Evolution and the Gospels

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Ulan
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ulan » Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:34 pm

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:59 am
Ulan wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 4:13 pm
The synoptic gospels alone are proof for constant meddling with the text, including redactional changes to make them fit the view of the author(s) and editor(s).
I agree, but this „meddling“ happened in different texts (Stephan’s three birds) and not in different editions of one text.
I fail to see the distinction. Particularly Matthew contains 94% of gMark, often almost verbatim. That's one of the reasons why gMark was often considered to be a superfluous addition to the Bible. Luke still contains 79% of gMark. Or, in other words, these are indeed just edits of the same text. They are extensive edits, as they extend gMark considerably (or gMark shortens them, if you prefer), but still edits of the same text.

Just think about it: Antique authors didn't shy away from such extensive edits that you consider these to be different texts, although they clearly used the same text base.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:59 am
Ulan wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 4:13 pm
Furthermore, I think the texts of the early church fathers give us enough material to come to the conclusion that our "reliable texts" looked different at their times.
I did not follow closely the considerations of our members in this direction, but I remember that there were two kinds of arguments. Please correct me if I miss something.

First, that in the church fathers are quotations of an explicite mentioned or apparently canonical gospel that can’t be find in this exact form in a canonical gospel. But imho such an argument did not consider that interpretively modified quotations are in all relevant texts (starting with the Hebrew Bible itself, interpretative translations in the LXX, interpretively modified quotations by the Qumranies, the Rabbis, Paul, Mark and so on).

Second, that in the church fathers are other texts mentioned, for example „the logia of the apostle Matthew, written in the Hebrew language“. But imho such an argument did not consider that this could be a simple trick to justify the primacy of the more orthodox and more pleasing Matthew over Mark when the whole world knows that GMark was first.
Well, yes, we agree on point two. Note that the early church fathers usually don't source their quotes, which leads to the often heard interpretation in your sense, i.e., that "church fathers just quoted from memory". However, that's just one possible interpretation. I think Ben made a few statistics regarding certain church father texts, how often they quoted almost verbatim, how often it was at least halfway discernible what text the quote may relate to, and how often they quoted stuff that is in none of our existing texts. Yes, you can have different explanations, but given the state of our current gospels, the existence of rather differently looking texts at their time is not an unlikely explanation. The big cleanup happened during the following centuries, which, by the way, is sometimes attested to.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Secret Alias » Tue Jan 28, 2020 5:55 pm

We should also look to examples where later editors also 'correct' strange readings. We should expect such corrections happened all the time. We only catch them in extraordinary circumstances such as:
So he says, On account of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ, that they might reduce us to bondage, we gave place by subjection not even for an hour. For let us pay attention to the meaning of his words, and the purpose of them, and <your> falsification of scripture will become evident. When he says first, But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised, and then proceeds, On account of false brethren unawares brought in, and what follows, he begins at once to render
a reason for a contrary action, indicating for what purpose he did a thing he would neither have done nor have let it be known he had done, except for the previous occurrence of that on account of which he did do it. So then I would have you tell me, if those false brethren had not come in unawares to spy out their liberty, would they have given place to subjection? I think not. Then they did give place because there were people on whose account concession was advisable. For this was in keeping with faith unripe and still in doubt regarding the observance of the law, when even the apostle himself suspected he might have run, or might still be running, in vain. So there was cause to discountenance those false brethren who were spying upon Christian liberty, to prevent them from leading it astray into the bondage of Judaism before Paul learned that he had not run in vain, before those who were apostles before him gave him their right hands, before with their agreement he undertook the task of preaching among the gentiles. Of necessity therefore he gave place, for a time, and so also had sound reason for circumcising Timothy,a and bringing nazirites into the temple,b facts narrated in the Acts, and to this extent true, that they are in character with an apostle who professes that to the Jews he became a Jew that he might gain the Jews, and one living under the law for the sake of those who were living under the lawc—and so even for the sake of those brought in unawares—and lastly that he had become all things to all men, that he might gain them all.
The point is that only a desperate mind mistakes a slap in the face for a kiss. The Church Fathers are actively trying to misrepresent, correct, falsify material that came from an earlier period.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Ben C. Smith
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ben C. Smith » Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:21 pm

Ulan wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:34 pm
Particularly Matthew contains 94% of gMark, often almost verbatim. That's one of the reasons why gMark was often considered to be a superfluous addition to the Bible. Luke still contains 79% of gMark. Or, in other words, these are indeed just edits of the same text.
I have often seen it either ignored or forgotten that the assumption that we possess the first gospel (whether Mark or one of the others) is just that: an assumption. Why should the opposite assumption not carry the same weight? Indeed, why should the opposite assumption not carry even more weight, a priori? More gospel texts from the first two centuries appear to have been lost to history, after all, than have been preserved for us.

