An Intro to Reading the Gospels

This episode is our preparation for making a video series that walks through the entire life of Jesus as told by Luke in his Gospel. This first episode is an introduction to what the Gospels are, and what it means to trust them as an accurate representation of what happened in human history. The Gospels are the version of what happened according to his disciples, and not only what happened, but why it all matters.

Episode 1
Oct 28, 2016
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Show Notes

In this episode, the guys give an introduction to the gospel of Luke. What does it mean for Luke, and all of the gospels, to be historical accounts? All history is interpretation, and all of the gospel accounts have different a different focus as they tell the story of Jesus’ life and ministry. But how do we make sense of all of this information? If you’ve ever wrestled with being able to trust the gospels, then this dialogue is for you.

The guys spend the majority of the episode (02:13-40:46) talking about what it means for an ancient historian to write history. Do we impose standards that would’ve been foreign to the gospel writers? Tim unpacks the cultural context of the gospels and explains why we can look at them as faithful historical accounts.

Video: This episode is designed to accompany our first two videos on the Gospel of Luke. You can view them on our youtube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_OLezoUvOEQ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0k4GbvZUPuo

Scripture References: Luke 1-6, Isaiah 40, Isaiah 61

Show Music: Defender Instrumental by Rosasharn Music; Blue Skies by Unwritten Stories; Flooded Meadows by Unwritten Stories

Scripture References
Colossians 4:14
Luke 6:20
Matthew 5:3
Luke 23:47
Luke 1:1-4

Podcast Date: October 28, 2016


Speakers in the audio file:

Jon Collins

Tim Mackie

Jon: This is Jon from The Bible Project. Tim and I have been preparing for a five-part

miniseries that walk through the entire life of Jesus as told by Luke in his gospel. The

first of these is on the birth of Jesus, which will release just in time for Christmas, and

then the rest will come out 2017. Luke is one of four counts of the life of Jesus found

in the Christian scriptures.

Tim: There's four of them in the New Testament. That's odd. We're talking about one of

the major world religions in the founding story of the key figure. It doesn't just have

one story of his life, but four parallel versions.

Jon: This first conversation about Luke is really about what the gospels are and what it

looks like to trust them as a faithful representation of what happened in human


Tim: Christianity is based on both claims that something took place in history around

Jesus of Nazareth, but it's also a claim about the meaning of those events that

clearly wasn't compelling to everybody who was there and saw Jesus. Because there

were many people who thought he was full of it. There were different interpretations

of Jesus, and what we have are the version of what happened according to his


Jon: Doing history is difficult. Whenever you recount event, you aren't just saying, "What

happened?" but you're also explaining why those events mattered.

Tim: The meaning of events is actually never a self-evident thing. What the gospels are,

are recounting of the story of Jesus in the light of the resurrection.

Jon: So, can we trust the Gospel of Luke as history? Why are there some differences

between Luke's account and other accounts? If you've ever wrestled with being able

to trust the Gospels, we hope this dialogue will be great aid for you. Let's go.

Tim: We're talking about Gospel of Luke. Here's an interesting fact. Luke, who as far as we

can tell - we talked about this little bit more — he's not Jewish. He wasn't a part of

the circle of the 12, but he was an early coworker of Paul's, super tied into the first

generation of apostles.

Jon: Do we know where he's from?

Tim: No, no. He actually appears within the story of Acts at a certain point, and then

there's a number of places where he starts using the pronoun "we" in some stories in

Acts that's called the "we" passages.

Jon: Yeah, because he was there.

Tim: They are conspicuously passages where he appears close by in the story. Paul tells us

he was a physician. So he was of the middle-upper class in Roman society. And

based on a comment that Paul makes there at the end of Colossians, it seems like

he's including Luke in a category of non-Jewish coworkers.

So here we have a Gentile, who's not a part of the 12 but a close, close companion

who knows everybody - he travels around them. And to this, Luke, we do nearly onethird

of the New Testament. Just by sheer like page numbers and amount of work,

Luke and Acts are the longest books in the New Testament and they make up nearly

a third of it in terms of pages.

Jon: Now, if we didn't have Luke, we would be okay because we have Mark and Matthew.

Tim: And John.

Jon: But if we have Acts, that would be a whole mystery that whole time period. There's a

lot of good history in Acts.

