bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – Part 17: Events Unique to Matthew

OBJECTION #6: THE GUARDS AT THE TOMB 
In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft has raised nine objections against The Swoon Theory, as part of his case attempting to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.  In previous posts I have argued that his Objection #1, Objection #2, Objection #3, Objection #4, Objection #5, and Objection #8 all FAIL as objections against The Swoon Theory, and also FAIL as objections against the more general view that I call The Survival Theory.  
We are currently in the process of analyzing and evaluating Kreeft’s Objection #6, to determine whether this objection is sufficient to refute The Swoon Theory and The Survival Theory.  Objection #6 focuses on the presence of guards at the tomb of Jesus:

How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse?  Or by unarmed disciples?  And if the disciples did it, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, and we are into the conspiracy theory, which we will refute shortly.  (HCA, p.183)

This objection rests on an historical assumption:

RG: Roman guards were posted outside of the tomb of Jesus to prevent the tomb from being opened and to prevent Jesus’ body from leaving the tomb or from being removed from the tomb.

If this claim was FALSE or DUBIOUS, then Objection #6  would FAIL to disprove or refute the Swoon Theory, and FAIL to disprove or refute the Survival Theory.   Because Kreeft, as usual, makes no effort whatsoever to prove the key historical claim (RG), Kreeft, as usual, FAILS to disprove the Swoon Theory and FAILS to disprove the Survival Theory.
However, another Christian apologist named William Craig, has (unlike Kreeft) made a serious attempt to present evidence and arguments in support of (RG).  But Craig does NOT claim that (RG) is clearly true, nor that the evidence makes (RG) very probable.  Craig only claims that there is significant evidence both for and against the truth of (RG):

So although there are reasons to doubt the existence of the guard at the tomb, there are also weighty considerations in its favor. It seems best to leave it an open question.

Craig’s defense of (RG) leaves us with the truth of (RG) being UNCERTAIN, at best as being only somewhat probable.  That is NOT a sufficient basis for “refuting” the Swoon Theory and the Survival Theory.
Furthermore, Craig’s case for (RG) is flawed because he does not give serious consideration to three crucial questions:

Q1. How well does Matthew’s account of the guards at the tomb fit with related stories in the other Gospels?

Q2. To what degree, if any, does the Gospel of Matthew provide an historically reliable account of the life of Jesus?

Q3. To what degree, if any, are the accounts of the events that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew historically reliable

Because Craig does not give serious consideration to these three very important questions, his case for (RG) is weak and flawed.
In Part 16 of this series, I argued that, concerning Question 1,  Matthew’s account of the guards at the tomb does NOT fit well with the other Gospels, and that there is good reason to suspect that the presence of the guards at Jesus’ tomb was a fictional detail that the author of Matthew added to the account of the women visiting the tomb found in the earlier Gospel of Mark.
I also argued that, concerning Question 2, based on the scholarly evaluations of the Jesus Seminar about 100 alleged events in the Gospel of Matthew, we have good reason to believe this gospel is historically UNRELIABLE.  Because we have good reason to suspect that the presence of the guards at Jesus’ tomb was a fictional detail added by the author of Matthew, having a good reason to believe that the Gospel of Matthew is in general historically UNRELIABLE leads to the conclusion that the historical assumption (RG) is probably FALSE, and thus to the conclusion that Kreeft’s Objection #6 FAILS, just like all the other objections we have examined by Kreeft against the Swoon Theory and the Survival Theory.
 
MATTHEW IS VERY UNRELIABLE CONCERNING EVENTS UNIQUE TO THAT GOSPEL
The most damning evidence against (RG) comes from consideration of Question 3:

Q3. To what degree, if any, are the accounts of the events that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew historically reliable

Most NT scholars agree that the author of Matthew used three main sources:

  • The Gospel of Mark
  • The Sayings Gospel Q
  • M (traditions unique to a specific community of Christians to which the author of Matthew belonged)

Most of the events in the Gospel of Matthew are based on the Gospel of Mark.  So, if someone disagrees with the skepticism of the Jesus Seminar about the unreliability of the Gospel of Mark, and holds the view that Mark provides an historically RELIABLE account of the life of Jesus, then that view of Mark implies that many of the passages and events in Matthew are also historically RELIABLE, because much of Matthew is based on Mark.
However, the specific events in Matthew about the presence of Roman guards at the tomb of Jesus are clearly NOT based on Mark, because there is no mention of such guards in Mark.  These specific events also do NOT appear to be based on the Sayings Gospel Q.  That leaves us with two likely sources:  either M or the imagination of the author of Matthew.
This places the events in Matthew about the presence of Roman guards at the tomb of Jesus  into a special category of events in that Gospel:  events that are NOT based on Mark or Q, events that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew.  There is a handful of such events in the Gospel of Matthew, but most (or all) of these events are historically dubious.
Here are the events in the Gospel of Matthew that are NOT based on Mark or Q, color-coded in accordance with the evaluation of the Jesus Seminar:

  • Birth of Jesus – Matthew 1:18-25
  • Astrologers from the East – Matthew 2:1-12
  • Flight to Egypt – Matthew 2:13-15
  • Murder of the Babies –  Matthew 2:16-18
  • Migration to Nazareth – Matthew 2:19-23
  • Two Blind Men – Matthew 9:27-31
  • Man with Mute Demon – Matthew 9:32-34
  • Private Interpretation – Matthew 13:36-43
  • End of the Parables Discourse – Matthew 13:51-53
  • Temple Tax – Matthew 17:24-27
  • Castration for Heaven – Matthew 19:10-12
  • Two Sons – Matthew 21:28-32
  • The Death of Judas – Matthew 27:3-10
  • The Guard at the Tomb – Matthew 27: 62-66
  • Appearance to Mary of Magdala – Matthew 28:9-10*
  • The Bribing of the Guards – Matthew 28:11-15
  • Appearance to the Eleven in Galilee – Matthew 28:16-20

(The Acts of Jesus, p.558-564)

*The gospel of John also has a story about the “risen” Jesus appearing to Mary of Magdala (John 20:11-18).  But the gospel of John was composed after Matthew, so the gospel of John was NOT a source used by the author of Matthew.

All but one of these events is marked as BLACK by the Jesus Seminar.  The one exception is marked GRAYThere is not a single passage in this category that was marked PINK or RED.  So, of these 17 events/passages that are UNIQUE to Matthew, 100% of them were judged by the Jesus Seminar to be probably NOT historical, probably fictional.  The UNIQUE events in Matthew, the events that do not appear to be based on Mark or Q, are judged to be EXTREMELY UNRELIABLE by the Jesus Seminar, more unreliable than the rest of Matthew.
It is not just the judgment of the scholars of the Jesus Seminar that many of the events in this category are probably fictional; this is a widely-held view among NT scholars.  Most NT scholars doubt the historicity of the birth and childhood stories about Jesus found in Matthew; that is the first five events in the above list of seventeen events.  Most NT scholars doubt the historicity of the death of Judas story in Matthew, and the stories about the guards at the tomb in Matthew.  If we set aside the two events/passages about guards at the tomb, that means that NT scholars in general have serious doubts about at least six out of the remaining fifteen events, or 40% of the fifteen events.
The first appearances of the “risen” Jesus probably did occur in Galilee, according to many NT scholars, so the accounts in Luke and John of the first appearances of the “risen” Jesus occurring in Jerusalem are probably fictional.  This gives the end of Matthew an historical advantage over the end of Luke and of John.  However, even if Matthew is correct in placing the first appearances of the “risen” Jesus in Galilee, this does not mean that the specific story in Matthew about Jesus appearing to his eleven remaining disciples is factual and historical.  
Do leading NT and Jesus scholars, in addition to the scholars of the Jesus Seminar, seriously doubt the historicity of the following two events/passages in Matthew?

  • Appearance to Mary of Magdala – Matthew 28:9-10*
  • Appearance to the Eleven in Galilee – Matthew 28:16-20

If leading scholars have serious doubts about the historicity of these two events, then we have good reason to believe that at least eight out of the fifteen events UNIQUE to Matthew (setting aside the two guards-at-the-tomb events) are probably NOT historical, which is 53% of those events, which means that OVER HALF of these events UNIQUE to Matthew are probably fictional.
 
