Flash Fiction: Lost and Found

Keys
Image by Uwe Baumann from Pixabay

Rain pelted the windshield of Marcie’s fifteen-year-old sports car as she turned into the driveway of the subterranean parking lot. Some of the rain was virtually snow, translucent splatter sticking to the glass before a wiper blade cast it aside with other unwanted water. As she descended the steep ramp into darkness, Marcie’s thoughts drifted back to her annual review meeting that morning. As usual, her numbers weren’t great, and her supervisor had hounded her about setting a new round of goals she really didn’t care to meet. She’d spent the afternoon updating her resume.

Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Since the Divorce

Bookshelf
Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

Janet passed the third bookcase and turned down the self-help aisle. “Brad?”

“Janet!” said Brad, slipping the book he’d been browsing behind his back. “What a surprise.”

“It’s been a long time,” said Janet. “I hardly recognized you with the beard. And something’s different with your hair?”

“Yeah, wearing it a bit longer,” said Brad, sheepish about his thinning pate. “And you look great. Coming from the gym?”

“Zumba,” she said.

“Nice,” he said, and then after a brief pause, “So, how’s Mr. Right?”

Janet raised her eyebrows slightly. “He’s fine. Enjoys his job. He just got promoted, VP of something. He’s off in Davos right now.”

“Oh, yeah, all the money people. I’ve been hearing about that on the news. That’s a pretty big deal.”

“Yeah, I guess so,” she said.

He noticed her lack of enthusiasm. “Economics not your thing?”

Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Envy

Umbrella Drink
Image credit: artisano on Pixabay

Walter returned from the bathroom and struggled to remount his barstool. He gripped the bar with both hands, threw one pudgy leg onto the padded seat, and wriggled and scooted his way up like a seal on the beach. When he had finally resumed his seat, a bead of sweat trickled down his temple, out from under greasy, badly-cut hair. In need of refreshment, he sucked at the straw in his fruity mixed-drink, temporarily lodging the peak of the paper umbrella in his left nostril.

Eugene smirked from the next stool over. “Wasn’t sure you were going to make it,” he said.

“Shut up,” said Walter. “Don’t you hate these work functions?”

“I don’t know,” said Eugene, “they’re all right. Free drinks.”

“If the boss didn’t treat them like loyalty litmus tests, I’d totally skip,” said Walter. His eyes drifted to the dance floor as he drew again on his straw. “Look at Mitch,” he said.

“What about him?” said Eugene, turning his attention to the man Walter had fixed on.

Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Black Lung Son

Image credit: tunaolger on Pixabay

Momma threw the first handful on the coffin, and then we all done the same. Black dirt. Just like the coal. There we were, throwin’ dirt in our Sunday best, just come from church. After that, the boys from down the hill started in with the shovels, and by God, Pop was all covered up in no more than fifteen minutes. Smellin’ that dirt set me coughin’ and hackin’. Up come some slime and I spit it out, black too, drippin’ and slimin’ down the grass blades, all thick and slow.

I remember the day I come home and told Pop school wasn’t for me. Too much readin’ and writin’, too much talkin’ and thinkin’. I wasn’t fifteen, but I’d had enough of it to know. What I wanted, I told him, was to work in the mine, to pull out the coal, to do a man’s job. Sittin’ in a chair all day, staring at some woman scribblin’ on a chalkboard, everyone talk, talk, talkin’. No sir, wasn’t for me. I got the fever for that coal, I says to him, standin’ over him, tall and proud, him sittin’ there on the porch, in his rockin’ chair, black dust from the day still in the cracks of his face, under his eyes, between his mouth and his cheeks. Wanna be like my Pop, I told him.

Continue reading

Mind the Gap: The Gospels and Oral Transmission

Image credit: Pixabay

In recent posts (e.g., here and here), I’ve been writing about the authorship of the Gospels, and the degree to which Gospel content may be traced back to eyewitnesses of Jesus.

The point of the work has been to counter Bart Ehrman’s view (in How Jesus Became God, pp. 90-91) that the authors of the Gospels were not eyewitnesses or close disciples of eyewitnesses (as traditionally claimed) but rather were Christians of a later generation, whose writings are thereby less historically reliable. I have resisted Ehrman’s view and claimed that, in fact, there is decent (though perhaps not conclusive) evidence for the traditional view.

Mind the Gap

However, even if I’m right, there is still a problem for the historicity of the Gospels, namely the gap between the time of Jesus’s ministry and the writing of the Gospels.

For example, if we assume that Jesus died around 30 CE, then the time between his ministry (late 20s CE) and the composition of Mark (late 60s or early 70s CE), is at least 40 years. Given the apparent reliance of Matthew and Luke upon Mark (discussed in this post), those two Gospels would entail an even longer gap—maybe 50 years. The Gospel according to John is thought to have been written in the 90s CE, suggesting a still longer gap for that Gospel.

