• September 22, 2023

Does early Church father Justin Martyr quote the gospels?

In his new book Did Jesus Exist? (23), referring to my discussion in The Christ Conspiracy of the second-century dating of the New Testament gospels, Bart Ehrman summarizes a contention in my work about whether or not the early Church father Justin Martyr (fl. 150 AD/CE) mentioned or quoted the gospels, thus providing proof that they existed in his time. After presenting the contention, Ehrman then comments (in brackets):

The second-century church father Justin never quotes or mentions any of the Gospels (25). [This simply isn’t true: he mentions the gospels on numerous occasions; typically he calls them “Memoirs of the Apostles” and quotes from them, especially from Matthew, Mark and Luke.]

Firstly, it should be noted that what Ehrman has “cited” here is not a quote from my book and nothing that I personally state on p. 25 therein. As I have observed elsewhere, it appears again as if Ehrman was working from “Cliff Notes” of my book, provided to him by his assistants, because the sentence he cites, “The second-century church father Justin never quotes or mentions any of the Gospels,” is a summary of quotes I provided in The Christ Conspiracy (“Christ Con” or “CC“) by John E. Remsburg and Charles Waite. In these quotes, the authors follow their assessment with sound commentary, a fact that Ehrman has evidently chosen to ignore—if he even read these paragraphs in the first place.

Secondly, if Ehrman had followed up on my work or even on my citations in Christ Con, he would have discovered that his claim concerning Justin Martyr, while shared by many, ranks as false and inaccurate. A closer look at Justin’s writings reveals not what scholars and Christian believers want to find but what is really there: No verbatim quotes or unambiguous citations from the canonical gospels as we have them appear anywhere in Justin’s extant works. Nor does Justin Martyr name any of the evangelists in any known text, an erroneous impression given by Ehrman’s wording here. In other words, Matthew, Mark and Luke are never named by Justin; nor is John.

“No verbatim quotes or unambiguous citations from the canonical gospels as we have them appear anywhere in Justin’s extant works.”

In addition to providing some evidence in Christ Con (25, etc.), in my books Suns of God (“SOG“) and Who Was Jesus? I have written extensively about the issue of when the canonical gospels as we have them appear in the historical record, including whether or not Justin knew of them. As I demonstrate in CC and SOG (419ff), Justin is careful in his citations from the Old Testament; yet, he does not quote any gospel verbatim or cite any evangelist by name.

In this regard, in his book The Christ: A Critical Review and Analysis of the Evidence of His Existence – in a quote I provided in Christ Con on the very page cited by Ehrman – Remsburg remarks:

The Four Gospels were unknown to the early Church Fathers. Justin Martyr, the most eminent of the early Fathers, wrote about the middle of the second century. His writings in proof of the divinity of Christ demanded the use of these Gospels, had they existed in his time. He makes more than 300 quotations from the books of the Old Testament, and nearly one hundred from the Apocryphal books of the New Testament; but none from the four Gospels. Rev. Giles says: “The very names of the Evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are never mentioned by him (Justin)—do not occur once in all his writings.”

As we can see, there is more to this story than meets the eye.

The Gospels and the Gospel

In all of Justin’s extant writings, the word “gospels” appears only once, in his First Apology, while the word “gospel” is used twice in his book Dialogue with Trypho the Jew. Concerning the references to “the Gospel” in Trypho, which some have taken for knowledge of the canonical gospels, the Church father evidently is referring to another text altogether.

An excellent study on the subject of when verbatim quotes from various Christian texts begin to appear in the historical record may be found in the thick tome by Walter Richard Cassels called Supernatural Religion (1905), which includes an 85-page, detailed study of Justin’s work vis-à-vis the canonical gospels, with the original Greek and Latin, along with copious notes and citations. Concerning the appearance of the world “gospels” (εὐαγγέλια or evangelia), as applicable to the text Justin quotes called the “Memoirs of the Apostles,” Cassels (186) states:

The title, Memoirs of the Apostles, by no means indicates a plurality of Gospels. A single passage has been pointed out in which the Memoirs are said to have been called εὐαγγέλια in the plural: “For the Apostles in the Memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels,” etc. The last expression, ἁ καλειται εὐαγγέλια [“which are called Gospels”], as many scholars have declared, is probably an interpolation. It is, in all likelihood, a gloss on the margin of some old MS. [manuscript] which copyists afterwards inserted in the text. If Justin really stated that the Memoirs were called Gospels, it seems incomprehensible that he should never [elsewhere] call them so himself. In no other place in his writings does he apply the plural to them, but, on the contrary, we find Trypho [in Justin’s Dialogue with Trypho] referring to the “so-called Gospel,” which he states that he has carefully read, and which, of course, can only be Justin’s “Memoirs”; and, again, in another part of the same dialogue, Justin quotes passages which are written “in the Gospel” (εν τω ευαγγελίω γέγραπται). The term “Gospel” is nowhere else used by Justin in reference to a written record. In no case, however, considering the numerous Gospels then in circulation, and the fact that many of these, different from the canonical Gospels, are known to have been exclusively used by distinguished contemporaries of Justin, and by various communities of Christians in that day, could such an expression be taken as a special indication of the canonical Gospels.

“The one instance of ‘gospels’ in Justin appears to be a scribal marginal gloss and explanatory note that was interpolated into the text.”

As we can see, the one instance of “gospels” in Justin appears to be a scribal marginal gloss and explanatory note that was interpolated into the text. Otherwise, it would be impossible to explain why Justin only uses this word once in all of his writings. Hence, the term’s appearance in his book is not an identification by Justin himself of the Memoirs with the gospels. The other “gospel” usages in Justin concern a single text commonly understood in his circle as “the Gospel,” possibly the text Justin calls the Memoirs of the Apostles.

The Memoirs of the Apostles

In his First Apology and Dialogue with Trypho, Justin discusses several times what is called the “Memoirs of the Apostles” or “Memorabilia of the Apostles” (Grk: ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν ἀποστόλων), from which he provides a number of quotes. These “Memoirs” are widely taken to be the canonical gospels, and it is therefore commonly asserted that Justin quotes from the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke. In Who Was Jesus? (68), I write that, upon close inspection, the material from Justin Martyr does not correspond well enough to that found in the canonical gospels and is likely from another common source text or texts. Indeed, renowned biblical scholar Tischendorf only managed to find two pertinent quotations in Justin Martyr’s works that could possibly come from the gospel of Matthew, for example. Again, these miniscule passages could very well come from a shared source text.