Furthermore, let me assume Marcan priority (with respect to all other extant gospel texts) for a moment. To think that Mark is not the first gospel (and, therefore, that the first gospel has been lost to us) is simply to think that Mark did exactly what Matthew and Luke and the rest did: he adopted and conflated and edited earlier gospel sources. Do we have any reason to think that Mark did not do this? To the contrary, Mark shows many of the same signs that the other gospels show, so far as reliance on earlier gospel texts is concerned (that is, we can see how Matthew and Luke, for example, occasionally faltered while editing Mark, and Mark itself contains similar examples of apparent faltering).

Furthermore again, I have argued on this forum that Mark is not telling a new story; he is telling one already known at least in part to his readers. Whether that story was oral or written (or both), and whether it was complete or partial, Mark is not freely composing his text from scratch (or freely composing from Paul + the scriptures + his own private inspirations).

Furthermore yet again, we know for certain, as you state, that the texts were modified after the publication of the archetype. It would be folly to suppose that they were not modified after the publication of the autograph and before that of the archetype, unless we could demonstrate either (A) that the archetype is, in this case, the autograph itself or (B) that the publisher of the archetype had direct access to the autograph and no urge to modify it. Is such a demonstration forthcoming? If not, then we almost certainly do not possess the full range of textual variants in our extant manuscript histories. The gospel of John is pretty good evidence of this position on its own merits: the editing quirks in this gospel text are of a kind almost certainly to have resulted from sloppy editing, and yet little or no trace of such edits in the manuscript record exist. In other words, the archetype supplanted every other branch stemming from the autograph; it happens.

While I would agree with many on this forum that the notion of gospel texts or traditions predating our extant gospels has been thoroughly abused in some quarters, to treat the opposite notion as standard or as some kind of default is a logical error.
They are extensive edits, as they extend gMark considerably (or gMark shortens them, if you prefer), but still edits of the same text.
Agreed. It is similar to what Chronicles did to Samuel and Kings.
Note that the early church fathers usually don't source their quotes, which leads to the often heard interpretation in your sense, i.e., that "church fathers just quoted from memory". However, that's just one possible interpretation. I think Ben made a few statistics regarding certain church father texts, how often they quoted almost verbatim, how often it was at least halfway discernible what text the quote may relate to, and how often they quoted stuff that is in none of our existing texts.
I do not recall posting such a thing on this forum. Interestingly, however, I have a longstanding text file on my hard drive which attempts this very thing, taking gospel quotes, allusions, and summaries from the Apostolic Fathers and comparing them to their closest gospel antecedents. (Have you been peeking at my hard drive, Ulan?? I guess it is possible that I posted something similar, or some scaled back version of those notes, but I simply do not remember.)

What I do remember is posting a list of references to the words of the Lord Jesus; this list certainly gives the impression that early Christians maintained collections of "sayings of the Lord" to which they could refer at will. I do not know for certain whether these collections would have been oral or written (or both). And, obviously, for the benefit of certain members of this forum, the existence of such collections is independent of the existence of an historical Jesus.
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Ulan
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ulan » Wed Jan 29, 2020 4:18 am

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:21 pm
Ulan wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:34 pm
Particularly Matthew contains 94% of gMark, often almost verbatim. That's one of the reasons why gMark was often considered to be a superfluous addition to the Bible. Luke still contains 79% of gMark. Or, in other words, these are indeed just edits of the same text.
I have often seen it either ignored or forgotten that the assumption that we possess the first gospel (whether Mark or one of the others) is just that: an assumption. Why should the opposite assumption not carry the same weight? Indeed, why should the opposite assumption not carry even more weight, a priori? More gospel texts from the first two centuries appear to have been lost to history, after all, than have been preserved for us.

Furthermore, let me assume Marcan priority (with respect to all other extant gospel texts) for a moment. To think that Mark is not the first gospel (and, therefore, that the first gospel has been lost to us) is simply to think that Mark did exactly what Matthew and Luke and the rest did: he adopted and conflated and edited earlier gospel sources. Do we have any reason to think that Mark did not do this? To the contrary, Mark shows many of the same signs that the other gospels show, so far as reliance on earlier gospel texts is concerned (that is, we can see how Matthew and Luke, for example, occasionally faltered while editing Mark, and Mark itself contains similar examples of apparent faltering).
I agree with everything you said (also the part I didn't quote). I just wanted to keep it simple for the sake of the argument, as Kunigunde seems to consider it only worthwhile to work with the extant texts we have and not with texts we don't really know for sure how they looked like. I wanted to stress that, even if we take these texts as being "originals" (whatever that is supposed to mean), we have evidence for drastic editing of the same text in plain sight, a kind of editing that makes all these discussions about lost words or half sentences, like we can see it when comparing the manuscripts we have, look somewhat quaint and unimportant.