Tim: Yeah, that's exactly right.

Jon: And it's due to a guy who is not Jewish. He knows a lot about Judaism and the story

of the Bible.

Tim: Yeah, there's a lot of tradition about him in the later church. He's only mentioned

three times by name in the New Testament, and then he's implied in the "we"

passages of Acts. But there were lots of non-Jewish people who would grow up with

families, who went to synagogues, attended synagogue. There were lots of Gentiles

who were attracted to Jewish life and culture.

It's clear that Greek is his first language because his command of Greek is beautiful.

Just beautiful, literary Greek, which means it's long, complex sentences. He is also

clearly the Greek translation of the Old Testament Scriptures, the Septuagint, is near

and dear to his heart, because not just when characters are quoting from the Greek

scriptures, but he's also woven words and phrases from the Greek Old Testament

just into the story, into the narration. So yeah, we have a Greek, maybe non-Jewish.

Jon: We don't know for sure.

Tim: We don't know for certain. It's just at the end of Colossians 4, Paul says, "Here's a

bunch of those of the Jews who are my co-workers and then he separates them from

another list of people who seem to be not Jewish coworker in the second list. But it

could be there are some people in between. It's a little bit difficult.

Luke E1: An Intro to Reading the Gospels

So what's significant is this is an author - and when you think about famous authors

in the New Testament, Matthew is the first one, really big story of Jesus, John, Paul,

but in terms of sheer volume, Luke takes the cake. It's awesome. I love it. Luke and

Paul are the top writers of the New Testament.

Jon: But Paul wrote more than Luke.

Tim: In sheer page numbers. I haven't done the count. I've only done the total count,

which is that out of all the pages in the New Testament, Luke makes up 30%.

Jon: That's a high percentage.

Tim: It is. But Paul's got 13 letters to 7 church communities. John is googling "what

percentage of the New Testament did Paul write."

Jon: Luke is 27%, Paul is 23% in terms of words.

Tim: Words, yeah. amount of words.

Jon: And then third is John, 20%.

Tim: Yeah, there you go.

Jon: So Luke wrote more of the New Testament than Paul.

Tim: I love it.

Jon: And it's the longest gospel in word count.

Tim: And it's the longest gospel in terms of the number of words. Not number of

chapters, but number of words. The Gospels, there's four of them in the New

Testament. That's odd. We're talking about one of the major world religions and the

founding story of the key figure. It doesn't just have one story of his life, but four.

That's odd just as effective history.

Jon: Why is it odd?

Tim: Well, not that there are multiple sources, historical sources attesting to the life of a

founding religious figure, but all four of them, despite their variations and

differences, sometimes really nerve-wracking ones, that they are all included within

the scriptural canon of the Christian tradition.

Jon: So it's more odd that they were all selected, not necessarily odd that they were all


Tim: Correct.

Jon: But if you're going to decide, well, which one is the authoritative one? you would

probably just choose one and you wouldn't have to deal with any discrepancy.

Tim: Yeah, that's right. In fact, we know that the existence of four versions of the life of

Jesus cause tension in the second, third, fourth generations of the Christian

movement, because there are debates in the early church about different versions of

different stories and what really happened. Did Jesus say what he said here in Luke,

"Blessed are the poor," or did he say, "Blessed are the poor in spirit" as it says in

Matthew? It's a good question.

Jon: Or did he say both sometimes?

Tim: Or did he say both and he said different things on different occasions? There was an

early Christian scholar named Tatian, who created a super gospel called "The

Diatessaron," which literally means one through four. He cut and pasted all four of

the Gospels to wove them together, took out the repeats — he usually picked

different one on different occasions — and wove them all together into this one

super gospel.

Jon: I feel like there was something like that that was more modern.

Tim: Yeah, they're usually called Lives of Christ or a Harmony of the Gospels, which create

one mega gospel, which, for historical purposes, a valid investigation. But what's

fascinating is that the first generation, second generation of Christians had no

problems appealing to all four of them despite their differences in certain places.

It's as if the life of Jesus is so rich that no one version can fully capture who he was

and is. It's not even stereo. What do you do when you're hearing something from

four directions?

Jon: I don't know. I don't have four ears.

