The Gospels: Names and Witnessess (Bauckham)

 As I’m reading through Jesus and the Eyewitnesses by Richard Bauckham, I’m realizing that I probably should have read this book ten years ago.  But, as they say, better late than never!  So far I’m really enjoying it.  Here’s a brief synopsis of the book:

It is the contention of this book that, in the period up to the writing of the Gospels, gospel traditions were connected with named and known eyewitnesses, people who had heard the teaching of Jesus from his lips and committed it to memory, people who had witnessed the events of his ministry, death, and resurrection and themselves had formulated the stories about these events that they told.

These eyewitnesses did not merely set going a process of oral transmission that soon went its own way without reference to them.  They remained throughout their lifetimes the sources and, in some sense that may have varied for figures of central or more marginal significance, [they remained] the authoritative guarantors of stories they continued to tell.

I just finished reading chapter 4  on Palestinian Jewish names.  This chapter makes a helpful argument that the names found in the gospels – including nicknames, family names, and other names – correspond very closely to the names in the Palestinian Jewish sources of the period.  The names in the Gospels are also used in similar ways to the names in Palestinian Jewish culture of the period.  As Bauckham notes,

“All the evidence indicates the general authenticity of the personal names in the Gospels.  This underlines the plausibility of the suggestion made in chapter 3 as to the significance of many of these names: that they indicate the eyewitness sources of the individual stories in which they occur.”

Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2017), p.. 84, 93.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015