I also agree that gMark itself shows signs of editing. The most prominent example that comes to mind is the so-called Bethsaida insert, which contains some of the duplications in gMark, like the feeding of the multitudes. This also explains some of the differences between gLuke and gMatthew, as "Luke" seems to have used an earlier version of gMark without the insert (or Mark improved on a text that looked like what we find in gLuke), whereas the last contact point between gMark and gMatthew seems to have been much later in gMark's editing process (which has no implications about the time the editing of gMatthew or gLuke actually happened). This, of course, means several editing steps, as you also mention.

Edit: It seems the two of us had discussed the different possibilities for the Bethsaida section already before, so no need to dwell on this again.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:21 pm
While I would agree with many on this forum that the notion of gospel texts or traditions predating our extant gospels has been thoroughly abused in some quarters, to treat the opposite notion as standard or as some kind of default is a logical error.
They are extensive edits, as they extend gMark considerably (or gMark shortens them, if you prefer), but still edits of the same text.
Agreed. It is similar to what Chronicles did to Samuel and Kings.
Yes. I'm somewhat stumped by how many people simply miss the implications of the rather obvious consequences the synoptic model has. All talk about changes to single words just pales in comparison to what happened there.
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 7:21 pm
Note that the early church fathers usually don't source their quotes, which leads to the often heard interpretation in your sense, i.e., that "church fathers just quoted from memory". However, that's just one possible interpretation. I think Ben made a few statistics regarding certain church father texts, how often they quoted almost verbatim, how often it was at least halfway discernible what text the quote may relate to, and how often they quoted stuff that is in none of our existing texts.
I do not recall posting such a thing on this forum. Interestingly, however, I have a longstanding text file on my hard drive which attempts this very thing, taking gospel quotes, allusions, and summaries from the Apostolic Fathers and comparing them to their closest gospel antecedents. (Have you been peeking at my hard drive, Ulan?? I guess it is possible that I posted something similar, or some scaled back version of those notes, but I simply do not remember.)
:D I think you mentioned some numbers in a discussion we both had, and which I'm not able to find. It started when I mentioned that Justin often gives quotes from the "memories of the apostles" that don't match any of our Bible texts and suggest that he had different texts in mind. You answered that you had done such comparisons, although not for Justin's texts, and volunteered some numbers for two(?) other church fathers. I guess you hoped to get some numbers from my side, but alas, my record-keeping is not the best, which brought that line of thought to an end :oops: . Oh well, it's all a bit hazy.

Edit 2: Going back to some of these old threads makes me feel like I'm caught in Groundhog Day.

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Secret Alias
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jan 29, 2020 7:02 am

Not that anyone wants to hear what I say, but I am intimately familiar with Against Marcion. Even with all of Irenaeus/Tertullian's efforts to construct a Luke-based antithesis against Marcion it is very evident that the Marcionite gospel opening does not conform to Luke. Baarda notices the parallels with the Diatessaron. But the dishonest dogmatism of the Church Fathers literally leads to a "what's shared in common with Luke" argumentation. What's any of this worth? Nothing. But scholars would prefer a sure nothing than a "maybe something." But it goes beyond that.

The WHOLE effort of the early Church was 'dogmatic' - to the point that it impugns any witness from the Church Fathers. You look at the sacramentum - an 'oath' sworn to uphold certain principles. There is no parallel example of this among the heresies (except perhaps the nonsense about 'powers' in heaven, that is to their existence or the utterances the initiates were trained to announce for their ascent). But think about the idea of repeating over and over certain 'beliefs' about Jesus. That Irenaeus says this has precedence and preference to any understanding of the gospel as a text. And then you examine the 'Luke-based' argumentation of Against Marcion. It's a sham. The Marcionite gospel was Luke because Irenaeus says it was. That's it. No one saw it to prove it. No one confirmed it with any reasonable degree of accuracy or authenticity. Irenaeus liked the number four. Irenaeus liked the four living creatures of Ezekiel and the way it matched the four of John's apocalypse. It was good for his overall argument about the continuation of the Old in the New.

