Tomorrow we will have another post from Dr. Craig A. Evans available on this blog (read last week’s “The future of historical Jesus studies”). Today I thought I’d share a small excerpt from a paper that he presented at New Orleans Baptist Seminary in February titled “Can We Trust the NT?” In context, Evans is challenging the view of the gospels that they either must be word for word accounts of what Jesus said without any adaption by the evangelist and the equal and opposite error that if there are any adaptions the historical Jesus is forever lost. This is a paragraph of note that I think is worth pondering:
“The stories and teachings of Jesus have been edited and contextualized in ways that lead to clarity. The teaching of Jesus has been applied in new ways and new insights have been discovered as his followers encounter fresh challenges. All of this reflects the way Jesus taught his disciples. It reflects the pedagogy of the time. The disciples were not tape-recorders, mere reciters of the Jesus tradition. They were disciples, trained to understand the teaching of Jesus, not simply to repeat it word for word. They were trained to apply it as they gave leadership to the following of Jesus, a following that in time became known as the church.” (p. 26)
In other words, Evans is giving permission to more conservative readers to be OK with the fact that the four evangelist were not modern journalist. They did not write down the words of Jesus in order to have a good story for the sake of a long career with their local newspaper. Rather, they were disciples teaching other disciples what had been taught either to them by Jesus or to them by Jesus’ more direct disciples.