Tim: So, many modern readers will read one, will read Matthew, then they'll read Luke,

and then they'll read John be like, "Oh, they're so different. What? Oh." And it's a

scandal to them. But it seems like the earliest generations of the church saw it the

opposite way - that actually this was an advantage to get these unique different

angles on Jesus that complement each other because of the richness that you get

from the different portrait.

Jon: But sometimes appear to contradict each other.

Tim: Yeah. Sometimes different versions of the same story have divergent details. And

that's just—

Jon: What did the early Christians think about that?

Tim: I think there was just a diversity of reactions. There's quite a number of them where

you can just say, "They're just different interpretations of the same events just like

different eyewitnesses of a car accident." But there are places where we can talk

about this more.

Luke mentions that he consulted sources. He says it right at the beginning. Well, the

consensus position is that we know one of this sources it's the testimony of Peter

that embodied in the Gospel of Mark because he just picks up Mark verbatim in

many places but adjust some of the details.

The climax of the Gospel of Mark, the Roman centurion, surely, this man was the Son

of God. And Luke, the Roman centurion says, "Surely this was the innocent man, a

righteous man." Usually, we readers go right for the historical question, what really

happened? But there I think we can pretty easily discern what happened that Luke

has adapted the wording of the source.

We'll get to this when we talk about it, but Luke has woven a highlight a theme in

the trial and execution of Jesus where everybody can see that this man is innocent.

Everybody. Pilate highlights Jesus' innocence three times in trial. Everybody thinks

that he's done nothing wrong, but yet he still gets crucified.

Even now at the end of the story, the one who crucified him, Luke has adapted the

acknowledgment as the Son of God to be an acknowledgment that he's innocent. So

it's an example where Luke has adjusted the wording to fit into a theme that he is

uniquely highlighting in his version.

Jon: He's making things up.

Tim: He's interpreting the data. Well, this gets us into a debate about, what does it mean

for an ancient historian like Luke to write history? Do we impose standards of

historical reporting on the Gospels that are foreign to the purpose and methods that

Luke used as a historian?

Jon: Sure. Well, so I guess what we're saying is, when we think of writing someone's

history journalistically or as a historian, we want to fact check. We want to make

sure, is that what they actually said? Is that what actually happened? And we want

that to be very accurate. You're saying that wasn't the intention or desire?

Tim: Well, I think the gospel authors are trying to faithfully portray the story of Jesus and

its meaning at the same time. And to do that within their toolset, one of their

available tools is to adjust wording so that it will reflect the meaning of what


Jon: So the meaning of the soldier observing Christ in Mark was that the soldier realized

this was the Messiah.

Tim: Or specifically the Son of God, Messiah, which fits into Mark's way of framing

because he has an acknowledgment of Jesus as the Son of God in the first at the

baptism, of the Transfiguration mountain in the middle of the book, and then the


Jon: So he uses that character to reinforce his point there?

Tim: Yeah.

Jon: Luke uses the character to reinforce a point of his innocence, but that guy was or

was not there and he did or did not say something.

Tim: Correct. That's correct.

Jon: What if I want to know what he actually said?

Tim: And I think that's a valid question but that's a different question than asking, "What

does the author of Luke intend for me right here to get about the story of Jesus?"

Jon: How far does that extend so they could put words in people's mouths? Do they—

Tim: They'll often summarize, they'll adapt wording. You can get these tools called the

Synopsis of the Gospels, and they'll set parallel stories and teachings of Jesus right

next to each other. And you can see they all have this characteristic of they're the

same and they're different. The basic meaning is always the same but each gospel

author has adapted or adjusted wording.

Jon: But their meaning in Luke and Mark, to use the example of Centurion, were different.

Their meaning was, "Here's a guy seeing that he's the son of God." And then the

other one is, "Here's a guy just saying that he's innocent." I guess there is an

underlying meaning of "here's an unexpected character realizing what you should

have realized."

Tim: That's right. "Here's who we thought he was, oh, my gosh, here's who he really was."

Jon: And so, in a way in the story of Jesus, it sounds like a trope that's developed of this

Centurion, and he's the character who gets you to see at the end of the story what

you should have seen all along.

Tim: Yeah. That doesn't exclude there actually having been...as far as we can tell, they

were only a few male disciples of Jesus and a whole lot of women disciples of Jesus

who were there at the crucifixion.