As I state also in Suns of God (419), upon examination, the quotes Justin uses from the Memoirs “differ more or less widely” from parallel scriptures in the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke. As confirmed by Tischendorf, only a couple of short exceptions are sufficiently similar to warrant comparison with the synoptic gospels. The various passages cited by Justin to be from the Memoirs are repeated often enough that it is clear he is quoting them verbatim, rather than paraphrasing; yet, they are not identical to gospel scriptures, differing enough that they could not have come from those books. Also, several of the Memoirs sayings do not appear in any form in the canonical gospels. Moreover, Justin’s version of the gospel tale and the Church history is different and contradictory in its details than that found in the New Testament.

“Upon examination, the quotes Justin uses from the Memoirs ‘differ more or less widely’ from parallel scriptures in the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke.”

In SOG (420), regarding the work of Edwin Johnson in Antiqua Mater: A Study of Christian Origins, I write that, concerning the “Memoirs of the Apostles,” Johnson remarks that the “Memorabilia do not coincide on their contents as a whole with any work that has come down to us; nor are ‘the Apostles’ identifiable with any known historical person.” He then explains that the term “apostle” is Jewish and pre-Christian, referring to wandering Jews of the Diaspora (Jewish dispersion throughout the empire), and that the Memorabilia may simply be their “moral sayings.” In addition to these pre-existing Apostles are Messianic Saints (Hagioi), the Elect and the Congregation/Church (ecclesia)—terms and concepts all found within pre-Christian texts such as the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Jesus (Ecclesiasticus), the Book of Tobit and the Book of Enoch, as well as the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas, which Johnson has shown to be pre-Christian texts later Christianized. Concluding that Justin “knows no authoritative writings except the Old Testament,” Johnson adds that “he had neither our Gospels’ nor our Pauline writings.”

Was Justin Martyr sloppy?

If Justin actually had the canonical gospels before him when writing his texts, he could only be considered sloppy in his citations, which is the accusation made to explain why his “Memoirs” differs so much from the gospels. The reality is that the Church father is surprisingly consistent and conscientious in his quotation elsewhere. For example, as I state in SOG, Martyr quotes from the Old Testament 314 instances, 197 of which he names the particular book or author, equaling an impressive two-thirds of the total amount. Several of the other 117 instances may not have needed citation, “considering the nature of the passage.” Despite his remarkably fastidious record, when Justin is supposedly quoting the New Testament, he mentions none of the four gospels. Instead, he distinctly states that the quotes are from the “Memoirs.” Since he is careful in his quotation of the Old Testament, it is reasonable to assume that he is accurately citing the “Memoirs” and that such a book is not the same as any of the texts found in the New Testament. There could be no reason why Martyr would not cite the gospel books by name, unless he was not using them. Since he never mentions the four gospels, it is logical to assert that he had never heard of them. Thus, the Memoirs text is not the same as the canonical gospels, and the mention of and quotation from this book does not serve as evidence of the existence of the gospels.

“The Memoirs text is not the same as the canonical gospels, and the mention of and quotation from this book does not serve as evidence of the existence of the gospels.”

In his exhaustive analysis of Justin’s writings (182-267), Cassels remarks (240):

…The hypothesis that they are quotations from our Gospels involves the accusation against Justin of an amount of carelessness and negligence which is quite unparalleled in literature. Justin’s character and training, however, by no means warrant any such aspersion, and there are no grounds for it. Indeed, but for the attempt arbitrarily to establish the identity of the Memoirs of the Apostles with our Gospels, such a charge would never have been thought of….

As Cassels further says, in his section about the non-canonical text of the second century called the “Gospel according to the Hebrews” (266):

…We have already seen that Justin speaks of “The Gospel,” and seems to refer to the Memoirs of Peter, both distinguishing appellations of this Gospel [according to the Hebrews]; but there is another of the names borne by the “Gospel according to the Hebrews,” which singularly recalls the Memoirs of the Apostles, by which Justin prefers to call his evangelical work. It was called the Gospel according to the Apostles…, and, in short, comparing Justin’s Memoirs to this Gospel, we find at once similarity of contents and even of name.

Thus, we may surmise that Justin’s “Memoirs” text was the same as the “Gospel according to the Hebrews,” also called the “Gospel according to the Apostles.”

“We may surmise that Justin’s ‘Memoirs’ text was the same as the ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews,’ also called the ‘Gospel according to the Apostles.'”

In SOG (422-423), I conclude that the Memoirs of the Apostles reveals not the canonical gospels and their purported apostolic authors or scribes; rather, it is a text reflecting the efforts of religious Jews of the Diaspora who had established a pre-Christian “Church of God” with branches in various places, including the brotherhood sites addressed by “Paul.” These anonymous Jews were eventually morphed into the New Testament apostles. Concerning this ecclesiastical organization revealed in Justin’s works, Johnson concludes that here was a “class of Sectarians or Haeretics equally to be distinguished from orthodox Jews, as from the orthodox Christians.” These could have been “Ebionites ” or “Gnostics,” but their distinctive features included “the attitude in which they stood towards the ancestral traditions of the Fathers, Circumcision, the Sabbath, the fast-days, the Temple and the sacrificial rites.” Renouncing these traditions, “they dream of a universal Jewish Church, into which the strangers shall have gathered, as the new branch is grafted into the noble stock of the ancient Vine.” Johnson next avers that “Philo may well be called the first Father of such a Church.”

After spending dozens of pages examining in minute detail every aspect of Justin’s writings vis-à-vis the canonical gospels – again, including providing the original Greek where necessary – Cassels (266) summarizes :

…We have shown that there is no evidence that [Justin] made use of any of our Gospels, and he cannot, therefore, be cited even to prove their existence, and much less to attest the authenticity and character of records whose authors he does not once name. On the other hand, it has been made evident that there were other Gospels, now lost, but which then enjoyed the highest consideration, from which his quotations might have been, and probably were, taken. We have seen that Justin’s Memoirs of the Apostles contained facts of Gospel history unknown to our Gospels, which were contained in apocryphal works, and notably in the Gospel according to the Hebrews; that they further contained matter contradictory to our Gospels, and sayings of Jesus not contained in them; and that his quoations, although so numerous, systematically vary from similar passages in our Gospels. No theory of quotation from memory can satisfactorily account for these phenomena, and the reasonable conclusion is that Justin did not make use of our Gospels, but quoted from another source….

