Archive of ‘The Bible’ category

Son of God Movie Review

Son of God Movie Review

Warning: Spoilers ahead!

It’s my Spring Break and I’ve been home all week! I’ve absolutely loved spending time with my family. Today, practitioner my mom and I went to see the movie Son of God–my mom had gotten free tickets to go. I didn’t know much about the movie but thought it would probably be good. Well…I was wrong.

As my mom and I left the movie theater, cough I asked her what she thought. She said, “Well I don’t want to critique it and pick it apart…” Well I have no such reservations ;) I’m not being picky just for the sake of being critical, but if you make a movie about the most important and influential man in the entire world, who is also the one man I love the most, and also happens to be the living God, you better get it right. And this movie, unfortunately, got it terribly wrong.

John’s Gospel: The movie starts with John in exile on Patmos, saying the words that start his Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This movie was framed as though it was the life of Jesus according to John. However, the movie pulled from every single Gospel. In theory, I don’t have a problem with a movie about the life of Jesus that pulls from all Gospels (although I think the danger is that you emphasize some parts over others). However, I didn’t like that they made it seem like it was John’s story, beginning and ending with him, and then they did not stay true to John’s Gospel. For example, this movie included a Nativity scene (not in John) and also included the Eucharist (not in John), while not including Jesus washing the disciple’s feet, which is unique to John.

The movie begins with some quick scenes from a variety of Bible stories, including the Garden of Eden, Moses, Noah, Abraham, and David. They were pretty cheesy, but other than that they were fine.

Nativity Scene: Then we get to the Nativity. Oh boy. The Magi were there along with the shepherds to meet baby Jesus, which is sooo inaccurate! I thought we all knew better! In Matthew, the Magi come to Herod and ask him where they can find the king of the Jews, who has already been born, completely taking out any possibility that they were there along with the shepherds (talked about in Luke) right after the birth. Also, young Mary was SO white. Mary was a Middle Eastern Jew, not a super white person in the midst of Middle Eastern Jews. Here is grown-up Mary (who is just as white as young Mary):

Picture from IMDB

All the White people: Speaking of Jews, did you guys know Jesus was a Jew? Now I understand that we don’t know what Jesus looks like, but I’m pretty sure he was not super attractive (see Isaiah 53:2) with light-ish brown hair and Crest-whitened teeth. Jesus was pretty much the only man in this movie who was super European, had perfect teeth, and had long hair.

Picture from IMDB

Seriously? Does this Jesus look a little familiar? Can’t place why he looks so familiar…

Painting by Warner Sallman

Ok so asides from my issue with the European Jesus and Mary, was the rest of the movie good? Unfortunately not.

Biblical Accuracy: I am a stickler for Biblical accuracy and apparently this movie was not. I understand that you have to take some creative licenses to fill out the story–I wasn’t upset with the creative licenses taken in The Passion of the Christ, I thought they were good. But this movie made some changes that made things at best cheesy and at worst woefully inaccurate to Scripture.

Sermons: A small inaccuracies that was kinda funny was that Jesus gives the Sermon on the Plain (from Luke) on a mountain, and he gives the Sermon on the Mount (from Matthew) on a plain.

Jesus’ Words: A lot of Jesus’ words were taken from the Bible but were not exactly what is recorded in the Gospels, which I did not like at all. The second you start tweaking Jesus’ words, you start inserting your own opinion and theology, which is just not ok.

Mary Magdalene: Something that I liked in this movie was the Mary Magdalene was shown to be one of the disciples and prominently traveled with Jesus. But she was the only woman with them (it was Jesus, the twelve, and Mary traveling around) which is inaccurate not only because we know that a group of women traveled with Jesus and cared for his needs, but also because a woman would never travel alone with a group of men. It’s completely unrealistic and would have seen as completely inappropriate.

Woman Caught in Adultery: Speaking of women, this movie’s depiction of the woman caught in adultery was terrible. So the woman is thrown down in front of Jesus and a Pharisee asks Jesus what should be done. Jesus does not write in the dirt. Instead, he picks up a rock and raises his arm, looking like he’s about to throw it at the woman, and then, after a long dramatic pause, he turns to the men about to stone the woman and says, “I’ll give my rock to whoever here hasn’t ever sinned.” Was the original story not exciting enough for you? Really?

