The Historical Jesus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective

Robert L. Millet

Robert L. Millet, “The Historical Jesus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective,” in Historicity and the Latter-day Saint Scriptures, ed. Paul Y. Hoskisson (Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2001), 171–96. 

Robert L. Millet was a professor of ancient scripture at Brigham Young University when this was published.

By the nineteenth century, some scholars had begun to question the origins of the New Testament. Few scholars doubt that Jesus lived, but some doubt the historicity of much that is recorded about Him. They concede that Jesus was a good teacher, but they deny His miracles and His divine mission, and they discredit words traditionally attributed to Him in the New Testament. Each critical viewpoint approaches the Bible differently: Historical criticism compares the New Testament to its contemporary documents and setting; textual criticism aims at the discovery of the oldest and most authentic manuscripts; source criticism tries to determine the sources of the New Testament, including the hypothetical Q document; form criticism focuses on the importance of oral transmission; and redaction criticism looks at the Gospel writers as editors. While these may be legitimate fields of study, the stance of some Bible critics precludes supernatural agency. Through Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the Book of Mormon, and other revelations, the Restoration provides a powerful additional witness of Christ’s divinity and of the New Testament.

I would like to begin by relating how I first encountered the matter of historicity in my doctoral program. [1] My memories of the first class I took in religion at an eastern university are still very much intact. It was a course entitled “Seminar in Biblical Studies” and dealt with such issues as scripture, canon, interpretation, authorship, eschatology, prophecy, and like subjects. We were but weeks into the seminar when the professor was confronted by a question from an Evangelical Protestant student on the reality of miracles among ancient Israel. The response was polite but brief: “I’m not going to state my own position on the matter in this class. Let me just say that I feel it doesn’t really matter whether the Israelites actually crossed the Red Sea on dry ground as a result of some miracle performed by Moses. What matters is that the Israelites then and thereafter saw it as an act of divine intervention, and the event became a foundation for a people’s faith for centuries.”

About a year later I found myself in a similar setting, this time in a seminar entitled “Critical Studies of the New Testament,” the first half of a two-semester encounter with a literary-historical study of the New Testament. The composition of the students in the seminar made for fascinating conversation: a Reformed Jew, two Methodists, two Southern Baptists, a Roman Catholic, a Nazarene, and a Latter-Day Saint. The professor was a secular Jew. By the time we had begun studying the passion narratives in the Gospels, the question of “historical events” vs. “faith events” had been raised. The professor stressed the importance of “myth” and emphasized that miraculous events in the New Testament (because in them the narrative detaches itself from the ordinary limitations of time and space such that the supernatural “irrupts” into human history) should be relegated to the category of faith events or sacred story. And then came the punch line, a phrase that had a haunting familiarity: “Now, for example: Whether or not Jesus of Nazareth came back to life—literally rose from the dead—is immaterial. What matters is that the Christians thought he did. And the whole Christian movement is founded on this faith event.”

Few people doubt that Jesus Christ lived. His appearance on the stage of history is too well attested to doubt. But what is so often doubted is His divinity—His divine Sonship, His miracles, His ability to forgive sins and heal and regenerate human souls, His power over life and death.

In recent years the so-called “Jesus Seminar” has focused our attention on the words of Jesus. [2] Several New Testament scholars have concluded that 82 percent of the words traditionally attributed to Jesus in the four Gospels were not really spoken by Him. They have published a new translation of the Gospels called the Scholars Version. In it they have employed a system of color coding in which the words formerly attributed to our Lord are classified according to color: (1) Words in red indicate what was definitely spoken by Jesus; (2) words in pink are those that the scholars are less certain may be traced back to Jesus or are words that have suffered modification in transmission; (3) words in gray did not originate with Jesus, though they may well reflect his ideas; and (4) words in black are those that were put into the mouth of Jesus in the stories prepared by His followers or admirers (or, in some cases, by his enemies) and are therefore inauthentic. All references to Christ as the Son of God have been declared inauthentic, as have all places that refer to His messiahship, His preexistence, His resurrection, His forgiveness of sins, and His miraculous healings. For that matter, the Gospel of John has been printed in black.

My initial reaction to this whole undertaking was a form of quiet rage: How dare they? Who do they think they are? What audacity to suppose that they know enough about our Lord and Savior to set us straight, to tell the world what Jesus said and what He did not say! My next reaction was more somber: What a pity! How disheartening, how sad that what began as the Quest for the Historical Jesus has brought us to the point where we have sheared the Savior of divinity and reduced to myth and metaphor His capacity to come into the world and transform fallen humanity. How unfortunate it is that basically good men and women, people who have at least an affection or an admiration for holy writ, should wander so far afield. How did we come to this?

What is known by scholars as the “Old Quest” for the Historical Jesus began around 1775. It entailed a concern with the religious personality of Jesus of Nazareth, a focus on His environment and how that environment affected His beliefs, and a desire to dismiss and tear away the veneer with which the Early Church and thereafter Christian theologians had covered Jesus. Albert Schweitzer is best known for his major work on this subject. His book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus (German 1906, English 1910), contains a lengthy review of the quest to his own time. [3] Schweitzer concluded that it was in fact impossible to discover the historical quest, thus bringing to an end the initial quest.

With Rudolph Bultmann, a new approach to “Jesus Studies” was undertaken (see his History of the Synoptic Tradition, published in 1963). [4] He suggested that theology did not depend upon the varying conclusions of historians; it was perverse, he felt, to require that theology be founded on our history. Besides, he added, we know so little about the historical figure of Jesus that it is fruitless to attempt to understand Him historically. Jesus was something, or rather someone, to be experienced personally, existentially. This came to be known by some as the “no quest” period.

The third or “new quest” was led by one of Bultmann’s students, Ernst Käsemann, who contended that we could indeed reconstruct enough of the historical record to come to a real understanding of Jesus, especially of Jesus’ Jewishness. [5] The members of the Jesus Seminar are an outgrowth of the new quest, as are other more respected scholars who find the Jesus Seminar—approach as well as conclusions—to be inane. Scholars like James H. Charlesworth, [6] E. P. Sanders, [7] and Geza Vermes [8] come to mind. They choose not to address the divine Sonship or the matter of Christ’s divinity and focus instead on His social surroundings and milieu.

