Are the Gospels “Historically Reliable”? A Focused Comparison of Suetonius’s Life of Augustus and the Gospel of Mark
By its very nature, a narrative biography must take certain liberties with the story it shares. Please do not expect camera-like accuracy. That is not the intent of this book, and to meet such a standard, it would have to be a twenty-two-year-long video, most of which would bore even my mother to tears.The words I have in quotations are rough approximations. A few of the conversations represent multiple meetings condensed into one. In some instances, stories are displaced in the timeline to fit the topical categorization. In other instances, people who were present in the conversation were left out of the narrative for the sake of clarity. All of these devices are normal for narrative biographies … Please read accordingly.
He is mundane: has no poetry, no pathos, no persuasion, no epigram. Stylistically he has no pretensions. No writer who sees himself as an artist, one of the elect, could tolerate the pervasive rubric; the repetitiveness of the headings, the monotony of the items that follow, the predictable ending “such he did; and such he did; and such he did”. Suetonius is not sloppy or casual; he is clear and concise, but unadorned. His sentences seek to inform, with a minimum of extraneous detail … The style is neither conversational nor elevated. It is the businesslike style of the ancient scholar.6
2. The Author Chose Sources Judiciously
Οὐκ ὀκνήσω δέ σοι καὶ ὅσα ποτὲ παρὰ τῶν πρεσβυτέρων καλῶς ἔμαθον καὶ καλῶς ἐμνημόνευσα, ⸀συγκατατάξαι ταῖς ἑρμηνείαις, διαβεβαιούμενος ὑπὲρ αὐτῶν ἀλήθειαν. οὐ γὰρ τοῖς τὰ πολλὰ λέγουσιν ἔχαιρον ὥσπερ οἱ πολλοί, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τἀληθῆ διδάσκουσιν, οὐδὲ τοῖς τὰς ἀλλοτρίας ἐντολὰς μνημονεύουσιν, ἀλλὰ τοῖς τὰς παρὰ τοῦ κυρίου τῇ πίστει δεδομένας καὶ ἀπ᾿ αὐτῆς παραγινομένας τῆς ἀληθείας. εἰ δέ που καὶ παρηκολουθηκώς τις τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις ἔλθοι, τοὺς τῶν πρεσβυτέρων ἀνέκρινον λόγους· τί Ἀνδρέας ἢ τί Πέτρος εἶπεν ἢ τί Φίλιππος ἢ τί Θωμᾶς ἢ Ἰάκωβος ἢ τί Ἰωάννης ἢ Ματθαῖος ἢ τις ἕτερος τῶν τοῦ κυρίου μαθητῶν, ἅ τε Ἀριστίων καὶ ὁ πρεσβύτερος Ἰωάννης, οἱ τοῦ κυρίου μαθηταί, λέγουσιν. οὐ γὰρ τὰ ἐκ τῶν βιβλίων τοσοῦτόν με ὠφελεῖν ὑπελάμβανον, ὅσον τὰ παρὰ ζώσης φωνῆς καὶ μενούσης.3 “I will not hesitate to set down for you, along with my interpretations, everything I carefully learned then from the elders and carefully remembered, guaranteeing their truth. For unlike most people I did not enjoy those who have a great deal to say, but those who teach the truth. Nor did I enjoy those who recall someone else’s commandments, but those who remember the commandments given by the Lord to the faith and proceeding from the truth itself. 4 And if by chance someone who had been a follower of the elders should come my way, I inquired about the words of the elders—what Andrew or Peter said, or Philip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew or any other of the Lord’s disciples, and whatever Aristion and the elder John, the Lord’s disciples, were saying. For I did not think that information from books would profit me as much as information from a living and abiding voice”.17(Pap., Frag. 3.3–4 in Euseb., Hist. eccl. 3.39)
