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Eyewitness to Jesus Hardcover – March 1, 1996


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 206 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st ed edition (March 1, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385480512
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385480512
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #737,373 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How reliable are the Gospel accounts on which Christianity bases its knowledge of the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth? Are they eyewitness accounts written by followers of Jesus? Or are they accounts written long after his death by Christians concerned with a new doctrine? These and other questions were thrown into sharp relief when, on Christmas Eve 1994,Times of London writer D'Ancona reported that a German scholar, Carsten Peter Thiede, using the new science of papyrology, had redated to roughly 60 CE three papyrus fragments of the Gospel of Matthew, held in Oxford's Magdalen College Library since 1901. The most far-reaching implication of Thiede's work is that the Gospel of Matthew, in addition to being the earliest Gospel written, could be an eyewitness. D'Ancona and Thiede detail the forensic science used to redate the Magdalen papyri. Thiede then challenges the critical methods?historical and textual?that have been used by scholars to establish the traditional dating of the Gospels. The authors, however, don't acknowledge that papyrology is as subject to criticism as are the methods they disparage. Nor is their argument that Matthew is the earliest Gospel a new one: the thesis has been a workable alternative to the priority of Mark for over 100 years. However, the irony of their claim?that forensic science establishes the grounds for faith?is rich, and this book is certain to provoke controversy among scholars and lay readers alike.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

D'Ancona, an assistant editor at the London Times, and Thiede, the noted papyrologist, offer their side of a raging controversy over Thiede's claim to have identified a Greek fragment of the Gospel of Mark from the Dead Sea Scrolls written no later than 68 A.D. and to have redated fragments of the Gospel of Matthew to not much later. If the early dating and other evidence cited and deduced are sustained, they will demolish some of the major tenets of liberal critical New Testament scholarship by establishing that at least Mark and Matthew were written by eyewitnesses or contemporaries within a Christianity that was well developed and separate from Judaism before the destruction of Jerusalem. Thiede mounts a scathing criticism of New Testament scholars. Although the book is a window into the value, possibilities, and methods of an arcane specialty, it is written in a conversational prose accessible to any educated nonspecialist. Much background information on New Testament study and interpretation and the history of the discovery of the Matthew fragments help to maintain interest and relate the technical evidence to the reader's world. Recommended for public and academic libraries.?Eugene O. Bowser, Univ. of Northern Colorado, Greeley
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By George R Dekle on December 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
A few of scraps of papyrus seemingly stand the world of New Testament scholarship on its head. The scraps are believed to be from the Gospel of Matthew. When they were discovered, they were dated to the time period 80-100 A.D. Thiede re-examines the scraps and finds them to date from around 60 A.D. Such a dating would mean that Matthew's Gospel most likely was written by an eyewitness. It would also mean that the four document hypothesis, that well-respected mainstay of Gospel scholarship, is dead wrong. Thiede tries manfully to explain how he came to the dating. In so doing, he must explain the arcane, esoteric, and almost impenetrable world of papyrology. It makes for slow, painful reading, and students who are not familiar with the science of the study of papyrus scraps will have to take much of what Thiede says on faith. Those of a conservative bent will readily embrace Thiede's findings; the more liberal Bible students will not. Whichever side you take, or even if you fall somewhere in the middle, you should find it worth your effort to read this book.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 19, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I don't believe in "final proof" for the dating of any past historical evidence. However, there are better argument and worse arguments, and Thiede's work currently represents the "state-of-the-art" best arguments for the manuscripts with which he deals.
If critics who see their worldviews threatened believe otherwise, they are urged to review the evidence for themselves, to see if they agree or not. The prejudicial comments and reviews attacking Thiede's scholarship do not in themselves establish an argument against his work.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Not only does the book present convincing analysis, it prompts us to look for the re-evaluation of manuscript fragments in other collections using the techniques described so well by Thiede. The book really should receive more serious consideration from scholars. It's been sadly neglected. Thiede is obviously something of a radical, but Biblical scholarship needs men who are willing to explore completely new avenues, particularly when they are as skilled as Thiede is. The question of when and how the gospels were written is really wide open. We have a monumental heap of investigation and speculation proving very little or nothing. We need new approaches. Those who don't seek can't find. Anne Rice, New Orleans, La.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 2, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Thiede makes a potentially dry subject interesting. His discussion of ancient writing scripts is reserved but forceful. In short a must read for those interested in the New Testament.
My favorite chapter was the fourth. Its summary of Huleatt, the Victorian missionary and scholar, gives us a small window of life in the last half of the 19th century.
This book is a good counterpoint for those who claim that the Gospels were written long after Christ died.
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Format: Hardcover
Around 1901, an Englishman, Charles Huleatt, who was a scholar as well as an Evangelical missionary to Egypt, was living in the Egyptian town of Luxor when he came into possession of three tiny papyrus fragments, on which were written, in Greek, words from the 26th chapter of Matthew's gospel.

In 1994, scholar Carsten Thiede came upon the fragments, which had been largely ignored, stored in a display case of an Oxford University library. In the 1950s, the fragments had been dated to about AD 180-200, but Thiede thought it might be worthwhile to re-analyze them using modern techniques not available in the 1950s.

For example, Thiede, together with biologist Georg Masuch, developed and patented a new type of "epiflourescent confocal laser scanning" microscope, which can differentiate between twenty separate micrometer-(millionth of a meter; micron)-thick layers of a papyrus manuscript. This instrument showed that a certain puzzling dot "which has caused so much debate and irritation" (p. 60), and which was on one of the three fragments... was only 4.0 micrometers thick (thickness = height of ink on, plus depth of ink within, the papyrus sheet).

Yet the recognizable Greek letters were 12.1 micrometers thick. The troublesome dot was thus revealed to be nothing more than an accidental ink blot, common enough on ancient papyri.

And now we come to the matter of dating--when was the papyrus manuscript (of which the three scraps remain) actually written? In dating the three fragments, "The weakness of previous estimates was clear: certain key assumptions had persisted out of respect for tradition rather than because they were logically defensible" (p. 114).
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This volume presents "non-theological," papyrological evidence for the early dating (pre-70 AD) of the gospels. Without theological bias, the authors have presented the technical and scholarly evidence that revolutionizes New Testament studies. It is my opinion, sadly, that many New Testament scholars will ignore this volume because it overturns the methodological procedures of the historical-critical school of scholarly study.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 7, 1998
Format: Hardcover
I am amazed that this book has not received more attention. The cynicism and skepticism of the Booklist reviewer seen above is evident.
This book provides more evidence that the gospels were written as eyewitness accounts. This is no surprise to evangelical scholars, but it is more vindication nonetheless.
The most amazing fact to me continues to be the lack of attention to this amazing find by the theological, cultural and media establishments. It should rightly turn Biblical scholarship on its head, but this age's disdain for truth in the face of comfortable old paradigns (e.g. holding to the theory of evolution despite mounting evidence that it is impossible in a thousand different ways) is exasperating!!
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