2nd century. And this is one of the many reasons conspiracies have evolved as to who wrote the gospels.

Skeptics claim early Christians didn’t know who wrote the Gospels and that even if they did, the information was long lost.[1] For example, Ehrman references the fact that the gospels are not written in first person narrative, but in third person narrative, which is evidence they are not firsthand accounts. He also points out that neither author claimed to be a direct eye witness.[2] Freke claims that the gospel’s authors weren’t even determined until AD 180 by Irenaeus who attributed them to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.[3]

But these claims aside there is something that should be addressed. Even if the four Gospels weren’t written by Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, would that make them any less true? It is entirely possible for the story of Jesus as written in these accounts to be word for word true to history despite not being written by any of the now recognized authors.

Regardless, in response to Freke’s claim, the book of John does in fact make a claim it is an eye witness account; John 19:35. The book of Luke does as well at Luke 1:2. But skeptics say they just as easily could have been lying. How do we know they’re telling the truth? The Gospel of Thomas claims to be telling the truth as well, yet Christian scholars discount it as a genuine source.

It is possible to determine the appropriate authors by understanding three issues; when the Gospels were written, witness accounts outside the Bible, and internal components of the Gospels.

Timeline: When the Gospels were written.

History has taught us that different eras in time present differences in style of writing, type of ink and type of paper used by writers and scribes. Historians have particular ancient texts that give exact dates as to when they were written, so by matching up ink, paper, and writing style to those dated texts we begin to see just how old the manuscripts in question are. Papyrus 52 is a manuscript fragment containing John 18:31-33, with the reverse side containing John 18:37-38. And based on its composition it is known to have originated sometime in the late first century or early second century. Furthermore the fragment was determined to have originated in Egypt[4], meaning that by the end of the first century (or early second century), the gospel accounts were already circulating inEgypt. This would necessitate Jesus’ life story being compiled prior during the latter half of the first century while the witnesses to Jesus would have still been alive.

Papyrus 52

There are also other manuscripts such as Papyrus 66 and Papyrus 90, both copied in the late second century. Papyrus 64, 103 and 104 contains fragments of the Book of Matthew, copied in the second century. Papyrus 4 and 75[5] contain fragments of the book of Luke copied in second century.[6] Again, if these Gospels were circulating around theRoman Empire by the second century, then they had to have been written originally in the early 100s. Now, you may be thinking, what about the Gospel of Mark? Well, the book of Mark is the shortest of the gospels, and Matthew and Luke have many similarities to Mark. It is suggested that Matthew and Luke referred to Mark, which suggests Mark was in existence before Matthew and Luke. You might be shocked by the fact that a gospel author would refer or borrow information from another gospel, but there really is no issue considering Luke opens up in the first chapter in his book by claiming that his account is a collection of accounts from eye witnesses and others who have already taken it upon themselves to write an account of Jesus: “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write a careful account for you…” Luke 1:1-3 (NLT).

Another interesting theme found among the Gospel authors is that none of them spoke of the temple being destroyed. The temple was destroyed in AD 70, yet none of the authors wrote of its destruction, but instead of Jesus visiting the temple multiple times and going inside to teach. If the gospels were written much later, surely the temple being destroyed would have been mentioned, but it is not, testifying to the gospel authors recording eye witness testimony prior to AD 70.

Also, Luke wrote the book of Acts after he wrote his gospel account. Acts was written to document the history of the early church. Yet the book of Acts also doesn’t reference the destruction of the temple. It also doesn’t mention Nero’s persecution of the Christians in AD 64, the death of James in AD 62, the death of Paul in AD 64 and the death of Peter in AD 65.[7] This would lead one to conclude Acts was written prior to these events, so possibly prior to AD 62. And since the book of Luke was written prior to Acts, it was surely written even earlier.

When we historically study the manuscripts that weren’t titled with the ones that were titled with an author, there is no name variance. In other words, as soon as we’ve found one Gospel titled Matthew, all subsequent Gospels (of the same Gospel of Matthew) were named Matthew.[8] We’ve never found a Gospel of Matthew named Philip or Andrew. This goes the same for Mark, Luke, and John. Thus further confirming the authorship of the Gospels was well known.

So by studying the oldest manuscripts we have, we can conclude that all four Gospels were well in circulation throughout theRoman Empireby the second century. Which would mean the Gospels were written originally prior in the first century while the witnesses to Jesus’ life were still well alive, just as Luke claims. Such close proximity to the events recorded would prevent any legends from developing. Considering how long it normally took historical accounts during this time to be constructed, the fact that the Gospels were written so soon after the events occurred is incredible. Relatively speaking they were like a news flash.

Witness accounts outside the Bible.