EUGENE BORING DOUBTS THE HISTORICITY OF MATTHEW’S UNIQUE STORIES IN CHAPTER 28
In The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VIII, there is a scholarly commentary on the Gospel of Matthew by the NT scholar Eugene Boring.  In his “Overview” of Chapter 28 of Matthew, Boring indicates that the first of the four stories in this chapter is based soley on Mark (in terms of sources), and that the other three stories, including “Two Marys Encounter the Risen Jesus” (Matt. 28:8-10), “The Guards are Bribed” (Matt. 28:16-20), and “The Great Commission” (Matt. 28:16-20) are “Matthew’s own composition”.  This conclusion is based in part on the “Matthean style, vocabulary, and theology”  in those three stories.
Boring clearly doubts the historicity of “The Guards are Bribed” (Matt. 28:16-20) story:

The fact that the Roman soldiers would report to the chief priests is one of the indications that the story is not literal history, but part of Matthew’s theological understanding of the resurrection.  (p.501, emphasis added)

Boring clearly doubts the historicity of of “The Great Commission” (Matt. 28:16-20) story as well:

Acts 1-15 narrates the gradual process in which the community of Jesus’ disciples after Easter came to realize…that the risen Lord wills that the church be a universal, inclusive community of all nations.  This process is here concentrated into one scene, composed by Matthew on the basis of traditions alive in his church.  The scene represents Matthew’s theological interpretation of the mission of the church in obedience to the command of the risen Christ.  There are traditional elements reflecting the Christian prophetic activity in Matthew’s community, but the composition is Matthew’s.  If the scene were merely a report of a scene in which Jesus had literally commanded all the disciples to carry on a Gentile mission, it would be difficult to understand their struggles in Acts 1-15. (p.503, emphasis added)

Boring is less straightforward in expressing his doubts about the historicity of the “Two Marys Encounter the Risen Jesus” story (Matt. 28:8-10), but he does repeat his earlier point that “This scene was composed by Matthew (see Overview).”, which appears to imply that there is reason to doubt the historical reliability of this story (presumably because there is no eyewitness testimony or early written source that is the basis for the story).  Boring goes on to make comments that also suggest that this story was created by Matthew, rather than being based on eyewitness testimony or an earlier written source:

They [the two Mary’s] are already en route on their mission when they are joined by the risen Christ, a paradigm of Matthew’s understanding of the reassuring presence of the risen Christ in the missionary activity of the church… The scene is almost a doublet of the encounter with the angel: Jesus too tells them not to fear–a standard element of angelophanies and theophanies–and he repeats the angel’s commission to carry a message to the disciples. (p.500, emphasis added)

The story too neatly fits with Matthew’s theological points, and it is so easily generated on the basis of previous passages/stories in his Gospel.  So, it appears that Boring also doubts the historicity of the “Two Marys Encounter the Risen Jesus” story,  just like he doubts the historicity of the other two stories that Matthew adds onto what he found at the end of the Gospel of Mark.
So, Boring doubts the historicity of all three stories in Chapter 28 that Matthew adds onto the “Two Marys Discover the Empty Tomb” story (Matt. 28:1-7), which Matthew had learned from the Gospel of Mark.  Clearly, in relation to Chapter 28 of the Gospel of Matthew, Boring concludes that the stories added by Matthew are probably UNHISTORICAL creations of the author of that gospel.  Boring is NOT a member of the Jesus Seminar, but he agrees with the negative assessment by the Jesus Seminar of the historicity of the stories that are UNIQUE to Matthew, at least in relation to the UNIQUE stories found in the final chapter of Matthew.
 
SOME EVANGELICAL NT SCHOLARS DOUBT THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF THE GREAT COMMISSION PASSAGE
Evangelical Christians tend to believe that there are NO ERRORS in the Bible, and thus that every word attributed to Jesus in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John is historically correct and accurate.  But some Evangelical NT scholars doubt that the words attributed to Jesus in “The Great Commission” story (Mattew 28:16-20) are historically correct and accurate.  After quoting a number of comments by Evangelical NT scholars about “The Great Commission” story, Robert Thomas draws this conclusion:

From the above citations, it is evident that certain evangelical scholars have sided with radical historical critics in raising questions about whether Jesus ever gave the Great Commission. In trying to find a middle point between the orthodox position of the early church and recent radical opinions, they have compromised the basic historical accuracy of this Commission.

( “HISTORICAL CRITICISM AND THE GREAT COMMISSION“, TMSJ, Spring 2000, p.52, emphasis added)

Evangelical NT scholars quoted by Robert Thomas to support this point include: Robert Gundry, Donald Hagner, Francis Beare, Craig Blomberg, and D. A. Carson.  These Evangelical NT scholars are clearly NOT members of the Jesus Seminar.  Clearly, doubts about the historical reliability of “The Great Commission” passage in Chapter 28 of Matthew are NOT limited to the liberal scholars of the Jesus Seminar.
 
THEISSEN AND MERZ DOUBT THE HISTORICAL RELIABILITY OF MATTHEW 28:8-10
Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz are two NT scholars who doubt the historical reliability of the “Two Marys Encounter the Risen Jesus” story (Matt. 28:8-10).  They believe that there was an early tradition about the first appearance of Jesus occurring to just Mary Magdalene by herself, and that the author of Matthew modified this early story to make it fit better with another story about the discovery of the empty tomb:

The recollection of an appearance to Mary Magdalene is older than the Matthean redactional combination of the tomb story (several women) with the christophany (originally, to one woman, Mary Magdalene). 

(The Historical Jesus, p.498)

Theissen and Merz are NOT members of the Jesus Seminar, but they are prominent NT scholars who doubt the historical accuracy of Matthew’s story about “Two Marys” encountering the risen Jesus.  They think it is probably the case that the author of the Gospel of Matthew based this story on an earlier tradition that spoke of the risen Jesus appearing to just Mary Magdalene by herself.  They think that the author of Matthew changed the story to be about an appearance to two Marys, and that this change was NOT made on the basis of historical information or facts, and thus that this key detail of this brief story is probably FALSE and UNHISTORICAL.  Therefore, it is not just the scholars of the Jesus Seminar who have doubts about the historical reliability of this UNIQUE story in Chapter 28 of Matthew.
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT STORIES UNIQUE TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW
According to the Jesus Seminar, ALL of the stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew are probably UNHISTORICAL.  This gives us good reason to doubt the historicity of the stories about Roman Soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus, stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew.
But it is NOT just the scholars of the Jesus Seminar who have doubts about the stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew.  The NT scholar Eugene Boring doubts the historicity of the “Two Marys Encounter the Risen Jesus” story (Matt. 28:8-10), and so do the NT scholars Theissen and Merz.  Boring also doubts the historicity of “The Great Commission” story (Matt. 28:16-20), and even some prominent Evangelical NT scholars have expressed doubts about the historical accuracy of this story.  So, doubts about the historical reliability of the stories UNIQUE to Matthew in Chapter 28 of that gospel, are NOT limited to the liberal scholars of the Jesus Seminar.
I have previously pointed out that many NT scholars, beyond just the scholars of the Jesus Seminar, have serious doubts about the historical reliability of a number of the UNIQUE stories found in earlier chapters of the Gospel of Matthew, specifically to SIX out of FIFTEEN of the stories UNIQUE to Matthew, not counting the two stories about Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus.  We now see that at least two more of those FIFTEEN stories UNIQUE to Matthew are doubted by serious NT scholars who are not members of the Jesus Seminar, meaning that at least EIGHT of the FIFTEEN stories UNIQUE to Matthew are viewed as UNHISTORICAL or historically unreliable, by the scholars of the Jesus Seminar and by some prominent NT scholars who are not members of the Jesus Seminar.  Those frequently doubted UNIQUE stories constitute 53% of the 15 UNIQUE stories in Matthew (excluding the two stories about the Roman guard).  So, it is reasonable to view UNIQUE stories in Matthew as being probably historically unreliable.  Thus, it is reasonable to conclude that the stories about Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus are PROBABLY UNHISTORICAL or UNRELIABLE, because they are among the stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew.
If we set aside the events in Matthew that are based on the sources Mark or Q, what we are left with are events that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew, and we have good reason to believe that most of these events are historically dubious.  This provides us with good reason to believe that (RG) is probably FALSE, because the events/passages in Matthew that support (RG) fall into this category of events that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew, as opposed to stories in Matthew that are based on stories found in the Gospel of Mark or in Q.

bookmark_borderHinman’s Defense of his Sad Little Argument: What Joe Knows for Sure Just Ain’t So

What gets us into trouble is not what we don’t know
It’s what we know for sure that just ain’t so

– Mark Twain *

 
I believe that what gets Joe Hinman into trouble is not so much what he doesn’t know as what he knows for sure that just ain’t so.
According to Hinman:

He [Brad Bowen] knows nothing about biblical scholarship...

On the other hand Hinman claims to have expertise in this area:

It’s my field not his…

When I first read his quotation of Kermit Zarley asserting that three NT scholars had in recent decades carefully examined the 4th Gospel and then concluded that “The Fourth Gospel is historically reliable.”,  I immediately suspected this was BULLSHIT.
On the other hand, Hinman, since he was quoting Zarley in order to support his own view (that many NT scholars have come to the conclusion that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable), clearly HAD NO CLUE that Zarley’s assertion was BULLSHIT.
So,  Hinman’s alleged expert knowledge about the New Testament and NT scholarship FAILED to give him an accurate sense of the degree of skepticism among NT scholars concerning the 4th Gospel, while my alleged complete lack of knowledge about the New Testament and NT scholarship somehow mysteriously conferred upon me an accurate sense of the degree of skepticism among NT scholars concerning the 4th Gospel.
My explanation for this puzzling circumstance is that Hinman is engaging in WISHFUL THINKING, just like Kermit Zarley was engaging in WISHFUL THINKING about the three NT scholars that Zarley mentions.  When Hinman and Zarely  read books and articles by NT scholars who discuss the 4th Gospel, they read with a STRONG DESIRE that the NT scholars CONFIRM their belief that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable.
So, when an NT scholar says something positive about the 4th Gospel containing some historical information, they embrace that statement and even exaggerate and distort the meaning of the statement, so that it becomes an unqualified CONFIRMATION of their belief in the reliability of the 4th Gospel.  But when the same scholar says something negative about the 4th Gospel being unhistorical or unreliable in some way or aspect, they ignore or downplay or simply forget that statement, or they distort the meaning of the statement, so that it becomes a highly qualified insignificant quibble against the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel.
CONFIRMATION BIAS and WISHFUL THINKING thus work hand-in-hand so that Hinman and Zarley arrive at “knowledge” of things that JUST AIN’T SO.  In my previous posts on this subject, I have already shown that Hinman’s view is CLEARLY FALSE, and thus probably based on WISHFUL THINKING.  Here is the view that Hinman attempted to defend by means of his quotation of Zarley:

There is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.

