his will be the story of Yeshua, or Jesus as he
is known today, as it is found in the gospels
of Mark, Luke, and Matthew. These are called the
"Synoptic" gospels because they present a similar
view of his life, a common synopsis. The gospel of
John reports different events, a different chronology,
and different discourses, and portrays Yeshua as
a completely different kind of person from the one
who is shown in the Synoptics. I have made no
attempt to reconcile the gospel of John with the
others, but have analyzed it in another book called
The Refutation of John, and in an appendix
to the present book.|
I t is plain upon study that the authors of the gospels of Luke and Matthew each had a copy of the gospel of Mark which they incorporated into their own gospel. It is also plain that both Matthew and Luke had another document which reported events and teachings in Yeshua's life, which is called Quelle or Document Q by scholars. And Matthew at least must have had another document which reported parables and sayings of Yeshua. Each of these authors combined their source materials according to different editorial rules. I have discussed this in another appendix to this book.
I have followed the sequence of events as they are reported by Mark, since his gospel is found in both Luke and Matthew. Where Matthew and Luke report events not found in Mark, I have generally followed Luke, since Luke follows the order of Mark more closely than Matthew. Luke also contains many sayings and parables without any setting or context; I have tried to report these as part of some relevant event.
I have told the story of Yeshua from the point of view of an observer or narrator living during the first century, since this is how the people of his time would have seen him, and none of them, not even Yeshua himself, would have known anything that was to happen in the centuries to come. But he was a Jew, and his first disciples were Jews, and they would have thought in terms of Jewish history and culture. I have tried to bring this background into the story to make it more vivid and intelligible.
I n looking for the story of Yeshua in the gospels, it is important to remember that all of our oldest documents were written originally in Greek, and not in Aramaic, the language of Yeshua and his followers. Later writers refer to a Peshittic and an Aramaic, or Syriac, gospel, but these appear to have been translations from the Greek. The gospels were also not written until forty or fifty years or more after Yeshua's death. None of them claims to be an eyewitness. None of them were written in Palestine: Mark was written in Rome, Matthew at Alexandria in Egypt, Luke at Antioch in northern Syria, and John at Ephesus in western Asia Minor. And it is possible that none of them had ever been in Palestine, since they all report errors in geography which no native Palestinian could have made.
Y ou may ask how we can trust the gospels if these uncertainties exist. The answer is that we can't, at least not completely. But that does not mean that everything in them must be false. It only means that we must be careful in assessing the reliability of any passage. Is it found in the others? Is it supported by external evidence? Does it fit with the others, or is it inconsistent with them? If it is unique to one gospel only, does it fit with the author's apparent storytelling manner, or is it out of place? And is it credible? We are not called upon to believe incredible things. I have asked these questions at every sentence, even at every word.
T here is one other author whose works are of note because they mention Yeshua, as well as providing background information on those times. This is Josephus, a Jew born in 37 A.S.D., who wrote several books on the history of the Jews during the first century of the common era and the preceding century. He has been called "an invaluable historical resource", and while only one paragraph mentions Yeshua, the rest gives us much detail on the life in Palestine during the Roman occupation and the lives of the people of the time. I have quoted from Josephus in the third appendix to this book.
I n 1947 A.S.D. a jarful of ancient manuscripts was discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea. These were named the "Dead Sea Scrolls" and much discussion ensued as to whether they told us of the origins of christianity and the life of Yeshua. However, Yeshua's name is not mentioned in them, nor are any of the disciples nor any of the other names in the New Testament, nor any other historical names; in fact, no names are mentioned at all, nor any biographical data, and the date of the scrolls has been established as in the century before Yeshua lived. Therefore they are of no use in reconstructing the story of Yeshua, although they may have influenced his followers in creating their movement.
N o amount of thanks is too much for me to express to Henry Burton Sharman, and his teacher Ernest DeWitt Burton, who discovered the solution to the structure and consequently the understanding of the gospels as set forth in Dr. Sharman's doctoral thesis, The Teachings of Jesus About the Future, and presented in his study book of the gospels called The Records of the Life of Jesus. No other way of studying the synoptic gospels can be considered adequate, since the Records shows the gospels side by side exactly as they have been handed down to us and the similarities and differences among them exactly as they exist. I also owe a great debt of thanks to Dr. Elizabeth Boyden Howes, who led seminars in the Records for many years at Middletown in California, and to Dr. Leroy Waterman, himself an excellent biblical scholar, whose books I have read and re-read. And I must not forget to mention Dr. Dryden Linsley Phelps, a Bay Area minister and friend of Sharman's who inspired and encouraged me in this work as long as he lived. I hope that in THE STORY OF YESHUA I have transmitted the best of what I have learned from these people.