Did the Church Make Up the Words of Jesus?

What do we do with those red letters in the Bible?  Did Jesus really say those words?  Or did the church just make up sayings related to the issue of the day and place them in the mouth of Jesus?  New Testament scholar Birger Gerhardsson puts this question into perspective by looking at the example of Paul.

“Finally, we observe how Paul proceeds when he does not have a specific word from Jesus to support him.  He then states without circumlocution that in such cases he cannot refer to any command of the Lord, but is simply providing his own opinion.  Theses passages are embarrassing evidence against the common opinion that in the early church no distinction was made between what was said ‘by the Lord [himself]‘ and what was said by some one else ‘in the Lord’; that words were freely constructed, or that sayings of some early Christian prophet were freely placed in the mouth of Jesus.  In 1 Corinthians 7 we see how such a man as Paul, at least on one occasion very clearly upheld the distinction between that which was said ‘by the Lord’ and that which was said ‘in the Lord.’” (Reliability of the Gospel Tradition, p. 20)

FNL

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8 thoughts on “Did the Church Make Up the Words of Jesus?

  1. Hi Stephen I have always been intrigued with the ACTUAL words of Jesus. For instance,he has a long conversation with the Devil in the desert, , but there is no mention of the Recording Crew ! ” Again in The Garden, all the Disiples SLEPT, yet he is recorded as saying this and that, , , , e.g. ‘Father if it be possible, let fhis cup be taken from me’ , , , and so on., , , Were the Recoding Crew hiding in the bushes ??!!!

    It makes you think, , , I don’t know the answer!!!

    Love and Blessings

    HOWARD

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  2. Mr Bedard says: “I am assuming that Jesus shared those experiences with the disciples…”

    That’s the only way the apologist can explain this isn’t it? But clearly, if that is the case, the gospels can’t be “eye-witness testimony,” but rather “hearsay.” If they weren’t there to physically witness the events but were given information after-the-fact, that’s hearsay and gossip, not eye-witness testimony. But again, that’s if (IF) we believe that a guy named Jesus lived, was executed and then rose again. Bit of a stretch really.

    God bless

  3. Minson,

    How about revelation? If you are going to attack Christianity, it would be a good idea for you to take it on its own terms. On Christianity, then, were the Gospel writers inspired or not? Personal incredulity does not cut it around here, so you had better shape up.

    “If Jesus existed”? Really? You are a Jesus mythologist? Are you in a vortex of complete and utter scepticism, then, with regards to all ancient figures?

  4. Regarding this:

    “Finally, we observe how Paul proceeds when he does not have a specific word from Jesus to support him. He then states without circumlocution that in such cases he cannot refer to any command of the Lord, but is simply providing his own opinion. Theses passages are embarrassing evidence against the common opinion that in the early church no distinction was made between what was said ‘by the Lord [himself]‘ and what was said by some one else ‘in the Lord’…”

    Paul makes almost no reference to the words of Jesus at all. 1 Cor 7:10 is an allusion to Malachi 2:14-16, not a quote from Jesus.

    1 Corinthians 11:23-26 does quote Jesus. It is apparently a vision Paul had, since he wasn’t present at the last supper, and states he received the information from “the Lord,” not an apostle.

    No one is “embarrassed” by such evidence. A couple of extremely scant passages in 1 Corinthians are hardly enough support for the conclusion that Birger Gerhardsson is arguing. 1 Cor 11:23-26 could in fact be used to support the idea that the church did indeed make up the words of Jesus.

  5. Blood,

    So Paul *does* quote Jesus, but that is not good enough for you. Why not? How many times would Paul need to quote Jesus for you to accept it? And what bearing does Paul’s quoting (or lack thereof) of Jesus’ words have to do with historicity here? What was Paul’s main purpose?

    3For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.
    1 Corinthians 15:3-4,17-18

    Don’t do a “Dawkins” on us, please!

    “1 Cor 11:23-26 could in fact be used to support the idea that the church did indeed make up the words of Jesus.”

    Given my words above, how do you come to this conclusion? It can equally be said that, if this be the case, why not insert more quotes of Jesus’ “words”? And what about the flow of the chapter? How do you account for this? Or was the whole thing just made up? If so, let’s see the methodology applied…

  6. My point is that Birger Gerhardsson is making a distinction that can easily be argued against. It certainly appears to me that Jesus’s words in 1 Cor 11:23-26 are to be understood as revelation, or to put another way, “made up,” not based on any historical recollection of Paul’s at the Last Supper.

  7. Prove the claim that revelation in the Bible is akin to “made up”… leave aside your inherent assumptions and personal incredulity, because, believe it or not, these do not in any remote way amount to evidence. You do understand the concept of evidence and what it entails, don’t you? Show either (a) an interpolation to Paul’s text, or (b) Paul was not competent as a witness. If you do not have the wherewithal to add something resembling evidence then please refrain from further embarrassment.

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