The facts are that the terms “gospels” and “gospel” in Justin do not indicate his knowledge of our canonical gospels; that the quotes from the Memoirs of the Apostles are not the same as those in the canonical gospels; and that the term “Memoirs” appears to refer to a single text, like “Acts of the Apostles,” rather than serving as a reference to the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, whom Justin does not mention or even seem to know. In the final analysis, it is evident that Justin Martyr does not quote the canonical gospels and that, despite the wishful thinking, these texts do not emerge clearly in the historical record until the end of the second century.

Further Reading

Does Josephus prove a historical Jesus?
The Jesus Forgery: Josephus Untangled
The Son-Sun pun strawman
Bart Ehrman: ‘Mythicist’s arguments are fairly plausible’
The phallic ‘Savior of the World’ hidden in the Vatican
Did Jesus Exist? forum thread
The Late Dating of the Gospels

Over 60 Responses to Bart Ehrman

57 thoughts on “Does early Church father Justin Martyr quote the gospels?

  1. Spot on
    I recall reading similar observations in the work of James Rendel Harris, and in reviews of his work by Benjamin B. Warfield, i.e., that Justin’s quotations from “the memoirs of the apostles” actually lines up with the material from the Gospel of the Hebrews quoted by Epiphanius. If I recall correctly, I think Harris at one point speculated that Martyr’s protege, Tatian, had composed the Diatessaron(of the four) by actually using FIVE gospels- the four canonicals plus the Gospel of the Hebrews, aka Justin’s “memoirs of the apostles”. He based this on similar parallels between the Diatessaron and the GOTH and Justin’s memoirs, plus a curious statement by Victor of Capua that Tatian’s gospel harmony was originally called Diapente, which means “of FIVE” rather than “of four”, indicating usage of a fifth source.

  2. Thanks for the intelligent comment, GA. Interesting observations to add to the mix – I’ve wondered if the Diatessaron isn’t one of the bases for the canonical gospels, rather than using them, but since it seems to date from around the same time, it’s possible it happened the way you outlined it. I would have to look more closely at the subject.

    Perhaps take a look at what Cassels has to say about the subject ([url]http://books.google.com/books?id=PmJIAAAAMAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=supernatural+religion&hl=en&sa=X&ei=msaWT_3yKOSqiQKZw92ACg&ved=0CDYQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=diatessaron&f=false[/url])? I think everyone interested in NT scholarship should read his book! It would blow the whole subject open.

    1. I’ll have to look up Harris’s writings again, but if I recall correctly, he actually argues for transference both ways, and also laterally between the canonicals with each other, often by way of such harmonies as Justin’s Memoirs and the Diatessaron. He makes attempts to identify what he calls “Tatianisms” in the individual gospels as we have them today.

      1. If all these texts started emerging at the same time in the historical record, it’s possible they were the products of transference both ways. As we know, the canonical gospels and Acts do not emerge clearly into the historical record until the last quarter of the second century, and it seems this timing would be about right for the Diatessaron as well.

  3. Confusion
    Am I alone in finding this contorted account of the gospels quite inconclusive and confusing. I am as strong an unbeliever as the next man but this sort of exposition must only aid the faithful.

    1. I’m sorry, but I don’t understand your question. How is my article showing that Justin Martyr does not quote the gospels a “contorted account of the gospels?”

      If you are having difficulty following, try reading the bolded sentences:

      “No verbatim quotes or unambiguous citations from the canonical gospels as we have them appear anywhere in Justin’s extant works.”

      “The one instance of ‘gospels’ in Justin appears to be a scribal marginal gloss and explanatory note that was interpolated into the text.”

      “Upon examination, the quotes Justin uses from the Memoirs ‘differ more or less widely’ from parallel scriptures in the synoptics, Matthew, Mark and Luke.”

      “The Memoirs text is not the same as the canonical gospels, and the mention of and quotation from this book does not serve as evidence of the existence of the gospels.”

      “We may surmise that Justin’s ‘Memoirs’ text was the same as the ‘Gospel according to the Hebrews,’ also called the ‘Gospel according to the Apostles.'”

      Here’s how it goes:

      I wrote my book The Christ Conspiracy ([url]http://truthbeknown.com/christ.htm[/url]), in which I made the case that the canonical gospels cannot be found in the historical record until the end of the second century.

      I followed up that contention with more research in other books.

      Ehrman’s assistant evidently gave him “Cliff Notes” of claims in my book, including that Justin Martyr provides no evidence of the gospels’ existence in the middle of the second century.

      Ehrman criticized this contention by asserting that Justin Martyr DID know and quote the gospels.

      I responded with this article demonstrating that Justin Martyr did NOT quote the gospels or seem to know about them, thus maintaining the fact that we possess no unambiguous reference or artifact demonstrating the existence of the canonical gospels until the end of the second century.

      I’m afraid I can’t make it much clearer than that. Sorry.

    2. serious scholarship
      I certainly don’t find Ehrman’s position credible, and I came to the conclusion long ago that there was no historical Jesus. However, I don’t find Acharya S to be a credible scholar either, and much of what she has written won’t hold up under real scrutiny. 🙁

      1. re: serious scholarship
        So, what you’re REALLY saying is that you’ve never actually read Acharya’s work, including [i]this [/i]article?


  4. uh, yeah…

    if ehrman is some kind of a muse for you, then keep on bouncing off his pitiable work. otherwise, get back to ‘digging’ and ‘throwing’ your excellent work.

    i find your observations stimulating, challenging, and informative. thanks for being you.



    1. Thank you for your kind regards and kudos. 🙂

      My responses are necessary in order to rebut the falsehoods and calumny being spread by Ehrman and his followers. Such is how debates are conducted.

      Moreover, as we can tell from this post alone, the opportunity is afforded for me “digging and throwing my excellent work” to prove a major point that I have already brought to light in the past.