I have shown that this view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE by considering the views of seven leading NT scholars that James Charlesworth has identified as being representative of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel (that Hinman and Zarley are talking about).  I have shown that at least FIVE out of the seven leading NT scholars representing the NEW VIEW did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable.  Thus, at least a clear majority (71%) of those leading NT scholars representing the NEW VIEW have NOT adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable.
Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is just as much BULLSHIT as Zarley’s view of the three NT scholars that he talks about.  Hinman had no clue that this was the case because of WISHFUL THINKING and CONFIRMATION BIAS.  The real trouble was with what Hinman “knows” that just ain’t so.
Here are the questions I have investigated in order to evaluate Hinman’s claim about NT scholarship:

Q1. Did C.H. DODD conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  The answer to this question is NO.

Q2. Did RAYMOND BROWN conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  The answer to this question is NO.

Q3.  Did J.P. MEIER conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  The answer to this question is NO.

Q4.  Did THEISSEN and MERZ conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  The answer to this question is NO.

Q5. Did RICHARD BAUCKHAM conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  I have not yet investigated this question.

Q6.  Did P.N. ANDERSON conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  The answer to this question is NO.

Q7.  Did D.M. SMITH conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?  This question will be discussed and answered in this post.

 
D.M. SMITH DID NOT CONCLUDE THAT THE 4TH GOSPEL IS HISTORICALLY RELIABLE
At this point, it should come as no great surprise that Dwight Moody Smith, another leading NT scholar who represents the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel does NOT believe or argue that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable, putting one more nail in the coffin of Hinman’s already firmly refuted claim about NT scholarship.
I now know that at least SIX out of the seven leading NT scholars who are representative of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable.  That is 86% of those seven leading NT scholars do NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable.  Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY out of touch with reality, at least concerning the degree of skepticism about the 4th Gospel.
Because Charlesworth specifically mentions one of D.M. Smith’s books–The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions (2008), I will focus on material from that book, which is one of the most recently published books by Smith (he died in 2016).  However, I will also use a bit of material from his earlier book John Among the Gospels (2nd edition, 2001), which contains a chapter based on lectures that Smith gave in 1996 (chapter 8 in the book).
Here is a relevant quote of D. M. Smith from Chapter 8 of John among the Gospels:In his book of the same title, Maurice Casey asks, is John’s Gospel true?  and answers that it is not.  Given Casey’s standard of what is truth… , his answer is in many important respects correct, or so I would agree.  The picture of Jesus as the Christ that emerges from John is significantly farther removed from the historical Jesus than the portrayal of any or all of the Synoptic Gospels.  It is true, as Casey maintains, that John is influenced both by the synagogue conflict, which so largely shaped the Gospel in its formative stages, and by its post-resurrection, Christian perspective … .  John’s Jesus is different from the synoptic Jesus, and both differ from the historical figure of Jesus.  Yet John’s Jesus is a more distinctly Christian figure who stands over against “the Jews.” 
 Casey’s argument that the Gospel of John is untrue entails his maintaining that in all cases where it differs from or contradicts the Synoptics John is historically wrong.  Doubtless he believes that is the case, but his arguments suffer from his palpable programmatic intention.  If, in respect to major and central aspects of John’s portrayal of Jesus, Casey’s position is, by historical-critical standards, largely correct, this does not mean that the Fourth Gospel may not contain historically accurate data, particularly when its differences do not express its clear theological or narrative interests. (p. 234-235, emphasis added)
Once again we see the same combination of two basic conclusions held by other leading NT scholars about the canonical Gospels: (1) the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, & Luke) are at best only somewhat historically reliable, and (2) the 4th Gospel is significantly LESS historically reliable than the Synoptics.
Furthermore, Smith admits that Casey’s view that “where it differs from or contradicts the Synoptics John is historically wrong” is “largely correct” in relation to “major and central aspects of John’s portrayal of Jesus”.  In other words, the portrayal of Jesus in the 4th Gospel in its major and central aspects is UNHISTORICAL.  Clearly, the NT scholar who wrote the above passage does NOT believe that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
Chapter 8 of John among the Gospels (2nd ed., 2001), as stated earlier, is based on lectures that Smith gave in 1996.  So, it is possible that the skepticism of Smith in 1996 about the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel was replaced later in his life by a new confidence in the historical reliability of that Gospel.  So, we need to also take a look at his more recent publication The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions (2008), to see if he changed his mind later in life and became a believer in the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel.
In the preface of The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions (on page xii) we find a big clue indicating that Smith’s skepticism about the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel continued consistently from early in his career until late in his career, when this book was about to be published (in 2008):

 
The old essay included in this most recent publication by Smith is called “John’s Portrait of Jesus”, and Smith thinks that this essay, which was originally published in 1977, explains important information such that he “cannot say it better”.  Smith then summarizes this essay in a single sentence:

The Johannine Jesus gives long discourses on Christology, but the historical Jesus did not.

This one sentence implies a significant degree of skepticism about the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel.  So in the preface, Smith implies that this significant degree of skepticism about the reliability of the 4th Gospel has remained consistent through his career, from early in his career (1977) until late in his career (2008).  This one sentence implies that both the content (Christology) and the form (long discourses) of the words and teachings of the historical Jesus are seriously and frequently misrepresented in the 4th Gospel.
One of the essays in The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions that had not been published previously is titled “The Problem of History in John”.  This essay confirms the same significant degree of skepticism about the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel, as Smith’s much older essay (“John’s Portrait of Jesus”):

Of course, historical skepticism about John’s portrayal of Jesus did not begin yesterday.  That the Johannine Jesus is preaching the gospel of the post-resurrection church has been apparent to most exegetes since the rise of historical criticism.  (p.49, emphasis added)
The sayings of Jesus in John are another matter, in that Jesus talks Christology quite explicitly and debates his role with his opponents, although this does not happen in the Synoptics. … the anachronistic character of the Johannine Jesus’ preaching has long been recognized… (p.49, emphasis added)
In other words, the 4th Gospel has Jesus preaching Christian theology, asserting ideas and claims that the historical Jesus did NOT himself preach or teach.  Thus, the preaching and teaching of Jesus in the 4th Gospel is sometimes UNHISTORICAL, according to Smith.  Clearly, if the 4th Gospel frequently puts claims and ideas into the mouth of Jesus, when those claims and ideas were NOT included in the preaching or teaching of the historical Jesus, then the 4th Gospel does NOT provide an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
So, when Jesus is portrayed in the 4th Gospel as teaching or preaching Christology (elevated claims about his divine nature or his central role in the salvation of humankind) and when Jesus is portrayed in the 4th Gospel as engaging in lengthy theological discourses (as opposed to speaking in parables and aphorisms), then we have good reason to believe that the words attributed to Jesus in those passages are probably NOT from the historical Jesus, but are, rather, expressions of Christian theology that developed in the decades following the crucifixion of Jesus.
The main question now, for those who are not already familiar with the 4th Gospel, is “How often does the 4th Gospel portray Jesus as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourses?”  If Jesus is portrayed this way in only two or three passages, then the 4th Gospel could still be historically reliable in general, if the dozens of other passages in that Gospel provided accurate historical information about Jesus.  But if the 4th Gospel frequently portrays Jesus as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourses, then the 4th Gospel would clearly be HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, given D. Moody Smith’s views.
Since at least sixteen out of the twenty-one Chapters in the 4th Gospel contain passages that portray Jesus as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourse, it is clear to those who are familiar with the 4th Gospel that Smith’s views imply that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, because it VERY FREQUENTLY portrays Jesus in these ways.  As an expert on the 4th Gospel, Smith was clearly aware that the 4th Gospel VERY FREQUENTLY portrays Jesus as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourse, so it is clear that Smith himself viewed the 4th Gospel as being HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE.
In EVERY chapter from Chapter 3 through Chapter 13, the 4th Gospel portrays Jesus as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourse.  Here are some selected examples of this from those chapters:

Chapter 3
⦁ No one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven: the Son of Man.
⦁ so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life.
⦁ For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

Chapter 4
⦁ If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.
⦁ whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.
⦁ The woman said to Him, “I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am He.”

