A Review of “Who Wrote the New Testament?” -- By: Dennis Ingolfsland

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 154:614 (Apr 1997)
Article: A Review of “Who Wrote the New Testament?”
Author: Dennis Ingolfsland


A Review of “Who Wrote the New Testament?”

Dennis Ingolfsland

[Dennis Ingolfsland is Assistant Professor of Bible, Bryan College, Dayton, Tennessee.]

Burton Mack is a professor of New Testament at the School of Theology at Claremont (California). His three books, A Myth of Innocence: Mark and Christian Origins; The Lost Gospel: The Book of Q; and most recently, Who Wrote the New Testament? The Making of the Christian Myth, propose that virtually everything people thought they knew about the origin of the Christian faith must be radically revised in light of recent studies. The purpose of this article is to review Mack’s arguments primarily as set forth in Who Wrote the New Testament? and to offer a critique of his view.

According to Mack, Jesus’ movements arose in Galilee because of the social experimentation of people responding to the confusion caused by living in a multicultural society. Jesus’ movements began in the thirties and forties as “loosely knit groups” of people gathered around three ideas: (a) “the vague notion of a perfect society conceptualized as a kingdom,” (b) the view that “any individual…was fit for this kingdom,” regardless of his or her social status, and (c) the point “that a mixture of people was exactly what the kingdom of God should look like.”1

Mack suggests there were several groups of Jesus people in the earliest years: the “Q community,” the “true disciples,” the “congregation of Israel,” the “Jesus school,” the “Jerusalem pillars,” and the “Christ cult.”2 As for the traditional picture of

Christian origins as a unified church, Mack asserts that Luke and Acts were written in the second century, seventy-five years after Jesus’ time and that the author “had reasons for wanting to imagine things that way.”3

Jesus’ earliest followers remembered Him as “a teacher who challenged individuals to think of themselves as citizens of the kingdom of God.”4 This united people in a form of social experimentation in which they met as groups, shared meals, and attributed sayings to Jesus, revising them as needed to fit the “school of thought they were developing.”5 Jesus’ earliest followers were not much interested in preserving His teachings. Rather, they felt free to create or change them to reflect the kind of communities they wanted to become....

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