In 1966 Elder Gordon B. Hinckley said: “Modern theologians strip [Jesus] of his divinity and then wonder why men do not worship him. These clever scholars have taken from Jesus the mantle of godhood and have left only a man. They have tried to accommodate him to their own narrow thinking. They have robbed him of his divine sonship and taken from the world its rightful King.” [9] Some five years later, President Harold B. Lee explained to a group of students at Utah State University:

Fifty years ago or more when I was a missionary, our greatest responsibility was to defend the great truth that the Prophet Joseph Smith was divinely called and inspired and that the Book of Mormon was indeed the word of God. But even at that time there were the unmistakable evidences that there was coming into the religious world actually a question about the Bible and about the divine calling of the Master himself. Now, fifty years later, our greatest responsibility and anxiety is to defend the divine mission of our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, for all about us, even among those who claim to be professors of the Christian faith, are those not willing to stand squarely in defense of the great truth that our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, was indeed the Son of God. [10]

Biblical Criticism

To what extent have we accepted uncritically the tenets and canons of biblical criticism? Why should we be so willing to jettison time-honored beliefs and sacred values on the basis of someone else’s doubts or a system of scholarship that from the outset precludes the essentials of the Christian message? I want to take the time here to examine critically some of the universally held presuppositions and approaches of New Testament criticism. Such an analysis is fundamental to any serious effort to address the question of historicity in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.

For centuries men have been concerned with the meaning and historical reliability of valuable texts. In particular, treasured works and collections like the Bible have been the center of attention of persons with both sacred and secular motives and outlooks. Biblical criticism is the science and methodology associated with taking a critical (close and precise) look at the holy scriptures. Elder John A. Widtsoe observed:

To Latter-day Saints there can be no objection to the careful and critical study of the scriptures, ancient or modern, provided only that it be an honest study—a search for truth. The Prophet Joseph Smith voiced the attitude of the Church at a time when modern higher criticism was in its infancy. “We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly.” This article of our faith is really a challenge to search the scriptures critically. Moreover, the Church had just been established, when Joseph Smith under divine direction, set about to revise or explain the incorrect and obscure passages of the Bible. The work then done is a powerful evidence of the inspiration that guided the Prophet. Whether under a special call of God or impelled by personal desire, there can be no objection to the critical study of the Bible.” [11]

Though questions of authorship and authority of scriptural books have been raised for hundreds of years, [12] most critical inquiry into the origins of the New Testament belongs to the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Obviously, not all biblical critics are motivated by the same interests or feel a commitment to values beyond their training or discipline. Unfortunately, many with linguistic and literary skills have taken positions regarding the New Testament that tend (directly or indirectly) to cast doubt on accepted and traditional religious concepts: revelation, miracles, and a belief in the overall hand of Deity in the formation and preservation of the scriptures. It would appear that here, as in all studies, identifying one’s presuppositions—recognizing a scholar’s orientation—is crucial.

Donald Guthrie has noted that “there is a decided difference between a scholar who accepts the divine origin of Scripture and inquires into its historical and literary origins and a scholar who begins his critical inquiries with the assumption that there is nothing unique about the text and who claims the right to examine it as he would any other book. The former is not simply submitting the text to the bar of his own reason to establish its validity, but assumes that the text will authenticate itself when subject to reverent examination. His stance of faith and his critical inquiry in no way invalidate each other.” [13]

Historical Criticism. One approach to a study of the New Testament is what is known in German as Religionsgeschichte, a history of religions approach. Here scholars have sought, for example, to examine the influence of contemporary religious ideas on early Christian texts—the supposed influence of the Essenes on John or Jesus, the impact of the Greek mystery religions on Christian ordinances or ritual, or the supposed pervasive influence of the Gnostics on Paul’s letters. [14] One obvious presupposition of this perspective is that an event or a movement is largely (if not completely) a product of its surroundings, the result of precipitating factors in the environment.

Though it is certainly valuable to be able to look critically at the setting—for nothing takes shape in an intellectual or religious vacuum—and though it is true that many elements impinge upon a moment in history, we need not suppose a causal connection between any two factors in an environment. Simply because A precedes B, we need not conclude that A caused B; we need not be guilty of the logical fallacy of post hoc, ergo propter hoc. Nor need we conclude that because A and B coexist they are necessarily related. Thus one of the flaws in the reasoning of some historical critics is an overreliance on a linear view of history, an acceptance of the principle that phenomena evolve from previously existing circumstances. Such is certainly not the case in all situations; many events or movements in history were more revolutionary than evolutionary. [15]

Another “history of religions” approach to the Gospels consists in stressing similarities between the Gospels and other contemporary documents, and in so doing minimizing the uniqueness of the canonical books. [16] But what is it that one has established when one demonstrates that the idea of a “virgin birth” was known to the Greeks, that many Greeks accepted the idea of a God-man, that the crux of many of Jesus’ sayings is to be found also among Jewish rabbis before the first century A.D., or that the concepts of martyrdom and ascension into heaven were not new to the world of Jesus of Nazareth? Latter-day Saints are blessed with an understanding of the plan of salvation that informs our thinking regarding antiquity. We know that Christ’s eternal gospel has been preached from the beginning, and that Christian prophets have taught Christian doctrine and administered Christian ordinances since the days of Adam. [17] Should we be surprised that elements of that doctrine or semblances of the ordinances or rituals (albeit in fragmentary and even apostate form) should be found in cultures throughout the world? [18]

Textual Criticism. One of the major reasons for the variety of Bibles today is that the different versions are not necessarily translated from the same manuscripts. Unfortunately, today there are no original manuscripts of the New Testament, only copies of copies of copies. Scribal errors came early in the process of transmission; even careful scribes were prone to the mistakes associated with human limitations (eyes, ears, physical strength, and faulty judgment). [19] When an error in copying went undetected, it was preserved in successive copies. Through comparing variant readings and grouping together documents with similar readings, manuscript or textual “families” became apparent, each family of manuscripts possessing certain distinct characteristics in common. One reason various English versions of today’s Bible differ is that they represent translations of different textual families.

