Russell and Duenes

Are the Gospel Accounts “Legend?”

with 3 comments

I don’t generally look to C.S. Lewis for my beliefs about the reliability of the New Testament, but because he is a literary scholar, I believe his thoughts on whether the New Testament gospel accounts are authentic, or merely “legend,” are worth considering. Lewis writes,

Now, as a literary historian, I am perfectly convinced that whatever else the Gospels are, they are not legends. I have read a great deal of legend and I am quite clear that they are not the same sort of thing. They are not artistic enough to be legends. From an imaginative point of view, they are clumsy, they don’t work up to things properly. Most of the life of Jesus is totally unknown to us, as is the life of anyone else who lived at that time, and no people building up a legend would allow that to be so. Apart from bits of the Platonic dialogues, there are no conversations that I know of in ancient literature like the Fourth Gospel. There is nothing, even in modern literature, until about a hundred years ago when the realistic novel came into existence. In the story of the woman taken in adultery, we are told Christ bent down and scribbled in the dust with His finger. Nothing came of this. No one has ever based any doctrine on it. And the art of inventing little irrelevant details to make an imaginary scene more convincing is a purely modern art. Surely the only explanation of this passage is that the thing really happened. The author put it in simply because he had seen it. (God in the Dock, “What Are We To Make of Jesus Christ?”)



Written by Michael Duenes

April 22, 2012 at 1:56 pm

3 Responses

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  1. Thanks for the analysis – – fascinating.


    April 24, 2012 at 9:58 pm

  2. It’s not very good writing, so it’s true? I don’t know that you really want to go there. Next thing will be God striking sending a bolt of lightning to strike you down for criticizing His writing ability. Actually, the Bible, on the whole, IS a fairly tedious book. I’ve read it, but I’ve never really grasped why it is considered so wonderful. Maybe you had to be there, and actually see that Mary was a virgin (though that does not seem very practical to “prove”) and to see Jesus come back from the dead. Though of course, the Gospels were probably written decades after the supposed events. It really just doesn’t hold up that well. Unless you REALLY, REALLY want to believe. As do billions of Muslims, billions of Hindus, billions of Buddhists, and millions of Jews, and billions of other believers.


    June 16, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    • Lewis never said it was poor writing. He was simply observing that it was written rather matter-of-factly by common people who witnessed certain things. In other words, the gospels in particular are not works of high literature, as legends tend to be. Beyond that, apparently a great mass of humanity has disagreed with your assessment of the Bible, considering it is the most read book in the history of humankind, and has been the most significant impetus behind music and literature in human history.


      russell and duenes

      June 16, 2012 at 7:49 pm

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