Did The Early Church Invent Jesus’ Sayings?
Whenever I meet with friends who are skeptics, they ask, “Did Jesus write down any of the words he said?”
“Nope,” I reply.
“Then how do you know that you can trust what is written in the Gospels? How do we know that what was written was exactly what Jesus taught?”
This is a common argument that people use to deny the trustworthiness of Jesus’ words in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
Their argument, very simply, is that Jesus’ followers made this stuff up out of thin air. It’s a common argument that comes from a legitimate question.
The problem with this theory, as Craig Blomberg points out (as with all approaches that attempt to claim that what is in the gospels was “made up out of thin air” by Jesus’ followers) is,
“…It requires the assumption that someone, about a generation removed from the events in question, radically transformed the authentic information about Jesus that was circulating at that time, superimposed a body of material four times as large, fabricated almost entirely out of whole cloth, while the church suffered sufficient collective amnesia to accept the transformation as legitimate.” 1
In other words, the words of Jesus that the gospel writers recorded weren’t spurious.
Sayings that were invented and placed into Jesus’ mouth would have been quickly discredited by the apostles just as quickly as, say, if you were to die and people started saying that you constantly claimed to be the King of Scotland.
Your spouse, your kids, and your co-workers would have said to anyone who repeated that claim, “Listen, my husband said lots of stupid things. I mean he was a Cowboys fan, what do you expect? But I can tell you with 100% certainty it was never claimed to be the King of Scotland.”
Craig Blomberg, Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 22.