Καὶ τοῦτο ὁ πρεσβύτερος ἔλεγε· Μάρκος μὲν ἑρμηνευτὴς Πέτρου γενόμενος, ὅσα ἐμνημόνευσεν, ἀκριβῶς ἔγραψεν, οὐ μέντοι τάξει, τὰ ὑπὸ τοῦ ⸀Χριστοῦ ἢ λεχθέντα ἢ πραχθέντα. οὔτε γὰρ ἤκουσε τοῦ κυρίου, οὔτε παρηκολούθησεν αὐτῷ, ὕστερον δέ, ὡς ἔφην, Πέτρῳ, ὃς πρὸς τὰς χρείας ἐποιεῖτο τὰς διδασκαλίας, ἀλλ᾿ οὐχ ὥσπερ σύνταξιν τῶν κυριακῶν ποιούμενος ⸀λογίων, ὥστε οὐδὲν ἥμαρτε Μάρκος, οὕτως ἔνια γράψας ὡς ἀπεμνημόνευσεν. ἑνὸς γὰρ ἐποιήσατο πρόνοιαν, τοῦ μηδὲν ὧν ἤκουσε παραλιπεῖν ἢ ψεύσασθαί τι ἐν αὐτοῖς.Ταῦτα μὲν οὖν ἱστόρηται τῷ Παπίᾳ περὶ τοῦ Μάρκου.15 And the elder used to say this: “Mark, having become Peter’s interpreter, wrote down accurately everything he remembered, though not in order, of the things either said or done by Christ. For he neither heard the Lord nor followed him, but afterward, as I said, followed Peter, who adapted his teachings as needed but had no intention of giving an ordered account of the Lord’s sayings. Consequently Mark did nothing wrong in writing down some things as he remembered them, for he made it his one concern not to omit anything that he heard or to make any false statement in them”.Such, then, is the account given by Papias with respect to Mark.20(Pap. Frag. 3.15 in Euseb., Hist. eccl. 3.39.15)
3. The Author Used His Sources Reliably
Paul (1 Cor. 11:24–25)24 καὶ εὐχαριστήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ εἶπεν· τοῦτό μού ἐστιν τὸ σῶμα τὸ ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν. 25 ὡσαύτως καὶ τὸ ποτήριον μετὰ τὸ δειπνῆσαι λέγων· τοῦτο τὸ ποτήριον ἡ καινὴ διαθήκη ἐστὶν ἐν τῷ ἐμῷ αἵματι· τοῦτο ποιεῖτε, ὁσάκις ἐὰν πίνητε, εἰς τὴν ἐμὴν ἀνάμνησιν.24 And having given thanks, he broke [the bread] and said, “This is my body, which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me”. 25 Likewise, also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this as often as you drink it in remembrance of me”.Mark (Mark 14:22–25)22 Καὶ ἐσθιόντων αὐτῶν λαβὼν ἄρτον εὐλογήσας ἔκλασεν καὶ ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς καὶ εἶπεν· λάβετε, τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ σῶμά μου. 23 καὶ λαβὼν ποτήριον εὐχαριστήσας ἔδωκεν αὐτοῖς, καὶ ἔπιον ἐξ αὐτοῦ πάντες. 24 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ αἷμά μου τῆς διαθήκης τὸ ἐκχυννόμενον ὑπὲρ πολλῶν. 25 ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν ὅτι οὐκέτι οὐ μὴ πίω ἐκ τοῦ γενήματος τῆς ἀμπέλου ἕως τῆς ἡμέρας ἐκείνης ὅταν αὐτὸ πίνω καινὸν ἐν τῇ βασιλείᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ.22 And while they were eating, taking bread, having blessed it, he broke it and gave it to them and said, “Take. This is my body”. 23 And taking a cup, having given thanks, he gave it to them and all drank from it. 24 And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. 25 Truly I say to you, I will never again drink from the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God”.
This brief survey suggests several things. First, it indicates that where Paul can be used as a check on Mark, Paul tends to support the existence of a tradition similar (but by no means identical) to that reflected in Mark. This in turn suggests that, where we have been able to check it, the tradition seems to have been reasonably stable between Paul’s time and Mark’s, and also that Mark has been reasonably conservative in his employment of it …Second, Paul’s own use of the tradition suggests that it was far from uncontrolled. It is something that he cites as being authoritative on more than one occasion, suggesting that he is, to some extent, constrained by it, and that he expects his audience to also be so. The tradition matters to Paul, because it conveys what he takes to be true (at least in the sense of authoritative); it would be surprising if Paul were alone in this attitude.Third, although Paul never explicitly states precisely where he obtained his tradition from, his letters, particularly that to the Galatians, do provide some possible clues.Eve (2014, pp. 167–68) then mentions Paul’s two visits to Jerusalem, during which he spent time with no less than Peter (primarily), Jesus’s brother James, and John (Gal. 1:18–19; 2:1–10).This puts Paul in touch with some form of Christian tradition at least as early as 34 CE (within four years of the most likely date of the crucifixion) and with a form of the tradition provided by Peter and James, two men who had known Jesus in the flesh, three years later.