So I think, based on what Luke says, all these stories come from eyewitness

testimony that somebody heard and saw a Roman soldier having a powerful

movement over there as he watches the crucifixion. And that, as they retold and

recounted the story to the apostles, that became a significant detail that each of the

gospel authors then puts into their account, but to highlight a different...

But all history writing is interpretive like this. There's no such thing as an objective

report of the events because no literary representation of an event can represent

every single detail of what happened, for all history writing is already an

interpretation by the fact that it's been processed through your brain.

Jon: I guess what's interesting is now that we live in an age where things are recorded,

that you could go back and say, "Well, what did that person actually say?"

Tim: Correct.

Jon: But I guess imagine living in a time where things weren't recorded. Really all you

have is your memory. It's just been proven over and over that we think we can

remember exactly what happened, but we're always interpreting in real time.

Tim: That's right.

Jon: And every time you remember something, you're actually kind of recreating it —

recreating that memory...

[crosstalk 00:16:57]

Tim: This is a whole industry in New Testament studies. The cross-discipline of studying

the history of the gospel traditions and stories in light of brain research and memory

theory it's a whole...I've just a handful of books, but there's a stack of them that exist.

And it differs. There's a cultural difference. For you and I, whose brains are melted on

mobile screens, for us to remember things is very different from a textually

immersed culture whose identity is shaped by the memorization and recitation of

texts and stories like Jewish culture.

Again, assuming that we haven't even read the prologue of Luke out loud, we have

pretty clear evidence that in early Christianity there was a special place and role for

people whose job it was to memorize the traditions and the stories and the sayings,

and to go around as churches are being planted and teach those traditions...

[crosstalk 00:18:01]

Jon: So this oral memory is really important.

Tim: Crucial.

Jon: So, Jesus rises from the dead, mind-blowing. You see him. You're like, everything's

turned upside down for you. You're just like, "This is crazy." I mean, you've seen

some crazy things, but now the guy's back from the dead. And so, you're like, "Okay,

this is on for real?" Like—

Tim: Holy cow. And not just you, but his earliest disciples. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15,

there are a few hundred people who have all had these experiences with...

[crosstalk 00:18:38]

Jon: And then there's this remarkable experience of receiving the Holy Spirit in this

community and that really shapes them. And so, you're gathering together and you

guys are going, "Okay, let's recount this. What happened?" And someone tells a

story. "Oh, I was there during the crucifixion and I saw him being crucified and I

actually saw the Roman centurion realizing that what he was killing was Son of God."

Tim: Yeah. "Do you remember Rufus, or whatever his name? Did you hear what he said?"

Jon: And so, the story would circulate, and then it would be told over and over. And

because they took the oral tradition of storytelling so important, it would be

important how you were telling that story and that you were true to that.

So wouldn't it be scandalous then if you're familiar with Mark's account, and then all

of a sudden, you get to Luke and Luke changes his words? You'd be like, "Well, that's

not how we told the story. That's not how I heard the story." Would they be

comfortable with the fact that Luke made that change?

Tim: Yeah. There, I think we're imposing expectation on it to say what it means to face

faithfully represent that event requires verbatim repetition of the precise wording


Jon: And that's not the case.

Tim: And that it's just manifestly not the case because that's not what the Gospels tell us.

What the Gospels consistently show is the core sameness among all the parallel

versions of the stories and sayings but with variation. And usually, that variation is

tied into a pattern or a theme that each different author is highlighting.

For a long time, people would search back behind the Gospel accounts to look for

what's called the Verba ipsissima — the very words. That's a Latin phrase. Verba

ipsissima — the very words of Jesus.

And after many, many decades of this digging through the Gospels to get to what's

behind them, a lot of people have said, "We're doing the impossible because that's

not what the gospels are trying to present to us. They're trying to present what's the

vox ipsissima — the voice of Jesus. The meaning of what he said.

So, to be a faithful representation of what Jesus said and did doesn't mean it has to

match precisely what I would have seen if I was there with a video camera. Now,

that's a spin for modern readers, but it's a jump that you have to make. Otherwise,

you're going to open up a synopsis of the Gospels and it's going to destroy your


Jon: It's going to crush your spirit.