“Textual criticism, commonly known in the past as ‘lower’ criticism in contrast to the so-called ‘higher’ (historical and literary) criticism, is the science that compares all known manuscripts of a given work in an effort to trace the history of variations within the text so as to discover its original form.” [20] The method of textual criticism, observes Bruce Metzger, “involves two main processes, recension and emendation. Recension is the selection, after examination of all available material, of the most trustworthy evidence on which to base a text. Emendation is the attempt to eliminate the errors which are found even in the best manuscripts.” [21] Some of the principles or criteria for choosing among readings (and scholars would disagree as to the relative weighting of each of these factors) are as follows:

  1. The earliest manuscript is likely to be the most correct.
  2. The shorter reading is to be preferred to the longer.
  3. The text supported by the most authorities (manuscripts and early quotations) is likely to be the most nearly correct.
  4. The manuscripts with the widest geographical distribution are preferred. [22]

Textual criticism, a science dedicated to the discovery of the oldest and most accurate and authentic manuscripts (and thus the most ancient messages), has certainly proven to be one of the most valuable approaches to a study of the New Testament. There are, however, some precautions that must be taken by Latter-day Saints who are sincerely intent on discovering things as they were in antiquity. First of all, the Book of Mormon is a powerful witness that the world has never had a complete Bible, that plain and precious truths were taken away or kept back from the Old and New Testaments long before the time of their compilation and canonization (see 1 Ne. 13:20–40). “The problem which lies before the textual critic,” Frederic Kenyon observed, “is now becoming clear. The original manuscripts of the Bible, written by the authors of the various books, have long ago disappeared.” [23] In discussing theologically motivated alterations of the texts, Bart D. Ehrman has written recently: “The New Testament manuscripts were not produced impersonally by machines capable of flawless reproduction. They were copied by hand, by living, breathing human beings who were deeply rooted in the conditions and controversies of their day. Did the scribes’ polemical contexts influence the way they transcribed their sacred Scriptures?” Ehrman contends that they did, “that theological disputes, specifically disputes over Christology, prompted Christian scribes to alter the words of Scripture in order to make them more serviceable for the polemical task.” [24]

Textual variants occur in many ways, both the unplanned and the planned ones. The unplanned—errors of the hand, the eye, the ear, and of judgment—will probably not occur in the same place in each copy. Such errors are dealt with without extreme difficulty; they may be corrected through a comparison with other copies. “It is the planned changes,” Robert J. Matthews has noted, “that are the most damaging.” These come about when the copyist or the translator begins to think for himself and deliberately makes his copy differ from the written document. In this manner, substantial changes may occur in a very short time and can result in added material or in the loss of material. Even these changes could be corrected if one had the original to refer to for comparison, but if the master copy is unavailable, the corrupted texts perpetuate the errors. All subsequent copies made from the altered text will bear the same shortcomings because there is no master copy or archetype with which to correct it. ..

As we read the words of the angel [in 1 Nephi 13], we discover that the world never has had a complete Bible, for it was massively, even cataclysmically, corrupted before it was distributed. If this is true, and since the originals disappeared early from the scene (thus preventing a correction from that source), what does this passage from Nephi mean to us about Bible textual criticism? . . .

The great scholars, employing the science of textual criticism, seem to be effectively correcting the errors made by the carelessness and weakness of man. By extensively searching the available manuscripts, such as the Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus, and lesser fragments, the text of the Bible may yet be recovered to the condition it was in after it was cataclysmically corrupted as spoken in 1 Nephi. . . .

It appears to me that the world has mistakenly identified the text of the second or third generation as being the same as the original.. .. Thus the great manuscripts so highly regarded are indeed precious for their antiquity and beauty, but they represent the depleted text not the original. The plain and precious missing parts have not yet been made known through manuscripts and scholars, but are available only through the Book of Mormon, the Joseph Smith Translation, and modern revelation through the instrumentality of a prophet. [25]

Source Criticism. Source criticism, once known as literary criticism, is that scholarly study that seeks to identify the possible sources for scriptural books. A close comparative study of the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke—literally those that take a “similar look” at Christ), for example, is most revealing. We find, for example, that essentially 606 of the 661 verses of Mark appear in Matthew and that 380 of Mark’s verses reappear with only slight alteration in Luke. From another perspective, “of the 1,068 verses of Matthew, about 500 contain material also found in Mark; of the 1,149 verses of Luke, about 380 are paralleled in Mark.” There are only 31 verses in Mark not found in Matthew or Luke: only 7 percent of the Gospel of Mark is exclusive. [26]

What is one to make of such statistics? What is the chronological and literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels? The issues underlying the relationships between these three Gospels constitute what biblical critics have come to know as the “Synoptic Problem.” Since the nineteenth century, many scholars have concluded that the solution of the Synoptic Problem was to be found by stressing the priority of Mark, the shortest of the Gospels. The general consensus has been that Mark was the first Gospel written and that Matthew and Luke drew upon Mark in preparing their own. [27] This approach, known as the “Markan Hypothesis,” or the “Two-Document Hypothesis,” contends that Matthew relied on (a) Mark, on (b) a “sayings source” or collection of sayings by Jesus (the Q Document, from the German word Quelle, “source”), and (c) added his own peculiar style, perspective, and experiences (called M) in preparing the Gospel which we know as Matthew. Luke relied on (a) Mark, on (b) Q, and (c) added his own unique perspective (called L). In short, the Two-Document Hypothesis for the composition of Matthew and Luke is as follows:

Matthew = Mark + Q + M

Luke = Mark + Q + L

The Two-Document Hypothesis has been accepted by most of the New Testament scholarly world since the last century. The discovery of Gnostic Christian materials in the Nag Hammadi Library in Upper Egypt in the late 1940s revealed, among other important things, a collection of 114 sayings, known as the “Gospel According to Thomas,” which many scholars felt to be supportive of the proposition that “Jesus-sayings” (like Q) were afloat for many years before the formation of the canonical Gospels. [28] Others have wondered whether the reverse was not true: perhaps documents like the Gospel of Thomas simply drew on or copied from older materials, like the Gospel of Matthew. [29]

