Lately, I've been reading Borg and Crossan. One thing that strikes me is how they assume that the deity of Christ must be a myth that evolved over time.
Their evidence for this assumption is that since Mark was the earliest Gospel and the least explicit on the divinity of Christ, Jesus must not have believed himself to be God. This is, however, a rather fuzzy argument, especially is one actually reads Mark's Gospel. For example, Jesus forgave people's sin by his own authority; not only those who sinned against him personally but those who sinned against their neighbors. This was clearly a claim to godhood given that under the Jewish tradition, only God can forgive sin. This is exactly why the Jews in Mark accuse Jesus of blasphemy.
Furthermore, in claiming to be the "Son of Man", Jesus was also claiming godhood:
"I beheld therefore in the vision of the night, and lo, one like a son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and he came even to the Ancient of days: and they presented him before him. And he gave him power, and glory, and a kingdom: and all peoples, tribes, and tongues shall serve him: his power is an everlasting power that shall not be taken away: and his kingdom shall not be destroyed." — Daniel 7:13
I honestly have no problem with Markan priority. But when it used to claim that Matthew could not have been an eye witness, that crosses the line.
Mark was a disciple of Peter and wrote down the life of Christ as Peter had taught him. Therefore, Matthew, if he did rely upon Mark, was only using the testimony of a fellow Apostle as a source. Of course, there is no real problem with this. As a journalist, I oftentimes research what other journalists have reported on a particular event before I investigate myself.
Even if I were an eye witness to an invent, that would not mean that I would not want to check the notes, film, audio, of other journalists who were present at the event in order to verify the reliability of my own recollection.
If the Gospel of Matthew merely corrected and supplemented Mark, who better qualified to do that than an Apostle of Christ?
This brings us to the purported Q document, one which we have no evidence to have actually existed. The material which Luke and Matthew share in common can be explained by Luke's reliance upon Matthew as an eye witness of Christ.
Just to review, the non-existence of Q makes good sense considering that -
A. Luke was a historian and therefore, relied upon witnesses of Jesus.
B. There is no hard evidence that Q ever existed.
As you can see, we have witnessed an 'evolution' so far in the Synoptic Gospels. Mark wrote the first Gospel, which wasn't particularly informative of a historical account, Matthew then wrote the second Gospel, which corrected Mark with his eye-witness as an Apostle, and then Luke wrote his Gospel utilizing Matthew as an eye-witness source.
Does this development in any way make the Gospel message less accurate? Only if the 2005 Microsoft Encarta makes my 1995 edition false. This is not an evolution of mythology, given that the Synoptic Gospels were writtin within the generation of Christ and the changes from one Synoptic to another were slight, but the effort of each Synoptic writer to make his Gospel more historically accurate than the last. For further reference, please read the first chapter of Luke's Gospel.
We've now covered the Synoptics. But what about John? Is it so much different from the Synoptics that we must discard it as historically inaccurate? Most scholars would agree that the author of John wrote his Gospel with the others already available. John's intention of writing his Gospel, therefore, was to supplement and compliment what the Synoptics had written with his own eye witness testimony instead of merely re-writing what they had done before him. What evidence do we have of Johannean authorship?
"The tradition is unanimous, from the earliest records that we have. There are some small variations in the wording and the emphasis, but there are no real contradictions. In this case, we can even trace our knowledge of the information back to John the Apostle, by way of Irenaeus by way of Polycarp. This alone is enough to establish John as the author. However, we actually have more information, from the text itself. From John 21:20-24 we know that the curious figure of "The disciple whom Jesus loved," or "the other disciple" wrote the Gospel of John. He is mentioned several times (Jn 13:23, 18:15-16, 19:26, 20:2-8 and 21:20-24). There are many clues that lead us to believe that this is John the apostle. First, we must realize that this disciple was present at the last supper, and shows a very close relationship to Jesus.
When he had said this, Jesus deeply troubled and testified, "Amen, amen, I say to you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, at a loss as to whom he meant. One of his disciples, the one whom Jesus loved, was reclining at Jesus's side. So Simon Peter nodded to him to find out whom he meant. He said to him, "Master, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I hand the morsel after I have dipped it." So he dipped the morsel and took it and handed it to Judas, son of Simon the Iscariot. (John 13:21-26).
