Historians and archaeologists place the initial writing of the first four books of the Bible at the end of the first century, which would mean that each of the disciples would have been dead or too old to be writing anything, particularly when you think of the life expectancy of that period centuries ago. The disciples were named Andrew, Nathaniel, James the elder, James the younger, John, Philip, Jude, Judas, Mathew the tax collector, Peter, and Thomas.
Why do you think the word “According” is in the title to the Gospels? Could it be because of the variances and inconsistencies between each book, not to mention Paul writing in Corinthians having a bit of a different story? Numerous scholars have researched and written about the environment in which each of these gospel writers wrote. Each one had their own goal. Those who take the Bible as the unaltered word of God fail to recognize what was going on at the time and who these unknown writers were.
Evidence suggests that the Story originated in a Jewish — Christian community in Roman Syria. The Story of Jesus gathering an inner circle of disciples, being rejected by the Jews, being crucified, and making a post-death resurrection at which time he commissioned his disciples to take his message of salvation to the Gentiles and Jews who would accept. We know that Matthew wrote towards the end of first century A.D. and the writer was and remains anonymous. Interestingly, when the protestant Bible was translated and put together in the 17th century, the Book of Matthew was placed first, but we now know that it was not the first book written. The Books of the New Testament are not written in chronological order.
John Shelby Spong in his book, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, points out:
“Matthew knew the Gospel of Mark and used it extensively. Mark had been circulating among the various Christian communities for 15 to 20 years. Matthew had no difficulty with the framework of demonic powers that were assumed by the First Gospel. That was the unquestioned wisdom of the day. But he also did not regard Mark as either Holy Scripture or as literally inerrant, for Matthew altered Mark’s text frequently to suit his agenda, his writing task, his audience, and his theological perspective. But Matthew wrote after Mark, so the need to define Jesus had had more time to develop, had more challenges to meet and more false ideas to confront. The way Matthew changed Mark’s text made this clear.”
So, why didn’t Mark do something about Mathew plagiarizing and changing his text? Most likely Mark was already dead and couldn’t do anything about it. But the Gospel According to Matthew appears to be a Jew living in frightening times. The history of the area records the City of Jerusalem had been destroyed by the Romans a decade earlier. By the year 68, resistance to Roman control by the Jews of Judea had been eradicated, and the Roman Legions turned their full attention to the subjugation of Jerusalem. By the year 70, the Romans broke Jerusalem’s defense and began systematic ransacking. Here was the center of the Jewish faith. Who knows what critical documents were lost as Jerusalem burned?
One cannot understand the First Four Books of the Bible without studying what was going on in the writers’ lives at the time. Their writing may have been inspired, but it certainly wasn’t inspired by a supernatural being.
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