Though it is a common presupposition of some biblical critics to prefer the shortest document as the oldest (thus assuming that the longer ones contain embellishments and additions), Latter-day Saints should take seriously Nephi’s vision of the corruption of the biblical texts in this regard. Is it not just as reasonable to suppose that Mark, having before him the longer Matthew or the longer Luke, chose to prepare an abbreviated Gospel, placing less stress on sermons and parables and more stress on the movements and actions of our Lord? [30]

William R. Farmer, for example, has argued for the primacy of Matthew, an approach that goes a long way toward eliminating the need for a hypothetical sayings source. Some of Farmer’s suggestions as to the inadequacy of the Two-Document Hypothesis to resolve the Synoptic Problem include the following: (1) the failure of the Markan Hypothesis “to account for Mark’s selection of items in relation to Matthew and Luke from the presumably rich storehouse of tradition available to him”; (2) another “inadequacy . . . is that it requires us to believe that Matthew and Luke are independent of one another.” This does not explain the “numerous agreements between Matthew and Luke in passages where they are supposed to be independently copying Mark”; in a related manner, “there are at least twenty topics that Matthew and Luke have in common. These cannot be explained through a dependence upon Mark, because Mark does not contain several of these topics. For example, Mark does not have birth narratives, a genealogy, a temptation story, the Sermon on the Mount, or large collections of parables,” all of which are found throughout Matthew and Luke; (3) all the church fathers who mention the sequence of the Gospels indicate that Matthew was written first. “The earliest statement regarding sequence was made by Clement of Alexandria who indicates that both Matthew and Luke were written before Mark”; and (4) there is the question of the relation between the historical spread and development of the Christian Church and the formation of the Gospels:

Let us put the matter another way. Jesus and his disciples were Jews living in Palestine. In due time the community that began with Jesus and his disciples spread out into the Mediterranean world. As the extra-Palestinian expansion of the community took place, more and more gentiles sought membership in it until finally it developed into a community that was predominantly gentile.

How does this affect our view of the Gospels? All would agree, of course, that Matthew is the most Jewish Gospel in the canon. It is also the Gospel that best reflects the Palestinian origins of the Christian church. Luke too is very Jewish, but there are many passages where, by comparison, this Gospel is better adapted for use by gentiles outside of Palestine. While unmistakably retaining traditions of Jewish and Palestinian origin, Mark is the best adapted of the three for gentile readers who are not acquainted with Palestinian culture. Thus, in terms of historical development, we can begin easily enough with Matthew and go on to Luke and/or Mark. But historically speaking, it is difficult to reverse the process and to place Matthew after either one or both of the others. [31]

The above is not presented to denigrate the Two-Document Hypothesis as a heuristic device, but rather to suggest other alternatives. [32] It may well be that the Gospel of John, long believed to be the latest of the Gospels, took shape much earlier than we had supposed; perhaps, as some contend, it is the earliest! The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls has certainly shown the Gospel of John to be as “Jewish” in content as the other Gospels. [33]

Form Criticism. Form criticism is the science that attempts to identify the origins of literary materials in the Gospels. One approach to this method assumes that oral traditions in different forms—stories and sayings—were woven together by the Gospel writers to produce a more complete written tradition about Jesus and the events of His life. [34] In short, “the main purpose for the creation, the circulation, and the use of these forms was not to preserve the history of Jesus, but to strengthen the life of the church. Thus these forms reflect the concern of the church, and both the form and content have been influenced by the faith and theology of the church, as well as by her situation and practice.” [35]

A serious student of the New Testament must feel some sense of gratitude for the focus that form criticism has given to the importance of oral transmission. There can be no doubt that much good has come to the world as a result of a closer look at this almost neglected dimension of literary development. Acceptance of Christ and His gospel was accomplished first through the power of verbal human testimony. Much of the earliest scripture in the meridian dispensation (as perhaps in all dispensations) existed in an oral and unrecorded form. [36] The kerygma (proclamation of the gospel), the logia (sayings of Christ), and the agrapha (unwritten things) circulated as the witness of the apostles spread from Jerusalem to the ends of the known world.

On the other hand, although form critics like Martin Dibelius and Rudolph Bultmann would suggest an evolutionary development in the Gospels from an oral stage to written document, [37] such need not to have been the case. Surely these oral testimonies spread at the same time that written documents were being prepared and circulated concerning the works and words of the Master. [38] In our own day, genuine faith-promoting stories circulate in the Church orally at the same time that written accounts of the events are readily available. It does not require a severe stretch of the imagination to suppose that in the first-century Church, written documents recounting many of the events of the life of Jesus were contemporaneous with the Saints’ reminiscences and personal oral testimonies. The manner in which oral traditions were valued is highlighted, for example, in a statement by Papias, bishop of Hierapolis in Asia Minor (ca. A.D. 130–40): “But I shall not be unwilling to put down, along with my interpretations, whatsoever instructions I received with care at any time from the elders, and stored up with care in my memory, assuring you at the same time of their truth. . . . If, then, any one who had attended on the elders came, I asked minutely after their sayings—what Andrew or Peter said, or what was said by Philip, or by Thomas, or by James, or by John, or by Matthew, or by any other of the Lord’s disciples.” And then Papias added: “For I imagined that what was to be got from books was not so profitable to me as what came from the living and abiding voice. [39]

Not all biblical scholars are as enamored with form critical assumptions or methods as was once the case. Richard L. Anderson observed:

But one can be just as skeptical of form criticism as form criticism is of the Gospels. Investigating how the Gospel accounts have changed begs the question of whether they have changed. The Gospels present parallel stories of Jesus’ life with occasional contradictions in details, but each Gospel represents a rich supplement to the information on the life of Jesus available in any other Gospel. Form criticism assumes a creativity on the part of the early Christian community different from the “continuity of revelation” creativity I spoke of; it is, instead, “invention” creativity—the assumption that the early Christian community adapted these stories to their preaching needs at any given time. . . .

In my view, form criticism is also badly out-of-date in its assumption that there was a period of oral transmission of the stories of Jesus. The recovery of hundreds of fragments and of books from Qumran shows an intense religious creativity accompanied by an equally intense fanaticism for the writing of commentaries and handbooks of community living. The Qumran community is, of course, a slightly pre-Christian reformation movement of Judaism. Just the other side of the first century we have the letters of the apostolic fathers, the orthodox bishops of the early second century. We also have the fertile inventions of Gnostic dissidents which developed and continued a tradition from the same time period.

