The Eye-witness Fallacy


The falsehood that the gospels are in some way eye-witness reports just won’t go away. There is no evidence they are or even that they are based on reports by eye-witnesses. Scholars speak of ‘sources’ for all elements of the gospels (Mark, Q, M & L); these were almost certainly pre-existing written and oral traditions from before the gospels’ creation.

This really is problematic for those propagating the idea that the gospels are eye-witness accounts. If they were even so much as based on eye-witness reports, then why would they need to rely so heavily on other traditions? If, as is claimed here, the scattered gospel communities who wrote them were in some sort of immediate contact with the fanned-out eye-witnesses, then they would have no need to use sources and traditions from elsewhere. Yet they do; Matthew and Luke borrow extensively from a shared source (Q) and also from Mark, particularly for their resurrection stories.

This is akin to someone today interviewing witnesses to John F. Kennedy’s assassination, – a similar interval to that between Jesus and the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John – and then, before publication, replacing what the eye-witnesses say they saw with the more far-fetched elements of Oliver Stone’s movie JFK. If there were eye-witnesses to hand, there wouldn’t be any need to do this. It doesn’t make the slightest sense that the gospel writers would do so. Yet they do.

As far as the stories of the resurrection are concerned, it is much more likely they are based, not on any eye-witness accounts, but on the scant mentions of the mystical, risen Christ of the kind we find in Paul’s letters, filtered, primarily, through Mark. As such, they are a fleshing out (almost literally) of hearsay reports of a limited number of visions that, by the time the gospels came to be written, had embedded themselves in the traditions of the early church.


5 thoughts on “The Eye-witness Fallacy

  1. If what you say is true, than all of history is in doubt.

    The most reliable written history is almost always provided by eyewitnesses.

    Since Western Civilization was founded upon Christian teachings (the Bible) which include the eye witness accounts of Jesus and his activities, Western Civilization is itself great evidence that the Bible accountings are true.

    Otherwise, we are left with atheist stupidity which is that Christian Western Civilization just happened all by itself.


    • Since Western Civilization was founded upon Christian teachings (the Bible) which include the eye witness accounts of Jesus and his activities …

      Now, there’s an assertion with no substance, totally ignoring the topic of the post.
      The civilizations of the Greeks, and the Romans (what have they ever done for us?) had zero effects on the development of christianity? Western civilization sprang into existence uninfluenced by anything but the bible?


  2. Oh. You’re back, SoM, and with the usual unfounded assertions. Though I know I’m wasting my time responding, your entire ‘argument’ is a straw man: no atheist, or indeed anyone at all, has ever claimed western civilisation ‘just happened all by itself’. There are many complex reasons (far too complex obviously for you to understand) for how and why it evolved, which are entirely to do with human effort and activity. Did belief in stories of the walking dead and other fantasies play any part? Quite possibly, but you do realise, don’t you, that none of this actually makes any of the stories true?


  3. Early Christian religious deceptions, which few, if any in the Christian ministry will admit: Jesus’ Apostles did not write the Gospels as claimed by so many prevaricators in the Christian ministry. Using Biblical pseudonyms, “… It thus appears that the titles of religion vs science of the Gospels are not traceable to the Evangelists themselves.” ~New Advent Encyclopedia aka Catholic Encyclopedia, vol. VI, 655-656. cf. Acts 4:13.
    “Learned men, so called Correctores were, following the church meeting at Nicea 325 AD, selected by the church authorities to scrutinize the sacred texts and rewrite them in order to correct their meaning in accordance with the views, which the church had just sanctioned.” ~Prof. Eberhard Nestle, Einfhrung in die Textkritik des griechischen.
    Proselytizing, not Truth, Propaganda, not history. The Catholic Church admits that the Epistles of Paul are saying, “Even the genuine Epistles were greatly interpolated to lend weight to the personal views of their [anonymous] authors.” ~Catholic Encyclopedia, Farley ed., vol. vii, p. 645.
    Chronology was little known and less observed among the Hebrews, for all their early sacred, and even other writings, contained neither the name of the writer, time when, nor place where written.
    The non-authenticity of these [Gospel] books having been clearly shown, what is the result? Any book, paper or other document not written in whole by the purported author, is a forgery. ~See Bouvier’s Law Dictionary; also Webster, Worcester, et al.
    It was not Jesus’ Apostles but fake authors that used nom de guerres, “Although ancient Oral Traditions attributed to the Apostle John the Fourth Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and the three Epistles of John, modern scholars believe that he wrote none of them.” ~Harris, Stephen L., Understanding the Bible, Palo Alto: Mayfield, 1985, p. 355.
    “The Gospels are so anonymous that their titles, all 2nd century guesses, are all four wrong.” ~Randel McCraw Helms, Who Wrote the Gospels?
    “All four Gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid 2nd century and later and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.” ~Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto, Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36.
    “Most Biblical scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers’ followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus’ life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion.” ~David Van Biema, The Gospel Truth? Time, April 8, 1996.


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