Tim: That's going to destroy your faith. Really. If your faith is built on a conviction—

Jon: Well, what else do we have if we don't have the facts of history?

Tim: We have the faithful eyewitness traditions.

Jon: When you say, faithful, what do you mean there?

Tim: The claim of these eyewitnesses is that they are recounting events that happened

and they're faithfully passing on to us both accounts.

Jon: By faithful you don't mean accurate?

Tim: Well, it's all about what's your definition of accuracy. I don't want to impose on Luke

a standard of accuracy that he didn't hold himself. If I want to have the right

expectation of what Luke is doing, I want to meet him on his terms of what he wants

me to expect.

Jon: And in his terms are?

Tim: Here. Let's just finally read the prologue. We've talked around it but here it is. Look

at what he says. Opening words of Luke. "Many have undertaken to draw up an

account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed

down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the Word.

With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the

beginning, I too, decided to write an orderly account for you most excellent

Theophilus, so that you might know the certainty or with confidence the things that

you've been taught."

So he's writing to Theophilus. We have no idea who this is. Most likely the patron

sponsor, he sponsored Luke study leave for two years to research and write.

Jon: He didn't have like 1000 micro patrons?

Tim: He had Theophilus. And notice what he says about Theophilus. "You have been

taught all kinds of things about Jesus." So Theophilus is a convert and has gone to

church and has heard all kinds of accounts and stories about Jesus. "So here's what I

did. I wanted you to have confidence in what you've learned about the story and

teachings of Jesus." So I did the research.

He says he went back to eyewitnesses and then also to servants of the word. This is

technical phrase. We're talking about professional memorizers and scribes of the

Jesus tradition. We have parallels of this, which is a great, really important study of

this done in that whole New Testament field of oral tradition.

Gerd Theissen did a cross comparison between the memorization of stories and

sayings of the rabbi's in Jewish tradition, like rabbinic tradition, and the way that

what we see in the New Testament parallel. Of course, these are all Jewish people.

So, servants were talking about people whose job it is in the community to

memorize and then go and pass it on. But they are servants of the word. The point

is, you memorize this material and then you travel about and commit the word to

new people.

Jon: This was a profession?

Tim: Well, it assumes a group of people who were not themselves the eyewitnesses but

who are servants.

Jon: But would they do this? This would be their career or hobby?

Tim: This would be their ministry. Certainly Paul. Paul was one of these. Was he an

eyewitness to the Jesus and Galilee? No. But what's fascinating is in 1 Corinthians 11,

when he wants to recount the story of what happened at the Last Supper, he says, "I

pass on to you what I received." And it's nearly verbatim what you have of the Last

Supper in the Gospel accounts. Like nearly verbatim.

Jon: So that's a guy who's traveling around and saying, "Here are stories that you need to

know about Jesus?"

Tim: So, Luke has consulted as many eyewitnesses as he can, and then also the first wave

of these people who have memorized huge amounts of scriptures.

Jon: So Luke, he seems very analytical, right?

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: Then he's got some sort of strategy here. As he talks with the eyewitnesses and

servants, he must have noticed their discrepancies of "Oh, you said that the

Centurion said this and this eyewitness said this, and this servant now is saying that,

and there are some differences."

Tim: Or another occasion did the...not centurion. There was a really significant Roman

who wanted Jesus to heal his servant. So did the Roman himself come to Jesus as in

Mark, or did the Roman leader send messengers to Jesus on his behalf? And does

the difference really matter? But there's a difference in the parallel versions of the


Jon: Luke must have been aware of these differences and his conclusion is, "You can have

confidence in the things you were taught. I'm going to write an account of all this

and you can be confident that what actually happened actually is accurate."

Tim: He says, "I put this all together for you so that you might know the certainty or

literally might have confidence about the things that you've been taught, so you can

know that this is faithful, it's true, it happened." But the first line is saying, "Listen, I

know I'm not the only person who's written up an account of Jesus." He says,

"There's a number of accounts of Jesus circling around." It's not like he's trying to

create one to oust all the others, or he doesn't indicate any negative view. He says, "I

wanted to get to the bottom of things for myself."

I remember personally being really bothered and scandalized by these differences

for a long, long time. But then the more that I read and reflected on them and

marked up my synopsis on the parallel version some more...there's a New Testament

scholar named James Dunn, who wrote an excellent huge thick volume called "The

Oral Gospel Tradition." And that's his phrase the same and different. Because the

differences are almost never...there's some that are whoppers, but they're almost

never like compromise the meaning of the story.