We also have twenty-one letters of the New Testament, proving the capability and inevitability of writing output in the earliest Christian Church. With such impressive evidence of writing among Jewish reformists, orthodox Christians, and sectarian Christians, why should one assume a period of oral transmission divorced from the stability of written records? [40]

Form criticism, in the words of F. F. Bruce, has made a singular contribution: we now know “no matter how far back we may press our researchers into the roots of the gospel story, no matter how we classify the gospel material, we never arrive at a non-supernatural Jesus.” [41]

Redaction Criticism. Redaction criticism of the Gospels is a sub-discipline of biblical study that focuses attention on the role of the Gospel writers as redactors or editors. In dealing with the Synoptic Gospels, the redaction critic presupposes certain results from both source criticism (the Markan or Two-Document Hypothesis) and form criticism (the transmission of forms or units of tradition). This branch of study draws attention to the role of the Gospel writers in shaping and forming the Christian traditions into a document that would (a) meet the prevailing needs of the given Christian community, and (b) reflect the particular theological perspective of the Gospel writer.

In regard to the latter function, Norman Perrin has written concerning the work of Matthew, Mark, and Luke in preparing the resurrection narratives: “The resurrection narratives are . . . literary expressions of the evangelists’ understanding of what it means to say ‘Jesus is risen.’ They are narrative expressions of a distinctive theological viewpoint. . . . [The Gospel writer] intends to convince his readers that Jesus is the Messiah, that he is the Son of God, and that his life and fate have changed forever the possibilities for human life in the world. To this end he composes his narrative account of the sequence of events which began with the ministry of John the Baptist . . . and reached its climax in the women’s discovery of the empty tomb.” Perrin then makes this observation regarding the role of the Gospel writer: “He has taken traditional material circulating in the early Christian communities. . . . He has edited that material and composed it into a new whole—he may even have created some new narratives of his own on the basis of traditional sayings of Jesus and the interpretation of scripture—and everything that he has done, he has done in the service of his overriding conviction that he has a gospel to preach to his readers.” [42]

There should be no doubt among Latter-day Saints that the canonical Gospels were compiled, composed, and written under the spirit of revelation. At the same time, we do not detract from the spiritual significance of the writers to suggest that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were also divinely directed editors as well as creative authors. Moses was a choice seer and a man open to the revelations of the Lord. He was also a gifted compiler and editor of earlier records. [43] Likewise, Mormon was an inspired author/editor whose “and thus we see” passages in the Nephite record help to demonstrate the wisdom of the ways of the Lord.

Like other writers—inspired or uninspired—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John had particular messages, styles, and points of view; a format characterizes their work that may be studied in light of some of their more evident literary characteristics. Their Gospels were certainly shaped by such factors as their own backgrounds and the intended audiences of the documents. [44] A recognition of these factors, however, need not lead us to interpretive extremes. Being a theologian does not preclude being a historian. “There is no reason . . . to suppose,” writes one conservative scholar, “that theological interest must take precedence over historical validity.” Further, “it is difficult to think of the narration of bare facts without some interpretation. But there is no reason to suppose that the interpretation made by each evangelist was his own creation.” [45]

Who Was Jesus of Nazareth?

To what degree can we trust the canonical Gospels in regard to what Jesus said and did? Has the Christian Church transformed a lowly Nazarene into a God? Is it possible to tear away the faithful film of believing tradition and get back to the way things really were? Can we excise from the biblical text those theological perspectives that preclude an “accurate” view of Jesus? Indeed, the question of the ages is, “What think ye of Christ?” (Matt. 22:42).

I add my voice to the growing throng of thousands of believing Christians and an increasing number of religious leaders and serious scholars who certify the following:

Jesus was and is who He and the Gospel writers say he was—the literal Son of God, the Only Begotten Son in the flesh of the Eternal Father.

We have every reason to believe that the four Gospels are true and accurate and that the essential message of historical Christianity—that Christ lived, taught, lifted, strengthened, renewed, healed, prophesied, communed with Deity, suffered, died, rose from the dead, appeared thereafter to hundreds, and will come again in glory—is to be taken seriously.

Efforts to demythologize or debunk Jesus will in time be shown to be what they in actuality are—shams and charades on the part of people who dare not believe and who work endlessly to proselytize others to share their doubts. Too often the undergirding assumption of those who cast doubt on the historical Jesus as set forth in scripture, in whole or in part, is a denial of the supernatural and a refusal to admit prophecy, revelation, and divine intervention.

We have been too hasty to apply supposed scientific methodology to sacred texts, because a strict application of the scientific method to sacred events, holy words, and miraculous doings is not possible. Some things are not observable or measurable by this world’s tools or devices, and some things may only be felt and understood by those possessed of a believing heart (see Mosiah 26:1–4; Morm. 9:25; D&C 90:24). Stephen Robinson has pointed out the following:

The exclusion of any supernatural agency (including God) from human affairs is fundamental to the methodology of most biblical scholarship. The naturalistic approach gives scholars from different religious backgrounds common controls and perspectives relative to the data and eliminates arguments over subjective beliefs not verifiable by the historical-critical method. However, there is a cost to using the naturalistic approach, for one can never mention God, revelation, priesthood, prophecy, etc., as having objective existence or as being part of the evidence or as being possible causes of the observable effects. . . .

Naturalistic explanations are often useful in evaluating empirical data, but when the question asked involves nonempirical categories, such as “Is the Book of Mormon what it purports to be?”, it begs the question to adopt a method whose first assumption is that the Book cannot be what it claims to be. This points out a crucial logical difficulty in using this method in either attacking or defending the Church. [46]

Simply stated in regard to the New Testament, why should we be surprised that many biblical scholars conclude that Jesus was not divine, that the miracles did not really occur, that he did not rise from the dead, when the template they place over their reading of the New Testament is a naturalistic one, a distant objectivity, a detachment that precludes by its very nature such things?

