Image: Caleb Havertape (https://www.pinterest.co.uk/calebhavertapei/_saved/)
Ubi Dubium has posed the question, ‘why didn’t Jesus write his own gospel?’ It’s a good question. What better way to ensure his ideas were conveyed precisely without any margin for error or misinterpretation, than to do it himself? If he hadn’t the time or the ability to do so, why didn’t he dictate his message to one of his literate disciples (surely one of them could write) who could then, as an eye-witness, finish off the story accurately once Jesus himself had returned to Heaven. Why, instead, did he leave it to people he’d never met, most of whom wouldn’t be about for another few decades?
It seems to me there are three possible answers.
Jesus believed the world as he knew it was soon to end. He was convinced God was about to intervene and sweep away the old order and inaugurate the Kingdom of God on Earth. If the gospels that have come down to us are to believed, this was the core of his teaching. Jesus mentions its imminence repeatedly across the synoptic gospels and the morality he proposes, wholly impractical in the long term, is designed for the ‘shortness of the hour’. In this scenario, Jesus and his followers had no interest in writing anything down for posterity. There was no posterity; the end was very truly nigh.
God didn’t want his Son to write his own story. He wanted the job left to people whom Jesus never met, who were little more than children during his lifetime and who lived hundreds of miles from where events occurred. God was sure this was the best way to create a record of his Son’s visit to Earth, without inaccuracies, inconsistencies and contradictions.
The creator of Mark’s gospel bought into Paul’s celestial Saviour, his illusory ‘Lord Jesus Christ’. Mark set about creating a ‘what if’ back story for him, set in Palestine in the recent past and constructed from Paul’s ’revelations’ and Old Testament ‘prophecy’. Mark highlighted Paul’s teaching that the Christ, whom he calls the Son of Man in his gospel, would soon be coming to the Earth (not a second coming or a return) to rescue his Chosen and reset reality.
Are there any other possibilities? I can’t think of any, nor have I read of any. So which of the three is the most plausible?
Scenario 1 leaves us with a Son of God not knowing what he was talking about. This Jesus was wrong about when the Son of Man would appear, wrong about the End of the Age, wrong about the traumatic nature of God’s intervention, wrong about the Final Judgement, wrong about the fate of the unrighteous and wrong about the Kingdom of God being established on the Earth. This scenario gives us a Jesus who is a failure as both a prophet and Messiah. It’s a wonder anything at all was written about such a loser, let alone narratives that preserved his hopeless predictions about the Kingdom’s arrival.
Scenario 2 is of course ridiculous, though it is the one most Christians buy into, more or less. As well as its inherent implausibility, it relies on the hypothetical document Q, for which no evidence exists let alone any extant copy (or even fragment). It, and a supposedly reliable oral tradition, are speculative, needed only to counter the improbability of this scenario.
Scenario 3, while contentious, makes most sense of why neither Jesus nor any of his contemporaries wrote down or otherwise recorded a single thing he said or did. Mark’s gospel, created shortly after 70CE, was the first anyone had heard of a Jesus on Earth. The three subsequent gospels were all based, to varying degrees, on Mark’s fable. In this scenario there was no real Jesus, and no dozy disciples, to have recorded his exploits and teaching.
What you think, Ubi?
Ah, thank you for the shout-out! Good analysis.
Let me see if I can think of any other possibilities:
4. Jesus did actually write a gospel, but it was lost, or suppressed by those of his followers who didn’t like what it said. Sloppy work for an omniscient god, if you ask me. Later followers cobbled together revised versions later, just including the bits they liked.
5. A variant of your scenario 3. The early christians put together vaguely remembered stories about one or more wandering rabbis from many years earlier as they assembled their fictional “Jesus”. Perhaps there had been someone who had said some of that stuff, or got himself executed for rabble-rousing, or was reputed to do miracles. They were even confused enough to include the story of healing a blind man with mud made from spit, which was originally a story told about the Emperor Vespasian. This scenario might explain why BibleJesus bears so much resemblance to Apollonius of Tyana, because they got some of his characteristics mixed in with all the other stuff. (https://www.patheos.com/blogs/rolltodisbelieve/2021/07/02/meet-apollonius-of-tyana-1st-century-fridays-2/)
6. God was obviously waiting for the Angel Moroni to hand Joseph Smith the Golden Plates! (Or insert any other retconning from later cults here.)
LikeLiked by 1 person
Good points! Personally, I think between us we’ve nailed it. Retconning sums it up, whichever scenario it is. I see ol’ Camp Don has just tackled the same question (why didn’t Jesus write his own gospel?) and rather surprisingly comes to a different conclusion from us (though it’s essentially my scenario 3). I’ll add a link in the main post.
I’m currently collating the most recent rejectingjesus posts into book form. Some people prefer it this way, rather than reading the blog for free. Would you object to my including your additions to this post (fully credited of course) when I get to it?
Oh, by all means. Since I haven’t gotten around to writing a book for myself, I’m happy at least to be quoted in others.