Chapter 5
⦁ to honor the Father, honor the Son
⦁ the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God
⦁ the Father who has sent me, He has testified of me
⦁ the Scriptures testify about me

Chapter 6
⦁ I am the bread of life
⦁ this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life

Chapter 7
⦁ My teaching is not Mine, but His who sent Me.
⦁ I know Him, because I am from Him, and He sent Me.
⦁ He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’

Chapter 8
⦁ I am the light of the world
⦁ the truth will make you free
⦁ before Abraham was born, I am

Chapter 9
⦁ While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.
⦁ For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.

Chapter 10
⦁ I am the good shepherd
⦁ I and the Father are one
⦁ the Father is in me, and I in the Father

Chapter 11
⦁ I am the resurrection and the life
⦁ Father…so that they may believe that You sent Me

Chapter 12
⦁ And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.
⦁ While you have the Light, believe in the Light
⦁ he who sees Me sees the One who sent me
⦁ I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.

Chapter 13
⦁ From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He.
⦁ Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.
⦁ as I said to the Jews, now I also say to you, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’

The above eleven Chapters are sufficient to show that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE based on D. Moody Smith’s view that passages where Jesus is portrayed as teaching or preaching Christology, and/or as engaging in lengthy theological discourse are probably UNHISTORICAL and do NOT accurately portray the historical Jesus.  The 4th Gospel only contains twenty-one chapters, so these eleven Chapters constitute over half of the chapters in this Gospel.
But there are a number of other chapters in this Gospel that also contain UNHISTORICAL passages about Jesus, based on Smith’s point of view.  Chapters 14 through 17 contain what are called the “Farewell Discourses” of Jesus, and they are lengthy theological discourses.  So, based on Smith’s point of view, these four chapters are filled with passages that present a FALSE and UNHISTORICAL portrayal of the words and teachings of Jesus.
Furthermore, Chapter 18 also contains passages that appear to be UNHISTORICAL based on Smith’s viewpoint:

Chapter 18
⦁ My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, then My servants would be fighting so that I would not be handed over to the Jews; but as it is, My kingdom is not of this realm.
⦁ You say correctly that I am a king. For this I have been born, and for this I have come into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice.

Smith believed that an important key to understanding the 4th Gospel, is the references of Jesus to “the Jews”.  Smith believed this was anachronistic, i.e. UNHISTORICAL.  Jesus and his disciples were Jews, and so it is implausible that they would talk about “the Jews” as being a group separate from themselves.  Also, it is the conflict that arose decades after Jesus was crucified, a conflict between Jews who believed in Jesus as the divine Son of God and Jews who did not view Jesus as an exalted figure that motivated the animosity behind the expression “the Jews” in the 4th Gospel, according to Smith.  Thus, such animosity towards “the Jews” is anachronistic in the mouth of Jesus.  The historical Jesus would NOT have spoken about being “handed over to the Jews” when he and his disciples were Jews, and when it was NOT the Jews but the Romans who crucified him.  Jesus was “handed over to” the Romans to be killed, not the Jews.  So, I’m fairly sure that Smith would reject the claim that the historical Jesus spoke these words that are attributed to him in Chapter 18.   Jesus also tries to preach Christology to Pilate in Chapter 18, and Smith would presumably doubt the historicity of those alleged words of Jesus in Chapter 18.
So, it is clear that at least sixteen of the twenty-one chapters of the Fourth Gospel (over 75% of the chapters in this Gospel) contain UNHISTORICAL portrayals of the words and teachings of Jesus, in the view of D. Moody Smith.  Smith was an expert in this Gospel, so he was keenly aware of how frequently the 4th Gospel presents a portrayal of Jesus that is UNHISTORICAL, and thus Smith must have viewed the 4th Gospel as being HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, both in 1977, when he wrote the essay “John’s Portrait of Jesus”, as well as in 2008, when he published for the first time the essay “The Problem of History in John”.  In conclusion, D. Moody Smith NEVER concluded that the 4th Gospel was historically reliable.  For his entire career, Smith consistently held the view that the 4th Gospel was HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE.
 
CONCLUSION
I have shown that at least SIX of the seven key NT scholars who, according to James Charlesworth represent the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel did NOT arrive at the conclusion that the 4th Gospel presents an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Therefore,  the following claim, implied by Joe Hinman is CLEARLY FALSE:

There is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.

The facts and evidence show this claim so clearly to be FALSE, that one may reasonably conclude that Hinman was engaging in very serious WISHFUL THINKING in believing and implying this claim.  Hinman might have some “knowledge” about NT scholarship, but in this case, the problem is that what he “knows” about NT scholarship  just ain’t so.
==================
* Interestingly, the above quote, presented in the documentary film “An Inconvenient Truth”, does NOT come from Mark Twain.
In fact, it appears that this quote does NOT come from any specific person.  The humorist Josh Billings apparently said something similar, and Mark Twain also said something similar, but neither Billings nor Twain made the above statement.
Here are the quotes of Billings and Twain that probably were the basis out of which the above saying evolved:
I honestly beleave it iz better tew know nothing
than two know what ain’t so  – Josh Billings
When I was younger I could remember anything, whether it happened or not;
but I am getting old, and soon I shall remember only the latter – Mark Twain
==================
 

bookmark_borderHinman’s Defense of his Sad Little Argument: Seven Key NT Scholars

WHERE WE ARE
Joe Hinman asserts that in recent decades there has been “a trend involving many scholars” in which “John has a new credibility”.  Because Hinman makes these assertions in response to my claim that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, and because Hinman then quotes Kermit Zarley’s assertion about three NT scholars arriving at the conclusion that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, it is clear in this context, that Hinman is making this claim:

There is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.

This view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE and is based on a huge dose of WISHFUL THINKING by Joe Hinman.
Hinman has a strong DESIRE to refute the Swoon Theory, but some of his favorite objections to the Swoon Theory are based on passages from the Fourth Gospel.  Thus, Hinman has a strong DESIRE that the Fourth Gospel be viewed by NT scholars as being HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, otherwise what he thinks are his best objections to the Swoon Theory FAIL.
So, if I am correct that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE, then it is probable that this view is based not on facts and evidence, but on WISHFUL THINKING, just like Zarley’s CLEARLY FALSE view about the beliefs of three NT scholars was based on WISHFUL THINKING and not on facts and evidence.
In order to evaluate the view of NT scholarship that Hinman implies, I will examine the views of seven key NT scholars who have been identified by James Charlesworth as representing the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel that Hinman and Zarley are talking about.  Charlesworth, unlike Zarley (a professional golfer who has no degrees in NT or ancient history), is a bona fide NT and Jesus scholar, so Charlesworth’s view of which NT scholars are leading scholars who represent the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel has significant weight and authority.
In order to determine whether Hinman’s claim is true or false, I will attempt to answer the following seven key questions, related to seven NT scholars that James Charlesworth has identified as leading scholars who represent the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel:

Q1. Did C.H. DODD conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q2. Did RAYMOND BROWN conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q3.  Did J.P. MEIER conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q4.  Did THEISSEN and MERZ conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q5. Did RICHARD BAUCKHAM conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q6.  Did P.N. ANDERSON conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q7.  Did D.M. SMITH conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

If all or nearly all of these seven key NT scholars DID conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, then that will show that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is TRUE.
If three or four of these seven key NT scholars have NOT concluded that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, then that will show that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is FALSE.
If five or six of these seven key NT scholars have NOT concluded that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, then that will show that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE, and we may reasonably infer that his claim is based not on facts and evidence but on WISHFUL THINKING.
 
MY CONCLUSIONS SO FAR
In the last post, I showed that Raymond Brown, C.H. Dodd, and J.P. Meier did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:

Q1. Did C.H. DODD conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

Q2. Did RAYMOND BROWN conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

Q3.  Did J.P. MEIER conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

In a previous post, I showed that, contrary to the WISHFUL THINKING of Zarley and Hinman, the NT scholar Paul Anderson did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:

Q6.  Did P.N. ANDERSON conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

So, in previous posts, I have already shown that AT LEAST FOUR out of the seven leading NT scholars who represent the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  We now know that MOST of the seven NT scholars identified by Charlesworth did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  Thus, Joe Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is WRONG and FALSE.
If it turns out that one or more of the remaining three leading NT scholars who were identified as representing the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel also did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, then we may conclude that not only is Hinman’s view WRONG and FALSE, but that it is CLEARLY FALSE, and thus that Hinman’s view is probably based on WISHFUL THINKING rather than on facts and evidence.
In the past week I have been looking over the book The Historical Jesus: A Comprehensive Guide by NT scholars Gerd Theissen and Annette Merz.  Based on various comments and claims made by Theissen and Merz in this scholarly guidebook about the historical Jesus, it is clear to me that Theissen and Merz also did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus (as I will show to be the case later in this post):

  Q4.  Did THEISSEN and MERZ conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

That means AT LEAST FIVE of the seven key scholars did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE (Charlesworth counts the team of Theissen and Merz as ONE example of an NT scholar who represents the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel).  So, it is now clear to me, based on facts and evidence, that Joe Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is not merely WRONG and FALSE, but it is CLEARLY FALSE, and thus his view of NT scholarship is probably based on WISHFUL THINKING rather than on facts and evidence.
I also have reason to believe that D.M. Smith did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE (for example, see his article “John, the Gospel According to” in the HarperCollins Bible Dictionary, revised edition), so it is likely that when I look more closely at D.M. Smith‘s views of the 4th Gospel, I will discover facts and evidence sufficient to establish that he also did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
In sum,  I KNOW RIGHT NOW that AT LEAST FIVE (and very likely SIX) of the seven leading NT scholars that Charlesworth has identified as representatives of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, and thus that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is not only FALSE but is CLEARLY FALSE, and is thus probably based on WISHFUL THINKING.
 