But is it not the case that the biblical scholar who ignores the canonical Gospels and pushes instead toward an unavailable record like the hypothetical ‘Q’ document is relying upon that which is basically unseen and unknown? Does it not require a greater leap of faith to operate one’s professional life around documents we do not possess than to accept what we do possess? It is, for example, much easier for me to believe in gold plates, Urim and Thummim, and angels than in some of the ludicrous explanations for vital Restoration events offered by some alternate voices. One has to work almost as hard to accept alternative explanations for Jesus’ divinity.

C. S. Lewis, in speaking of biblical critics, observed: “These men ask me to believe they can read between the lines of the old texts; the evidence is their obvious inability to read (in any sense worth discussing) the lines themselves. They claim to see fernseed and can’t see an elephant ten yards away in broad daylight.” Lewis also noted that the typical biblical scholar does not have immediate access to the truth any more than the average man on the street. “Scholars, as scholars,” he added, “speak on it with no more authority than anyone else. The canon ‘If miraculous, unhistorical’ is one they bring to their study of the texts, not one they have learned from it. If one is speaking of authority, the united authority of all the Biblical critics in the world counts here for nothing. On this they speak simply as men; men obviously influenced by, and perhaps insufficiently critical of, the spirit of the age they grew up in.” [47] Indeed, why should modern biblical scholars scoff at the findings of the Jesus Seminar? Is not this the logical extension of what began as the quest of the historical Jesus? Have we not now come face to face with where the naturalistic presuppositions eventually bring us?

Is Christianity based on “faith-events” rather than actual historical incidents? Other questions follow: How is my belief in present-day healing, for example, affected by what did or did not take place in the first century? Can I believe that the power to heal is real in our own day if in fact such powers were not operative in the days of Jesus or Joseph Smith, if the biblical stories of the healing are prevarications? Faith is based on evidence, and the stronger the evidence the stronger the faith. To what extent can I trust in a power of redemption if in fact Jesus was not the Savior of humankind? How should I view death if in fact Jesus did not rise from the tomb? To what degree do my religious beliefs need to be both true and reasonable? One Protestant theologian observed:

There is an excellent objective ground to which to tie the religion that Jesus sets forth. Final validation of this can only come experientially [we would say, by revelation]. But it is desperately important not to put ourselves in such a position that the event-nature of the resurrection depends wholly upon “the faith.” It’s the other way around. The faith has its starting point in the event, the objective event, and only by the appropriation of this objective event do we discover the final validity of it. . . .

The Christian faith is built upon Gospel that is “good news,” and there is no news, good or bad, of something that didn’t happen. I personally am much disturbed by certain contemporary movements in theology which seem to imply that we can have the faith regardless of whether anything happened or not. I believe absolutely that the whole Christian faith is premised upon the fact that at a certain point of time under Pontius Pilate a certain man died and was buried and three days later rose from the dead. If in some way you could demonstrate to me that Jesus never lived, died, or rose again, then I would have to say I have no right to my faith. [48]

Indeed, to what degree can we exercise saving faith in something that did not happen? The prophets declare that “faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true” (Alma 32:21).

Can Jesus be a wise teacher and not the Son of God? Is there a difference between the “historical Jesus” and the “Christ of faith”? Do the extant sources allow such a distinction? Did Jesus?

There is a simple syllogism that applies to Jesus. It goes something like this: He was a great moral teacher. He claimed to be the Son of God. He was not the Son of God. Therefore, He could not be a great moral teacher. Robert Stein has written:

On the lips of anyone else the claims of Jesus would appear to be evidence of gross egomania, for Jesus clearly implies that the entire world revolves around himself and that the fate of all men is dependent on their acceptance or rejection of him. . . . There seem to be only two possible ways of interpreting the totalitarian nature of the claims of Jesus. Either we must assume that Jesus was deluded and unstable with unusual delusions of grandeur or we are faced with the realization that Jesus is truly One who speaks with divine authority, who actually divided all of history into B.C.-A.D., and whose rejection or acceptance determines the fate of all men. [49]

One of the most famous statements on this matter, one that forces the issue and exposes the shallowness of many a person’s thinking, was made by C. S. Lewis:

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. [50]

Stripped of His divinity, His teachings concerning His own Godhood, forgiveness of sins, resurrection, and the Second Coming, why would Jesus of Nazareth be so controversial? Why would people dislike such a man? Why on earth would he be crucified?

I have wondered over the years how so many who read the same New Testament I do could conjure up a Jesus who is basically a simple, nondirective counselor, a sensitive ecologist who came to earth to model quiet pacifism. Given, Jesus of Nazareth was indeed the caring, compassionate, forgiving, serving man described by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. He was also, however, God incarnate, the discerning, fearless, assertive, confrontive, excoriating, and at times sarcastic being who had little patience with hypocrisy and selfrighteousness. John Meir observed:

While I do not agree with those who turn Jesus into a violent revolutionary or political agitator, scholars who favor a revolutionary Jesus do have a point. A tweedy poetaster who spent his time spinning out parables and Japanese koans, a literary asthete who toyed with lst-century deconstructionism, or a bland Jesus who simply told people to look at the lilies of the field—such a Jesus would threaten no one, just as the university professors who create him threaten no one. The historical Jesus did threaten, disturb, and infuriate people—from interpreters of the Law through the Jerusalem priestly aristocracy to the Roman prefect who finally tried and crucified him. . . . A Jesus whose words and deeds would not alienate people, especially powerful people, is not the historical Jesus. [51]

In addition, as Scot McKnight pointed out, “A social revolutionary would have been crucified (and this partly explains Jesus’ death, in my view), but it is doubtful that such a revolutionary would have given birth to a church that was hardly a movement of social revolution.” [52]


There is another question we must ask: What does the restored gospel offer us in our quest to know and understand the man Jesus who is the Christ?

Joseph Smith’s First Vision represents the beginning of the revelation of God to man in this final dispensation. It is also a remarkable confirmation of the bodily resurrection and immortal, living nature of Jesus Christ.

The Book of Mormon stands as a monumental testimony, a companion scriptural witness with the Bible, to the divine Sonship of Jesus, as well as to the divine powers centered in and exercised by Him and His anointed servants.

The revelations of the Restoration, including the teachings and testimonies of latter-day prophets and seers, attest to the person and powers of Jesus of Nazareth and confirm that the Jesus of history is in fact the Christ of faith.

