Sunday, March 29, 2009

Super Brief Response to Gnostic Gospel Attacks

I link to a video - The Case for Christ: Gnostic vs Synoptic Gospels. I will just take a few minutes to deal with the claims coming up. [NB: This was a quick post so it is a tad incomplete - feel free to comment suggestions.]

The Gospel Dates

[T]he Gospel of Thomas Pre-dates the book of Revelation, & the "canonical" gospels were written in the about the year 100-150 from second and third hand accounts.

The two issues here are the dating of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas and the dating of the canonical gospels. The claim above is clear- they want to make the reader believe that the 'alternative' gospels were written first and the canonical gospels were written far later.

Firstly, the majority view of respectable scholars is that the Gospel of Thomas was written into the second century - as the earliest alternative gospel. If we turn to scholars who are hostile to Christianity this point is clearly illustrated.

Professor Bart D. Ehrman[1] dates the Gospel of Thomas to the "early 2nd century"[2]. Regarding the contents of the text:
Collection of 114 sayings of Jesus, some possibly authentic, others embodying Gnostic concerns; discovered at Nag Hammadi.[3]

In general, Ehrman states:
For the record, I do not date any of the Gnostic Gospels to the first century...[4]

With regard to the claim that the canonical gospels were composed between 100-150, there is no academic push for such dating. I cannot think of a respect scholar who has dated the gospels that late - and we have physical evidence of the last gospel to be written, the Gospel of John, from the date 125AD.[5]

The Oldest Manuscripts

The oldest NT manuscript is only from the year 350
Apparently, the oldest New Testament manuscript is only from the year 350. Having personally seen NT Papyri that pre-date this time substantially, I find it difficult to follow. There are 10-13 manuscripts from the second century alone.[6]

According to the Institut für neutestamentliche Textforschung ten of these manuscripts from within the second century alone include:
P52 (100-150), P90, 104 (2nd century), P66 (c. AD 175-225), P46, 64+67 (c. AD 200), P77, P103, 0189 (2nd or 3rd century), P98 (2nd century?). [7]
Again, we find this attack unsubstantiated and historically inaccurate.

1. Professor Bart D. Ehrman, James A. Distinguished Professor is author of a number of works attacking Christianity such as NY Times Bestseller 'Misquoting Jesus'. Just a note - I agree with Ehrman in a lot of his scholarly works, however, I often find conflict with his open conclusions, popular works and when he attempts to exegete. For a review of Misquoting Jesus I recommend Professor Dan B. Wallace's The Gospel According to Bart.
2. Bart D. Ehrman, Lost Christianities p. xii
3. Ibid, p. xii
4. Bart D. Ehrman on the Textual Criticism Board
5. See dating of Papyrus 52
6. Daniel B. Wallace, Second Century Papyri: "This means that there are at least ten and as many as thirteen NT MSS"


  1. Thanks for this. I enjoy your use of hostile sources to demonstrate where scholars stand.

  2. Thanks for the comment. Remember, if anyone has suggestions for improving this article or challenging it please comment!