FACTS AND EVIDENCE ON THE VIEW OF THEISSEN AND MERZ OF THE 4TH GOSPEL
Charlesworth points to a particular book by Theissen and Merz as representative of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel:

In The Historical Jesus (1998), Theissen and Merz offer the insight: ‘[I]t is also clear that John presupposes sources with a Synoptic stamp both in the narrative tradition and in the sayings tradition. But he seems to refer back to them independently of the Synoptics.’ … (p.36)

Since Charlesworth points to the book The Historical Jesus for evidence that Theissen and Merz are representatives of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel,  I will examine that same book in order to determine whether Theissen and Merz did conclude that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
There are a couple of general statements by Theissen and Merz in The Historical Jesus  that cast significant doubt on the idea that they believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:

… there is a broad scholarly consensus that we can best find access to the historical Jesus through the Synoptic tradition [i.e Matthew, Mark, and Luke].  (p.25)

But, someone might wonder, do Theissen and Merz accept and agree with this “broad scholarly consensus”?  Later, they make a comment comparing the Synoptic Gospels to the 4th Gospel, a comment that clearly shows that they accept and agree with this scholarly consensus:

The historical value of the Synoptics [i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke] is clearly to be rated higher than that of the Gospel of John. (p.97)

This is NOT the sort of statement one would expect from an NT scholar who had concluded that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  This is, in fact, one of the main points in my case against the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the 4th Gospel.  I’m very happy to have the support of Theissen and Merz for this key skeptical point.
It is possible, however, to believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE and to also believe that the 4th Gospel is significantly less HISTORICALLY RELIABLE than the other canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  But in order to hold both of these beliefs, without contradicting oneself, one would have to believe that the other canonical Gospels were VERY HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
One would need to believe, for example, that events and details found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke were true and correct about 90% of the time, and that events and details found in the 4th Gospel were true and correct about 70% of the time.  This would allow all four Gospels to be evaluated as “historically reliable” where this was understood to mean that events and details in these Gospels were true and correct at least 70% of the time.  The 4th Gospel would, in this scenario, barely meet the standard, and the other Gospels would both meet and significantly exceed the standard.
The problem here, though, is that it is clear that Theissen and Merz have significant doubts about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke).  They do NOT believe that these other Gospels are VERY HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  So, if they believe that the Synoptic Gospels are only SOMEWHAT HISTORICALLY RELIABLE or that the Synoptic Gospels are LESS THAN HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, then because they view the 4th Gospel as significantly LESS RELIABLE than the Synoptics, this implies that they do NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
Let’s examine what Theissen and Merz have to say concerning the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the Gospel of Matthew.
First, they believe that Matthew was based in large part on previously existing written sources:

The Gospel of Matthew is based on Mark, the Logia source [i.e. Q] and special materials of various kinds…  (p.30)

They believe that the Gospel of Matthew contains some legendary material and creative fictional material:

…there is legendary material (like the prehistory  in Matt. 1-2 or 14.28-31; 17.24-27; 27.3-10, 19, 24f.) and pericopes which have largely been shaped by the redactor (e.g. Matt. 28.16-20).  (p.30)

Theissen and Merz do NOT accept the birth and infancy stories in Matthew as historical; they view those stories as legendary.  So, that is two chapters of Matthew that they toss out as unhistorical.  They also believe that parts of Chapters 14 (Peter walks on water), 17 (miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth), and 27 (Judas hangs himself) are also legendary.   Between the various pieces of those three chapters, there is about a chapter’s worth of legendary material in addition to the first two chapters of Matthew.  So, according to Theissen and Merz, about three chapters worth of material in Matthew is legendary.  Since there are 28 chapters in Matthew, Theissen and Merz believe that about 10% of Matthew is legendary.
But it is clear that Theissen and Merz have doubts about the historicity and historical reliability of other parts of Matthew that are not obviously based on legendary material.  For example, they mention (above) Matthew 28.16-20 (the Great Commission on a mountain in Galilee) as having “largely been shaped by the redactor”, implying that this part of chapter 28 is unhistorical or historically unreliable.
Theissen and Merz note that the outline of Matthew comes mostly from the Gospel of Mark:

In his outline, Matthew predominantly follows Mark… (p.30)

That would be OK, except that according to Theissen and Merz, Mark’s chronological and geographical outline is historically worthless:

The chronological and geographical outline of Mark is secondary to the individual traditions; its form is determined by the author’s theological premises and therefore historically worthless… (p.27)

So, not only is about 10% of Matthew legendary material that is unhistorical, and other parts of Matthew (here and there) have “largely been shaped by the redactor” and thus are unhistorical or unreliable, but the general chronological and geographical outline of Matthew is based on the chronological and geographical outline of Mark, which is (according to Theissen and Merz) “historically worthless”.  Therefore, the chronological and geographical outline of Matthew is also historically worthless, according to Theissen and Merz.
Recall that the three main written sources used the author of Matthew are Mark, Q, and various special sources from that author’s christian community.  Since Q is mostly sayings of Jesus, as opposed to stories or narratives about Jesus, the sources for Matthew’s stories are primarily Mark and his special sources, often referred to as ‘M’.
Let’s set aside, for the moment, the stories that Matthew borrowed from Mark.  How historically reliable are the OTHER stories in Matthew, that do not come from Mark?  For example, the birth and infancy stories in Chapters 1 and 2 do not come from the Gospel of Mark.  According to Theissen and Merz (and most NT scholars in general), these two chapters are based on legendary material and are unhistorical.  So, right off the bat, we have good reason for doubting the historical reliability of stories found in Matthew that are not based on Mark.
Other legendary material mentioned by Theissen and Merz adds to our doubts about the historical reliability of stories in Matthew that are not based on Mark.  They believe that parts of Chapters 14 (Peter walks on water), 17 (miracle of the coin in the fish’s mouth), and 27 (Judas hangs himself) are also legendary.  These are stories that do NOT come from Mark.  So, this is additional evidence, pointed out by Theissen and Merz, that when the author of Matthew adds a new story about Jesus to the stories that came from Mark, the added story is likely to be unhistorical or historically unreliable.
One skeptical challenge to the reliability of the Gospels is that events and details in the Gospels often appear to be derived from Old Testament stories or prophecies.  Skeptics argue that such events and details are often fictional, not based on eyewitness accounts, but creatively generated on the basis of reading and interpreting Old Testament scriptures.  Theissen and Merz admit that this does happen sometimes, and one of their primary examples of this comes from the Gospel of Matthew:

The productive power of the proof from scripture can be demonstrated by the misunderstandings of parallelismus membrorum.  What in Hebrew poetry is a varying description of the same process is sometimes in the New Testament divided into two actions:

  • Zechariah 9.9 describes the entry of the messianic king ‘on an ass, on a foal, the colt of an ass’.  Only one animal is meant … . Matthew makes it two; in 21.7 he speaks of ‘an ass and a foal’, on which the disciples lay their clothes. The animals are spoken of in the plural… (p.106)

In other words, the author of Matthew MISUNDERSTOOD the meaning of Zechariah 9.9, and then created a detail in this story about there being TWO animals in order for Jesus to precisely fulfill what was supposed to be a prophecy about the messiah.  The author of Matthew did not simply pass on from an existing story this detail about there being two animals, the author made this detail up, based on his reading and interpretation of an Old Testament passage (Zechariah 9.9).  But, as Theissen and Merz are very much aware, the Gospel of Matthew is filled with several events and details that are supposed (by the author of Matthew) to be fulfillments of Old Testament prophecies, so there are several other events and details in Matthew that are cast into doubt in terms of their historicity or historical reliability.
What about the miracle stories in Matthew?  Do Theissen and Merz accept these stories as historically reliable?  They do NOT reject all miracle stories out of hand.  They do accept some miracle stories as being based on actual historical events in the life and ministry of Jesus.  However, they do express significant doubts about the historicity of a number of miracle stories, including miracle stories found in the Gospel of Matthew:

The analysis of all the references to the miracles of Jesus in miracle stories, summaries, apothegms and logia makes possible a differentiated assessment of their historicity: exorcisms and healings form Jesus’ real miracle-working activity.  Only here is there broadly attested formation of a genre; only these two types of miracle are mentioned in summaries and presupposed in logia. … The right to judge the other miracles–walking on water, transfiguration, multiplication of loaves and miraculous fishing trip–differently arises out of the sources.  At a very early stage they were not included among the ‘typical’ miracles of Jesus. (p.301)

So it is not possible sweepingly to attribute the miracle tradition to Jesus: exorcisms and therapies can in essence be traced back to the historical Jesus… Other miracles have only an indirect connection with him: they are poems of primitive Christianity shaped by the Easter faith.  But there should be no doubt of Jesus’ activity in performing exorcisms and therapies.  (p.304)

