Friday, October 9, 2009

Fabled Fishers of Men

Having been very recently baptized, Jesus decides that it is time to pick out some Apostles. At least that is according to the Gospel of John. The other three Gospels say Jesus was baptized, tempted by Satan for forty days, and then began teaching in Galilee that the time has come and the Kingdom of God is near before He started collecting Apostles.

The little trip-up in the sequence of events will pale in comparison to the inconsistent storytelling in this study, which will further suggest that the Gospels are fictitious fabrications.

Fabled Fishers of Men
Imagine that you believe Jesus is God. (Maybe you do not have to try hard to imagine that.) Now imagine it is about 2000 years ago, and that you go walking around as an Apostle of Jesus for years while He works miracles and preaches that the time has come for the Kingdom of God to appear. It might not seem that important to you to write down what He says and does, given that the appearance of the Kingdom of God is imminent.

Jesus dies, resurrects, and then disappears. Time goes on. It becomes clear that perhaps when Jesus said that the time had come, He meant that it was still on its way; yet to come at some distant, unknown time. Eventually you and the other apostles realize that it may be good to write down the story of Jesus for posterity's sake.

Fortunately, you and the other apostles, all had the same experiences and shared your “how Jesus found me” stories, so your stories will be consistent for the most part, with only minor memory flaws. Maybe even with a little help from the Holy Spirit, your historical accounts will be perfect.

Unfortunately, the truth, we find, is quite different. Let us take a look at the Gospel stories of how Jesus begins collecting the Apostles.

Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-20 discuss how Jesus gathers brothers Simon (a.k.a. Peter) and Andrew as well as brothers James and John. The two accounts are simple and nearly identical, as if taken from a single source. Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee (a.k.a. Lake of Gennesaret, Sea of Tiberias) when He called to Simon and Andrew casting their nets, saying “Come, follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” They immediately followed Jesus. Walking further, Jesus sees James and John preparing their nets in a boat and He calls to them. They immediately followed Jesus.

Christians like to marvel at the faith of these four Apostles; how they left everything and immediately followed Jesus. On the other hand, it paints them as men who would take any excuse at all to get out of fishing! Honestly though, if this is writing from a memory which was one, or two, or more decades old, a short account with minor quirks and without much dialog might be expected.

Then comes Luke 5:1-11. Luke's account has Jesus step into Simon's boat, preach for a while, and then tells Simon to cast his net into deep water. Simon reluctantly obeys, then catches so many fish that he believes Jesus is God. His fishing partners, James and John, are also impressed. Jesus tells them they “will catch men” from now on, and so they parked their boats and followed Jesus.

Luke adds preaching, a miraculous fish catch, recorded dialog, and collects James and John at the same time as Simon, but leaves Andrew out of the story completely. Keep in mind that traditionally scholars attribute the Gospel of Luke to Paul's physician. In other words, Luke is not an eyewitness working from his own memory, but rather is gathering information from other sources (Luke 1:3).

It seems rather unlikely that Luke could have found an eyewitness who remembered even the short dialog perfectly, but Luke's account is similar enough to Matthew and Mark to suggest that all three are sourced from within one group or sect. In other words, it seems possible that the source was from the original Apostles. Possible, that is, until you get to the Gospel of John.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke all record that Jesus got Simon, James, and John off of fishing boats, and Luke even goes as far as to make the three fishing partners. In direct contradiction, the Gospel of John, supposedly written by the very same John whom Jesus had collected in the other three Gospels, provides a completely different account which fails to mention fish, boats, John's brother James, and possibly even John himself.

John 1:35-51, which starts the day after Jesus was baptized, has two of John the Baptist's disciples leaving to follow Jesus, one of whom was Andrew, Simon's brother. The identity of other disciple is never revealed, but scholars most often claim that he is John, and less often claim that he is Thomas. Andrew recruits Simon to follow Jesus. Jesus renames Simon to be Cephas, which by translation is Peter (an event which does not happen until the group goes to Caesarea Philippi in verse Matthew 16:18). As we see in John 1:43, this was before Jesus even went to Galilee! The next day Jesus collects Philip, who then recruits Nathanael. The whole account is replete with even more dialog than Luke. Not once does John mention fish, fishing, or fishers of men.

The circumstances and events are irreconcilably different between Luke's and John's accounts, yet both had the audacity to record dialog as if what had been said was remembered. This included speech from Jesus Himself! Yet it is extremely unlikely for Jesus to have given all of those statements at that time, given the different circumstances. In other words, someone lied about what Jesus said, and quite probably lied about the entire story.

Anyone who would be bold enough to put unspoken words into the mouth of Jesus obviously did not have a fear of God, and so that person would have been constructing this story with a motive other than altruistically revealing the Truth to mankind. The question is who lied?

As previously mentioned, most scholars believe John was the unnamed disciple of John the Baptist who went to follow Jesus. If so, that makes his eyewitness account more accurate than the other three, and so call Matthew, Mark, and Luke into question. If instead it was Thomas or some other Apostle, John's lengthy fabrication thus calls into suspicion his entire Gospel, a Gospel which holds some of the best-loved verses and doctrines within Christianity, such as John 3:16.

Any way you slice it, there are lies in the Gospels. Simply put, that is dangerous.

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