Destroy the Temple: This part was HILARIOUS. Jesus is walking out of the temple in Jerusalem and stops by a little girl. He kneels down to her, smiling. I assumed this was when he was going to say, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” But NO. Instead, he asks this little girl, “Do you see these buildings?” And then he playfully tells her, “They will all be destroyed! Every last one!” or something to that effect. Haha my mom and I were laughing so hard! Who playfully tells a child that he is going to destroy the temple and thinks it’s just so cute!?

The lack of the Demonic: If you read any chunk of the Gospels, you will find a ton of demonic activity and spiritual warfare. Son of God did not include Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness and it also did not include a single case of Jesus driving out a demon which, by the way, is one of the main parts of Jesus’ ministry. In John, Jesus even calls Satan the prince of this world on two different occasions. In The Passion, I really liked that Satan was in the Garden and that demons were shown tormenting Judas. Son of God did not mention demons at all.

Caiaphas and Pilate: The Passion of the Christ got a lot of criticism for being anti-semetic, so this movie tried really hard to steer clear of any anti-semetism. But what this resulted in was a depiction of Caiaphas (the high priest) as someone who just didn’t want his party (aka Passover) ruined. It’s not that he actually cared about or was bothered by Jesus, but he was scared of Pontius Pilate getting mad at Jesus and ruining Passover. This movie definitely made Pilate the “bad guy,” and while I understand why the directors made this decision, it’s not Biblical. In every single Gospel, the bad guys are the Jewish leaders. Let’s be clear, the New Testament is not anti-semetic: Jesus is a Jew, all his disciples are Jews, Jesus very clearly says that he is bringing his message first to the lost nation of Israel, all the Gospel writers are Jews (besides Luke), with Matthew being an ardent follower of the law and quite possibly a Pharisee, and Paul is most definitely a Pharisee. But with that being said, Pilate is not the bad guy. In every single Gospel, Pilate is not the one who wants Jesus crucified:

In Matthew, Pilate’s wife warns him not to kill Jesus because of a dream she has had about him. This causes Pilate to be afraid. Then later this is what happens in Matthew 27:23-25:
They all answered, “Crucify him!”
“Why? What crime has he committed?” asked Pilate.
But they shouted all the louder, “Crucify him!”
When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. “I am innocent of this man’s blood,” he said. “It is your responsibility!”
All the people answered, “His blood is on us and on our children!”

Mark 15 shows Pilate being “amazed” at Jesus and he hands him over to be crucified only to “satisfy the crowd.”

In Luke 23:4, Pilate says, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.”

And the in John 19, Pilate also says that he finds no basis to charge Jesus, is afraid of him, and tries to get him freed.

Again, I believe that each of these Gospel writers are placing blame specifically on the Jewish leaders (including Caiaphas), not at all the Jewish people. However, the blame is never put on Pilate. Again, I understand that the producers of Son of God decided to do this in order to avoid criticism that they were being anti-semetic. But the changes they made were just not Biblically accurate.

Jesus’ Complete Lack of Personality: My mom and I agreed that this was the worst part of the movie. Jesus had no personality. He just seemed to wander around, confused and sad during his whole life. He was monotonous, boring, and really just had no personality. He was never seen joking around or affectionate with people. It was so bad that as Jesus was being beaten and crucified, I didn’t feel anything. I bawled my eyes out at The Passion because I truly felt that I was witnessing my Lord and Savior dying, and it was incredibly heartbreaking. In Son of God, I felt like I was seeing some guy I barely knew dying and it was kinda sad but not sad enough to make me cry a single tear. And if you know me, I cry at EVERYTHING.

All in all, I would not recommend this movie. Let me know when there’s a movie about the life of Jesus based closely on Scripture :)

So have you seen this movie? What are your thoughts? Do you think I’m being too picky or did you feel the same way?