The Gospel of Matthew has a story about Jesus walking on water (Matthew 14:22-33), and a story of the transfiguration of Jesus (Matthew 17:1-9), and a story about the multiplication of loaves by Jesus (Matthew 14:13-21).  Theissen and Merz do NOT believe these miracle stories are true or historical.
We also saw previously that Theissen and Merz reject the historicity of the account in Matthew of the miracle of Peter walking on water (Matthew 14:28-31), as well as the story of Jesus miraculously predicting that Peter would find a coin in the mouth of the next fish he caught (Matthew 17:24-27).  Thus, Theissen and Merz reject several of the miracle stories found in Matthew as unhistorical, as fictional stories, as “poems of primitive Christianity”.
Based on the above comments by Theissen and Merz, it seems unlikely that they would say that the Gospel of Matthew provides an HISTORICALLY RELIABLE account of the life and ministry of Jesus:

  • They believe that about 10% of Matthew is legendary.
  • They believe there are passages here and there in Matthew that “have largely been shaped by the redactor” and are thus unhistorical or unreliable.
  • They believe that the chronological and geographical outline of Matthew is “historically worthless”.
  • They believe that some of the events and details in Matthew are fictional creations inspired by Old Testament stories or prophecies.
  • They believe that several of the miracle stories in Matthew are unhistorical.

It is CLEAR that they would NOT assert that the Gospel of Matthew is VERY HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  At most, they might claim that Matthew was SOMEWHAT RELIABLE.  But since they also believe and assert that the 4th Gospel is LESS RELIABLE than the Synoptic gospels, and since Matthew is one of the Synoptic gospels, it is CLEAR that they do NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:

  Q4.  Did THEISSEN and MERZ conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

The answer to this question is NO.

 
CONCLUSION
We now KNOW based on facts and evidence that AT LEAST FIVE out of the seven leading NT scholars that Charlesworth has identified as representing the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel DID NOT CONCLUDE that the 4th Gospel provides an HISTORICALLY RELIABLE account of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Therefore, we now KNOW that the following claim is CLEARLY FALSE:

There is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.

So, we now KNOW that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship concerning a NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel is CLEARLY FALSE, and that his view is probably based on WISHFUL THINKING, because it clearly has no basis in facts or evidence.
 

bookmark_borderHinman’s Defense of his Sad Little Argument: Scholars Do NOT Believe 4th Gospel is Reliable

Joe Hinman asserts that in recent decades there has been “a trend involving many scholars” in which “John has a new credibility”.  Because Hinman makes these assertions in response to my claim that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, and because Hinman quotes Kermit Zarley’s assertion about three NT scholars arriving at the conclusion that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, it is clear in this context, that Hinman is claiming that there is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
This view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE and is based on a huge dose of WISHFUL THINKING by Joe Hinman.
In order to evaluate the view of NT scholarship that Hinman implies, I will examine the views of seven key NT scholars who have been identified by James Charlesworth as representing the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel that Hinman and Zarley are talking about.  If these key NT scholars have NOT concluded that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, then that will show that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is CLEARLY FALSE and probably based on WISHFUL THINKING.
 
Q1. Did C.H. DODD conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?
The Evangelical NT scholar D.A. Carson wrote an article on C.H. Dodd’s view of the 4th Gospel:

“Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel: After Dodd, What?”

Carson notes the following about a key book on the 4th Gospel by Dodd:

…his [Dodd’s] work [in Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel] is rich in asides which affirm the historicity of this or that detail, although it boasts an almost equal number of asides which deny the historicity of some other detail.

If Dodd DENIES the historicity of details from the 4th Gospel about as often as he AFFIRMS the historicity of details from the 4th Gospel, then Dodd clearly does NOT believe that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”.
To believe that the 4th Gospel is historically reliable involves believing that this gospel is accurate and correct in the vast majority of cases.  Clearly Dodd does NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is accurate and correct 90% of the time.  Clearly Dodd does NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is accurate and correct 80% of the time.  It appears that Dodd believes that the 4th Gospel is correct about 50% of the time, maybe 60% of the time (at most).  If Dodd believes that the 4th Gospel is correct and accurate 50% to 60% of the time, that is insufficient to consider this gospel to be HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
Carson provides a long quote from another NT scholar about Dodd’s view of the 4th Gospel that makes it clear that Dodd’s view does NOT imply that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:
=============================
W. Beare spells this out more pointedly; and, for a final extensive quote, I [Carson] shall cite him at length:

Professor Dodd has greatly strengthened the case for taking the Fourth Gospel seriously as a quarry for historical facts concerning Jesus of Nazareth. I am left with the feeling that when its evidence has all been sifted and weighed, it does not add greatly to the meagre store of facts which are supplied by the Synoptics. Where it differs from them, it is not to be automatically ruled out of consideration; the ‘pre-canonical’ traditions which it has employed have as much title to be looked upon as reliable as those which the Synoptists had at their disposal. But I wonder if the total effect of this investigation may not be misleading, in that it does not take into account the unreality of the general picture of Jesus in this Gospel. These fragments of ‘historical’ traditions are embedded in a complex theological structure from which they can be recovered in any degree only by an extraordinary exhibition of critical virtuosity on the part of the searcher. To set the matter in perspective let us recall briefly that John the Baptist did not in fact hail Jesus as the Lamb of God (the question here is rightly put by Dodd: ‘What measure of historical truth, then, if any, can we assign to the statement of the Fourth Gospel that John the Baptist bore witness to Christ?’ – p. 301). Jesus did not talk to a ruler of the Jews about regeneration, did not talk with a woman by a well in Samaria about his own Messiahship and about the spirit-nature of God; did not discourse to the multitudes about his descent from heaven as the Bread of Life… Above all, the Jesus of history did not address his hearers in the structured dialogue and monologue of the Fourth Gospel; and if there are bits of teaching―parables, sayings, brief dialogue here and there―which may be traced to a pre-canonical tradition (as Dodd has succeeded in doing), it must be said that in the Gospel these are submerged in the Evangelist’s own constructions and all but dissolved in his theological expositions… And in general, the value and interest of this Gospel surely lie in the developed theology of the Evangelist and not in such occasional fragments of actual verba Christi as may be uncovered by patient search.

This is not to suggest that Professor Dodd himself fails to give due weight to these considerations. It is a caution, rather, to his readers against an over-enthusiastic reversion to the historical approach to this Gospel. British scholarship has an unquenchable longing for brute historical and biographical fact, and there is a perpetual danger that the wish may give birth to the persuasion that the facts are more readily ascertainable than is actually the case. After all has been said, and every last particle of primitive gold-dust extracted, the Fourth Gospel is in its total character a much less reliable source of historical (especially biographical) information than Mark, even though it may in some instances preserve a more accurate recollection of what occurred.

The ‘new look’ on the Fourth Gospel has already, in my opinion, set a number of my colleagues dancing down a false path….

In my [Carson’s] view, Beare’s analysis of HTFG is profoundly accurate, irrespective of whether or not one wishes to follow him in his degree of scepticism.
=============================
Dodd believes that particles of “primitive gold-dust” can be extracted from the 4th Gospel, but he also believes that these “fragments of ‘historical’ traditions are embedded in a complex theological structure from which they can be recovered in any degree only by an extraordinary exhibition of critical virtuosity on the part of the searcher” and that this extraction is from a Gospel that contains  a “general picture of Jesus” that is “unreality”, that is to say: unhistorical.
Given that Dodd frequently DENIES the historicity of details found in the 4th Gospel, and given that Dodd believes that only bits and pieces of historical truth can be found here-and-there only by the extraordinary exhibition of critical virtuosity by accomplished NT scholars, and given that Dodd views the general picture of Jesus in the 4th Gospel as unhistorical, it is clear that Dodd did NOT conclude that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable.”
 
Q2. Did RAYMOND BROWN conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?
James Charlesworth specifically points to the two volume work by Raymond Brown called The Death of the Messiah as an early example of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel.  One needs only to read the first page of this huge two-volume work to find out that Brown does NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE:

The subject for discussion is the passion of Jesus. Understandably there is a desire to know what Jesus himself said, thought, and did in the final hours of his life. Yet Jesus did not write an account of his passion; nor did anyone who had been present write an eyewitness account. Available to us are four different accounts written some thirty to seventy years later in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, all of whom were dependent on tradition that had come down from an intervening generation or generations. That intervening preGospel tradition was not preserved even if at times we may be able to detect the broad lines of its content. When we seek to reconstruct it or, even more adventurously, the actual situation of Jesus, himself, we are speculating.   (The Death of the Messiah, Volume 1, p. 1, emphasis added)

This is a VERY SKEPTICAL statement about the Gospels and specifically about the passion narratives found in the Gospels. Since the passion narratives constitute a significant portion of each of the four canonical Gospels, this skepticism applies to a significant portion of each Gospel.  Furthermore, the trials, crucifixion, and death of Jesus are clearly very important parts of the Gospel accounts of Jesus, so if these key portions of the Gospels are NOT HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, then there is good reason to doubt the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of other sections of the four Gospels.  This makes it VERY CLEAR that Raymond Brown, one of the greatest NT scholars of the 20th century, did NOT arrive at the conclusion that “The 4th Gospel is historically reliable”.
 