It is because people were taught to “say the same thing in other words” that close repetition of the same words among our sources [i.e., the Gospels] … appears so striking and so much in need of comment … With so much pressure in favour of paraphrase, and so common a conviction of its validity, it really does seem very strange that we find so much identical wording among our Synoptic Gospels.
It is not the divergencies among the synoptists (or even between them and John), in parallel contexts, that are remarkable: it is the extraordinary extent of verbal similarities. The question is, why were they content to copy so much? rather than, why did they bother to change this or that? The procedure is not however mechanical, and there are considerable divergencies. But it has to be recognized that the relationship may betoken a much greater respect, one for the other, even than Josephus’ for Scripture.
4. We can Verify Numerous Items Reported
[The Caesares] contain an abundance of factual material to be mined by historians and social historians. Suetonius could be guilty of common error, and some of his information is distorted by misleading generalizations and inappropriate segmentation, but much is trustworthy and often unique … Suetonius did not make things up. His catholic reportage did indeed include gossip—but it was not his own …
I left that landing zone X-Ray battlefield knowing that young Americans had laid down their lives so that I might live. They had sacrificed themselves for me and their buddies. What I was learning was that there’s some events that are so overwhelming that you can’t simply be a witness. You can’t be above it. You can’t be neutral. You can’t be untouched by it. Simple as that. You see it. You live it. You experience it. And it will be with you all of your days.
5. No More than a Very Small Percentage of Items Reported by the Author have a Reasonable Chance of Being Errors
And the praetor Quintus Gallius, who was holding double tablets under his clothes while fulfilling his duty of paying respects, he suspected of concealing a sword but did not dare to search him on the spot in case something else were discovered; a little later he had him dragged from the tribunal and tortured like a slave by centurions and soldiers and, when he did not confess, ordered him to be killed, having first gouged out the man’s eyes with his own hand.(Suet. Aug. 27.4 [Wardle])38
The Suetonius who emerges from this important study will not necessarily win the confidence and approval of present-day historians; but he will have to be read in a more sophisticated way, with greater awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of the ambivalent genre within which he writes, and of his standpoint and his ability to manipulate his material to suit his conceptions.
Conflicts of Interest
|Hist. eccl.||Historia ecclesiastica (Ecclesiastical History)|
|Aug.||Divus Augustus (Life of the Divine Augustus)|
|Jul. (or Iul.)||Divus Julius (Life of the Divine Julius)|
|Tit.||Divus Titus (Life of the Divine Titus)|
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Perhaps the finest single volume addressing this question is Craig L. Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Blomberg 2007).
See the Apollo 13 DVD special features on Disc 1, “Lost Moon: The Triumph of Apollo 13,” including feature commentary with director Ron Howard and feature commentary with Jim and Marilyn Lovell (Howard 1995). The 1995 motion picture is based on the book Lost Moon: The Perilous Voyage of Apollo 13 by Jim Lovell and Jeffrey Kluger (Lovell and Kluger 1994).
In his autobiography, Kranz (2000, p. 12) describes the Mission Control team’s efforts to formulate “workaround” options during the Apollo 13 flight: “These three astronauts were beyond our physical reach. But not beyond the reach of human imagination, inventiveness, and a creed that we all lived by: ‘Failure is not an option.’” Several years ago, one of the NASA engineers who was on Kranz’s team approached me after a lecture and told me something to the same effect. Moreover, Jerry C. Bostick, who was NASA’s flight dynamics officer for Apollo 13, offers a similar explanation for how the saying became the tagline of the film, which had to do with something he said in passing to the same effect while he was being interviewed by the scriptwriters (Woodfill 2019).