      Indeed, this article itself is full of the “digging and throwing” of “excellent work,” such as the fascinating and important writings of Walter Richard Cassels, whose work should be studied by everyone wishing to become educated on the subject of early Christian writings.

      Providing such information in a comprehensive and comprehensible manner is precisely as I always try to do.


      1. Hermas, Barnabas and Didache are “pre-Christian”? Where do you come up with this stuff…?

        1. If you read my article, you can follow the citations in order to discover where I “come up with this stuff.”

          Here is what I said above:

          [quote]In addition to these pre-existing Apostles are Messianic Saints (Hagioi), the Elect and the Congregation/Church (ecclesia)—terms and concepts all found within pre-Christian texts such as the Wisdom of Solomon, the Wisdom of Jesus (Ecclesiasticus), the Book of Tobit and the Book of Enoch, as well as the Didache, Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas, which [b]Johnson has shown to be pre-Christian texts later Christianized[/b].[/quote]
          This Christianization of earlier texts is not a concept difficult to understand, as it has been discussed many times within mainstream scholarship. Even in antiquity, early Church father Eusebius raised the issue of pre-Christian texts being the basis of the gospels – specifically discussing these texts as “allegorical.” His comments came in reference to the writings of the Therapeuts discussed by Philo as residing at Lake Mareotis near Alexandria, Egypt.

          The paragraph above puts these texts into their context along with the basic “church” organization ([i]ecclesia[/i]), [i]before [/i]Jesus supposedly existed. This fact explains why we find the apostle Paul speaking before full-blown congregations in a widespread network.

          The Christianization of texts is a subject onto itself; suffice it to say that this situation is well known among scholars of Christian history and texts. It is the same process by which so many mainstream scholars have claimed that the passage in Josephus about Jesus, the “Testimonium Flavianum,” has suffered a number of Christianizing interpolations. This “partial-interpolation theory,” in fact, is the most widely held view among scholars today.

          If one were to follow up with the work of Edwin Johnson’s [i]Antiqua Matter[/i] cited above, one would see the proofs of his contention – I should have added a link to his writings on these subjects.

          For example, concerning the Shepherd of Hermas ([url]http://books.google.com/books?id=LTc1AQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=edwin+johnson+didache&hl=en&sa=X&ei=D4CdT97VKcamiQKyuYFW&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=hermas&f=false[/url]), Johnson (165) remarks:

          [quote]We see no more accuracy in describing “Hermas” as a “Christian” book than in so describing Esdras or Henoch [Enoch].”[/quote]
          Concerning the [i]Didache ([url]http://books.google.com/books?id=LTc1AQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover&dq=edwin+johnson+didache&hl=en&sa=X&ei=D4CdT97VKcamiQKyuYFW&ved=0CDoQ6AEwAA#v=snippet&q=didache&f=false[/url])[/i], Johnson (60) remarks:

          [quote]For to avoid confusion, we must not speak of [i]Christian[/i] literature where that name is yet unowned and unhonoured. The [i]Didache[/i] says nothing of apostles of Christ…[/quote]
          Regarding Barnabas, Johnson (x) asserts:

          [quote]What has long been admitted with reference to the so-called epistles of “Barnabas” and “Clement,” and the apocalypse of “Hermas,” is that they are for us [i]anonymous[/i] documents. What must further be admitted is, that they are absolutely [i]undated[/i] documents, and that learned guesses at their dates are of no service, but the contrary, to scientific inquiry… These documents, moreover, are open to the suspicion of serious [i]interpolation[/i] or [i]corruption[/i]. Truth is still truth, though it be but negative in quality; and we venture a strong protest against the practice of using materials so uncertain, for the purpose of favouring any assumed historical result whatever.[/quote]
          If you are really interested in where I “come up with this stuff,” please feel free to follow the link and do the research yourself.

    2. I was originally interested in Ehrman’s work but have come to see that this alleged Christian turned agnostic has made quite the little industry off of something he would like to call “the historical Jesus.” I don’t pay him much attention anymore.

  5. Thank You!
    “I’m afraid I can’t make it much clearer than that. Sorry.” I read all of your works and you have given me freedom from myth and fear! It is rather surprising how Christianity has kept its grasp on humanity when only brief research reveals that it is clearly obvious that religious worship has been and still is astronomical and astrological, solar mythology, given a veil of mythical historicity as the story of Jesus Christ, Horus or Krishna, a myth, a fable, a legend woven into tradition. All religions have embraced “Faith” and enshrined it as a noble human achievement. As Dawkins stated, “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.” All religions are based on myth, misogyny, fear and guilt, they just have different holidays! However, we still are experiencing the blessings of the Desert Religions of Death, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, which are essentially the same religion with similar intolerance, bigotry, and hatred. Voltaire stated, “Those who can make you believe in absurdities can make you commit atrocities!” Who is more misogynistic, the Roman Catholic Church or the Iranian Mullahs? What better illustrates the above than the DVD “In God We Trust” the documentary by Scott Burdick that you alerted me about recently. Scary!

  6. Superfluous arguments.
    As I understand the reason behind the argument over the dating of the gospels; Christians want to date the gospels as early as possible. And in so doing, further the argument for historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth. So what? Even if there was a real life person named Jesus who wandered around preaching, we know nothing about him.
    All we know of Jesus is given to us in the gospels, and they were quite evidently written to humanize existing mythology.
    God for a father, mortal woman for a mother; Osiris, Dionysus, et.al.
    Death & resurrection after 3 days; all the sun-gods.
    The satisfaction of the scape-goat myth, the human sacrifice myth, etc.
    A great teacher who gave us the golden-rule? Not so; Plato, Hillel, The Mahabharata, all predate Jesus. One could conclude Jesus was a plagiarist rather than a god.
    Once the gospels are recognized as earlier mythology and plagiarized writings, the date of their composure is rendered completely immaterial.

  7. A lot of these issues are convoluted, yet such convolution are exacerbated by prose and syntax. A lot of people trying to unravel the gospels seem to write like gospel writers, sorry to be so blunt.

    For example –

    “Bart Ehrman summarizes a contention in my work about whether or not the early Church father Justin Martyr (fl. 150 AD/CE) mentioned or quoted the gospels, thus providing proof that they existed in his time.”

