Closing the Gap Between the Jesus Tradition and the Gospels

by Carey Bryant

If the four Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death, how do we know that they accurately record Jesus’ words and deeds?

Scholars agree that early Christians passed down traditions about Jesus orally and in writing. Is there a way to test one of the traditions to see if it has been corrupted?

Tradition of the Last Supper

Enter the Last Supper. Jesus having a final meal with his disciples is a solid historical fact (see EP Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus). Jesus’ words at this final meal appear in four places in the New Testament: Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24, Luke 22:19-20 and 1 Corinthians 11:23-25.

This is one of the few places where we can compare the tradition in the Gospels with an earlier source since Paul’s letters came first. Luke’s wording is very similar to Paul’s wording, so let’s compare their two accounts…

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Closing the Gap Between the Jesus Tradition and the Gospels