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The Epistles Indicate that the Gospels were NOT Published Early

 

PETER EPISTLES SAY THERE ARE NO GOSPELS

 

Paul’s epistles show that the gospel stories did not exist in any form when Paul lived.  But the later ones also show an absence of the gospel legends in the primordial soup of the Church of their times.

 

The New American Bible dates the First Epistle of Peter at between 64 and 67 AD and sees no reason to deny Petrine authorship (Biblical Dictionary and Concordance, page 176). 

 

Some date the Epistle at 90 AD long after Peter’s death because the epistle advises obedience to Rome and patience in suffering which is taken to imply that it was written when Rome was barbarically persecuting Christians.  This was seemingly intended to satisfy Rome that Christians should be left alone.  The letter says we must be calm for the end is close (4:7).  Persecutions were expected universally among Christians so the letter would only say that if they were already happening and were very bad making it look like the end was on the doorstep.  1 Peter 4:17 says the Church is suffering terribly and calls it a trial by fire.   The 90 AD date seems better.  Peter could have been alive then to write it.  The story of his martyrdom in Rome in 64 AD is unconvincing for it is based on gossip and legend and besides if Peter was in hiding it was easy to pretend that some Christian executed in Rome was really Peter.  There is more reason to take 90AD as the correct date than any other.

 

Irenaeus was the first to say it was Peter’s work and this was after at least a century had passed (NAB, Introduction to The First Epistle of Peter).  The letter was not written by Peter.  The author – Silvanus? - might have believed that God was inspiring him to write what the dead or absent Peter would write so it is incorrect to think that the letter could not be ascribed to Peter for the people would know that Peter was dead.  Perhaps nobody knew what became of Peter and thought he was reclusive and still alive.

 

The First Epistle of Peter instructs us to love enemies and to suffer like Jesus did for doing right and with patience.  Every Christian knows that if Jesus did that it does not mean we should do the same for he had divine protection and only had to give God the word and he would deliver him.  If we and Jesus suffer for doing right then it must be forced on us.  It would be ridiculous to command those who voluntarily suffer to be patient.  The Gospel Jesus could have avoided death, perhaps only for a time for he had to die sometime, for he had miracle powers to save himself and he said that God could rescue him with an army of angels.  Peter is denying that Jesus had these powers or protection or that anybody could have saved him from his passion and death.  The gospels report that Jesus had to be apprehended under cover of darkness in case the people would save him.  Peter is denying this too.  Peter’s Jesus is a human being and not God or a super-powered Son of God.  So in 90 AD we have proof that even the authorities in the Church knew nothing of the gospels.

 

If Jesus suffered to save and our suffering does not do what it did then Peter is wrong to suggest that we must do what Jesus did.  What Jesus’ suffering implies for us is that we should be ascetics and brutal to ourselves but Peter is not saying that.  He was hard up for something to illustrate his point.  Therefore the Christians could find no quotes from Jesus to prove that we must endure suffering patiently because there were none.  There were no gospels.

 

The epistle says that Roman governors must be obeyed for God uses them to punish and reward people (1 Peter 2:13,14).  It is thought that this denies that one of them, Pilate, killed Jesus.  It seems Peter would be taking it for granted that we know to obey them only when they are right.  But then why does he tell us to uphold the Roman governor’s decisions about meting out vengeance on people when most of their punishments were unduly harsh and they had little concern for justice?  I agree with G A Wells that this command proves that the early Church did not believe that Pilate unjustly sent Jesus to the cross.  Christians say that Pilate was forced by the Jews or Roman law or both but this is dubious for Pilate had the power to postpone a decision and could have decreed a discreet execution of a man who was not Jesus in Jesus’ place to save Jesus.  The John gospel has Pilate killing Jesus because he is afraid of the Jews and then informing Jesus that he could release him if he would only clear himself before him so somebody wasn’t able to make up his mind about Pilate.  The incoherence suggests that the Pilate episode may never have happened for it should not have been hard to report accurately about it if it had. 

 

Wells observed that Peter gives some ethical teachings that match the teaching of Christ but he never quotes Christ and all his quotes are plucked from the Old Testament (page 365, The Enc of Unbelief).  He knew nothing about the gospels or their Jesus. 

 

The second Epistle of Peter may seem to have extracted the story of the transfiguration from the Gospel.  The Epistle says that the people were not taught lies about Jesus having come in power for the author and others saw his glory on the mountain.  This denies the gospel version that Jesus came stripped of much power and got tired and hungry and angry and did not know that Judas was stealing from the purse.  Some say that God showing some glory through Jesus temporarily would not prove that he came in power.  It would for it would mean he may not have showed the power but he still came in it.  Jesus coming in power refers to his coming as man so the vision then must refer to Jesus after his resurrection when he ceased to be an ordinary man.  2 Peter is really describing a vision of the risen Jesus and not the gospel account of Jesus being transfigured on the Mount long before his crucifixion and death.  And what the gospels say God said about Jesus at the baptism in the Jordan is said to have been said in this event.  The gospels report that God said something different at the transfiguration.  So it was not the transfiguration.  There is no evidence that 2 Peter knows the gospels.  Even if it does know the transfiguration story, it is far from saying that Jesus really existed outside of visions and was known by the people.  Only three persons saw the transfiguration.  And it might have been a leak from the hidden gospels.  And why does the author not appeal to the resurrection as evidence for Jesus’ glory?  Either the author was a forger or Jesus’ resurrection was not glorious. 