How to study the Bible- Part 2- It’s time to learn Greek

How to Study the Bible- Part 2- It's time to learn Greek part 2

This semester I am taking a Gospel of Matthew class, decease which is proving to be super interesting so far. In the email the professor sent out before our first class, cheapest he wrote, caries “you will need an English translation of the Bible if your Greek is not fluent.” Umm? My what? Yeaaaaahhh. I don’t know any ancient Biblical Greek but, come to find out, neither does anyone else in the class (phew!). Although it would be so great to learn Greek, because it would help me understand the New Testament so much better, that’s not really an option for me right now.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of using solid translations when doing Biblical exegesis. But even when we are using a variety of translations, we always have to keep in mind that we’re removed from the original language of scripture and no Bible translation is perfect or infallible. So what do we do? Well unless you have a couple of years to learn Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, I suggest you use a concordance to help you out. A concordance will show you the original text and then how that word is translated throughout the Bible, what all its different meaning are, what root words the word is derived from, etc. The best online took for this I’ve found is Blue Letter Bible. Blue Letter Bible is an online Bible study website which includes a concordance, among many other study tools. It’s so great, but it took me a long time to figure out how to use so this post is to help you figure it out quickly :)

How it works:

The first step is to go to the At the top right you will see this box. Type in whatever Bible chapter, verse, or phrase you want to look up, and then you can select your preferred translation in the drop down menu below. In this case, I wanted to look up Ephesians 5:22. And then click search.

When you search a chapter of the Bible, you will be brought to a page that shows each individual verse of that chapter. To see the breakdown of the individual verse you are searching, you need to click the blue chapter/verse name, for example Eph 5:22.

When you click the specific verse, this box (in the photo below) will appear. As you can see, there is the original Greek text at the top and then each translated word corresponding to the Root Form, the far right column. The middle column says Strong’s and that refers to Strong’s concordance entry.

Note: Blue Letter Bible has Strong’s data for the King James and the NASB. In this example I selected the NIV translation, so you see that translation used for the verse at the top of the picture. However, the break down of translated words and Greek uses the NASB, since there is no data for the NIV. Depending on the translation you choose, you will either be shown the KJV data or the NASB data. The New Testament Strong’s data for the KJV is based on the Textus Receptus and the NASB is based upon the Nestle-Aland text. The Textus Receptus is used as a basis for the KJV, NKJV, RVR, ASV, and RSV, and so the KJV Strong’s data will be used when you chose any of  those versions. And since the Nestle-Aland text is used as a basis for the NLT, NIV, ESV, NASB, DBY, and HNV, the NASB Strong’s data will be used whenever you select any of those versions.

Ok so to see the concordance entry for a specific word, click on the Strong’s number. In this case, I want to look at the Greek word that is translated as “be subject to your own,” so I click on G2398 (highlighted).

When you click on the Strong number, you will be brought to an entry for that specific word. The word in Greek is at the top, underneath that is the transliteration and pronunciation, part of speech, root word (if the root of the word is known, there will be there corresponding Strong number that you can click on to check out the root word), Vine’s Dictionary (another useful tool) and then it will have an outline of Biblical usage. Some words have a ton of entries while others, like this, are shorter. Then you will see how this word has also been translated and how many times it is used (in the KJV).

So what do we find out about the word idios, which is translated as  “be subject to your own” ? We find out that the Greek just includes the “your own,” not the “be subject to” of the translation. This is something that Greg Boyd brought up in this sermon: Who’s the Boss (I highly recommend listening to the sermon). In the sermon, Greg said that the Greek does not include the “be subject to,” and so a better translation of the verse would be, “and wives to your husbands, as unto the Lord,” and now we know that he was right!

If we go back to the previous page, we can look at the verse that comes before 5:22. In this verse, the phrase “and be subject” is translated from a different Greek word. We can click on the Strong’s number for that word (G5293).

In this entry, you see that the word Greek hypotasso means “to be subject to.” The absence of hypotasso in verse 22 makes even more clear that the translation is repeating the phrase “be subject to” without it being in the original Greek.

So there’s a quick preview of Blue Letter Bible, how it works, and an example of the interesting information you can learn! BLB has a lot of other resources, including commentaries. I suggest you explore the site and discover all it has to offer. I absolutely recommend Blue Letter Bible for all your Bible-studying needs :) While it’s not the same as really knowing ancient Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, it’s a good starting place and can really add to your understanding of the Biblical text.

