Evangelicals And Ipsissima Vox -- By: Donald E. Green

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 12:1 (Spring 2001)
Article: Evangelicals And Ipsissima Vox
Author: Donald E. Green

Evangelicals And Ipsissima Vox

Donald E. Green

Faculty Associate in New Testament

The ipsissima vox position views the Gospels as containing the concepts that Jesus expressed, but not His very words. This essay focuses on the use of ancient history and parallel scriptural passages to support the ipsissima vox view. Advocates of the view regularly cite Thucydides as furnishing a pattern for how NT writers quoted their sources, but this precedent breaks down for a number of reasons. In addition, it does not take into account the difference between Greco-Roman writers and Jewish historiography. The reliance of ipsissima vox on parallel passages in the Synoptic Gospels also falters. On one hand, proponents of the position use accounts of events that prove nothing regarding accounts of spoken words. On the other hand, they make no allowance for explanations in accounts of spoken words that adequately account for differences by assuming an ipsissima verba view of the quotations. A further failing of the ipsissima vox position is its failure to account for the role of the Holy Spirit in the inspiration of the Gospels. Recent evangelical proponents of this system have yielded too much ground in their discussions of the accuracy of these books.

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To what extent do the four canonical Gospels record the very words of Jesus? That question sparked the work of the infamous Jesus Seminar, and has been the subject of increasing attention in evangelical circles in the past few years. Various writers, including Grant Osborne,1 Daniel Wallace,2 Robert Thomas,3

Darrell Bock,4 and Robert Wilkin5 have all addressed this issue to some extent in their recent writings.

In technical terms, this discussion centers on whether the Gospels contain the ipsissima vox of Jesus (“His very voice,” i.e., His teaching summarized) or the ipsissima verba of Jesus (“His very words”).6 The proponents of ipsissima vox maintain that the gospel writers never intended to give a verbatim account of Jesus’ words, but rather took the liberty to edit His words to fit their own purposes in writing. Under the ipsissima vox view, “the concepts go back to Jesus, but the words do not—at least, not exactly as recorded.”You must have a subscription and be logged in to read the entire article.
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