There is testimony from men in the second century that confirm the origin of the Gospels. Papias of Hierapolis was a pastor of Hierapolisin the area now known as Turkeyduring the late first to early second century. As recorded by Papias, “The elder said this: Mark, who became Peter’s interpreter, wrote accurately as much as he remembered- though not in ordered form- of the Lord’s sayings and doings. For [Mark] neither heard the Lord not followed after him, but later he followed after Peter, who was giving his teachings in short anecdotes and thus did not bring forth an ordered arrangement of the Lord’s sayings; so, Mark did not miss the point when he wrote in this way, as he remembered. For he had one purpose: To omit nothing of what he had heard and present no false testimony in these matters… And Matthew, in Hebrew dialect, placed the saying in orderly arrangement.”[9] Thus confirming Mark and Matthew each as an author of a Gospel account. Papias may have even written about Luke and John, but unfortunately what we have of Papias’ writings is only small fragments. We do know that he wrote the text quoted here around AD 110.[10]

Another pastor named Polycarp of Smyrna, was born around AD 70, and was a student of John, one of Jesus’ disciples and a direct eye witness. He wrote, “Matthew composed his gospel among the Hebrews in their language, while Peter and Paul were preaching the Gospel in Romeand building up the church there. After their deaths, Mark- Peter’s follower and interpreter- handed down to us Peter’s proclamation in written form. Luke, the companion of Paul, wrote in a book the Gospel proclaimed by Paul. Finally, John- the Lord’s own follower, the one who leaned against His very chest- composed the Gospel while living in Ephesus, in Asia.”[11] As you can see, both Polycarp and Papias both wrote of the authorship of the four Gospels in extremely close proximity to the time when the gospels were first circulating around the Roman Empire, thus concluding that the authorship was not falsely determined hundreds of years later, or was lost over time.

Eusebius, a bishop from Casesarea from the 3rd century, wrote that Matthew first wrote his Gospel account while in Palestine, and left Palestine 12 years after Christ died.[12] If Eusebius is correct, that means Matthew wrote his gospel as early as AD 40 to AD 45. And if Matthew was indeed based off of Mark[13], then that pushes the origin of Mark back even further.

Those skeptics who maintain the conspiracy that the authorship wasn’t determined until hundreds of years later (believing Polycarp and Papias to be liars or their writings falsified) fail to acknowledge the number of manuscripts widely circulating in the Roman Empire. There wasn’t a central authoritative church until the 4th century. So the first, second and third centuries were ones of widely dispersed small churches. How could it be possible to assign authorship so long after the mass circulation of the gospels? It would be impossible to track down every manuscript at every church and assign authorship. Yet we can see from testimony above it was already well understood who authored each Gospel, right from the beginning.

Internal Content of the Gospels

In addition, the internal components of the Gospels should not be over looked as well. Take the book of Matthew for example, which described Matthew as a “tax collector.” First, tax collectors were despised in the Roman Empire, and any new religion looking to make up divine story to convert people wouldn’t dare used a despised tax collector as a disciple. But more importantly, what needs to be understood is that during the first century, those who could read and write were not common. However, tax collectors did in fact know how to read and write. In fact, tax collectors usually carried pinakes (sheets of wood covered in wax) and styli (metal or bone used to write in the wax) which they used to make notes, which they could later transfer onto papyrus to give back receipts to the tax payers.[14] So Matthew being a tax collector could read and write well thereby making it likely that we would in fact be one of the disciples to write an account of Jesus’ life. Just as Luke being a physician would make him a likely person to be able to write a Gospel account himself. Peter being a humble fisherman on the other hand would have Mark record his account.

Some other great examples that the Gospels were indeed direct accounts or collected accounts from eyewitnesses: The description of home construction in the book of Mark is consistent and accurate with historical first-century housing is that area. The Gospels record highly accurate knowledge of how the Jewish communities were organized during this time: Pharisees, Sedducess, etc. The torture and punishment of Jesus by the Roman authority concurs with methods of documented by the Romans. The book of Luke refers to many locations and geographical features that are accurate to the point that only someone who physically traveled to these locations could have written of them.

Based on the available evidence we can see that the Gospel of Mark was testimony of Simon Peter recorded by John Mark. The Gospel of Luke is a collection of accounts as recorded by Paul’s physician Luke. The Gospel of Matthew came from Matthew’s own testimony of Jesus, as did the Gospel of John come from John, or perhaps one of John’s students that recorded his teaching.

Other conspiracies

There is the conspiracy of “the Gospel.” Prior to the 2nd century, no one referred to multiple gospels, but just one gospel. This bred the conspiracy that there was only one true gospel (usually believed to be Mark) and the other three are fraudulent copies. That’s a lot of speculation… Skeptics are missing the obvious. The authors of the gospels were not hanging out together, they were spread out all over the Roman Empire, their writings being copied and spread around. Of course early church fathers would only refer to “the Gospel” because they only had or knew of one. By the 2nd century, they would of course have received other Gospel accounts and from that point on did of course refer to them as “the Gospels.”