How to study the Bible- Part 1- Choosing a Bible Translation

how to study the bible- part 1- choosing a bible translation

Jesus teaches us that we are to love Him with all our heart, what is ed soul, visit this strength, see and mind and I think one big part of loving the Lord with our mind is to get to know Him through Scripture. Last year I heard the word exegesis for the first time when I studied the Bible in one of my classes. Exegesis is the critical study and interpretation of any text, not just the Bible, but it’s pronounced “exe-Jesus” so to me it sounds like it has to do with scripture.

Exegesis is one of my favorite things ever—in fact, if you search Instagram for #exegesis, you will probably see some of my pictures. Yep, I’m a Bible nerd. And while I recognize that not everyone is as enthusiastic about studying the Bible as I am, I think studying the Bible is so important and can really help us love the Lord more. However, it can be pretty daunting if you don’t know where to begin. So I’m writing a series of blog posts talking about different Bible study tools so you will feel confident when you read the Bible yourself!

This first post is about picking a Bible translation. When choosing a Bible translation, it’s important to know what method the translators used in creating their translation.

Word for Word/Formal Equivalence Translations—There are some translations that try to literally translate the meanings of individual words into English, using pretty much the same syntax, not adjusting grammar, sentence structure, or trying to make idioms or figures of speech more understandable. I personally don’t enjoy reading these word-for-word translations since they can sound really choppy and I think they’re hard to read. However, there is a benefit to reading these translations when doing exegesis because they help you get closer to the original Hebrew/Greek.

Thought for Thought/Sense for Sense/Dynamic Equivalence Translations—In these translations, the translators have tried to translate the meaning of each whole sentence, trying to bring in more of the original meaning. These translations are typically easier to read because an effort has been made to make the sentences sound more natural in English. The trouble with these translations is that they involve more interpretation because the translators are trying to re-create what the original text is trying to say.

Paraphrase—There are some translations that are extreme thought-for-thought translations that stray a lot from the original language, meaning that they’re more paraphrases than actual translations. These translations are trying to keep the same expressions and original conversational tone of the original language. One example of this is The Message translation—Eugene Peterson, who created The Message, felt that people weren’t connecting with the original vitality and spirit of the text, and so he returned back to the original Greek the New Testament and, without looking at other English translations, tried to bring into English the rhythms and idioms that were present in the Greek. I personally love the Message and feel like it has a special anointing, but I won’t deny that in places Patterson has taken some liberties with the text making the Message a great paraphrase, but not really a translation in the traditional sense of the word. Another great thought-for-thought translation is the Voice, which was created, “through a collaboration of nearly 120 biblical scholars, pastors, writers, musicians, poets, and artists, The Voice recaptures the passion, grit, humor, and beauty that is often lost in the translation process. The result is a retelling of the story of the Bible in a form as fluid as modern literary works yet painstakingly true to the original manuscripts.”

Most Bible translations fall on a spectrum between formal and dynamic equivalence. Here is a chart that shows you where they fall on the spectrum:

About Specific Translations:

The NIV is one of the most-read and most-trusted translations, created and updated in inter-denominational committees. It is clear and easy to read, but some have criticized it for having too much of an “evangelical” leaning (aka don’t show up to a theology class with you NIV translation unless you want to risk your professor telling you that you need to “throw that Bible away” haha).

The NRSV, an updated version of the King James Version, is a pretty denomination-neutral translation and is often used in academic settings.

Another great word-for-word translation is the Amplified Bible, which puts into parentheses amplified meanings of the Greek and Hebrew words so readers can get a deeper understanding of all the nuances and connotations of the original language.

Manuscripts: Another thing that is important when choosing a translation is to check what manuscripts the translation is using. For example, the King James Version was translated in the 1500s and uses pretty poor manuscripts. Since the KJV was translated, new Bible manuscripts have been found which are much more reliable. I personally recommend not relying only on the KJV for exegetical Bible study for this reason.

Bible Gateway is a great website that allows you to pull up a passage of scripture and then add tons of parallel translations—this way you can compare the NIV, ESV, KJV, the Message, the Voice, NRSV, and NAB all at once! It’s a way more practical way of crosschecking translations, rather than buying a zillion Bibles.