Although Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus was a book written for a popular audience, Qureshi earned an MPhil in Judaism and Christianity in the Greco-Roman World from Christ Church, University of Oxford. He had just been accepted into the DPhil in New Testament program when he learned he had stage four stomach cancer. Nabeel died in 2017 at the age of thirty-four.
Of course, artistic license has its limits. And some authors went so far that what they wrote could not be considered “historically reliable” apart from dying the death of a thousand qualifications.
Wallace-Hadrill ( 1995) is cited by almost all subsequent literature on Suetonius, and is regarded as one of the most valuable treatments of Suetonius. See also Bradley (1998, p. 12), Hurley (2001, p. 19), and Tatum (2014, pp. 163–64). Wallace-Hadrill ( 1995, p. 10) adds, “Suetonius establishes the independence of his genre by distancing himself from history the further”.
See also Power (2014, p. 13).
For the dating of Suetonius’s birth, see Bradley (2012, p. 1409), Edwards (2000a, p. viii), Keener (2016, p. 146), Keener, Christobiography (Keener, forthcoming), who says from c. 69 CE to c. 130–140 CE; and Hurley (2001, p. 1): “he wrote in the first quarter of the second century”.
Regarding the date of Suetonius’s death, Edwards (2000a, p. viii) says, “There are no further references to his career, though from a passage in Titus (chp. 10), it seems he was probably still writing after 130”. Hurley (2001, p. 4) reports much the same: “No more is known of him after he left the court. He may have lived on for some time”. Hurley (2001, p. 4n16) notes further, “Suetonius seems to have written of Domitia Longina as though she had died, perhaps in the 130s (Tit. 10.2[)]”. Likewise, Van Voorst (2000, p. 29) says, “ca. 70–ca. 140” (29).
Hurley (2001, p. 6) notes that Lives of Illustrious Men contains more than 100 biographies of Roman poets, orators, historians, philosophers, grammarians, and rhetoricians.
For the dating of Suetonius’s Lives of the Caesars, see Bradley (1998, p. 26); Edwards (2000a, p. viii); Keener (2016, p. 146); Keener, Christobiography (Keener forthcoming); and Van Voorst (2000, p. 30).
See Hurley (2001, pp. 4, 4n16) cited earlier in note above; see also Wardle (Wardle  2014, p. 4). Therefore, the dates and the span of time during which Lives of the Caesars was composed, is uncertain. It is certain that Suetonius’s Life of the Divine Julius was the first written of the twelve Lives. However, the order in which the other eleven were composed is not known (Hurley (2014, pp. 25–26); Edwards (2000a, p. viii)). There is also uncertainty pertaining to whether Suetonius composed the Lives of Illustrious Men before his Lives of the Caesars. However, there is a tendency among today’s scholars for thinking that his Lives of Illustrious Men was written first, perhaps as “a practice run for the Caesares” (Hurley (2001, p. 6)) and that Lives of the Caesars was his final writing project (Bradley (1998, p. 6)).
Hurley (2001, p. 9) adds, “This does not mean, however, that he had found a cache of correspondence in a private palace archive which only he and a select few were privileged to see. Wider access was available because earlier, in the second half of the first century, the elder Pliny and Quintilian had seen the correspondence or parts of it, perhaps in an imperial library. Never-published papers of Julius Caesar could be found in Augustus’ libraries (Iul. 56.7)”.
Gathercole (2018) lists Xenophon’s Hellenica and Anabasis, Josephus’s Jewish Antiquities and The Life, Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Arrian, Sallust, Livy, Tacitus, Florus, Philo, Plutarch, Lucian’s biographical writings, Philostratus’s Life of Apollonius and Lives of the Sophists, and Cornelius Nepos.
Gathercole (2018) identifies Lucian, Passing of Peregrinus, and the Life of Aelius in the Historia Augusta. We do not know if Suetonius included his name in the title or preface of his Life of the Divine Julius, the first of the twelve Lives, because the first portion of that Life has been lost.
Reference numbers and English translation are as given in Holmes (2007, pp. 734–35).
Irenaeus thought that Papias heard John the son of Zebedee directly, whereas Eusebius—perhaps correctly—thinks that Papias was claiming to have received information from those who had known the apostles (Euseb., Hist. eccl. 3.39).
