Gospels, canonical and otherwise confrim historical Jesus Page 2

The Religious A priori

Historical Jesus

VI.Lost Gospels

Page 2

3) The unknown Gospel of Papyrus Egerton 2

The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniels in his Clairmont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources. (John B. Daniels, The Egerton Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont: CA 1990). Daniels states "Egerton's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract). The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice versa. which, "permits the conjecture that the author knew all and everyone of the canonical Gospels." (Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings, "An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha 1.96). The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Egerton 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Egerton 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"? Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)

2) Gospel of Peter

Fragments of the Gospel of Peter were found in 1886 /87 in Akhimim, upper Egypt. These framents were from the 8th or 9th century. No other fragment was found for a long time until one turned up at Oxyrahynchus, which were written in 200 AD. Bishop Serapion of Antioch made the statement prior to 200 that a Gospel had been put forward in the name of Peter. This statement is preserved by Eusebius who places Serapion around 180. But the Akhimim fragment contains three periciopes. The Resurrection, to which the guards at the tomb are witnesses, the empty tomb, or which the women are witnesses, and an epiphany of Jesus appearing to Peter and the 12, which end the book abruptly.

Many features of the Gospel of Peter are clearly from secondary sources, that is reworked versions of the canonical story. These mainly consist of 1) exaggerated miracles; 2) anti-Jewish polemic.The cross follows Jesus out of the tomb, a voice from heaven says "did you preach the gospel to all?" The cross says "Yea." And Pilate is totally exonerated, the Jews are blamed for the crucifixion. (Koester, p.218). However, "there are other traces in the Gospel of Peter which demonstrate an old and independent tradition." The way the suffering of Jesus is described by the use of passages from the old Testament without quotation formulae is, in terms of the tradition, older than the explicit scriptural proof; it represents the oldest form of the passion of Jesus. (Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte, 646] Jurgen Denker argues that the Gospel of Peter shares this tradition of OT quotation with the Canonicals but is not dependent upon them. (In Koester p.218) Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century!

Corosson's Cross Gospel is this material in the Gospel of Peter through which, with the canonicals and other non-canonical Gospels Crosson constructs a whole text. According to the theory, the earliest of all written passion narratives is given in this material, is used by Mark, Luke, Matthew, and by John, and also Peter. Peter becomes a very important 5th witness. Koester may not be as famous as Crosson but he is just as expert and just as liberal. He takes issue with Crosson on three counts:

1) no extant text,its all coming form a late copy of Peter,

2) it assumes the literary composition of latter Gospels can be understood to relate to the compositions of earlier ones;

3) Koester believes that the account ends with the empty tomb and has independent sources for the epihanal material.


"A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Koester, p. 220)

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based."(Ibid)

So Koester differs from Crosson mainly in that he divides the epiphanies up into different sources. Another major distinction between the two is that Crosson finds the story of Jesus burial to be an interpolation from Mark to John. Koester argues that there is no evidence to understand this story as dependent upon Mark. (Ibid). Unfortunately we don't' have space to go through all of the fascinating analysis which leads Koester to his conclusions. Essentially he is comparing the placement of the pericopes and the dependence of one source upon another. What he finds is mutual use made by the canonicals and Peter of a an older source that all of the barrow from, but Peter does not come by that material through the canonicals, it is independent of them.

"The Gospel of Peter, as a whole, is not dependent upon any of the canonical gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospel of Mark and John. All three writings, independently of each other, use older passion narrative which is based upon an exegetical tradition that was still alive when these gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access. All five gospels under consideration, Mark, John, and Peter, as well as Matthew and Luke, concluded their gospels with narratives of the appearances of Jesus on the basis of different epiphany stories that were told in different contexts. However, fragments of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised form the tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." (Ibid, p. 240).

What all of this means is, that there were independent traditions of the same stories, the same documents, used by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which were still alive and circulating even when these canonical gospels were written. They represent much older sources and the basic work which all of these others use, goes back to the middle of the first century. It definitely posited Jesus as a flesh and blood man, living in historical context with other humans, and dying on the cross in historical context with other humans, and raising from the dead in historical context, not in some ethereal realm or in outer space. He was not the airy fairy Gnostic redeemer of Doherty, but the living flesh and blood "Son of Man."

Moreover, since the breakdown of Ur gospel and epiphany sources (independent of each other) demands the logical necessity of still other sources, and since the other material described above amounts to the same thing, we can push the envelope even further and say that at the very latest there were independent gospel source circulating in the 40s, well within the life span of eye witnesses, which were based upon the assumption that Jesus was a flesh and blood man, that he had an historical existence. Note: all these "other Gospels" are not merely oriented around the same stories, events, or ideas, but basically they are oriented around the same sentences. There is very little actual new material in any of them, and no new stories. They all essentially assume the same sayings. There is some new material in Thomas, and others, but essentially they are all about the same things. Even the Gospel of Mary which creates a new setting, Mary discussing with the Apostles after Jesus has returned to heaven, but the words are basically patterned after the canonicals. It is as though there is an original repository of the words and events and all other versions follow that repository. This repository is most logically explained as the original events! Jesus actual teachings!

The Religious A priori