 

2 Peter says that it is better not to know the law of God than to know it and turn your back on it.  This is mad for if you know you can always use that knowledge again.  This betrays a cynicism contrary to the attitude of Jesus in the gospels who concentrated on teaching backsliders.  It denies the gospels were known.  It denies the Jesus of the gospels existence.

 

OTHER EPISTLES THAT DENY GOSPELS

 

The First Epistle of John is believed to have been written after the Gospel of John and in the 90s of the first century.  It denies that there are any gospels.

 

It endeavours to counteract the influence of people who said that Jesus was not a material being but an apparition.  All it does to achieve that is just saying that some unspecified “we” touched Jesus and that anybody who says he had no body is an antichrist.  It would have been better to say, “Go to the Gospel of John which I John wrote”, assuming tradition is right that John wrote all the New Testament works that carry his name.  The epistle says that those who have God’s light don’t need teachers for they hear God in their hearts (2:27).  It is divine inspiration inside you and not inspired gospels that teach. 

 

The letter condemns the whole world as evil and demands that Christians keep themselves separate from it for the whole world is in the grip of the evil one Satan (5:19).  Jehovah’s Witnesses and some others take that to be a condemnation of Christians who honour flags and presidents and who work in politics.  Other Christians say that he is simply meaning godlessness or worldliness by world and is not forbidding Christians to be politicians and work in politics.  That is a lie for John like the rest forbade involvement in the world for Jesus’ final coming had to be treated as if it was going to happen in a few minutes.  This coming was to overthrow all earthly kingdoms and comprised Jesus taking over the earth as king and Christians were urged to accept that this overthrow could happen any second.  John does forbid political activity for you can’t live that way and prepare for the future by political involvement for the future is what such involvement is about. 

 

The Christians can’t give you any evidence that world means what they say it means.  If John meant it in a restricted way like they hope he meant, he would have said so in his letter so world means world.  A Church that thought like that would not let the world have its gospels but would keep them to herself to protect them at least until it was sure of itself – and it didn’t get sure of itself until the time of Constantine and soon got cocky enough to turn Jesus into God. 

 

A Church that was not allowed to bring Christianity into politics to help people could not possibly care much for books for having books imply that you need them for future generations so it would have cared even less about publishing.  It might have had the books but did not depend on them or preach them.   It was only when the Church became invincible that it grew less secretive.

 

By the way, I have argued in other books that Jesus did not do away with the killing laws of the Old Testament that God gave which wanted homosexuals and idolaters dead.  What I have said here about Christians focusing on the message and not on politics does not undermine that. Some would say they felt they couldn’t put the law into practice for there was no time.  Others would say there was no time for making the civil law except these laws so they might have kept them whenever they could on their own.  The law says it is love to kill these people and Christians never argued that you may not bother loving for there was no time.  Either way they were not invalidating the law.  It is still true to say that the faith revealed by Jesus was a brutal and murderous one.

 

The Epistle of Jude was not written by Jude the apostle because he speaks of what the apostles said as if he were not one of them (17).  And it is in the past tense as if they are all off the scene.  The letter quotes an edition of the First Book of Enoch betraying a date of 100 AD (NAB, Introduction to the Epistle of Jude).  The author quotes a story about Michael the Archangel not judging the Devil but simply telling him that he hoped the Lord would punish him.  The moral is that we must not judge.  This story is terrible for the angel did judge the Devil when he told him he should be punished.  Jude was obviously stuck for evidence and had to use a legend that is not in the Bible to do it.  If he had the Gospel of Matthew he could have quoted what Jesus said about judging.  And he would have.  And he quotes a dud scripture to prove that Jesus will come back to judge the world.  The gospels would have been a better choice so he did not have them.  Even if the Epistle was written in 80 AD when libertine heretical Christianity threatened the faith it still shows that the gospels were highly privileged information then, a lifetime after the alleged events.  Jude didn’t even have access to the words of the Lord and he was a high-level Christian for his letter seems to have been meant for the whole Church. 

 

The Epistle of James gives no hint of the existence of the Gospels.  The stress it lays on Old Testament material suggests that it did not know of them.  James 5:12 seems to quote what Jesus said about oaths in Matthew.  But James does not attribute it to Jesus and perhaps Matthew used what James wrote and put it in his gospel or it could be a common tradition.  If James knew the gospels he would have used the verses from Jesus which seem to say that you have to obey God to be saved instead of quoting Abraham and Rahab whose cases give no proof of what he says.  The author uses his own authority instead of Jesus’ (NAB, Introduction to the Epistle of James).  You only use your pathetic authority when it is all you have and when you cannot use the infallible prophet Jesus’. 

 

If James really was related to Jesus then he proves the gospels are lying about Jesus and that high-level leaders of the Church who would have known about the gospels had they existed did not.  The letter is often dated to before 62 AD when James was murdered.  This would tell us that there were no gospels then or even any traditions that could become gospels.  Then, even Jesus’ relations knew that the stories in the gospels were false for they did not hear of them. 

 

Most scholars hold that this dating of James to be thrown out.  They date the letter to the end of the first century.  If they are right then it means there was no evidence even then that the gospels had been revealed to anybody.

 

The Epistles as good as say there were no Gospels published even in secret and show that a biography was manufactured for Jesus later for he did not exist.