The Jesus Seminar is another major adversary to the Gospel accounts being genuine accounts of Jesus. Started in the 1970’s by Robert Funk, their goal was to “rediscover” the Jesus of 2000 years ago that they believed has been misrepresented by 2000 years of myths, legends and traditions. The scholars of the seminar go through the four Gospels and determine whether or not Jesus actually said the phrases recorded in the Gospels. There are two problems with this: First, despite the insurmountable proof that the Gospel accounts have been copied accurately since their origin, these scholars feel they’re educated enough to determine what Jesus actually said 2,000 years later… over the four eye witness accounts written down less than 100 years from the lifetime of Jesus. Second, all these scholars up front admit they do not believe Jesus was the Son of God and savior of mankind nor did He have supernatural powers, etc. So what conclusions do you think such biased scholars are going to come to? I consider their findings to be that of conspiracy because their claims are based not on hard evidence but instead based purely on speculation which is driven by their presuppositions against Jesus to begin with. In the end, their Jesus was one striped of any divinity, left as nothing more than a wise man.

There is a gap conspiracy theory also. How come the gospels were written years after Jesus and not immediately after his death? Some suggest foul play. That the gap between when Jesus died and the gospels were written is suspicious, and there is often speculation that the truth has been skewed in that time gap. However, the reason for the time gap is because of the usage of oral tradition. In between this time the apostles were spreading the message of Christ via oral tradition.[15] Towards the end of their lives they decided to record the events they had witnessed as they would no longer be able to verbally compel it to any one once they had died. This is also confirmed by Polycarp’s quote earlier.

In conclusion, when we study the timeline of when the gospel accounts were written, the recorded testimony of men outside the Bible, and the internal components of the gospel narratives, it becomes evident that the gospel accounts were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. They were not written hundreds of years later by a Church authority to substantiate the claims of their mythical Jesus. To claim such, is to ignore the available and rational evidence.

[1] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 14

[2] Bart Ehrman, Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) Pg. 44 and 46

[3] Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy, The Laughing Jesus: Religious Lies and Gnostic Wisdom (New York: Three Rivers, 2006) Pg. 69.

[4] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 19

[5] Papyrus 75 contains both fragments of the book of Luke and John.

[6] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 19

[7] Matt Slick, “When were the gospels written and by whom?”

[8] Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies and the Cross (Lake Mary,Florida: FrontLine, 2008) Pg. 25

[9] Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History Vol. I, Loeb Classical Library, ed. K.Lake (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1980) 3:39.

[10] Eusebius writes of Papias during Trajan’s reign prior to AD 107.

[11] Irenaeus, Contra haereses, 3:1:1

[12] “When were the gospels written?”

[13] Matthew and Luke being based off Mark is a speculation.

[14] A. R. Millard, Reading and Writing in the Time of Jesus. (New York:New York, University Press, 2000) Pg. 31, 170.

[15] In ancient times, the only way to communicate history most of the time was through oral tradition. They did not have laptops, typewriters or a pen and paper available (those who could read and write were few), so a speaker would announce his story to a community of people publicly. In turn, the community would correct the speaker or speak up if they disagreed or knew that what the speaker was saying was indeed false. Through this method, communities and civilizations would carry on historical events accurately through generations. In fact, archeology scholars know through their discoveries that oral tradition contained very little to no errors through hundreds of years of transcendence. Through this method ancient civilizations did pass down to their later generations, accurate safe guarded information.

Ah, the famous and best selling book/movie, The Da Vinci Code. A story full of false claims and improvable speculations. There are so many great claims made in this story that are so easily refutable that it is hard to pick any one favorite. But if I must, I would have to select the conspiracy of Da Vinci’s painting, the Last Supper.

If you don’t already know the conspiracy, it is really quite interesting. The theory is that Jesus actually had a secret love affair with Mary Magdalene.[1] This secret love affair is made evident in the Last Supper. Look at the figure sitting to the left of Jesus (His right). It appears to be a woman! The conspiracy is that originally the figure sat on the opposite side of Jesus, which would mean there hands would be touching!!! Oh my!

The only reason these conspiracy theories work is because people don’t know their history and art, or just love drama. Here are the facts behind Da Vinci’s painting:

Da Vinci painted all the disciples in distinguishable ways so that they could all be identified in the picture. For example; Peter is holding keys (this identifies him because Jesus said he would give Peter the keys to His church), Andrew is holding a cross (which identifies him because that is later how he would be martyred). Therefore, when we look at the painting we can distinguish all the disciples. If Mary is painted next to Jesus, then all the disciples are accounted for accept for one; John. John was one of the closest of Jesus’ disciples, there is no way Da Vinci would leave him out of the picture.