An example of formal vs. dynamic equivalence: 

As I was researching Bible translations, I found this article and it had the coolest example of the differences between formal and dynamic translations.

This is Matthew 5:1-2 in four different translations:

Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said:  -NIV

When Jesus saw the crowds, he went up the mountain; and after he sat down, his disciples came to him. Then he began to speak, and taught them, saying: -NRSV

And seeing the multitudes, he went up into a mountain: and when he was set, his disciples came unto him: And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, -KJV

Seeing the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying: -Amplified Bible

So the first two translations do not include “He opened His mouth,” which is present in the original Greek. It seems pretty obvious that if Jesus is speaking, His mouth is open, so it makes sense that the NIV and NRSV left it out. But why would Matthew write “He opened His mouth” ? If we look back to Matthew 4:3-4 when Satan tempts Jesus in the wilderness, this is the dialogue:

The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

Right there Jesus is quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, which says:

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

What if by pointing out that Jesus “opened His mouth” Matthew is actually saying that Jesus is Lord and what He is about to say, the Beatitudes and the rest of the Sermon on the Mount, are words from the Lord? I thought this insight was super cool, and something I would have totally missed had I not looked at more literal translations. So does this prove that you should always use a literal translation? No, but when doing Bible study it’s a good idea to use a variety of translations so you can do comparisons like this.

Click here for great chart that talks about specific translations, and it’s also where I got the translation spectrum picture above from.

What about me? My Bible has the NIV and the Message translations side by side, which I absolutely love. When I meditate on, memorize, or read scripture for fun, I use these two translations. When I’m doing exegetical Bible study, I always check several others.

Markan Priority, Q, and how we read the Gospels

Here are some of the many, public health many things I want to do in my life!

Skydive – what an amazing experience!

-Learn how to ballroom dance

-Publish a photograph

-Write my story

Graduate from high school– done! :)

-Graduate from college

-Get a tattoo

-Get married

-Be a mommy

-Visit every continent (but I’ll be pleased if I visit six of the seven)

  • North America
  • Europe

-Publish a book

-Make a cookbook

-Do crazy things for God

-Mission work

-Visit (that means spend time in) every state

  • Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Iowa, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia

-Make snow ice cream

-Ride in a hot air balloon

-Scuba Dive

-Drive cross country

-Learn how to decorate baked goods

-Visit Disney World

-Visit a concentration camp

-Ride with a dogsled team for the first leg of the Iditarod Race (I have wanted to do this since 2nd grade)

-Run some sort of race (I’ll be happy with a 5K)

Buy a full-frame professional camera– My grandparents gave me a Canon 5D!

-Build a life-sized snowman
2013 is a year that I will always remember as one of the most significant, link
life-changing, and best years of my life.

This year came out of a series of really tough years. It came out of a 12-year struggle with an eating disorder. It came out of years filled with depression and anxiety. And I really wasn’t expecting anything different from the year ahead. Things in my life had started to improve- I had finished my first semester of college, which had been challenging in many ways but had been wonderful in so many others. I truly loved where I was going to school and I had also become a part of an amazing church family that gave me the support, community, and friendship that I had desperately needed. I had started tentatively re-establishing my relationship with God and experienced Him moving in my life in significant ways. But despite all these things, I wasn’t expecting 2013 to be much different from the years that had preceded it. And praise God that I was wrong!

On New Year’s Eve, my family and I went to a party at a friend’s house to celebrate. I wasn’t feeling that well because my stomach was hurting from the constant anxiety I held in my body and I was gripped with a pervasive feeling of low self worth that prevented me from fully participating in the fun. But in the end I had a good time and we brought in the New Year. When we got home that night, I got in my room, closed the door, and started getting ready for bed. That night, the first moments of the New Year, I stood in front of this full-length mirror, naked. And I saw my body. I saw all the flaws I’ve focused on for the past decade. But the voice, the eating disorder voice, was quiet. I had a peaceful moment as I looked at my body and even though I didn’t see it as perfect, I was able to accept that it was my body and in that moment, it was ok. Even though I didn’t see my body as this thing of perfection or beauty, the imperfections that it held had no hold on who I was as a person. Because my stomach was too flabby didn’t mean, as it usually did, that I was a worthless failure. In that moment, at two in the morning, I saw myself as someone who had worth in Christ. I though to myself “I want to remember this moment, the fact that I started the New Year not hating my body or myself. I don’t know what this year will bring, but I want to remember this.” And that was the start. It was during that first week of the New Year that God spoke to me and gave me a promise. He promised me that this would be the year of my recovery.