    “Bart Ehrman summarizes a contention in my work ..” – hardly

    ” … whether or not the early Church father Justin Martyr mentioned or quoted the gospels, thus providing proof that they existed in his time.” – again, hardly. This is really hard to read.

    Earl Doherty is hard to read; Richard Carrier is also hard to read.

    The case for deconstructing the development of christianity is being thwarted by poor prose.

    1. It really is a waste of time to write such comments on people’s blogs. In the first place, you start out with a grammatical error, so at that point, your effort becomes hypocritical.

      [quote]A lot of these issues are convoluted, yet such convolution are exacerbated by prose and syntax.[/quote]
      “A lot” is not considered to be proper for scholarly critique. “such convolution are” is poor grammar.

      [quote]”Bart Ehrman summarizes a contention in my work ..” – hardly[/quote]
      Actually, that’s a fact – Ehrman has merely provided a summary of a contention found in my work. That sentence is not difficult to understand and is not “hardly” anything.

      [quote]” … whether or not the early Church father Justin Martyr mentioned or quoted the gospels, thus providing proof that they existed in his time.” – again, hardly. This is really hard to read.[/quote]
      I see nothing “hard to read” there. Perhaps the difficulty in comprehension is not on our end. How can you judge that what I said is “hardly” true, if you could not comprehend it?

      Again, if I were going to be hypercritical, I would have stopped at your first sentence and feigned I could not understand it, because of its poor grammar.

      Instead of being distracted by such pedantry and fallacies, shall we get back to the subject at hand, which is that Ehrman made a mistake in his assessment of Justin Martyr’s work and thereby erred in his critique of my work?

  8. Confused (contd)
    Do you say that Jesus never existed and is merely the figment of gospel authors? That the Jesus figure is an amalgam of (then) current fables and therefore the various saints who preached as stated in the Acts were delusional? I do not deny the possibility in view of the prevalent ignorance and gullibility of the ancient populations – but is this your belief? Still quite confused by your account but this is probably due to my own mental deficiency.

    1. Thank you for your query. I don’t have any beliefs in this regard. My conclusion after decades of study is simple:

      The “Jesus Christ” of the New Testament is a fictional composite of characters, some real and some mythical. A composite of multiple people is no one. When the mythological and midrashic layers are removed, there remains no “historical” core to the onion.

  9. Could not help noticing
    Couldn’t help noticing that the article above, in particular, shows Acharya to be gracious, patient, thorough, scholarly, and elevated in
    both the writing of it and in her responses to her detractors.

  10. Are the Gospels by whom they claim?
    I’ve read several of your books. I sometimes have an old JW friend who always leaves my home, scratching his head. He isn’t use to speaking with a “man with ammo.” Most claimers to the Christian faith, actually believe, (usually because the Pastor says so), that the Gospels were actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Even though the Jehovah’s Witnesses were begun by a certain dishonest man named Charles Taze Russel, who, as I recall, spent some time in prison. Yet no JW seems to even know that! Some folks (apologists) are SO “testa dura” (hard headed) that they refuse to listen to reason. Even though the JW’s have yet ANOTHER interpretation different from the King James “version.” They exclaim it’s authenticity, and EXACTNESS.
    I cannot spout up facts the way a true scholar can. I’m old and my short-term-memory often fails me.
    One thing I am sure of is, we’ve been sold a story, by the church. I wouldn’t trust what the Pope says, anymore than the “beauty-bragging” by my ex-wife. The Pope, who claims “HE” is “Christ, covered with a veil of flesh” is as true as I could have taken Muhammad Ali in a fair fight!
    I personally want to that you Acharya for saving me a lot of time with my Esoteric and Occult Research concerning the “Son of Man” and the Christian faith as a whole. Keep up the good work, and please forgive my ramblings…..

    1. I too am not a believer but I would caution against criticizing the JWs because their founder “did some time in prison.” Ghandi did time in prision, MLK did time in prison, the state of Virginia was founded by people who did time in prison. Attack them on their beliefs not on whether or not their founder did time in prison.

    2. Alfredo makes a good point
      A little knowledge makes people feel like we have an edge over anyone else, but that way of thinking appeals to the needs of our ego. If a JW recognizes this & continues to search for the truth, questions, disagrees or attempts to shed more light than what is already given by the elders of the Watchtower Bible & Tract Society, they’re considered a bad apple, so they’re disfellowshipped.

      Feel free to consider all JW’s just like they view others; as babes on milk, being led by their fears, ignorance & greed. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be there…

  11. Personally, I do not think the gospels in their present form existed until the fourth century and they continued to be altered even after that. Just face it, we will never know the truth. I believe in a historical Yeshua because the Talmud speaks of him. Though he is a far cry from the mythical Galillean of the gospels, he was charged and executed for the same crimes on the eve of Passover. I am just finishing my own work on my escape from Fundamentalism. Once it is published I will write no more. I feel like an inmate escaped from the asylum with no desire to rehash the same tired arguments over and over again.

  12. Jesus & Christianity
    :-?: As a none practicing Christian and one who has learned a bit of the truth, about the creation of modern man, how interesting i found, just by mentioning the name Jesus, the established religion get on their high horse to defend, or criticize any author who perhaps write the truth, the facts are these established religions, has been lying to us for a very long time, it is called mind control and by knowing the truth and only the truth, will we be free,from bondage, we were created as slave by Enlil & Enki and to serve them as Gods, so when Jesus referred to his father in heaven, i just wonder which one was he referring to,was it Enlil, Enki or Anu, we will never know the truth, as the truth has been locked up in the Vatican’s vault, i wish my fellow man wake up, to the lies that has been bombarded into our brain, so that the Gods can have total control of us, that is why we were given Jesus, to create religions, for the purpose of total control of us, to me they are malevolent, Acharya are the truth seeker and i do hope she find the truth.

    1. Jesus & Christianity
      I agree with George. My experience is even more disturbing. I have many christian friends of varying professions (being from the same University I am employed) that will apply the very disciplines of their various subjects they teach, but mention religion and they go into “rigor mortis”! Be it a professor in biology, an accountant or lawyer, throw into the mix religion and wallah, the books balance without an invoice to substantiate the entry, the mutation of cells stop short of the very answer discovered by science why it happens, the very laws of reason the leagal profession apply become sterile of further development and application! What is causing this? I can understand that illiterate and uneducated (in the sense of knowledge) people may seek answers in the existence of ghosts, but for educated people to loose their reason, the very principles by which they teach their students, is to me the most disturbing. They of all people should teach the evidence and leave it to their students to find their own god if they are of a mind to do so. Any Psychologist out there who can educate me why this is the case?

