Ever wonder why certain people are mentioned by name in the Gospels, and others not? Bauckham explains in his book how people are named because of their role as eyewitness to the story they participate in. Cleopas, for example, didn’t have to be named, but was, possibly to identify him as an eyewitness.
In our study we encountered explanations for why some people are named and some are not, the overall explanation being their role as a witness to the story. Sometimes a person’s name is not mentioned, even if they could function as a witness, because they are being protected. Some reasons we will never know. But a pattern was brought to us in our study explaining how named individuals would verify the accounts in scripture.
I particularly appreciated how Bauckham highlights the vindication of female witnesses in the Gospel. “The Evangelists were careful to name precisely the women who were well known to them as witnesses to these crucial events,” and, just like the men, “remained accessible and authoritative sources” of the story. The fact that women are granted the gift of seeing Christ raises them up as worthy witnesses in a world that put women down.
I think our friend appreciate this too. As a strong feminist, they struggled with the values and perceptions of women at various places in scripture they deemed as offensive and sexist. Like us, they had not been brought up being educated enough about the ways that the Bible raises up women as equal to men, especially compared to other cultures of antiquity. This was a bonus in our study.
Bauckham also does some name counting research, running the numbers on Palestinian names for clues of authenticity. He demonstrates that the frequency of names appearing in the Gospel is consistent with their frequency in databases of names from the same era, yet another proof of the stories being consistent with time in which they are said to have taken place. In short, it’s less likely that made-up names were added later to boost the story. We had not even thought of such an idea, but it makes sense. Sometimes a fictional story taking place in another time can be exposed based on the misuse or misplacement of common names from that era alone. Already we seemed to be learning as much as our skeptic friend, and the study was beneficial for all of us.
It’s also important to understand that the Gospels were not anonymous. People were aware who the authors were when they were passed along each time. The titles we give to the Gospels, as well as the epistles, reflect the identity of the primary person attached to the narrative. This may not mean that they hand-wrote it (not likely in most cases), or even that they were the only storyteller, but that the Gospel is, at the very least, primarily based on their account. This is further explored later in our study.
In the next post, we talk about the Twelve Disciples.