In Response To: Mark Matson
On: Luke's Lying
Mark does not like my characterization of what Luke is doing to the facts of
the earliest Church history, as they were still available to him. I continue
to think that candor has its uses in scholarship. On specifics:
MARK: I would argue for a very different interpretation of what Luke is
doing (rather than he was lying). It involves two features:
1. We know that in fact the Jerusalem church became a center for the church
in Syro-Palestine region early on. The fact that Paul talks about going to
Jerusalem to meet the Pillars, that he takes up a collection for the
BRUCE: Agreed. The question is, When did Paul go to Jerusalem? In what year
do you put that visit? Here again, the Pauline chronology comes up as an
important strand in the understanding of the Gospel tradition, which in many
ways is not Paul's tradition.
MARK: And, while he does base much on Acts, Eusebius seems to assume that
Jerusalem had the early leadership position in the churches, noting the
succession of leaders after James.
BRUCE: Eusebius, in writing Church history at a much later date, when the
canon was effectively fixed, could not get beyond canonical Acts. He did not
appreciate, as many modern scholars still do not appreciate, the import of
the chronological priority of Mark. Eusebius's testimony is worth exactly
what the testimony of Acts is worth - no more, no less.
MARK: Thus there is simply the fact that Jerusalem had become important very
early in the course of the church's growth and development.
BRUCE: I sense in the transition from "early" (above) to "very early" (here)
a tendency to close the gap between the Jerusalem church as Paul reports it,
and the year 30. I don't think that is legitimate. Adverbs are not evidence,
and progressively early adverbs are not a demonstration. And I add that the
existence of a Jerusalem church as of the date that Paul visited it does not
preclude the survival of Galilean churches, very probably including a most
influential one at Capernaum: see again Mt 11:20-24, repeated in Lk
10:12-15. The hatred in these statements should not prevent their being
given their full weight as witnesses to history.
The Galilean churches, no doubt thanks in part to Paul's efforts, were
eventually wiped out, at least as far as any visible role in Church history
is concerned. But we cannot assume that this stage had been reached as of
the date (whatever it was, and it seems to have been well after the year 30)
of Paul's Jerusalem visit.
MARK: 2. There is another tradition, namely John, that points to a
Jerusalem center to the earliest "appearances" of Jesus. Now whether you
want to assume these were real or apparent, John records the early
"experience" as taking place in Jerusalem.
BRUCE: The word "records" suggests the action of an eyewitness. Let's rather
say, John locates the early "experience" as taking place in Jerusalem. Now,
what do we make of that? I think the key fact is that John is a late
document. By what I believe to be the majority view of those attending to
the Synoptic Problem, John is post-Synoptic. Waiving opinion, if we
ourselves consult what I call the Trajectory developments, John comes out at
the end of every single one of them: theological, biographical,
church-historical. In placing the Jesus appearances in Jerusalem, John is
merely continuing to develop the line that began in Mark (Galilee), was
nudged Jerusalemward in Matthew (Galilee but those people are no good), was
replaced by a Jerusalem scenario in Luke (really near Jerusalem, and the
disciples are ordered NOT to go to Galilee), and finally we have Jerusalem
itself as the site of those appearances (John).
It is to be doubted that, at the date he wrote, generations after the facts,
John possessed any virgin historical information unknown to the Synoptic
writers. He was most probably influenced by, and articulates, the
increasingly Jerusalemized picture of Church tradition that prevailed in his
day. His testimony is valuable as a witness to that very late scheme of
things. But it has no power to prevail over the authority of much earlier
witnesses, which attest an earlier perception of things. The point of
interest here, historically, is the gradual unseating and replacement of an
early and peripheral (Galilee) tradition by a late and centrist (Jerusalem)
As I have elsewhere remarked, this is the kind of thing that goes on all the
time, in virtually every tradition we have evidence for. See again my
earlier note, somewhere or other in the archive, which mentions the way the
death place of the Buddha was later thought to be inappropriately jerkwater,
for so momentous an event, and a legend was accordingly fashioned, giving to
that jerkwater ("wattle and daub") town a glorious, nay an Imperial, past
history. The Jerusalemization of the Galilee tradition seems to be very much
of a piece, typologically, with the aggrandizement of location in the later
legends about Jesus.
MARK: Given that Luke and John share many, many points of contact, that
might explain why Luke places the growth of the church in Jerusalem not
Galilee. According to one his sources (John), and his experience in his
current situation, Jerusalem was the early center. So even if much is
constructed around these data points (and we don't know what other sources
Luke was dealing with), it makes sense. Of course this presumes Luke used
John... making John (or an early version of John) early... but we can leave
that for another discussion.
BRUCE: Or we can take it now; see above. John, for reasons abovementioned,
is after Luke, and attests a later stage of doctrinal development (and
church-historical tradition revisionism) than Luke. John is not a source for
Luke. Doctrinal evolution does not progress from the developed to the less
developed, and water does not run uphill.
MARK: The point is, it need not be lying...
BRUCE: Right. It can instead be deliberate misrepresentation. It has not
been shown that Luke used John; everything I am aware of suggests that he
did not, and cannot have. The one source we unambiguously know Luke did use
was Mark. How, then, does Luke treat the Galilee Appearance statements in
Mark? I will demonstrate how he treats those statements.
Mk 16:7. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to
Galilee; there you will see him, as he told you.
Lk 24:6. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee,  that
the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be
crucified, and on the third day rise.  And they remembered his words . .
Luke goes on to describe an appearance of Jesus in Jerusalem, and there
Jesus says, "but stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on
high" [24:49b]. This event Acts presently proceeds to describe.
Luke has before him Mark's account of the Empty Tomb scene, complete with
its clear implication that Jesus will appear to the disciples in Galilee.
Luke invents (or takes from late tradition; for present purposes it does not
matter which) an incident where Jesus instead appears to them near to
Jerusalem. This is in direct contravention of Mark's account. As to the
points of Mark's account which directly conflict with Luke's version, and
they amount to only a few words, Luke rewrites those words so that they no
longer conflict with his version.
MARK: Also of course, Luke does edit out material that doesn't fit his
schema. All historians do, especially if the history is more rhetorical than
BRUCE: I have already shown, with citations from Scripture, that Luke is
doing much more than "editing out" material, he *rewrites* previous material
until it conforms to his view of things. The basic Soviet approach.
As for "everybody does it," that is completely irrelevant. It is not a
mitigation of dishonesty that many people are dishonest; it is not a
mitigation of apostasy that many people fall away. There is a difference
between faithfully representing what one's sources say, and twisting them so
that they say something else. Luke has taken the latter position, not alone
by omission but also by commission. That is the only determination we need
Resubmitted for reconsideration,
E Bruce Brooks
Warring States Project
University of Massachusetts at Amherst