In just another example of unlearning stuff I've assumed but never thought deeply about, I was challenged today in my default-mode thinking on something. I've heard it repeated over and over again that the New Testament Gospels are anonymous, and that their authorship is ascribed traditionally, even fairly arbitrarily.
i) The Gospels are not anonymous. All our MSS name the authors of the Gospels. And there is no evidence that this is an editorial addition. Indeed, given the antiquity and uniformity of these ascriptions, the evidence is against their unoriginality.
You notice that Carrier has no hesitation in citing other Jewish and pagan writers by name—even though the quantity and quality of MSS evidence for those works is negligible compared with the NT.
Assuming that the traditional attributions are true—and the superscriptions are exceedingly well-attested—then Matthew and Luke would certainly have other sources of information at their fingertips.
ii) Mark is not an unknown individual. He is known to us from both the Lucan and Pauline corpus.
iii) "Tradition” and “legend” are hardly synonymous.
iv) Assuming, for the sake of argument, that the Gospel of Mark was written around AD 70, “give or take a decade,” the lower figure would put it within the lifetime of Paul—even by Carrier’s reckoning. For Paul’s death is generally dated to around AD 65.312 So either Carrier can’t do the math or he doesn’t know the rudiments of NT chronology.
v) As a matter of fact, David Wenham has marshaled internal, comparative evidence to show that Paul, writing way back in the 40s, was already acquainted with the Gospels of Matthew and Luke—and maybe even the Fourth Gospel for good measure (Paul & Jesus [Eerdmans 2002]; Paul: Follower of Jesus or Founder of Christianity? [Eerdmans 1985].).
Assuming Marcan priority, this completely upends Mr. Carrier’s entire thesis. Even without Marcan priority, the damage is done.
Of course, this runs counter to what “most” scholars believe, but the decades-long gap between oral tradition and the canonical gospels posited by “most” scholars has always been completely irrational. This was not a preliterate culture. If men could pen letters, they could just as well pen gospels.
vi) Carrier is trying to play both sides of the fence. On the one hand he says:
"Matthew and Luke clearly used Mark as their source, repeating the same elements in the same order and often using identical vocabulary and word order, not only for this story but for the whole Gospel."
If so, then this is an example of how extremely conservative Matthew and Luke are in handling their sources. How pedantically faithful they are in respecting and preserving the Markan source.
On the other hand, he also says:
"All other accounts rely upon it and basically just embellish it or modify it to suit each author’s own narrative and ideological agenda."
If so, then that is an example of how extremely cavalier Matthew and Luke are in
handling their sources. How faithless they are in reproducing the Marcan source.
You see how these two assertions are tugging in opposite directions? Carrier is in a bind. He needs one sort of argument to prove Markan priority, and a contrary argument to prove legendary embellishment. So his thesis is drawn-and-quartered by the conflicting demands of his own agenda.
Source: This Joyful Eastertide, Steve Hays, p 146