      1. Why People Beliieve
        “Any Psychologist out there who can educate me why this is the case?”

        Hello Johann, you have raised a great question, why people believe things that are contrary to evidence and reason.

        Psychologically, people are loyal to their community. Every community has a myth, a narrative of shared beliefs that provide common purpose and meaning. People find their identity in belonging. Those who question the community consensus are shunned.

        For many in the USA and elsewhere, Christianity provides stability, ethics and identity. This is why creationists reject rational analysis of evolution, because it undermines their traditional social framework. After all, they say, if Christ was the second Adam, as Saint Paul suggests, there must have been a first Adam!

        We now see that most people have assimilated that the Genesis creation story is not literal truth, and that the earth orbits the sun, contrary to age-old church tradition. But these beliefs only change slowly.

        The new fundamentalism is the claim that Jesus Christ was a historical individual. Christians react with vamazement when people question this core of their faith. Jesus is so central to their worldview and mindset that to question his existence is disorienting, and is treated as an unacceptable taboo.

        But once one claim is accepted that runs contrary to evidence, further dubious ideas can be built upon it. From the historical existence of Jesus Christ it is a small step to believing in the virgin birth, miracles and the physical resurrection, even though these are scientifically impossible. People accept them on faith, and mentally separate these comforting faith teachings from normal questions that they assess according to evidence and logic.

        But to be consistent, we should apply evidence and logic to the Bible, to assess if these widespread myths are actually true. That is what Acharya is doing so successfully.

        1. Why people believe
          Thanks Robert for your reply. I once asked my wife, then still a believer, what she would have written if she was asked to write a “holy book”. Her answer came spontaneously: “I would write the first words of our children, their conversations about their first experiences as they grew up”. When women read these “holy” books, why can’t they not seek this love for their children in these books. In South Africa my experience is that most women revere these “holy” books! Of all people it is women that should spurn the next Bible. My wife, a teacher, once believed the Bible is the word of God. This changed when she started reading it in a spirit of enquiry. Despite this, her best friends in conversation with her, just refuse to ponder over the horrors ascribed to the “Almighty” in these books. I’m grateful for Acharya’s work. Helga (my wife for 30 years) now read her material with enthusiasm. We cannot wait for her to post the next article. Bought most of her books. Thanks Acharya.

    2. Enlil, Enki or Anu?
      Hi, George,

      Good to see another Sitchin fan: They’re few and far between. 😉

      In answer to your question, my personal opinion is that if there was an historical Jesus, his ‘father’ was Enki, since Enlil was the one who wanted the ‘Flood’ to destroy all of mankind.

      For those interested, google “The 12th Planet” written by Zecharia Sitchin.

  13. Erhman on Justin
    Acharya, I’m not a trained “credentialed religious scholar” but I am a person who buys books on the subject, most especially on the historicity of Jesus…therefore I have financially supported Bart Ehrman for years. Bart and the rest of his cloistered academics have taught me NOTHING about Jesus except the people who wrote about him were utterly, hopelessly, confused or just delusional. Ehrman and his PH.d friends simply have their faces buried in the New Testament and other early Christian texts, (and nowhere else!) to prove a historical Jesus, yet are still in denial that there is nothing in those books but 2000 years of dust and deception.

    You are my salvation from the boredom these “scholars” publish.

    Erhman has no idea you are superior to him in this field of research, or maybe he does that’s why he trashes you. Like a snowball in hell, he has no chance to win a debate with you.

    And that’s my opinion.

    In my library, biblical “scholars” are no longer welcome

  14. Jesus was actually Julius Ceasar???
    Was Jesus Christ actually Julius Ceasar as some archaeological & other historical evidence suggests?

    Thank you and keep up the awesome work!!!

    Teufel Mann

    1. Thank you for your kind regards. In response to your question, in general, no. It is not the life of Julius Caesar being depicted in the gospels. Some aspects of his life, including the testimony of Caesar’s “good news” or evangelia/gospel in inscriptions, may have been used.

      However, the “Jesus Christ” of the New Testament is a compilation of characters, historical and mythical, including other real people, such as, perhaps, Titus as well, along with numerous motifs from myth and midrash (“scriptural blueprints”) from the Old Testament.

  15. There would be no argument….
    “The absence of proof is not proof of absence.”

    For a decent argument to take place “facts” and “lack of facts” should play a major role in searching for objective conclusions (if in fact there is such a thing as objectivity).

    Bottom line is that one group argues from scripture and the other group argues from rationality (faith versus the scientific process). It is possible that each group “needs’ to be correct for reasons that are neither scriptural or rational. Those “needs” may be more important than any argument, pro or con.

    If human beings were computers there would be no argument since computers are not yet emotional beings.

    Personally, I pretend there IS a “GOD” so I can have a logical entity to blame for the mess this world is in. Otherwise I might exist only to add to the mess this world is in.

    In other words, if there is such an entity as a Creator God, that entity must be, by all rational evidence I have seen, an evil Creator God. Who in their right mind would want to place their love, hopes, dreams and trust in an evil CONCEPT?

  16. Be more specific Carl. If you’re going to proclaim that Acharya’s work isn’t credible and won’t hold up to scrutiny then you need to provide examples of that. Otherwise, any asshat troll can make malicious comments like that without ever knowing what they’re talking about. What does your comment have to do with this blog?

    So please, provide your examples.

  17. Carl, you going to leave us hanging? That’s it, nothing to refute? Sounds to me you sound like a 5 year old child , who has just learned there in no Santa… stating “Well my Mamma says there is so I don’t believe you!”