God had never promised me anything like that before- He has always promised that He was walking with me through my struggles and would never leave me. And He had been faithful and true to that promise.

But this promise was very different. It was a promise of healing, of freedom, of restoration and redemption. It was a promise of a life very different from the life I had lived before.

Even though I didn’t know how I could possibly recover from the eating disorder that had been with me for so long, even though I didn’t know how God would be able to do a work of deep healing in me that years of therapy hadn’t been able to do, even though I didn’t know how He could restore my broken life, I trusted Him and I trusted His promise.

When I returned back to school, my friend who disciples me told me that the Lord had told her as well that this would be the year of my recovery and that it would not be a temporary relief or freedom but that after this year, I would be rid of my eating disorder forever.

And in a way that I can’t explain, I experienced tremendous freedom right away. God lifted my burden from me and I found myself living in freedom and joy in a way that I hadn’t before.

That’s not to say that it was always an easy journey. It has definitely been a process and at times it has been really hard. For as many encouraging things that have happened, there have been a lot of discouraging setbacks. But there was also a tremendous amount of hope in those setbacks because I knew that by the end of the year, I would be living in freedom.

Whenever I was panicked by food or hated my body, I heard the Lord saying that I was a new creation- the old has passed away and the new has come.

This fall, after an amazing and unprecedented six months free from depression, I experienced a depressive episode. And He told me that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yolk of slavery.

And I got tremendous hope and joy through a study of the book of Revelation, which paints a beautiful picture of the holy city coming down from heaven, and all pain and sorrow being wiped away. And He who is seated on the throne says, “I am making everything new! Write these words down for they are trustworthy and true.” The Lord showed me that this is His promise for the future- His restoration of all the world. But He also showed me that this is His promise for me now. That He was making me new and bringing newness into my life. And so I got this promise as a tattoo- to forever remind myself of the Lord’s faithfulness for me during this specific year, to remind myself of my forever-identity as a new creation in Him, and to remember His promise for all the world- a complete resurrection, a redemption life.


This New Year’s Eve is not only the start of a new year, but also the start of a new life for me. I have been made new by the blood of the Lamb. The Lord has breathed new life into my dry bones. I am out of the valley. And what a glorious journey it will be.

try Q, see and how we read the Gospels” alt=”” src=”” width=”640″ height=”640″ /> Just a few of the books from my Gospel of Matthew class!

This semester I am taking a class called The Gospel of Matthew in which we do exegesis of Matthew for a whole semester—aka my favorite thing ever. We are trying to understand Matthew’s Gospel in the context in which it was written and are comparing it to the other Gospels, approved
especially the other Synoptic Gospels (side note: synoptic is derived from the Greek words “together” and “view.” The first 3 Gospels are called synoptic because they are very similar). Reading and studying the Bible in an academic context is always very different than when you’re reading it for your own personal growth or study, as I continue to learn. So this post is about some of the things I’m learning about in class!

Let me start off by saying this:

I believe that all scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching (2 Timothy 3:16). I think scripture is one of the best ways, if not the best way, to learn about the character of God and so I love studying the Bible. However, the center of my faith rests on the person of Jesus Christ, which means that I have the freedom to ask hard questions about the validity of the Bible. In all my research I feel confident that the Bible is trustworthy and if we really believe that we can trust God’s word, we shouldn’t shy away from asking and addressing these hard questions out of fear for what we may find out. This post is not a defense of the Bible, rather it is looking at different theories of the origins of the Gospel accounts.

Something we’ve been talking about in class is a hypothesis called the two-source hypothesis, Markan priority, and Q. Here’s the hypothesis: Mark was the first Gospel written, hence the phrase Markan priority. The writers of Matthew and Luke used Mark to write their Gospels, which is why they share so much of the same material. However, there is a substantial amount of material that both Matthew and Luke have but that Mark doesn’t have. This has led some scholars to believe that Matthew and Luke must have both been looking at another source to get the additional material. This source is called Q, which is from the German word Quelle, which means, “source.” So the two-source hypothesis states that Luke and Matthew used both Mark and Q to write their Gospels.