For the range and relative consensus of scholarly opinion on the dating of Papias’s writings, see Bauckham (2017, p. 14): “We cannot therefore date his writing to before the very end of the first century, but it could be as early as the turn of the century”; Holmes (2007, p. 722): “within a decade or so of AD 130”; Jefford (2006, p. 37): “ca. 130”; Körtner (2010, p. 176): “The majority of scholarship points to the date of writing as 125/130”, but Körtner (2010, pp. 176–77) notes that “little attention has been paid to Eusebius’ note in Liber Chronicorum II (frag. 2)” in which Eusebius makes statements suggesting that Papias wrote around 110 CE; Yarbrough (1983, p. 190): “In summary, considerable evidence points to an early date for Papias’ writings. The generally accepted date of 130 or later has little to commend it. We conclude that Papias wrote his five treatises ca. 95–110”; Hill (2007, pp. 42, 48): “He wrote perhaps as early as about 110 and probably no later than the early 130s … Since Papias learned it from the elder, this tradition about Mark goes back at least another generation, to about the end of the first century if not earlier”; Drobner (2007, p. 55): “[T]he attempts at dating the work … range from 90 to 140; more recent commentators tend to favor a later date of ca. 130/140”; Gundry (1994, p. 610): “Modern handbooks usually put the date of his writing at ca. A.D. 135. Early though it is, this date is not early enough. The only hard evidence in its favor comes in a statement of Philip of Side, who makes Papias refer to the reign of Hadrian (pp. 117–38 …). But we have good reasons to distrust Philip’s statement. He is notoriously unreliable and wrote approximately a century later than Eusebius did (Philip—ca. 430; Eusebius—ca. 324). Hence, if Eusebius leads us to an earlier date for Papias’s writing, we should probably prefer the earlier”, and thus Gundry (1994, pp. 610–11) goes on to argue that Papias wrote prior to 110 CE; Schoedel (1992, p. 140): “[A]lthough later dates (e.g., a.d. 130–140) have often been suggested by modern scholars, Bartlet’s date for Papias’ literary activity of about A.D. 110 has recently gained support (Schoedel 1967, pp. 91–92; Körtner 1983, pp. 89–94, 167–72, 225–26)”; and Koester (2000, pp. 68, 171): “early second century … ca. 100–150”.
Reference numbers and the English translation are as given in Holmes (2007, pp. 738–39).
According to Gathercole (2018, p. 466n68), Irenaeus wrote between 174 and 189 CE, and Gathercole also cites Irenaeus’s naming Eleutherius as presently holding the episcopate in the twelfth place from the apostles (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3.3.3). This episcopate began in 174 CE, and lasted until Eleutherius’s death in 189 CE.
Specifically, see Justin, Dialogue with Trypho 106 (where Justin mentions the “memoirs of the apostles” and “memoirs of him” when referring to Mark 3:16–17); Tertullian, Against Marcion, 4.2, 5; Clement of Alexandria (in Euseb., Hist. eccl. 6.14.5–7a); Origen, Commentary on Matthew 1 (in Euseb., Hist. eccl. 6.25.5); Jerome, De viris illustribus, 8; Muratorian Canon; Eusebius, Hist. eccl. 2.15.1; and the Anti-Marcionite Prologue to Mark.
Bauckham (2017, pp. 539–40) acknowledges that Mark was a “very common Roman praenomen, the first of the three names borne by every male Roman citizen in this period. In fact, all praenomina were common. But no Roman citizen would be known by his praenomen alone … If Cicero or Brutus or Marcus Aurelius or Mark Antony (Marcus Antonius) had written a Gospel, it would most certainly not have been called ‘the Gospel according to Mark.’ On the evidence of name usage alone, the author of the Gospel is very unlikely to have been a Roman citizen. He must have been a slave or a non-Roman, and the only relevant evidence will be for the frequency of the name among those who, not being Roman citizens, bore the name Marcus as their only Latin name, and as a name that could be used alone to identify them”.
With the assistance of my son-in-law, Nick Peters, I gathered the opinions of seventy-five critical scholars on the matters of the authorship and dating of Mark’s Gospel, written between 1965 and 2018. As such, our sampling is by no means exhaustive and considers only literature written in English. Nevertheless, our sampling is large enough to be suggestive. The results have not been published.