Q3.  Did J.P. MEIER conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?
First, Meier appears to be somewhat skeptical about the reliability of ALL FOUR gospels.  One conservative cleric complains about J.P. Meier’s skepticism in general towards the four canonical gospels:

… Meier concludes that: Jesus may or may not have been virginally conceived; that He was born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem; that Mary had other children than Jesus. He also concludes that many of the Lord’s miracles are not historically accurate, but are simply creations of the first century church—miracles such as Christ’s healing of the ear of the centurion’s servant cut off in the Garden of Gethsemane, Christ’s walking upon the water, His stilling of the storm, and His changing of the water into wine at the wedding at Cana. More might be said, but you get the idea.

It looks like Meier does not believe that ANY of the four canonical gospels is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, and thus he does NOT believe that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.
Second, although Meier believes that the 4th Gospel should not be ignored by scholars who study the historical Jesus, he does make an important qualification about his view of this gospel:

…despite my refusal to rule the Fourth Gospel out of court a priori as unhistorical, I recognize that special caution is called for when treating the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel. …while the Fourth Gospel is not to be rejected out of hand as a possible source for the historical Jesus, even its ardent admirers usually admit that the Evangelist’s theology has massively reshaped the tradition reflected in his Gospel, especially the sayings tradition.  (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.118)

If the “tradition reflected in” the 4th Gospel has been “massively reshaped” by the author’s theology, and this massive reshaping has occurred “especially” in the “sayings tradition”, that implies that the sayings attributed to Jesus in the 4th Gospel are NOT HISTORICALLY RELIABLE in general.  Meier here implies that the theology we find in the sayings of Jesus in the 4th Gospel might often be the theology NOT OF JESUS but rather the theology of the author of the 4th Gospel.
Third, if we look at examples where Meier REJECTS the historicity of events in the 4th Gospel as well as some examples of where Meier ACCEPTS an event or detail from the 4th Gospel as historical, we can clearly see Meier’s significant doubts about the historical reliability of the 4th Gospel.
Meier REJECTS the historicity of the famous story of Jesus turning water into wine, a story found only in the 4th Gospel (in John 2:1-11):

In sum, when one adds these historical difficulties to the massive amount of Johannine literary and theological traits permeating the whole story, it is difficult to identify any “historical kernel” or “core event” that might have a claim to go back to the historical Jesus. Put another way: if we subtract from the eleven verses of the first Cana miracle every element that is likely to have come from the creative mind of John or his Johannine “school” and every element that raises historical problems, the entire pericope vanishes before our eyes verse by verse.   (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.949)

Meier REJECTS the historicity of  the famous story of Jesus walking on water, a story found in Chapter 6 of the 4th Gospel:

…the basic point remains firm: a number of considerations make it likely that the story of the walking on the water is a creation of the early church and does not go back to an incident in Jesus’ public ministry. (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.923)

Meier REJECTS the historicity of the “Bread of Life” sermon (and of other sermons) allegedly given by Jesus according to the 4th Gospel:

…at least some of Jesus’ lengthy discourses in John’s Gospel are now deemed by scholars to be Christian homilies, which developed sayings or deeds of Jesus into a type of Christian midrash. This is the case, e.g., with the bread of life discourse in John 6. …In John 6:34-58, Jesus himself is the bread of life that has come down from heaven. … A christian homily on the eucharist has in the course of the Johannine tradition become a homily of the earthly Jesus, teaching in the synagogure at Capernaum (6:59). (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.900)

So, Meier REJECTS at least two of the famous miracle stories found in the 4th Gospel as being UNHISTORICAL, and he REJECTS the “Bread of Life” sermon by Jesus in the 4th Gospel as being UNHISTORICAL.  This is hardly in keeping with the view that the 4th Gospel provides an HISTORICALLY RELIABLE account of the life and ministry of Jesus.
But Meier does sometimes find something of historical value in the 4th Gospel.  Meier finds some historical value in the 4th Gospel concerning Jesus’ relationship with John the Baptist, and some historical value in the 4th Gospel concerning the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead.  But if we read the details of how Meier analyzes these two aspects of the 4th Gospel, it is clear that even in these cases he is fairly skeptical about many of the details in the relevant passages from the 4th Gospel.
Here is how Meier summarizes his findings concerning the 4th Gospel’s account of Jesus relationship to John the Baptist:

In section III of this chapter we examined the key data that critical analysis can extricate from the highly Christianized picture of the Baptist in the Fourth Gospel: namely, that for a short period Jesus was probably a close disciple of the Baptist, that he may have drawn some of his own close disciples from the Baptist’s circle, and that he continued John’s practice of baptism. Almost everything else in the Fourth Evangelist’s portrait of the Baptist must be assigned to the author’s desire to make the Baptist a key witness to the Word made flesh (John 1:15,30), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (1:29).  (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.170, emphasis added)

Yes, Meier finds some parts of the 4th Gospel’s account of Jesus and John the Baptist to be historical, but he also concludes that a large portion of this account is FICTIONAL or UNHISTORICAL.
Meier also finds some parts of the 4th Gospel story of Jesus raising Lazarus to be historical, but notice his qualifications:

… the Fourth Gospel’s story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is not a pure creation of John the Evangelist but rather goes back to a miracle story circulating in the Johannine tradition before the Gospel was written. …At the same time, one must be cautious about making historical claims; the tradition passed through many decades and many modifications before it came to the Evangelist. (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.831)

This story is “not a pure creation” of the author of the 4th Gospel, but “one must be cautious about making historical claims” based on this story, because it has “passed through many decades and many modifications before it came to” the author of the 4th Gospel.  Clearly, Meier has some significant skepticism and doubt about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of this story.
Meier attributes a significant portion of this story to the creativity of the author of the 4th Gospel:

…by now so much of 11:4-16 has been assigned to the Evangelist’s creativity that it seems reasonable to suppose that 11:4-16 as a whole is the Evangelist’s contribution. (A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.814)

Most likely, then, in both chap. 9 and chap. 11 the disciples are the literary instruments of the Evangelist, introduced by him into the stories in order to clarify the theology underlying the narrative. In particular, the typically Johannine vocabulary and style of vv11-15 make it likely that Jesus’ second dialogue with his disciples was also composed by John. Hence I would venture the opinion that most of 11:4-16, from the initial theological comment of Jesus down to the final glum comment of Thomas, is the creation of the Evangelist.
(A Marginal Jew, Volume 2, p.814, emphasis added)

So, we see that even when Meier views some part or aspect of the 4th Gospel as having some historical value, he is still very skeptical about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the passages of the 4th Gospel that contain those bits and pieces of historical information.
In sum, Meier is skeptical about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of all four canonical gospels, and he is especially skeptical about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of the sayings and sermons of Jesus found in the 4th Gospel, and he REJECTS some of the very famous miracle stories found in the 4th Gospel as being UNHISTORICAL, and even when Meier finds some bits and pieces of historical information about Jesus in the 4th Gospel, he still is very skeptical about the HISTORICAL RELIABILITY of those stories and passages which contain those bits and pieces that are of historical value.
Clearly, J.P. Meier did NOT conclude that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable.”
To Be Continued…
 

bookmark_borderHinman’s Defense of his Sad Little Argument: Wishful Thinking by Joe Hinman

WHERE WE ARE
Here is one of the main issues between Joe Hinman and me:

In recent decades has a significant portion of NT scholars shifted from the previously dominant view that the Fourth Gospel is historically UNRELIABLE to the previously minority view that the Fourth Gospel is historically RELIABLE?

My answer to this question is “NO”, and Hinman’s answer is “YES”.  This indicates that Hinman’s view of NT scholarship is based on WISHFUL THINKING rather than on facts and evidence.
Joe Hinman’s WISHFUL THINKING about NT scholarship is based in part on a quote from Kermit Zarley.  But, as I argued in a previous post, that quote shows that Zarely was engaged in WISHFUL THINKING about the views of three NT scholars.  Hinman is basing his huge indulgence in WISHFUL THINKING on a smaller dose of WISHFUL THINKING by Zarley.
Zarley claimed that three NT scholars named Paul Anderson, Felix Just, and Tom Thatcher,  all concluded that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable.” after they had engaged in an in-depth re-examination of the 4th Gospel.   This claim is clearly FALSE, and since Zarley is an Evangelical Christian who has “a fairly conservative view” of the inspiration of the NT, it seems likely that his mistaken understanding of the views of these three NT scholars was based on WISHFUL THINKING.  Zarley WISHED it to be the case that some serious NT scholars arrived at the conclusion that the 4th Gospel was HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, because that would confirm his religious beliefs about the inspiration of the NT.
Hinman makes a stronger claim than Zarley.  Hinman asserts that in recent decades there has been “a trend involving many scholars” in which “John has a new credibility”.  Because Hinman makes these assertions in response to my claim that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY UNRELIABLE, and because Hinman quotes Zarley’s assertion about three NT scholars arriving at the conclusion that “the Fourth Gospel is historically reliable”, it is clear in this context, that Hinman is claiming that there is a recent trend in NT scholarship that involves MANY NT scholars who have adopted the view that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.  So, Hinman’s claim is stronger and broader than Zarley’s claim, but Hinman’s claim is also clearly FALSE, just like Zarley’s claim.
I don’t think Hinman has “a fairly conservative view” of the inspiration of the NT, but Hinman does WISH that the 4th Gospel was found by serious NT scholars to be HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, because Hinman desperately WISHES that he could REFUTE the Swoon Theory (and the Survival Theory), but he needs historical claims based on the 4th Gospel in order to do this.  So, if I am correct that Hinman’s view of recent NT scholarship is clearly FALSE, then it is reasonable to conclude that Hinman’s mistaken view of NT scholarship is based on WISHFUL THINKING, just like Zarley’s mistaken view is based on WISHFUL THINKING.
 