  18. conclusion
    Well done, Achrya; Of course it would be almost impossible to think that there was no corruption and plagarism in the time-frame your work is set; with many injustices at the fore (not saying we are any different now): The point is ‘if it is considered scholarly heresy to go against the norm’, surely the most successive scholars of the time would be the ones who abided by this rule to an excellent level. So therefore the exclusion of works of the Ebionites may have been the norm, even when the message is carried by a new, more accepted men (i.e Matthew, Mark, Luke and John: they may all as well be aliases; that does not detract from the point I want to make). The aliases of the ”Canon” may have enraged further the scholars because they could easily ignore minor jews but if none-jews, ”who should know better”, should take up the battle of the jew, woe be-tide them! These alias men may have been attempting to salvage what they could from the oral-sayings of those Ebionites. Even the Acts of the Apostles itself may have been such an attempt, although a better attempt one gathers. You letter is not wrong; I am writing merely to encourage you and also to seek that you do not throw the baby and the water. Your findings ring true to me; I wish you to go a bit further. And perhaps to be cautious with using Justin as an objective ”dating” point as you progress further with your enquiry. Although I do not necessarily want you to go this way, but reflecting widely upon the social context can add a lot, which you do a bit like when you question……would it be this way?, or is it possible that?….. Given, it would not have been out of character, as we understand the moral standing of (those)men, to plagarise, own, distort and profit from. It could be the case that Justin is inadvertently the ”stop button” in history to such persons who wished to usurp and mince a tradition.

    It’s a mixture of good efforts and organised corruption, it appears and, as you disentangle it using your ‘scientific’ method, though one cannot be with you in body, be guided in spirit.

  19. Old Testament proves Christ!!!
    Also Christ proves the Old Test. in fulfilling the prophecies of His death for our sins. During the Early Church Christ was taught from Old Testament Prophecies so the message would be Proof Based. Everyone knew the Old Testament predated Christ and His crucifixtion. The Ball of Old Testament proof of Christ in type, and specific prophecies has been dropped as what it was in the early Church. Justin Martyr wrote 150 A.D. The Idea to compile the writtings we have as the new Testament was not done until around 170 A.D. . The Old Testament contains the 1st and second coming of Christ. You people better learn the truth. You haven’t much time. 2011 through now is setting all kinds of natural disaster records proving 2011 as the beginning of sorrows Christ mentioned in Matthew 24, and the 7 year period mentioned in Daniel 9. According to 2 Chronicles 36:21 Israel was destroyed by Babylon for a compiled 70 years of sin. Paid God back in a consecutive 70. Rome destroyed Israel because of 70 years rejection of Christ. So God gave the Gentiles the gentile age. (Romans 10 and 11). As God promised brought Israel back. 1948 They get 70 years again as a nation to embrace their messiah. They won’t and will be punished in 2018. Remember their 70ieth week of Daniel would start 7 years previous in the fall Jewish feast time, September 30, 2011. Also God uses 400 year periods. The 1611 King James Bible translation was finished in 1611 + 400 = 2011!!! That was God’s workhorse in the last 400 years. Christ predicted in Matthew 24, 1967 ( The Fig tree “Israel” putting forth leaves) Israel expanded 3 times their size. Leaves cover or shade a bigger area than a tender branch. Calculate a generation from chapter 1:17 of Matthew. Abraham born about 2166 B.C. div. by 42 = 51.57 + 1967 = 2018 Christ’s answer to the Apostles question of His return Matthew 24:3 and 30-34. Could not be calculated or known until Israel’s rebirth. See Daniel 9 and 12:10-11. Just luck that Everything lines up with all these Natural disasters and the trouble in the Middle east . Then read Old Test. Zechariah 12 and especially notice verses 10 and 11. They will accept Christ in 2018 on Day of Atonement. Read Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53 for starters. Then do an Old Testament study of Christ. The Bible Keeps continuing to come true. Don’t you be too Late and lose your eternity.

    1. If nothing happens in 2018 will you renounce your faith in your silly sky god? Comeon… how much faith do you have that you are right?

    2. Christians should consider this
      Often, when things are hopelessly confused it is because two separate, even contradictory ideas are juxtaposed as ‘complimentary’.

      For Christians reading here, I would suggest, [i]just for a moment[/i], instead of mindlessly spewing emotional hatred, that you stop and ask yourself if [b]Christianity was not originally a religion entirely separate from Judaism[/b].

      It is [i]quite[/i] possible, even probable, that Christianity began as a Greek investigation into Zoroastrian concepts married to Neo-Platonic philosophy. As this study became more cohesive and compelling, it made its way out of the Seleucid Empire via various teachers into the West via Turkey and also down through Palestine. In Palestine, it was combined with Judaic traditions and political ideology to make it a tool of gaining ‘second class’ Jews within the Roman Empire to expand the control of the Temple elite beyond Jerusalem.

      It would be this viral Judeo-Christianity that was marked ‘export only’ to the empire that then went to war over the next centuries against any other versions of Christianity, corrupting, coercing and finally destroying them and imposing its will as ‘the [i]only[/i] Christianity’ on that sect as a whole. Thus it would be the ‘evil twin’ that murdered the good one in the cradle has come down to us through history.

      Instead of being outraged at discovering the truth, we should be overjoyed to find it. After all, If the Universe is ‘that which is really true’ and the Universe is the evidence of the Creator. A religion claiming to love the Creator must love the truth and have faith that the truth of the Universe is ALWAYS greater and to be preferred to the lies of men.

      This becomes incredibly important to those who seek to maintain that which is good in Christianity when archaeology has clearly demonstrated the Judaism is a rather latter day fraud, nearly completely made up from the minds of 6th century BC and later Jewish political hack seeking to establish and then maintain their control of Judea and Samaria.

      A Christianity, entirely shorn of Judaism and Jesus (at least in the synoptic gospel tradition), can be free to once again be what it was intended from the beginning to be – [i]a search for [u]Truth[/u][/i]. That is a thrilling prospect.

  20. Evidence of earliest Gospel
    This article was pretty interesting. It definitely adds to the ongoing research I’ve been doing about where the Jesus myth came from. One question though: how can you suggest that evidence for the Gospels emerged at the end of the 2nd century when there’s material evidence for John as early as 125 A.D. (earliest manuscript scrap).

    1. Brian: “how can you suggest that evidence for the Gospels emerged at the end of the 2nd century when there’s material evidence for John as early as 125 A.D. (earliest manuscript scrap)”

      Because it’s not concretely dated to 125, that’s the “CONSERVATIVE” dating. It’s just a scrap as you rightly point out. Plus,

      “… paleographical dating can rarely be more precise than +/- 25 to 50 years, the proposed dating of many manuscripts will lie across two centuries (e.g., second/third century CE).”
      – WWJ 69

      So, 125ad is the EARLIEST possible date with it more likely being 50 years older, which puts it at 175ad, which is precisely when they enter the historic and literary records.

