So it’s time to bring in the heavy hitters on this series – the scholars who have done a whole lot more studying on this than I have. Part of the reason why that’s necessary is because last time, when I went through all the attributes of Jesus’ life referenced by Paul, I missed arguably the three biggest. Whoops!
But when fulfillment of the time came, God sent his son, born through a woman, and born under the Law. This was so he could redeem those under the Law so that we could be adopted. Galatians 4:4-5
As John Shelby Spong points out in his book, Born of a Woman, Paul also speaks matter-of-factly about Jesus’ brother, James, in Gal. 1:19. Finally, in Romans 1, Paul speaks of God’s son, “descended from David.”
All three of those references describe a very human Jesus. And, so far as the Christian canon is concerned, they – together with what I described last week – were the entirety of the known life of Christ until the Gospel of Mark was written about 15-20 years later.
For a long time, Matthew was considered the first Gospel written, but the grammar of Mark doesn’t really allow for any option other than its being written first. The reason is the style and grammar of Mark is so bad, it doesn’t make any sense for Mark to have copied so extensively from Matthew only to dumb down the language. Rather, it’s hard to see a method of transmission any different from the one now commonly accepted: “Mark” wrote the first story of Jesus, and “Matthew” and “Luke” (the gospels are actually written anonymously) copied extensively from him while adding their own material – either from each other or a third source (scholars call it “Q”). “John” wrote last, although since his work has almost nothing in common with the others, it’s harder to date. Scholars see it being written closer to the end of the first century, though.
So the order is Mark-Matthew-Luke-John.
Only two of those stories of Jesus have birth narratives, however, and Mark – written first – does not.
Here’s how Mark begins the Christ story: The beginning of the good news about Jesus Christ, God’s Son …” (1:1). The next seven verses are about John the Baptist, and Jesus first appears in 1:9: “About that time, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River.”
But of course Mark has some other clues about Jesus’ origins. Continue reading