Conservative Christian scholars agree the Bible only has the voice, not words, of Jesus

Did you know we don’t have the exact words that Jesus spoke? All Bible scholars (even the most conservative Christians) admit we only have the “voice” (ipsissima vox) of Jesus but not the actual, specific words (ipsissima verba) he said.

Dan Wallace, a leading conservative Christian textual scholar, who teaches at one of the most conservative seminaries in America (Dallas Theological Seminary) says it this way:

“Scholars have for a long time recognized that the Gospel writers *shape* their narratives, including the sayings of Jesus. A comparison of the Synoptics reveals this on almost every page.

Matthew quotes Jesus *differently* than Mark does who quotes Jesus *differently* than Luke does. And John’s Jesus speaks significantly *differently* than the Synoptic Jesus does. Just consider the key theme of Jesus’ ministry in the Synoptics: ‘the kingdom of God’ (or, in Matthew’s rendering, often ‘the kingdom of heaven’). Yet this phrase occurs only twice in John, being replaced usually by ‘eternal life.’

The ancient historians were far more concerned to get the *gist* of what a speaker said than they were to record his *exact* words. And if Jesus taught mostly, or even occasionally, in Aramaic, since the Gospels are in Greek the words by definition are not exact.” (1)


  1. Hey, this is great information. My question is, why conservative scholars may understand this, how far does this understanding percolate into the Fundamentalist community?

    I’ll raise the stakes with my take: the some of the content of the Sermon on the Mount reflects the words of James the Just, not his more famous brother. For example, “blessed are the poor in spirit” is James, not Jesus. By conventional reckoning, Jesus’ public ministry lasted perhaps three years. James was the leader of the Jerusalem community for nearly thirty years; IOW, an order of magnitude. He had to have left something behind after such a long tenure as the chief spokesperson for the group.

    And no, that’s not why I chose the nom de guerre that I did.


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