It is common to see 65–70 CE as the majority position of critical scholars for the date within which Mark was composed. I suspect many scholars use those dates without giving much thought to the matter, or they check what the majority actually think. I too was guilty of such.
See notes 12–13 above.
One can perform a similar exercise on Plutarch’s Life of Coriolanus. Classicists believe that Plutarch’s lone source for that Life was Roman Antiquities by Dionysius of Halicarnassus. By comparing Plutarch’s account with that by Dionysius, we can decrypt what Plutarch did with his source when writing his Life of Coriolanus (see Russell (1963)). One can observe Plutarch doing what every educated youth of the elite in that day had been taught in their teenage years, and what every historian of that era did: paraphrase their sources rather than quoting them verbatim.
See also Keener, Christobiography (Keener forthcoming): “Suetonius’s understanding of biography involved not free composition but dependence on prior information; where we can test him, this biographer mostly edited and adapted historical information rather than inventing new stories”.
Moreover, when authors such as Plutarch, Dio, Velleius, Seneca, Suetonius, and Tacitus contain numerous corresponding details, even in similar wording, we rightly conclude that they drew on the same sources. Although this does little or nothing to suggest multiple attestation, it allows us to measure the accuracy to which an author used his sources (Wardle  2014, p. 24n104; Wallace-Hadrill  1995, p. 64).
Not naming one’s sources was not at all untypical of ancient historical writing. See (Wallace-Hadrill  1995, p. 64).
Eve (2014, p. 147) is skeptical of Papias’s report. However, in my opinion, his reasons require too much of Papias. If one applies the same burden of proof to other ancient sources, perhaps even many modern ones, we could be confident about very little of the reported past. Moreover, it is apparent that Eve is a metaphysical naturalist who eschews the possibility of miracles. Therefore, it does not surprise us to find that he thinks that the stories of Jesus’s miracles could not have occurred, and that they are very loosely based on far lesser events, if any at all. See Eve (2017, pp. 66–85, esp. p. 80) The cumulative case that Peter was Mark’s primary source is fairly strong.
Ehrman (2016, p. 221) is an exception when it comes to whether Jesus was known as a miracle worker during his ministry: “I want to consider whether it is absolutely certain that Jesus was already understood to be a miracle worker even in his own day, prior to his death. My view of that question is a minority position, but one that I want to explain. I think the answer is no. I am not saying that I know for certain that Jesus was not considered a miracle worker during his life. But I do think there are grounds for doubt”. Ehrman may well be the only member subscribing to this “minority position”.
In his work Memory, Jesus, and the Synoptic Gospels, McIver (2011, pp. 189–209) considers population estimates of where Jesus frequently ministered, such as Capernaum and Jerusalem. He then estimates the number of eyewitnesses to Jesus who were ages fifteen and above at the time of Jesus’s ministry, to be in the neighborhood of 62,000. Noting two major studies on lifespans in the time of Jesus, he shows that out of 100,000 live births, between 671 and 1644 survived to the age of eighty. After all is considered, McIver concludes that between 13,000 and 15,000 eyewitnesses would have been alive thirty-five years after Jesus’s death (around the time many think Mark was written), and 600 to 1100 would still have been alive sixty years after His death (when many think John, the final Gospel, was written).
The apostles were in Jerusalem during the days of Paul’s persecution of the church. They were there three years after his conversion (Gal. 1:17–18). They were there fourteen years later (Gal. 2:1–10). Finally, they were still there when Paul met with James, and was subsequently arrested for an incident in the Jerusalem temple (Acts 21:17–33), which occurred c. 57–58 CE.
See an earlier note in which I mention how Nick Peters and I gathered the opinions of seventy-five critical scholars on the matters of the authorship and dating of Mark’s Gospel, written between 1965 and 2018.
We may add that Paul states that spiritual teachings came from the church in Jerusalem (Rom. 15:25–27; cf. 1 Cor. 9:11). See Licona (2010, pp. 226–28).
Moore and Galloway later coauthored the award-winning book, We Were Soldiers Once … and Young: Ia Drang: The Battle That Changed the War in Vietnam (Moore and Galloway 1992), and its sequel, We Are Soldiers Still: A Journey Back to the Battlefields of Vietnam (Moore and Galloway 2008). The 2001 motion picture We Were Soldiers (Wallace 2001) is based on the first book.