The Latter-day Saints extend the same invitation that Jesus offered a group of fishermen almost two thousand years ago: “Come and see” (John 1:39). The final great test is the test of spirit, the test of individual revelation, with the assurance that all can know. For some it is a leap of faith, a faith “that bridges the chasm between what our minds can know and what our souls aspire after.” [53]

Must one be held hostage by the traditional mode of thinking or even subscribe to the majority opinion? Jesus stood against the majority opinion in His day; He challenged the religious establishment. If the Latter-day Saints have anything to offer the religious world, it is a firm conviction that the scriptures mean what they say and say what they mean. They are to be trusted. Latter-day Saints would do well to ensure that theirs is a “critical” look at biblical critical presuppositions, methodologies, and conclusions; some things we simply need not swallow. A firm belief in prophecy, revelation, divine intervention, and absolute truth precludes an overwhelming and undiscriminating acceptance of many of the underlying principles of the science of biblical criticism.

“We have no right to take the theories of men,” Elder Orson F. Whitney noted in 1915, “however scholarly, however learned, and set them up as a standard, and try to make the Gospel bow down to them, making of them an iron bedstead upon which God’s truth, if not long enough, must be stretched out, or if too long, must be chopped off—anything to make it fit into the system of men’s thoughts and theories! On the contrary, we should hold up the Gospel as the standard of truth, and measure thereby the theories and opinions of men.” [54] What the world may view with an almost reverent attitude as established fact in these areas of study should be viewed by Latter-day Saints with an enlightened perspective—perspective informed by the supplementary and unique Latter-day Saint resources of additional scriptural records and living oracles—recognizing the approaches and conclusions of others as “scaffolding useful for research purposes,” [55] but centering one’s full loyalty and trust in the modern prophetic word.

President Howard W. Hunter noted:

There are those who declare it is old-fashioned to believe in the Bible. Is it old-fashioned to believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God? Is it old-fashioned to believe in his atoning sacrifice and the resurrection? If it is, I declare myself to be old-fashioned and the Church to be old-fashioned. . . .

In this world of confusion and rushing, temporal progress, we need to return to the simplicity of Christ. We need to love, honor, and worship him. To acquire spirituality and have its influence in our lives, we cannot become confused and misdirected by the twisted teachings of the modernist. We need to study the simple fundamentals of the truths taught by the Master and eliminate the controversial. Our faith in God needs to be real and not speculative. The restored gospel of Jesus Christ can be a dynamic, moving influence, and true acceptance gives us a meaningful, religious experience. . . . We can be modern without giving way to the influence of the modernist. If it is old-fashioned to believe in the Bible, we should thank God for the privilege of being old-fashioned. [56]


[1] The following two paragraphs are taken, with minor changes, from my published article, “The Book of Mormon, Historicity, and Faith,” Journal of Book of Mormon Studies 2, no. 2 (fall 1993): 1–2.

[2] See Robert W. Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, trans. and eds., The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus (New York: Polebridge, 1993).

[3] Albert Schweitzer, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, trans. W. Montgomery (Great Britain: A & C Black, 1910).

[4] Rudolph Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition, trans. John Marsh (New York: Harper & Row, 1963).

[5] E.g., Ernst Käsemann, New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969).

[6] James H. Charlesworth, Jesus within Judaism: New Light from Exciting Archaelogical Discoveries, The Anchor Bible Reference Library (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1988).

[7] E. P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1985).

[8] Geza Vermes, Jesus and the World of Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983).

[9] Gordon B. Hinckley, Conference Report, April 1966, 85.

[10] LDS Student Association Fireside, Utah State University, 10 October 1971, cited in Paul R. Cheesman, ed., The Book of Mormon: The Keystone Scripture (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1988), 23.

[11] John A. Widtsoe, In Search of Truth: Comments on the Gospel and Modern Thought (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1963), 81–82.

[12] For example, in the Patristic period, Dionysius of Alexandria discussed the authorship of the book of Revelation; Abraham Ibn Ezra, a medieval Jewish commentator, doubted the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch; Martin Luther questioned the value of the epistle of James.

[13] Donald Guthrie, “The Historical and Literary Criticism of the New Testament,” in Biblical Criticism: Historical, Literary and Textual, ed. R. K. Harrison, B. K. Waltke, D. Guthrie, and G. D. Fee (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1978), 87. An excellent study of all phases of New Testament biblical criticism is Raymond F. Collins, Introduction to the New Testament (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1983).

[14] See, for example, C. H. Dodd, The Interpretation of the Fourth Gospel (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953); W. Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth (Nashville: Abingdon, 1971).

[15] See Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, 2d ed., enl. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1970); see also David Hackett Fischer, “Fallacies of Causation,” in Historians’ Fallacies: Toward a Logic of Historical Thought (New York: Harper & Row, 1970), 164–86.

[16] An illustration of this can be found in David R. Cartlidge and David L. Dungan, Documents for the Study of the Gospels (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980).

[17] See Robert L. Millet, “A Small Book that Spans Eternity,” in Studies in Scripture, Vol. 2: The Pearl of Great Price, ed. Robert L. Millet and Kent P. Jackson (Salt Lake City: Randall Book, 1985), 6–8; Milton R. Hunter, The Gospel Through the Ages (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1945).

[18] This represents one of many possible answers to the question of cultural and religious similarities throughout world history. See Spencer J. Palmer, “Mormon Views of Religious Resemblances,” BYU Studies 16, no. 4 (summer 1976): 660–81; see also Milton R. Hunter, 39–40; Hugh Nibley, The World and the Prophets, ed. John W. Welch, Gary P. Gillum, and Don E. Norton (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book and F.A.R.M.S., 1987), 234–37; Robert L. Millet, “The Eternal Gospel,” Ensign, July 1996,48–56.

[19] For an excellent summary of the causes of error in the transmission of texts, see Bruce M. Metzger, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Conception, and Restoration, 2d ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 186–206.

[20] Gordon D. Fee, “The Textual Criticism of the New Testament,” in Harrison et al., 127.

[21] Metzger, 156.