But what they show us is that the Jesus tradition, it was the what he calls the living

tradition. It was a tradition meant to be preached and passed on to living

communities. And they didn't feel free to just invent wholesale stories that never

happened, at least in that first generation. Though, there's a lot of debate that's

obviously a point of contention. But what we do see when there are parallel stories is

faithfulness to the basic meaning of a story, but variation in wording.

Jon: Faithfulness to meaning.

Tim: Faithfulness to the basic outline. Again, we can test this because there are many

stories that have two or sometimes you have a story that Matthew has, Mark has,

and Luke has. And so, you can cross compare and see how they differ from each

other. And almost never is the is the story completely like a different story. It's

almost always a variation in wording but the same basic message.

Jon: And they are okay with that?

Tim: Nobody seems to have had a problem with this. And also, it's important to the

process of memorization wouldn't have only started after the resurrection. Jesus is a

rabbi, traveling itinerant teacher who speaks and teaches in very memorable oneliners

and parables and stories.

Jon: So that they could be passed on.

Tim: He's an oral teacher. So the memorization process among Jesus's disciples would

have started immediately from his first announcement. This is a whole field of New

Testament studies with centuries of history to the conversation. But it's fascinating.

I'm obsessed with this whole field because it really interesting and it's so amazing

that we have four counts of Jesus. But it forces you to reshape your paradigm of

what the Bible is around just the historical fact of these four accounts.

Jon: I'm trying to get that reshaped paradigm and I'm struggling.

Tim: A parallel of my own life that I've discovered, Jessica and I just celebrated 15 years of

being married. When we meet somebody new, we go over to dinner to someone's

house, and they ask, "How did you guys meet? Tell us a story of how you guys met."

So we've been telling that story. It's not like we go like, "Oh, yeah. Well, man, that

was 15 years ago, I don't..."

Jon: You got the story locked down.

Tim: We've been telling the same story over and over and over again for 15 years. And

here's what has happened. We've condensed it, we've assigned part unofficially, but

she does the part of the story of in the library, and I do the part of the story of

horses on the beach.

And so, we have these fix things. And are there moments where totally we've

condensed two events into one? Yes, of course, we have. Is it a faithful

representation of what happened? Yes, I lived our story. But we've condensed it

adapted it over the course of the retelling also to reflect what we now can see the

significance and meaning of those events in our life stories.

And so, I think we have to envision something similar where Jesus had a deep

impact all of these individuals. They're not going to forget the day that he healed my

eyes or the day that he calls Zacchaeus into his home. These events will mark these

individuals for the rest of their lives. And they're not waiting 10 years before they go

tell them to somebody else. But as they retell them, the stories get adapted, and we

have to reckon with that. That's part of how the Gospels came into existence. And

Luke wants his readers to have to have confidence.

Christianity is based on both claims that something took place in history around

Jesus of Nazareth, but it's also a claim about the meaning of those events that

clearly wasn't compelling to everybody who was there and saw Jesus. Because there

were many people who thought he was full of it, and there were people who killed

him and hated him. So there were different interpretations of Jesus. And what we

have are the version of what happened according to His disciples.

Jon: I think what a modern reader would wish to have is an unbiased empirical account of

everything that actually was said and done so that you could come to your own

conclusion. But what we have instead is the crafting of these happenings in such a

way that it's designed to explain to you not exactly what happened, but more

importantly the significance of why it happened.

Tim: I wouldn't put a "but" in there. It's "and." So, tell you what happened and to show

you what it means in the retelling. I think in the Gospel authors minds, they want you

to read these stories and say, "Oh, yeah, Jesus did and said this."

Jon: What if I was sitting down with Luke and Mark together and we're all recounting the

centurion, right? And Luke says, "Oh, yeah, the centurion just saw that Jesus was

innocent. That's what he said." And then Mark goes, "Yeah, the centurion, what he

said was 'this was a son of God.'" And then I turn to him and I say, "Well, what did he

say?" What would the answer be?

Tim: Well, that one's a little easier because I think I'm fairly confident about the order of

the sources there. I think Luke had Mark in front of him as one of his sources.