THE RECENT TREND OF NT SCHOLARSHIP CONCERNING THE 4TH GOSPEL
Zarley was right that the three NT scholars that he named were promoting a NEW VIEW about the 4th Gospel, but he was WRONG about the content of that NEW VIEW.  These  three NT scholars were NOT promoting the view that “The Fourth Gospel is historically reliable.”  Zarley just WISHED that was the case.  Hinman is also right that there has been “a trend involving many scholars” in recent decades concerning the 4th Gospel, but like Zarley,  Hinman is WRONG about the content of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel that has recently been adopted by many NT scholars.
Rather than leaning on Zarley, who has no degrees in NT studies or Jesus studies or ancient history or in any academic discipline that is relevant to NT scholarship or the scholarly study of the historical Jesus, we should turn to someone who is a bona fide NT scholar or Jesus scholar and who has written about the recent trend in NT scholarship concerning the 4th Gospel.
One such scholar is James Charlesworth.  Here are his credentials (from his Profile page  at Princeton Theological Seminary):
 
Charlesworth has written about the “trend involving many scholars” concerning the NEW VIEW about the Fourth Gospel in relation to issues about the historical Jesus.  He wrote about this trend in an article called “The Historical Jesus in the Fourth Gospel: A Paradigm Shift?
But there might well be more than just one recent trend in NT scholarship concerning the Fourth Gospel.  How do we know that the NEW VIEW that Charlesworth discusses is the same one that Zarley and Hinman are talking about?
First, Charlesworth participated in the scholarly SBL (Society of Biblical Literature) project that was led by Paul Anderson, Felix Just, and Tom Thatcher and that involved a re-examination of the 4th Gospel (the “John, Jesus, and History” project), with a focus on questions of history and historicity.  Zarley’s quote–provided by Hinman–specifically refers to that SBL project in his comments about the NEW VIEW about the Fourth Gospel.
Second, Paul Anderson, who was one of the leaders of the SBL project on the Fourth Gospel, in his essay about the SBL project on the Fourth Gospel, specifically points to the above mentioned essay by James Charlesworth as being a key essay about the rise of the NEW VIEW about the Fourth Gospel:

 
Third, in the article by Charlesworth that I will be referencing, Charlesworth refers to the scholarly SBL project on the Fourth Gospel as evidence of the rise of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel:

 
Fourth, as we shall soon see, the way that Charlesworth describes the NEW VIEW about the 4th Gospel is the same as the way that Anderson described this NEW VIEW about the 4th Gospel, so they are CLEARLY both talking about the SAME trend among NT scholars concerning the 4th Gospel.
In that article Charlesworth points out some particular scholars who are part of the trend, who hold a NEW VIEW about the 4th Gospel.
So, in order to test Hinman’s view, I will examine the views of seven scholars that Charlesworth points out as being part of the recent trend concerning a NEW VIEW about the 4th Gospel, in order to determine whether those scholars have concluded that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE.   If most or all of the scholars that Charlesworth points out as being part of the recent trend have NOT concluded that the 4th Gospel is HISTORICALLY RELIABLE, then that will provide us with facts and evidence showing that Hinman’s view about the “trend involving many scholars” concerning the 4th Gospel is CLEARLY FALSE.
 
THE OLD VIEW VS. THE NEW VIEW OF THE FOURTH GOSPEL
Both Anderson and Charlesworth describe the OLD VIEW of the 4th Gospel in very similar ways.
Here is how Paul Anderson describes (in his essay about the SBL project concerning the 4th Gospel) the OLD VIEW that he and Just and Thatcher and other NT scholars are challenging:

…John is fundamentally off limits for historicity and Jesus studies.

Nearly all other ancient Christian gospel material is suitable for conducting Jesus research, including apocryphal and Gnostic writings, but not John.

…simply claiming that “nothing” in John is historical, and that John should be banned from historical Jesus research altogether.

…some critical scholars over the last two centuries have excluded nearly all Johannine content from the quest of the Jesus of history…

Here is how James Charlesworth describes (in his article on the “new paradigm” about the 4th Gospel) the OLD VIEW that he and other NT scholars involved in the SBL Project about the Fourth Gospel are challenging:

The Gospel of John has been either ignored or used marginally in the study of the historical Jesus. Careful study of the realia mentioned in the Gospel of John and explorations of the topography and architectural structures mentioned in the Gospel indicate that it must not be ignored or used only sporadically in Jesus research. … (p.3)

…those who have written a life of Jesus over the past one hundred years have focused on Mark and the Synoptics [i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke].  Against this strong consensus, the present essay points to a growing propensity of some of the best experts devoted to Jesus research; some are no longer branding John as a ‘spiritual’ work devoid of historical information. (p.3)

… my focused question is the following: Is it wise to ignore the Fourth Gospel in re-constructing the life, mission and message of Jesus from Nazareth?(p.4)

As J.D.G. Dunn reports, ‘the Fourth Gospel had been effectively knocked out of the quest’. Subsequently, Jesus scholars depended on, sometimes only on, the Synoptics [i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke], and among them most notably Mark. (p.5)

More and more, John was ignored by scholars devoted to the so-called Quest of the Historical Jesus. In the past half century, many exceptionally influential scholars, prosecuting research on the historical Jesus, stress that only the Synoptics [i.e. Matthew, Mark, and Luke] are to be followed in reconstructing Jesus’ life and message. (p.6)

Clearly, Anderson and Charlesworth AGREE that the OLD VIEW of NT scholars about the 4th Gospel is that the 4th Gospel should be ignored in relation to the scholarly study of the historical Jesus.  This implies that the NEW VIEW is that the 4th Gospel should NOT be ignored, but should be studied and taken into consideration by scholars who investigate the historical Jesus.
 
SEVEN NT SCHOLARS WHO REPRESENT THE NEW VIEW OF THE 4TH GOSPEL
In his “pivotal essay” about the NEW VIEW of the Fourth Gospel, James Charlesworth identifies two scholars who were early advocates of the NEW VIEW of the 4th Gospel:

In assessing the status quaestionis regarding the appropriateness of using John in Jesus research, it is possible to perceive a growing tendency to include John.  This recent trend was foreshadowed by C.H. Dodd’s well-known Historical Tradition in the Fourth Gospel and Raymond E. Brown’s publications, including The Death of the Messiah.  (p.35)

Charlesworth also identifies five “leading” scholars who represent the NEW VIEW:

We have chosen to indicate five leading scholars have now argued that John must be included in Jesus research; they are Meier, Theissen with Merz, Bauckham, Anderson, and Smith.  (p.38)

1. In the voluminous A Marginal Jew (1991–), J.P. Meier not only claims that the ‘major source of our knowledge about the historical Jesus is … the four canonical Gospels (Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John)’ but shows how each Gospel intermittently provides valuable historical data. … (p.36)

2. In The Historical Jesus (1998), Theissen and Merz offer the insight: ‘[I]t is also clear that John presupposes sources with a Synoptic stamp both in the narrative tradition and in the sayings tradition. But he seems to refer back to them independently of the Synoptics.’ … (p.36)

3. In … The Testimony of the Beloved Disciple (2007) , Richard Bauckham argues that John’s account of Nicodemus is reliable. … (p.36)

4. In The Fourth Gospel and the Quest for Jesus (2006), P.N. Anderson published the first voluminous book which seeks to show that John is imperative in Jesus research. His book is more than an exhortation to include John in the study of the historical Jesus; it is a polemic against the myopic use of the Synoptics. … (p.37)

5. In The Fourth Gospel in Four Dimensions (2008), D.M. Smith publishes for the first time four essays that focus on history in John …  Smith seeks to demonstrate that there is some historical basis in John’s narrative presentation of Jesus. …  (p.37)

In order to determine whether Hinman’s claim is true or false, I will attempt to answer the following seven key questions:

Q1. Did C.H. DODD conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q2. Did RAYMOND BROWN conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q3.  Did J.P. MEIER conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q4.  Did THEISSEN and MERZ conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q5. Did RICHARD BAUCKHAM conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q6.  Did P.N. ANDERSON conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

Q7.  Did D.M. SMITH conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus?

If all or most of these NT scholars did NOT conclude that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life and ministry of Jesus, then that will show that Hinman’s claim is CLEARLY FALSE, and that his claim is based on WISHFUL THINKING.