Evidence for the two-source theory:

There’s linguistic evidence for the two-source theory. Mark’s Greek is not very polished and so where Matthew and Luke share content with Mark, you can see that they have taken his original language and smoothed out the Greek, but they have done so in different ways, which accounts for some of their linguistic differences.

Additionally, many scholars date Luke and Matthew as having been written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. Therefore, Luke and Matthew were most likely not first-hand accounts, as is commonly held by most Christians, and so it would make sense that they would use other sources to write their Gospels.

Evidence for Q:

There are many instances where Matthew and Luke have almost identical accounts of an event that is not described in Mark. For example, in Mark 1:12-13, Mark writes this about Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness:

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

(Side note—I think Mark is hilarious. This is all he had to say about the matter?)

Matthew and Luke both go into very similar accounts of the temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13), including almost identical dialogue between Satan and Jesus. Since Matthew and Luke consistently share this material, scholars believe that they must have been looking at another source, named Q.

When you’re reading the Gospels through the two-source hypothesis, you’re not reading the Gospels so much as an account of what Jesus said and did, but rather how the Gospel writers interpreted and edited the two sources they were using—this is called redaction criticism—redaction means editing and so when doing redaction criticism we are trying to get into the mind of the redactor. So this opens up a way to read the Gospels in which we’re trying to figure out why the author wrote what he did and why he changed the original language from Mark/Q to fit his own purposes.

Issues with the Two-Source Hypothesis:

One thing that has become abundantly clear is that scholars seem to take as fact that Q is the second source for Matthew and Luke. However, let’s be clear that Q does not actually exist. I’ve been reading lots of theology books for my various theology classes, and some of them straight out cite Q. You cannot cite something that does not exist! Q has never been found—not even fragments. It is a document that has been created by Bible scholars by gathering shared material from Matthew and Luke, but it’s not real so we shouldn’t let ourselves be deluded into thinking that it actually exists.

Also, many scholars believe that Matthew and Luke were written before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., which means that the two Gospels could, in fact, be first hand accounts. The reason for thinking this is that in Matthew and Luke, Jesus makes prophetic statements that seem to predict the destruction of the temple and yet neither the authors of Matthew or Luke say something like, “here Jesus was predicting the destruction of the temple.” There’s an even stronger case to be made for Luke being dated even earlier—the author of Luke is also the author of Acts, and the Gospel of Luke was written before Acts (see Acts 1:1-2). There’s good evidence that Acts was written in the early 60s A.D. because the author does not mention the deaths of James, Peter, or Paul, which happened in the mid 60s, and the author also does not mention the destruction of the temple, which seems like it would be important when constructing an account of the early Christian church. Therefore, these earlier dates of the Gospels would allow for them to be first-hand accounts, or the eyewitness accounts of people who had actually been with and seen Jesus. Luke, most likely a traveling companion of Paul, says in the very beginning of his gospel:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught. –Luke 1:1-4

Luke was not an eyewitness to Jesus’s life, death, or resurrection. However, he has compiled first-hand accounts of eyewitnesses in order to write his gospel.

Matthew, on the other hand, is traditionally thought to be an eyewitness. Whether or not the author of Matthew is actually Matthew, the tax collector who was one of the 12 disciples, we can’t know (since the author does not name himself in the Gospel), but especially with the earlier dating, it is not unlikely that he was with Jesus and heard these teachings first hand.

When reading the Gospels as first-hand accounts or narratives of events that actually happened, how can we account for theological and linguistic differences between Matthew, Mark, and Luke? Well first of all, if three people are at the same event, it is not surprising that they would walk away with different ideas of what happened, different interpretations. Each of the Gospel writers is also writing to a different audience with a different perspective—for example, Matthew is writing to Christian Jews, and so he emphasizes the halakhah (Jewish law) more than Mark or Luke.

So now you know a little bit more about how the Synoptic Gospels are often read in an academic setting! I encourage you to explore many different view points and ask critical questions of them all before you draw your own conclusions :)