      1. re:
        Oh wow, I had no idea the margin of error could be that great!

        Is this fact about paleographical dating widely known or is it best if I find a reliable source to reference everytime?

        Thanks for your response Pastor Pete.

  21. Gospel names
    Despite his remarkably fastidious record, when Justin is supposedly quoting the New Testament, he mentions none of the four gospels. Instead, he distinctly states that the quotes are from the “Memoirs.”

    I just realised… Wouldn’t it have been impossible to reference the Gospels by name if the names were given to them by Irenaeus in c.185? Maybe the thus far nameless Gospels he decided to bunch up and call “Memoirs of the Apostles”?

  22. quotes of the gospels
    I have the early church fathers including Justin Martyr’s works. I look up quotes of the gospels in them regularly. This guy’s statements are so patently false they aren’t worth the time to refute. You can get these books on the web, you can read them for yourself.

    1. Who is “this guy?” And what “patently false” statements would those be? If you’re referring to my article, there is nothing false in at all. It sounds as if you did not even read my article and that you do not know the works of Justin Martyr, despite your assertions. I have linked to everything I have contended, and I have also read the Martyr texts in the original Greek – have you?

      In any event, where have I misquoted Justin Martyr here? Please provide an example.

  23. “It is absolutely true, in my judgment, that the New Testament accounts of Jesus are filled with discrepancies and contradictions in matters both large and small.”

    – Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?” page 182

    “It is true that the Gospels are riddled with other kinds of historical problems and that they relate events that almost certainly did not happen…”

    – Bart Ehrman, “Did Jesus Exist?” page 184

  24. Where to start?
    Only recently slightly enlightened by the first 100 pages of Armstrong’s book “A history of God” and accidently stumbling on the above dialogues I am very keen on reading some of the books displayed on the site.

    My question is however: With which of the books should I start reading?

    Can anyone please gently point me in the right direction?
    Please use the Email address akgd@mobileemail.vodafonesa.co.za

    Thank you

  25. John S
    From Justin Martyrs Dialogue with Trypho: 103

    “For in the memoirs which I say were drawn up by His apostles and those who followed them, [it is recorded] that His sweat fell down like drops of blood while He was praying, and saying, ‘If it be possible, let this cup pass:'”

    How do you understand a quote like this? It seems as if it is from Luke 22.

  26. People take this stuff seriously?

    As someone who’s read literally every ante-Nicene church father, it’s obvious that the texts of the four gospels have existed since the first century.

    Ignatius of Antioch (35-107) quotes extensively from Matthew, Luke and John. He quotes from most of the canonical writings, in fact. Clement of Rome in his epistle to the Corinthians (circa 96) quotes extensively as well, as does Polycarp (circa 80s)

    There is an extremist minority of people who wish to late date the writings of the NT, but the fact is that the overwhelming majority accept that the gospels are first century writings, just as the overwhelming majority accept that Jesus was an historical person who was crucified. (In fact, Justin Martyr argues for the historicity of the person of Jesus to naysayers in his own day by making mention of Roman government court records regarding the trial and crucifixion under Pontius Pilate. He points this out as an objective, third-party account for the Jews in Rome who had been claiming he was an invention of the Christians.)

    I suppose articles like this are meant to preach to he choir; most who read these articles haven’t read any of the text X concerned, and so are willing to accept ideas un accepted by the mainstream.

    Oh, there’s some interesting news that has come out of Egypt in recent weeks. A first-century mummy mask made of used papyrus has been deconstructed to study said papyrus fragments. (In those days, the poorer Egyptians used papyrus.) Most of the fragments peeled away so far have been unimportant documents, such as business transactions and local news, but one papyrus is a fragment of the Gospel of Mark. According to carbon dating and the handwritten of other papyri in the mask, the gospel fragment is from the year 80. Mainstream scholars had already dated Mark to the middle of the first century, so this is simply more confirmation of the obvious.

    It would seem that a small subculture of atheists wish to extreme and fringe scholarship in the same way that evangelical creationists wish to use pseudoscience to claim the creation stories in Genesis as literal history.

    1. Your first derogation reflects that you haven’t even read the article upon which you are commenting. Nor do you know the subject very well beyond the surface. Ignatius absolutely does not quote from any of the canonical gospels as we have them -that is simply a falsehood. Nor does Clement or Papias – making things up will assuredly not help your cause.

      If you wish to be considered competent in this subject, you will need to study the information as here:


      The overwhelming evidence points to the gospels as having emerged into the historical record – and likely composed – during the second half of the second century. No amount of false contentions otherwise and wishful thinking will change that fact. The “fringe” and “pseudoscience” belong to those who make claims without any evidenced, as there simply is none when it comes to the canonical gospels existing during the first century.

      Also the mummy mask brouhaha is not at all what it seems to be:


      In order to sort out this sort of development, one needs to think profoundly, rather than just accepting superficial and hasty conclusions based on biased expectations.

      1. One can only wonder why, since the proponents of these views do not believe that “Jesus is the Only Son of the Living God”
        what they hope to accomplish. They dismiss citations of the Gospels out of hand because the words are not exactly how we find them in the Gospels, or insist that Christians added the citation to the text. If that does not work they move the dating of the text in question as far back from the life of Christ as they possibly can.

        What they fail to show is why Trypho would even have a conversation with Justin Martyr – if he is dealing with a quasi-gnostic –
        and why Justin was ever martyred. Of course, you can claim that the conversation with Trypho never took place and that
        Justin was not martyred.

        If you stand back a bit and just ask you self two questions you can see what “sham” scholarship these so called scholars
        are involved in:

        a) If the Jesus did not exist then why not produce one Gospel or Gospels that fully support each other ?

        b) Why would a scholar and genius like Origen have not discovered what they claimed to have discovered, unless
        of course, and they might well claim, the actual Origen supports their view and it was later Church Folk who distorted
        Origen writings…

        Conspiracies upon Conspiracies – and of course the whole world was fooled until these self-reported scholars began to write.

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