The methodology used to 'know' that the gospel of Marcion was Luke was the same 'methodology' used to ascertain all Catholic principles. It is the same reason I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth. The same reason I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord,who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. The same reason we know He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried; he descended to hell etc etc. If you think arguing or listening to Christians today, imagine what it must have been like in the Christian environment cultivated by Irenaeus. Where it is openly acknowledged the believers are idiots, illiterate etc. This idea that the Church Fathers were something like 'university professors,' men who prized objectivity and their conclusions developed from sound rational principles is so laughable it leads me to tears.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Secret Alias
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Secret Alias » Wed Jan 29, 2020 7:25 am

And KK is typically German in this respect (I admit that my knowledge of Germans dates back to my parents1 having little in the way of meaningful contact with modern Germans but the idea is still compatible with certain cultural characteristics being embedded in a people, in their worldview). Grand principles don't matter. It doesn't matter whether or not the Church Fathers are bad witnesses. Only UTILITY has any value because work is good, being productive is worthwhile. The four gospels are all we know FOR CERTAIN. And certainty is everything. With certainty you can develop a system. And systems are good because they are like principles. They can predict results and predicting results has great utility. But what if the predictive results were only reflective of the editorial technique of the final editor of the canon. That he wanted certain 'principles' to shine through from his collection. The heretics (Marcionites) understood the gospel to have been the artistic vision of a man who spoke for God. Jesus descended from heaven and was recognized by a demon and passed through a crowd and flew away. What more is there to say about Jesus? It is evident he wasn't historical. It was evident he was supernatural. Only an idiot couldn't see that. But if you set up four texts that overtly deny what was explicit in the fucking Marcionite gospel (and the Diatessaron according to Baarda) the fact that the four texts 'agree' is only indicative of the editor's (or author's) literary purpose. It doesn't say anything about 'original Christianity' or 'the gospels' as such - only the gospels which were permitted to be distributed in the authorized assemblies of the Empire. This isn't a conspiracy theory. In our own times George Bush spoke about 'good Islam' and hunted down 'sects 'which promoted an exegesis of the Quran which the American Empire didn't agree with. What the fuck did George Bush know about Islam? How did he become an authority on the right exegesis of a book written the wrong way in a language he couldn't read? Power gives authority gives the proper exegesis. Imams who supported the 'bad exegesis' of the Quran were hunted down, imprisoned by client states or sometimes allowed to continue secretly. The main difference is that Irenaeus and Roman Empire were 'correcting' Christianity very close to the beginning of the religion. There seems to have been a similar effort in Islam. What are the 'Jewish writings' (i.e. everything after the Pentateuch and Joshua2) other than a late attempt by Jews to get around Shechem being the center of the Israelite religion. They too were accused of textual falsification etc. It's hard to believe that KK denies something WHICH IS ALWAYS TRUE in every religion. I guess she doesn't care. Utility is too valuable to set her mind at ease that studying this nonsense is worth something. Here's a hint: it IS a waste of time. The great 'productive' worth of studying the early Church is to gain insight into how easy it is to subvert the truth when you have the state on your side. The only value any of this has is to see how much of a lie 'Truth' is, how it is only established by the sword, how the good die and the bad end up controlling religion for political purposes.

1. and yes the fact that my mother's family were German Jews does not make them less German. German was spoken in my home even though we were thousands of miles from Germany. My great grandmother left Dachau and went back to live in Munchen as an EXTREMELY proud German to the day she died.
2 the Jewish text of Joshua has been manipulated to support a Jerusalem-first religious outlook when compared to the surviving Samaritan edition.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

Ulan
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ulan » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:18 am

Meh, let's not get into this kind of thinking. I'm also German, and even worse, I'm a scientist (natural sciences). Which means that dismissing anything I don't have any hard evidence for comes very natural to me. We are dealing with the question of what to do with the evidence in a situation where we don't have any chance to find the solution. Kunigunde is happy with the little findings in the extant texts, little findings that lead to little conclusions, but findings that don't veer too much from what is considered the consensus view. Still, seeing Mark as a sophisticated writer is already akin to leaving that consensus for the most part. However, in the end, it's just literary criticism, something we are free to do with every text we look at. Historical implications are secondary.