Jon: So Luke would have been like, "Well, yeah, yeah, yeah."

Tim: Luke would say, "Yeah, I changed the wording."

Jon: He'd say, "Yeah, Mark had it right, but from my point of the story, I was trying to

show not just that he saw that he was the Son of God — we already have that

account — but he also realized he was innocent. So I put those words in his mouth."

Tim: I think that's how the conversation would go.

Jon: And then you wouldn't lose confidence in Luke's gospel that he just threw words in

someone's mouth?

Tim: No. Well, confidence of what?

Jon: Confidence in faithfulness? We used the word faithfulness.

Tim: Yeah, faithfulness.

Jon: So, is Luke being faithful to what actually happened, and why it mattered if he's able

to change what happened?

Tim: By faithfulness, a faithful representation of what happened and the meaning of what

happened, I'm trying to let my version of faithfulness be redefined by what the

gospel authors actually did, not what I think they ought to have done according to

whatever our modern standard might be. I don't know any other way to reconcile

myself to this. And then also reconcile my vision of what the Bible is as a divine and

human product also has to be reconciled with this.

It seems like the first generation of Christians didn't have a problem in doing this. It's our

problem where we have the ability because we have something to compare it to. We

have their way of doing history compared to just like my mobile camera

documenting everything.

Jon: But our bias is always better.

Tim: Yeah, totally.

Jon: They had their way of doing medicine and we have our way of doing medicine. They

had their way of traveling by foot and horse, we have our way of travel. And so,

there is kind of this bias of like everything's been advancing. And so, is the way that

we do history—

Tim: The way we do history is naturally better, or it's naturally more free of bias. And

that's a highly questionable assumption.

Jon: Sure.

Tim: Because the moment any historical event is filtered through a human brain and

recounted in a literary work, it's already undergone multiple stages of interpretation.

Retelling you what I had for breakfast this morning would be an interpretation. I

couldn't possibly recreate for you what actually happened - all you have is my

testimony. And that's what the gospels are — their testimony.

Jon: And for me, it seems like confronted with this, the only thing I know to do is to say,

"Well, did Jesus rise from the dead? Did that happen?" That's the most significant


Whether or not the centurion said one thing or the other, or if Jesus said, "poor in

spirit or just poor," or did he do the miracle before he went to Jerusalem or after, or

whatever details are, like, "Okay, I guess I don't have to care."

But you're going to give me confidence if you say, "Hey, look, I've talked to all the

eyewitnesses and here are the differences, here's where I'm going with this one. I

think this is what actually happened." That account will give me confidence. This

account where he's just like, "I'm going to change what he said," that doesn't give

me confidence.

Tim: Yeah, interesting. But again, I think that should trigger in us, oh, well, does the fact

that he would adapt the wording, what's standard am I holding him to call that? I

don't know, manipulation of the sort.

Jon: So if I'm—

Tim: No, no. What I'm forcing you to undergo in 30 minutes is what has taken me years

to sort out and come to terms with. So it's fine. It's also a significant to notice he

doesn't talk about having a vision or a trance.

Jon: Sure. He's like, "I'm investigating."

Tim: He's like, "I'm a historian doing investigation," and to fit this into a view of what

Christians called the inspiration of Scriptures, is to say, "Oh, the Holy Spirit was at

work in Luke's hard work." And in the years, this is incredibly intentionally crafted

document of third of the New Testament called the book of Luke-Acts. We also have

to factor that into our view of what the Bible is how it came into existence because

he says how he made the book.

Jon: So we have to go into this book aware that Luke is taking some license at times and

what people say?

Tim: Yeah, he's both a preserver of the Jesus tradition and he is a creative author in his

own right. Because that's what he says. "I've carefully investigated and then I have

written in order to count."

So he's brought a design and order to it that's visible in ways that differ from Mark

and Matthew. So he's brought an order to it to emphasize things about the story of

Jesus that are unique to his account. There you go. That's what the gospels are.

Jon: I guess I'm sort of now interested in what is it that I would want other than this.

Tim: Well, it's clear what Tatian wanted.

Jon: Tatian?

Tim: He in the guy who created the Super Gospel. He was much happier with just having

one big one. What I suppose would you want is a video camera. But would a video

camera expose to you the story through the lens of the resurrection?

