Note Added Later: My list of “direct books” is revised in a later post on this topic. See http://flat5.net/2012/09/first-person-gospels-revised/ for that update.
Jesus didn’t write the New Testament.
The New Testament books were written by those who knew Jesus, and by those who received that proverbial bolt from Heaven while walking down a road, and by those who knew someone who knew Jesus or who knew someone that experienced that revelation from above, and who knew someone who knew someone who …
Stop! Let’s cut out all the middle-men.
Which books were written with first-hand knowledge of or from Jesus?
Well, some of the NT books bear the names of some of his Twelve Disciples. That suggests they were written by those individuals. And for a long time, that was the accepted belief. But some of these assumptions have, over the centuries and after much study, come into question.
Before going further, let me say that I do not accept everything in the Bible as truth, nor do I claim to live my life as Jesus taught. In the opinion of many, I am not a “Christian”. Indeed, I am decidedly not what some would call a “turn the other cheek” Christian. Instead, if physically attacked, I would defend myself and, if necessary, I would use deadly force.
Regardless, I do consider myself to be a student of and, in many respects, a follower of Christ.
And I also believe that His words portray many* aspects of what The Almighty wishes us to know.
* The only reason I don’t make that a more inclusive statement is simply because I do not think that any man’s mind can fully comprehend God.
What Jesus taught came from God.
So, in my quest to find out what Jesus taught, and using various sources including The New Oxford Annotated Bible and, to no small degree, the excellent information in several parts of Wikipedia, I have compiled a chart of Jesus’ immediate contacts and the related books of the New Testament.
The chart includes one “book” not in the New Testament, The Gospel of Mary. This book which is only partially available, is thought by some scholars to have been written* by Mary Magdalene. This book was excluded from the Roman Catholic canonization of the Bible for reasons that can only be speculated. Regardless, it is another (possible) first-hand report so I’ve included it in my list.
* Some might object that it is doubtful if women back then knew how to write so how could Mary “write” her Gospel? By dictation to someone who could.
These books are, to the best that scholarly research can determine, written by individuals who knew Jesus. They are first-person reports. In no particular order, they are:
- Gospel of John, by John the Disciple
- 1st, 2nd and 3rd John, also by John the Disciple
- 1st Peter (but not 2nd), by Simon (Peter)
- James, Brother of Jesus
- Judas, Brother of Jesus
- Gospel of Mary, by Mary Magdalene
Notably absent from this list are the first three synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. Matthew and Luke are, from all indications, written from Mark (and the so far and otherwise unknown “Q” source). And while it is popular belief that the Gospel of Mark was written by Mark, an associate of Simon (Peter) who was one of the Twelve Disciples, there’s no indication that Mark actually met Jesus. Instead, his knowledge may be second hand (from Simon (Peter)). I have, therefore, excluded the Gospel of Mark from the list — it is not a “first hand” report.
My intentions are, in the coming weeks, to read and study these eight works. My goal, of course, is to better understand Jesus and his teachings as related by those who knew him directly.
NOTE: I AM NOT A BIBLE SCHOLAR.
If you would like a copy of the chart I developed, it is available in several forms below. Click (right-click, whatever) the links below and save your own copies. Note that, for the *.mm file, you will need the Freemind program for Windows from http://freemind.sourceforge.net/, or iThoughtsHD for the iPad, two similar programs I use extensively for organizing my thoughts on various matters. For the PDFs, you will need Adobe Reader or some other PDF viewer.
- NT_Book_Authorship.mm (Mind Map file, use Freemind or iThoughtsHD)
- NT_Book_Authorship_ONEPAGE.pdf (PDF, shrunk to a single WIDE page)
- NT_Book_Authorship_TENPAGE.pdf (PDF, ten pages, to be printed and then cut and taped together to form a single large chart)
Another valuable resource, mentioned in previous posts here, is BibleGateway.com. The complete Old and New Testaments are available in each of several different translations at that website.