Scholars generally agree that during this in-between period the stories and teachings in the Gospels would have been passed on orally. Ehrman claims that such oral transmission would be unreliable, leading to distortions that further call into question the historicity of the Gospels. Continue reading

Advent and the Gospel

Advent Candle

Lately, I’ve been thinking about what, exactly, the message of the gospel is. Of course, the term ‘gospel’ means “good news.” The puzzle for me is that, at least the way it is often presented by Christians, the gospel is not obviously good news.

This typical version of the gospel focuses on Good Friday: Jesus died on the cross, taking upon himself God’s judgment and punishment for human sin, so that we sinful humans could be spared and forgiven by God. According to this “Good Friday gospel,” the good news is that we humans have been given a second chance, that God has forgiven us.

Good News, Bad News

But, while it is clearly good news to escape the judgment of God and be forgiven our sins, to accept this as good news we must first swallow a huge piece of bad news—namely that our sins are such that we deserve death (after all, Jesus died for us) and that we require God’s forgiveness. So, at best, this Good Friday gospel is “mixed news.” Continue reading

Author of Matthew: Eyewitness to Jesus or Gentile Pretender?

Jews in Jerusalem

Photo by Blake Campbell on Unsplash

In this post I conclude my case for the traditional view that the author of the Gospel according to Matthew (“Matthew,” or the “first Gospel”) was one of the original Jewish disciples of Jesus, namely “Levi” or “Matthew,” the tax collector, mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and 10:3Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, and Acts 1:13.

The aim of my case is to respond to Bart Ehrman’s claim in How Jesus Became God that the Gospels were composed by Christians “of a later generation” who wrote after (or almost after) Jesus’s original disciples had died, thereby casting doubt on the link between the Gospel accounts and the historical Jesus.

In my last post, I laid out internal and external evidence for the traditional view of the authorship of Matthew. In this post, I will respond to some popular objections to that view.

Would Matthew Rely on Mark?

As I recently described in this post, the most widely held view of how the three synoptic Gospels were composed—the Four-Source theory—claims that the author of Matthew used Mark as his most significant source in composing the first Gospel. To some scholars, this fact suggests an objection to the traditional view that Matthew was composed by one of Jesus’s original Jewish disciples.

According to this objection, if the author of the first Gospel were really Jesus’s original disciple, Matthew, it seems he would not have chosen to rely on the Gospel of Mark since, according to the traditional view, the author of Mark was not an eyewitness to Jesus’s ministry while the disciple Matthew was. Wouldn’t Matthew prefer his own eyewitness account to the account of a non-eyewitness? Continue reading

Who Wrote the Gospel according to Matthew?

Levis jeans red tab

Photo credit: Grailed

Last time, I looked at the going theory of how the three Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) were composed. I did this to lay some groundwork for my continuing multi-post response to some of the skeptical claims Bart Erhman makes in How Jesus Became God. Specifically, in this series I aim to answer his skepticism about traditional views of the authorship of the four Gospels of the New Testament.

Ehrman thinks the Gospels were composed by Christians “of a later generation” who wrote after (or almost after) Jesus’s original disciples had died, thereby casting doubt on the connection between the Gospel accounts and the historical Jesus.

In contrast, I think there are good reasons to believe traditional accounts according to which the Gospels were composed by original disciples of Jesus or those close to them. I’ve already argued this point for Mark. Today, I’ll begin to argue it for Matthew. (It will take me two posts to complete the argument.)

As for my examination of Mark’s authorship, I won’t try to definitively settle the question of who wrote Matthew; given the nature of the evidence, I’m not sure that’s even possible. Rather, I’ll just try to show the plausibility of the traditional view.

Internal Evidence

The Gospel according to Matthew was written anonymously—the author nowhere references himself or herself in the document. However, the style and content of the Gospel give us some clues about the author. Continue reading

How to Write a Gospel: Borrow + Edit = Scripture

Woman Four Fingers

Photo by Tom Plouff on Unsplash

Do the four Gospels of the New Testament accurately represent the historical ministry of Jesus? The case that they do would seem more plausible if the Gospels were authored by eyewitnesses of Jesus’s ministry, or at least by those closely connected to them.

The traditional view is that, in fact, the Gospels’ were authored by such people. As I suggested in my last post, it seems plausible to attribute the Gospel according to Mark (“Mark”) to a close associate of the Apostle Peter. Similarly, traditionalists hold that the Gospel according to Matthew (“Matthew”, or the “first Gospel”) was composed by one of Jesus’s original disciples, Matthew the tax collector, mentioned in Matthew 9:9 and 10:3Mark 3:18, Luke 6:15, and Acts 1:13.

In chapter 3 of How Jesus Became God, Bart Ehrman rejects this traditional view. He claims that the authors of the Gospels were Christians “of a later generation” who wrote after (or almost after) Jesus’s original disciples had died, thereby casting doubt on the connection between the Gospel accounts and the historical Jesus.

In this post, I continue a series in which I respond to Ehrman’s skeptical claims. (If you’d like to read from the beginning, the series starts here.) In my next post, I plan to defend the traditional view of the authorship of Matthew.

However, first I need to lay a little groundwork by explaining the dominant view of the literary relationships between the canonical Gospels, which I will do in this post. The Gospels are very similar in many ways, and yet they are so different…How should we explain those facts? Continue reading