But that is by the by; this post is just to highlight one that I rather like, because it is SO blatant, SO clearly fabricated, and is an excellent example of the sort of process that went into creating a gospel back in the late first century, when Jesus had already been dead for decades. The story is that of a donkey. Or maybe two donkeys. Well, really ONE donkey.
It's Palm Sunday; Jesus is about to make the triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The author of Mark (not really Mark, of course - we do not know who wrote any of the gospels, not even Luke) takes up the story: [ASV, BibleGateway.com]
1 And when they draw nigh unto Jerusalem, unto Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount of Olives, he sendeth two of his disciples,
2 and saith unto them, Go your way into the village that is over against you: and straightway as ye enter into it, ye shall find a colt tied, whereon no man ever yet sat; loose him, and bring him.
3 And if any one say unto you, Why do ye this? say ye, The Lord hath need of him; and straightway he will send him back hither.
4 And they went away, and found a colt tied at the door without in the open street; and they loose him.
5 And certain of them that stood there said unto them, What do ye, loosing the colt?
6 And they said unto them even as Jesus had said: and they let them go.
7 And they bring the colt unto Jesus, and cast on him their garments; and he sat upon him.
8 And many spread their garments upon the way; and others branches, which they had cut from the fields.
9 And they that went before, and they that followed, cried, Hosanna; Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord:
10 Blessed is the kingdom that cometh, the kingdom of our father David: Hosanna in the highest.
OK, that's fairly straightforward. I wonder what the (again anonymous) author of Matthew has to say on the topic?
1 And when they drew nigh unto Jerusalem, and came unto Bethphage, unto the mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,
2 saying unto them, Go into the village that is over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me.
3 And if any one say aught unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and straightway he will send them.
4 Now this is come to pass, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken through the prophet, saying,
5 Tell ye the daughter of Zion, Behold, thy King cometh unto thee, Meek, and riding upon an ass, And upon a colt the foal of an ass.
6 And the disciples went, and did even as Jesus appointed them,
7 and brought the ass, and the colt, and put on them their garments; and he sat thereon.
8 And the most part of the multitude spread their garments in the way; and others cut branches from the trees, and spread them in the way.
9 And the multitudes that went before him, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest.
Interesting. Mark has a colt; Matthew has a colt and its mother. Contradiction? Well, if that's all there was to it, it would not be that impressive. Maybe Mark just didn't bother mentioning its mother. Maybe there were really two donkeys, but only the colt was important. However, that is not the interesting thing here. What IS interesting is that this is not Matthew's separate perspective - Matthew is working off the same TEXT as Mark - indeed, it is spectacularly obvious that when Matthew is writing his document, he has the book of Mark in front of him. He is COPYING it, and FIXING it where he thinks it is wrong.
However, if you flick back to Zechariah, you will see that it is *Matthew* who has not properly understood the prophecy; Zechariah only mentions ONE donkey, but repeats and emphasises the donkeyness of our donkey by a poetic technique known as parallelism - the Old Testament is full of it, and we do it in English too. It is similar to repetition for dramatic effect. But poor old silly Matthew thinks there are two donkeys, so he fixes Mark to make it look like the prophecy was fulfilled. Just like he fixed the "virgin birth" because he did not have a Hebrew bible to work from; just the Greek (which mistranslates "young woman" as "virgin").
Now, again, scholars have known this for donkeys' ages (sorry). But they didn't tell YOU that, for very obvious reasons. The thing is that the Gospel of Matthew is absolutely *riddled* with fixes like this, where the "real" story of Jesus (or at least the story that he had received - remember, the author had never met Jesus, and was writing at least 40 years after Jesus had died) didn't match some prophecy, or it lacked dramatic effect, so Matthew "sexed up" the document.
He faked a prophecy: "He shall be called a Nazarene" (Matthew did not realise that "NazarENE" had NOTHING to do with the small new town of NazarETH, but was a completely different term); he faked the angels at the tomb; he faked the *guard* of the tomb, he faked the earthquake and the dead rising and going into Jerusalem. He faked the post-resurrection appearances (the original, Mark, *never* mentioned any appearances of Jesus after his death - just an empty tomb).
But it is fascinating to see that part of the "Word of God" is a clumsy attempt to sex up another gospel that the author thought was deficient in a number of areas. Not only are the gospels NOT the "Word of God", it is clear that the authors *knew* this; they were perfectly aware that they were not writing "scripture", but marketing blurb. They were advertisers, and dishonest ones at that. And of course, there is no reason to suppose that what goes for Matthew does not also go for Luke and John (and Mark too, for that matter).
The whole basis for Theistic Christianity - crushed under the hooves of The Donkey That Broke The Gospel's Back.