This indicates that the title, "The disciple whom Jesus loved" was not merely an honorific. It indicated the real relationship between Jesus and the disciple. That means that the disciple is one of the apostles, and probably one of the closest apostles. Additionally Mark 14:17 (and parallels in Mt 26:20, Lk 22:14) indicate that no one except the apostles were at the last supper. All of the apostles are named in the gospel except for John, son of Zebedee, James, son of Zebedee, Matthew, James, son of Alphaeus, Bartholomew, Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot. From the synoptic gospels, it is understood that the closest apostles to Jesus are Peter and the sons of Zebedee. For example, these three were his companions for the vigil at Gethsemane (Mk 14:33 and parallels) The disciple whom Jesus loved cannot be Peter, because Peter and the disciple are mentioned together in the above passages. He cannot reasonably be James, because James was martyred no later than A.D. 44 (Acts 12:2). This argument from the gospel itself falls short of proof, but it does complement well the tradition, which is sufficient proof by itself.
However, there is one substantial caveat. It appears that more than one person had a hand in this Gospel. The Prologue has a different style than the rest of the gospel. The Epilogue was written after the death of the primary author. Within the gospel, there is some clunkiness that a single writer would have been unlikely to create. For example, there are two endings to the public ministry (Jn 10:40-42 and Jn 12:37-43), and two endings for the last supper discourse of Jesus (Jn 14:31 and 18:1). It appears that the current gospel is a combination of shorter, homogeneous originals.
So, we have proof that John the apostle wrote the gospel, and that the gospel was written by more than one person. How do we resolve this apparent contradiction? We must understand that the people of this time had a slightly different definition for author than we do. When they said author, they meant the source of the tradition, not the person who actually held the pen. To know that this is a reasonable interpretation, look at Jn 22:22, "Pilate answered, 'What I have written, I have written.' " Here Pilate is saying that he wrote the inscription on Jesus's cross, but what he means is that he is responsible for the inscription. That he did not actually do the writing is clear from the previous several verses as well as the very low probability that a governor of a province would have a direct hand in the execution of a convict.
In conclusion, John is the primary source of this Gospel. If this was a modern science paper, we would call him the first author. He told those around him what he remembered of Jesus. It is probable that much of this was written down by his disciples while he was alive, but the Gospel was not put in its final form until after his death. Some of the clunkiness could have been smoothed out by asking him what he remembered, but he was no longer around to ask. Instead, the authors were cautious and kept the somewhat contradictory material in rather than risk losing an authentic tradition."http://people.ucsc.edu/~mgrivich/The...dingtoJohn.htm
"Attestation of Johannine authorship is found as early as Irenaeus. Eusebius reports that Irenaeus received his information from Polycarp, who in turn received it from the apostles directly. Although Irenaeus’ testimony has been assailed on critical grounds (since he received the information as a child, and may have been mistaken as to which John wrote the gospel), since all patristic writers after Irenaeus do not question apostolic authorship, criticism must give way to historical probability. The list of fathers include Tertullian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, etc. Further, the Muratorian Canon suggests that John was given the commission to write this gospel after Andrew received a vision indicating that he would do so. If one were to sift out the possible accretions in this statement, the bare fact of Johannine authorship is not disturbed. Finally, the anti-Marcionite Prologue also affirms Johannine authorship.
In countering this external evidence are two considerations. (1) There would be a strong motivation on the part of patristic writers to suggest authorship by an apostle. Further, the internal evidence, when compared with the synoptics, strongly suggests John as the leading candidate. But this is off-set by the remarkably early documentary testimony of Johannine authorship4 as well as early patristic hints (Ignatius, Justin, Tatian). Further, P52—the earliest fragment for any NT book—contains portions of John 18:31-33 and 37-38 and is to be dated as early as 100 CE5; and the Papyrus Egerton 2, which is to be dated at about the same time, draws on both John and synoptics for its material.6 Although the early patristic hints and the early papyri do not explicitly affirm Johannine authorship, they do illustrate its early and widespread use, an implicit testimony to its acceptance by the church. Indeed, there seems never to have been a time when this gospel bore any name other than John’s.
(2) There is some evidence of an early martyrdom for John (based on Mark 10:39) which, assuming a late date for the production of this gospel, would preclude Johannine authorship. However, the earliest patristic evidence for this supposition is from the fifth century (Philip of Side and the Syrian martyrology of 411 CE), from sources which show themselves to be unreliable as historical guides in other matters. Further, in our dating of John’s Gospel, even an early martyrdom would not preclude Johannine authorship, though it would preclude Johannine authorship of the Apocalypse.
In conclusion, the external evidence is quite strong for Johannine authorship, being widely diffused and early."http://www.bible.org/page.asp?page_id=1328
John's Gospel isn't different from the Synoptics for being a 'later mythology'. The convergence is explained by John, Jesus' beloved disciple, merely providing whatever facts that the Synoptics had missed:
“Last of all John, perceiving that the external facts had been set forth in the Gospels, at the insistence of his disciples and with the inspiration of the Spirit, composed a spiritual Gospel."
Clement of Alexandria