But I know what you’re thinking, that looks like a woman, not a man. So was John a woman? No, not at all. In fact, that is not supposed to be a woman. During Jesus’ ministry John was the youngest of all the disciples. To distinguish John from the other disciples so that he could be identified in the painting, Da Vinci gave him a very youthful appearance. In Da Vinci’s other paintings very young men were painted very feminine-like, that was Da Vinci’s style. Don’t believe me? Google “Angel in the Flesh.” John is also beardless, beards were associated with mature adult males, but John being young was not given one. Notice that John is sitting very close to Jesus as well, which we know John was one of Jesus’ most trusted and beloved disciples. To the uneducated and untrained eye, it may appear as a woman, but I can promise you it is not.

Even if I were to assume Da Vinci did intend for that person to be Mary Magdalene, what does that prove? The painting is not a snap shot of reality but an artist’s depiction of what happened over 1400 years after it really happened. Da Vinci lived from 1452 to 1519. Why would we hold his painting in higher esteem than eyewitness testimony written down within 60-80 years from Jesus’ lifetime? If you believe that the gospels were corrupted based off pure speculation, than I can argue that Da Vinci’s painting was perhaps corrupted as well. After all, there would be only one painting to corrupt or alter, which is much more practical than trying to corrupt and alter hundreds if not thousands of the gospel manuscripts circulating around.

In Reader’s Digest’s Atlas of the Bible, much of the artwork depicting the life of Jesus in the hundreds of years after his death were examined, to which it was concluded; “It was common for artists to incorporate various non-biblical details in their portrayals of the gospel stories.”[2] The reasoning behind why artists commonly added non-biblical details is considered to be based off a lack of understanding of cultures of the past (they didn’t have the History Channel). Only thurough knowledge of the era and time they themselves lived.  Therefore, many details were left up to the artist’s imagination or what they knew from Christian tradition, in which we see these embellishments. For example; almost all paintings of Jesus show him with long hair, even though all Jewish men in the first century were to have short hair.   The artists in question had no way of knowing how men and women dressed or looked in the 1st Century, and unfortunately long haired Jesus persists to this day in artwork.

Those who still believe this poor theory point out dozens of other paintings and works of art which seem to suggest Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene. The paintings only suggest such a theory if that’s what you’re looking for in the first place. I also must once again point out that all these works of art were made over a thousand years after the life time of Christ. They are not photographs of reality, but of artist depictions. If there were a painting discovered of Jesus with red curly hair, or of him riding a dolphin, would anyone believe that Jesus really had red curly hair and rode dolphins? Paintings are not considered historical proof of anything other than the era from which they originated.

We must also not fail to recognize the authority of the church during this era in history. A painter, even one as renowned as Da Vinci, isn’t stupid enough to paint anything that would incriminate him as conspiring against the church and the authority of the bible. Because back then, any such allegations of heresy could lead to your imprisonment. Not the 21st century humane kind either. But perhaps you’re thinking, that’s why he swapped the figures and encoded what he knew to be true, because of the consequences.

To answer that, I refer back to my college art course in which we studied perspective. Da Vinci was a master of perspective, and he used vanishing points and horizons in his artwork purposefully and skillfully. If you take a ruler and line up all of the perspective lines in the photo (the ceiling or windows on the wall) they all meet at the same vanishing point, which is right above Jesus’ head. This was used to highlight the focal point in the painting, which was Jesus. If Da Vinci was trying to send us message in the painting, he would have made the vanishing point over John (Mary Magdalena).

The last and most important thing to address is the book Da Vinci code itself. Do you know where you can find this book at Barnes and Noble or the library? You find it in the fiction section. Yeah… fiction, as in non-fact. This alone should be enough to dispel rumors and conspiracy theories.

[1] This rumor stems from the Gospel of Philip (Gnostic) from A.D. 250, which says Jesus kissed Mary on her ______. It’s blank because the manuscript was damaged and the last word cannot be made out. Jesus could have kissed her on her cheek or forehead which was a very common tradition in Jesus’ times. The bible records Judas kissing Jesus on the cheek to identify him to the authorities. Should we then suppose Jesus was also married to Judas? The Gospel of Philip is also part of the Gnostic gospels which are widely discounted as accurate by scholars since the Gnostic gospels appeared long after the lifetime of Christ in much smaller numbers than the original four gospels. Not to mention the gospels contradict one another. So they can hardly be taken as factual evidence.

[2] Reader’s Digest, Atlas of the Bible, An Illustrated Guide to the Holy Land (Pleasantville, NY: The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc., 1981)