Speculations about the origins of Christianity are a completely different ballpark. That's what our argument is about here, because I insist on that I'm still doing just literary criticism. I'm aware of the point that I cannot make any definite historical conclusions without any additional manuscript evidence showing up. It's okay, I know that. That doesn't make the evidence in the texts go away though. It's there, and I offer possible explanations. They are speculations, and as long as I don't sell my results as fact, I'm fine with that. Is that a waste of time? I guess everyone has their own idea of what kind of thinking they find stimulating during their leisure time, and for me, it isn't a waste of my time, because I think it's kind of fun. Not finding the puzzle solution in the next weekly magazine may be a bit disappointing, but that's how it is. We won't get that for what Mark really meant with some of his verses, either.

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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Kunigunde Kreuzerin » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:36 am

Ulan wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 1:34 pm
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Tue Jan 28, 2020 9:59 am
Ulan wrote:
Sun Jan 26, 2020 4:13 pm
The synoptic gospels alone are proof for constant meddling with the text, including redactional changes to make them fit the view of the author(s) and editor(s).
I agree, but this „meddling“ happened in different texts (Stephan’s three birds) and not in different editions of one text.
I fail to see the distinction. Particularly Matthew contains 94% of gMark, often almost verbatim. That's one of the reasons why gMark was often considered to be a superfluous addition to the Bible. Luke still contains 79% of gMark. Or, in other words, these are indeed just edits of the same text. They are extensive edits, as they extend gMark considerably (or gMark shortens them, if you prefer), but still edits of the same text.

Just think about it: Antique authors didn't shy away from such extensive edits that you consider these to be different texts, although they clearly used the same text base.
Mmh, maybe it's just a question of our pov's. My impression from GMatthew is – under the assumption of Marcan priority - that even „Matthew“ (author) did not want to write a new version, which replaces the old GMark, but an separate gospel, which in his opinion was more appropriate as a Christian gospel. In the case of „Luke“ and „John“, that seems to me pretty clear. I don't think Matthew had any hope that his Jesus-story could completely oust GMark, just that his own gospel might be preferred by others. There was also no replacement, but the NT shows that the canonical gospels were perceived as four different texts.

I am also rather unsure whether the decisive criterion to decide the question is the „meddling with the text“. For many individual pericopes, I would agree that they are only versions. But the Gospels as a whole seem too independent to me.

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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ben C. Smith » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:40 am

Ulan wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:18 am
I'm aware of the point that I cannot make any definite historical conclusions without any additional manuscript evidence showing up. It's okay, I know that. That doesn't make the evidence in the texts go away though. It's there, and I offer possible explanations. They are speculations, and as long as I don't sell my results as fact, I'm fine with that.
As am I.
Is that a waste of time? I guess everyone has their own idea of what kind of thinking they find stimulating during their leisure time, and for me, it isn't a waste of my time, because I think it's kind of fun.
Same here. It is a hobby for me: a hobby originating with my evangelical background and upbringing, to be sure, but I have long since abandoned any and all attachments to that aspect of my past.

But I find that puzzling through early Christian history also helps to keep me sharp. That is not why I do it, but it is a side effect. I do the same with math puzzles that I find online; I try them out just for fun, but they also help to keep my math skills honed (more than they might be, at any rate).
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Re: Evolution and the Gospels

Post by Ulan » Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:57 am

Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:36 am
Mmh, maybe it's just a question of our pov's. My impression from GMatthew is – under the assumption of Marcan priority - that even „Matthew“ (author) did not want to write a new version, which replaces the old GMark, but an separate gospel, which in his opinion was more appropriate as a Christian gospel. In the case of „Luke“ and „John“, that seems to me pretty clear. I don't think Matthew had any hope that his Jesus-story could completely oust GMark, just that his own gospel might be preferred by others.
Oh come on, it actually did oust gMark. I'm not even sure where Irenaeus pulled that one from.
94% is nearly the complete gMark. It gets even clearer when you look at what gMatthew left out, like the one parable in Mark that nobody seems to know of what it is supposed to mean, including Matthew it looks like.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:36 am
There was also no replacement, but the NT shows that the canonical gospels were perceived as four different texts.
We have four gospels, because it was a magic number for Irenaeus. That was the sole reason why gMark was saved. As Irenaeus said, because Earth has four corners.

Edit: Irenaeus actually also mentions the more reasonable explanation: he associates each gospel with specific heresies, and the goal was to drown out each of them with the three others.
Kunigunde Kreuzerin wrote:
Wed Jan 29, 2020 8:36 am
I am also rather unsure whether the decisive criterion to decide the question is the „meddling with the text“. For many individual pericopes, I would agree that they are only versions. But the Gospels as a whole seem too independent to me.
A gospel that incorporates pretty much a whole other gospel is not independent of the one it wholly incorporates. I agree with Ben here that this is a logical error.

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