Just like when my wife and I retell the stories of our first meeting and conversations,

we're doing so in the light of where we know things went. I always joke with her

about her motives for approaching me for our first conversation. That kind of thing.

But if you were just sitting at the desk next to Jessica and I having our first

conversation, what would your interpretation be of the meaning of this event?

So, if I saw Jesus do this remarkable healing or say this parable, what is the meaning

of that? Well, am I Pharisee or am I poor Galilean farmer or am I, you know...? The

meaning of events is actually never a self-evident thing. And you're right, what the

gospels are, are recounting of the story of Jesus in the light of the resurrection.

Jon: They want to tell you why this was...

[crosstalk 00:40:08]

Tim: Yeah, they want to show you that the risen Jesus who we know and met and who

you can experience by the Spirit is the Jesus who said and did these things in Galilee

and Jerusalem and led up to his death. And that he is the Messiah, Son of God who

is bringing God's kingdom here.

Jon: We've spent enough time on this. I don't feel any full resolution but let Luke tell us

what he wants to tell us about Jesus of Nazareth, and see why he thought it was so

important that he could twist someone's words.

Thanks for listening to this episode. We make videos and you can find those on our

YouTube channel, youtube.com/thebibleproject. You could also find them on our

website, jointhebibleproject.com. You can follow us on Twitter, @JoinBibleProj.

We're also on Facebook, facebook.com/thebibleproject.

Up next on the podcast will be the second in this series of discussions on the Gospel

of Luke. We'll talk about chapters is all the way to 19, and we'll be talking about how

Luke expertly uses the Hebrew Scriptures to tie Jesus' story into the entire Jewish

narrative. Thanks for being a part of this with us.

13 Episodes

Episode 13
N.T. Wright Interview: Paul and the Powers
In this episode, Tim and Jon interview the prolific theologian N.T. (Tom) Wright.
1hr 3m • Apr 8, 2019
Episode 12
To the Ends of the Earth
This is the last episode in the Luke-Acts series, in which we discuss the spread of the gospel to hub of the Roman world and to the ends of the earth.
35m • Apr 1, 2019
Episode 11
Paul in Prison
Jump into episode six of our series on Acts.
51m • Mar 25, 2019
Episode 10
Paul's Journey to Jerusalem
Welcome! This episode continues our series on the book of Acts.
52m • Mar 18, 2019
Episode 9
N.T. Wright Interview: Getting to Know the Apostle Paul
Tim and Jon interview New Testament and Jewish Studies scholar N.T. Wright. Wright has heavily influenced many areas of theology, especially through his work outlining the Apostle Paul.
55m • Nov 26, 2018
Episode 8
Saul and Subversive Christianity
This is episode 4 of our series breaking down the book of Acts.
1hr 11m • May 21, 2018
Episode 7
Global Christianos
Listen to episode three of our series on the book of Acts.
54m • May 14, 2018
Episode 6
Pentecost and the Expected Unexpected Spirit
This is Episode 2 in our series on Acts!
35m • May 7, 2018
Episode 5
The Startup of Christianity
This is episode 1 in our series on the book of Acts!
40m • May 1, 2018
Episode 4
Jesus, Rebels, and Resurrection
We discuss Luke 9-24. What did Jesus do and talk about when he was alive? Why did his message get him in trouble? Was Jesus a rebel? How does Luke want us to see Jesus?
1hr 3m • Jan 6, 2017
Episode 3
Good News for the Poor
Luke Chapters 1-6 ooze with references and allusions to the Old Testament to show how Jesus is the fulfillment of the story of Israel.
56m • Dec 13, 2016
Episode 2
An Overview of Luke
Tim and I are working on a series of videos that will tell the story of Jesus as recorded by Luke in his gospel. In this episode we do a quick overview of the entire book, working through each of the sections, observing how they all fit together.
29m • Nov 22, 2016
Episode 1
An Intro to Reading the Gospels
This episode is our preparation for making a video series that walks through the entire life of Jesus as told by Luke in his Gospel. This first episode is an introduction to what the Gospels are, and what it means to trust them as an accurate representation of what happened in human history. The Gospels are the version of what happened according to his disciples, and not only what happened, but why it all matters.
42m • Oct 28, 2016
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