[22] See a brief article by E. J. Epp, “Textual Criticism, NT,” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible (Nashville: Abingdon, 1976), supplementary vol. 891–95.

[23] Frederic Kenyon, Our Bible and the Ancient Manuscripts (New York: Harper, 1958), 53.

[24] Bart D. Ehrman, The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), 3–4.

[25] Robert J. Matthews, “The Book of Mormon as a Co-Witness with the Bible and as a Guide to Biblical Criticism,” The Sixth Annual Church Educational System Religious Educators’ Symposium on the Book of Mormon (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 56–57. Bruce Metzger has written: “The manuscripts of the New Testament preserve traces of two kinds of dogmatic alterations: those which involve the elimination or alteration of what was regarded as doctrinally unacceptable or inconvenient, and those which introduce into the Scriptures ‘proof for a favorite theological tenet of practice” (201).

[26] These figures are found in F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? 5th ed. (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1960), 31.

[27] For excellent treatments of the dating, formation, and areas of stress of the Gospels of Mark and Luke, see S. Kent Brown, “The Testimony of Mark,” in Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5: The Gospels, ed. Kent P. Jackson and Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 61–87; Richard Lloyd Anderson, “The Testimony of Luke,” in Studies in Scripture, Vol. 5, 88–108.

[28] See The Nag Hammadi Library in English, ed. James M. Robinson, rev. ed. (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1988), 124—38; F. F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1974), 110–56.

[29] For further possibilities concerning the Gospel of Thomas, see S. Kent Brown, “The Nag Hammadi Library: A Mormon Perspective,” in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints, ed. C. Wilfred Griggs (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1986), 260, 275 n. 37.

[30] See C. S. Mann, Mark, Anchor Bible 27 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1986), 47–66.

[31] William R. Farmer, Jesus and the Gospel: Tradition, Scripture, and Canon (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1982), 3–7.

[32] Some scholars have also been critical of the notion of a single sayings source. “It is not in the least necessary, we think, to suppose that there was a single block of material on which both Matthew and Luke drew. The vitality of oral tradition, the varying emphases cherished by various groups in the early Church, the care that was taken (to which the Johannine letters bear witness) to ascertain from reliable sources precisely what did happen in the public and private ministry of Jesus, the urgent need felt to preserve Christ’s teachings in writing in the face of the difficult times—all these will have led to more than one tentative collection of oral material.” Further, they contend that it is “far simpler to suppose that both Matthew and Luke used their own sources than to assume that one evangelist saw the other’s work and proceeded to some radical editorial revision.” W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew, Anchor Bible 26 (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1971), xlvii, li.

[33] See the comments of Frank M. Cross Jr. in The Ancient Library of Qumran and Modern Biblical Studies (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker, 1980), 215–16, regarding the relationship of pre-Christian Essene motifs of light and darkness and the same elements in John’s Gospel. One of the more interesting yet controversial books published in some time is John A. T. Robinson, Redating the New Testament (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1976). Robinson challenges the traditional scholarship that places much of the New Testament in the late first century-early second century A.D. He proposes that the evidence (internal and external) suggests that all New Testament records could very well have been written by A.D. 70. See also Robinson, The Priority of John, ed. J. F. Coakley (London: SCM, 1985).

[34] See Edgar V. McKnight, What Is Form Criticism? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), for a brief treatment of the subject.

[35] Norman Perrin, What Is Redaction Criticism? (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1969), 15–16. An example of a form critical study is Arland J. Hultgren, Jesus and His Adversaries (Minneapolis: Augsburg, 1979).

[36] See Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965–73), 1:55–56.

[37] For example, see Martin Dibelius, From Tradition to Gospel (New York: Scribners, 1935); Rudolph Bultmann, The History of the Synoptic Tradition.

[38] See Birger Gerhardsson, The Origins of the Gospel Traditions (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1979); Werner H. Kelber, The Oral and the Written Gospel (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1983).

[39] Papias, “Fragments of Papias,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Alexander Roberts and James Donaldson (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1981), 1:153.

[40] Richard Lloyd Anderson, “Types of Christian Revelation,” in Literature of Belief: Sacred Scripture and Religious Experience, ed. Neal E. Lambert (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1981), 63–64.

[41] Bruce, 33.

[42] Norman Perrin, The Resurrection According to Matthew, Mark, and Luke (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 3–5. This book is a redaction critical study of the resurrection narratives. For another example, see Reginald H. Fuller, The Formation of the Resurrection Narratives (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980).

[43] See Bruce R. McConkie, A New Witness for the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1985), 402; cf. also the words of Spencer W. Kimball in President Kimball Speaks Out (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1981), 55–56.

[44] See Millet, ‘“As Delivered from the Beginning’: The Formation of the Canonical Gospels,” in Apocryphal Writings and the Latter-day Saints, 199–213; “The JST and the Synoptic Gospels: Literary Style,” in The Joseph Smith Translation: The Restoration of Plain and Precious Things, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Robert L. Millet (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1985), 147–62.

[45] Guthrie, 107–8; see also Hengel, Acts and the History of Earliest Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1980), 56–57.

[46] From Stephen E. Robinson, “The ‘Expanded’ Book of Mormon?” in Second Nephi: The Doctrinal Structure, ed. Monte S. Nyman and Charles D. Tate Jr. (Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1989), 393–94.

[47] C. S. Lewis, Christian Reflections (London: Harper Collins, 1967), 197–98.

[48] John Warwick Montgomery, History and Christianity (San Bernardino, Calif.: Here’s Life, 1983), 107–8.

[49] Robert Stein, The Method and Message of Jesus’ Teachings (Philadelphia: Westminster, 1978), 118–19.

[50] Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996), 56.

[51] John Meir, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1991), 1:177.

[52] Scot McKnight, “Who Is Jesus? An Introduction to Jesus Studies,” in Jesus Under Fire: Modern Scholarship Reinvents the Historical Jesus, ed. Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1995), 61–62.

[53] Malcolm Muggeridge, Jesus: The Man Who Lives (New York: Harper & Row, 1975), 20.

[54] Orson F. Whitney, Conference Report, April 1915, 100.

[55] Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1986), 38.

[56] Howard W. Hunter, That We Might Have Joy (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1994), 23, 25–26.