Translation by Wardle (Suetonius 2014, p. 50).
See also Wardle’s comments in his commentary on the text (Suetonius 2014, pp. 209–12).
As stated earlier, when it comes to theological matters in the Gospels, these cannot be confirmed by using the tools available to historians. Thus, we cannot say that those items are historically reliable or historically unreliable. Nevertheless, that does not prohibit historians from deciding on the non-theological elements in a narrative. For example, although historians are incapable of confirming that Jesus’s death atones for sin, they are able to confirm that Jesus died by crucifixion.
First, in Mark 5:1, 13, the distance of Gerasa from the Sea of Galilee, since Gerasa is about thirty miles from the Sea of Galilee. Second, in Mark 6:45, Jesus commands his disciples to get in a boat and cross over to Bethsaida, which is on the northeast side of the lake, but they instead land at Gennesaret (6:53). However, in Matthew 14:22, 34, he commands them to get in a boat and cross over to the other side, and they land in Gennesaret. Third, in John 6:16–21, his disciples get into a boat, begin to cross to Capernaum, and they land where they had intended. Gennesaret and Capernaum are on the northwest side of the lake. For more on this occasion of possible geographical confusion in Mark, see my online article (Licona 2016) at https://www.risenjesus.com/mark-confused-pertaining-location-feeding-5000. Third, in Mark 7:31, we read of an awkward journey from Tyre through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee in the midst of the region of the Decapolis.
In his historical and theological study, Jesus the Miracle Worker, Twelftree (1999) provides lists of Jesus’ miracles, and the summaries of his miracle activities (107–39; 144–64, 370n2; 386n1). The Gospel of Mark reports twenty-three miracle stories or summaries of his miracle activities in: Mark 1:21–28, 29–31, 32–34, 40–45; 2:1–12; 3:1–6, 7–12; 4:35–41; 5:1–20, 21–43 (two miracles); 6:30–44, 45–52, 53–56; 7:24–30, 31–37; 8:1–10, 22–26; 9:14–29, 32–34 (Q); 10:46–52; 11:12–14, 20–26. The Gospel of Matthew reports of twenty-eight of Jesus’ miracles and summaries of his miracle activities in: Matt. 4:23–24; 8:1–4, 5–13 (Q), 14–15, 16–17, 23–27, 28–34; 9:1–8, 18–26 (two miracles), 27–31, 32–34, 35; 11:2–6 (absent in Mark); 12:9–14, 15–21, 22–30 (Q); 14:13–21, 22–33 (Matthew includes Peter walking on water, which is unique to Matthew; also found in John 6:16–21), 34–36; 15:21–28, 29–31; 17:14–20, 24–27 (unique to Matthew); 19:1–2 (Matthew mentions Jesus’ healings here, while the parallel text in Mark 10:1 does not); 20:29–34; and 21:14–17 (unique to Matthew), 18–22. The Gospel of Luke reports twenty-two miracle stories. and summaries of his miracle activities in: Luke 4:31–37, 38–39, 40–41; 5:1–11 (unique to Luke), 12–16, 17–26; 6:6–11, 17–19; 7:1–10 (Q), 11–17 (unique to Luke); 8:22–25, 26–39, 40–56 (two miracle stories); 9:10–17, 37–43a; 11:14–23 (Q); 13:10–17 (unique to Luke); 14:1–6 (unique to Luke); 17:11–19 (unique to Luke); 18:35–43; and 22:50–51 (unique to Luke).
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Licona, M.R. Are the Gospels “Historically Reliable”? A Focused Comparison of Suetonius’s Life of Augustus and the Gospel of Mark. Religions 2019, 10, 148. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030148
Licona MR. Are the Gospels “Historically Reliable”? A Focused Comparison of Suetonius’s Life of Augustus and the Gospel of Mark. Religions. 2019; 10(3):148. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030148Chicago/Turabian Style
Licona, Michael R. 2019. "Are the Gospels “Historically Reliable”? A Focused Comparison of Suetonius’s Life of Augustus and the Gospel of Mark" Religions 10, no. 3: 148. https://doi.org/10.3390/rel10030148