Bauckham, Richard. “Chapter 6, Eyewitnesses ‘from the Beginning.’” Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony.” Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2006, pp. 114-154.
Bauckham observes that the four canonical Gospels all have a similar scope in their accounts of the events of Jesus’ life. While Matthew and Luke include birth and infancy narratives, they are essentially set as prologues. The bulk of the narrative is from Jesus’ baptism through his ascension (Bauckham 2006, 114). In Acts chapter one, being present for that time period is considered essential to doing the work of an apostolic witness. In numerous other locations, Bauckham finds precisely the same parameters. In this chapter he evaluates the importance of eyewitnesses in various biblical and extrabiblical sources.
Luke’s Gospel opens with a statement that the sources he used were eyewitnesses, firsthand observers of the events (Bauckham 2006, 117). Bauckham notes that while most scholars consider this an introduction to an historical work, he finds that Lovejoy Alexander’s analysis of it as a preface for a technical treatise bears serious consideration. Other scholars have suggested the introduction is in the model of a work of historiography, but that Luke was not the caliber of writer that we know from other works (Bauckham 2006, 118). The phrase “from the beginning” is used in many works, not to indicate the beginning of time, but the beginning of the series of events to be narrated (Bauckham 2006, 119-120).
While Bauckham sees the claim of Luke to rely on eyewitness accounts, for some reason he does not consider the birth and childhood narratives to be part of this research involving eyewitnesses (Bauckham 2006, 121). This seems odd, as an eyewitness to the events, Mary, was available to Luke, so he certainly could have verified the events. However, Bauckham considers chapters 1-2 of Luke to be unrelated to his claim of eyewitness testimony.
Mark’s Gospel makes the matter of eyewitnesses prominent by his emphasis on the name of Simon (later called Peter) in 1:16. Bauckham sees the repetition of Simon’s name to be a way of making it particularly clear that this person was present from the start (Bauckham 2006, 124). Peter is again specifically identified as one of the witnesses to the resurrection, placing his name in a prominent position, showing him as a witness of Jesus from beginning to end (Bauckham 2006, 125). His name is used in Mark’s Gospel much more frequently than in the other Gospels (Bauckham 2006, 125-126).
Bauckham notes that John also has an inclusio of eyewitnesses, as in chapter one Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, has an unnamed companion, then subsequently introduces his brother, not the unnamed companion, but Simon. “This figure of an anonymous disciple has often been thought to be the disciple John elsewhere calls ‘the disciple Jesus loved,’” referring to John himself (Bauckham 2006, 127). In John’s Gospel, this is the disciple who is also speaking at the end as a narrator. Again, the inclusio may be indicated by the parallel statements of Jesus (1:37) and Peter (21:20) turning to see someone following (Bauckham 2006, 128). Bauckham sees this as indicative of an overall thrust in the Fourth Gospel that John, the Beloved Disciple, is an authoritative eyewitness from beginning to end (Bauckham 2006, 129).
Luke’s Gospel features a wide array of disciples, beyond the Twelve (Bauckham 2006, 129). Bauckham finds it significant that Luke itnroduces particular women as authoritative eyewitnesses. Specifically, rather than waiting until the resurrection account to mention women at the tomb, Luke introduces Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Susanna in 8:2-3, then identifies them again in 24:6-7, when the angel reminds them of what Jesus taught them (Bauckham 2006, 130). By doing this, Luke describes these three women as eyewitnesses to the bulk of Jesus’ ministry (Bauckham 2006, 131).
Bauckham observes that Matthew’s Gospel does not have the same kind of claims to eyewitness authorities as the other Gospels do (Bauckham 2006, 131-132). I would take some small issue with his conclusion by observing that Matthew’s introduction of Jesus as the fulfiller of prophecy and his conclusion with Jesus’ claim to have all authority suggest that Matthew is calling on God as the ultimate eyewitness. Of course as an eyewitness who could be visited and questioned, God does not follow the pattern of the witnesses in the other Gospels. Yet the pattern of the inclusio is certainly present.
Bauckham recognizes that the inclusio he describes may have been invented by the Evangelists, or at least might be rare in other period works due to the type of evidence used. However, he finds such a device in “the life of Alexander of Abonoteichus by Lucian of Samosata, in the second century” (Bauckham 2006, 132). Bauckham describes Alexander in brief, as he is not necessarily a well known figure.
Bauckham identifies Rutulianus, a former consul and a follower of Alexander as the source for much of Lucian’s information (Bauckham 2006, 135). Rutulianus is mentioned more times than anyone else (except Alexander) in the work. He is the first and last mentioned by name, though he is not an important character until about the middle of the book. Lucian’s use of the device in a parody suggests to Bauckham that it may have been used more regularly in serious works (Bauckham 2006, 137).
Bauckham also finds the inclusio in Porphyry’s Life of Plotinus, early in the 4th century. He observes this work was written about the same number of years after Plotinus’ death as Mark was after the death of Jesus (Bauckham 2006, 137). In this work, Plotinus and his disciples are introduced, as well as his works, leading to Porphyry’s listing of his writings in order (Bauckham 2006, 138). One of the disciples, Amelius, along with Porphyry himself, serves as an eyewitness of nearly the entirety of Plotinus’ career (Bauckham 2006, 139). Amelius is present from the outset of the work and is a prominent witness, though Porphyry states that he was not present at Plotinus’ death (Bauckham 2006, 140). Porphyry makes it clear that Amelius was with Plotinus for 24 years. This establishes him as the authoritative eyewitness. Amelius, as we would expect, is the last person named other than Plotinus, in the entire work (Bauckham 2006, 141).
Because Porphyry was known to be hostile to Christianity, some scholars have taken this work as an anti-gospel, with a philosopher who serves as the godlike figure (Bauckham 2006, 145). Bauckham therefore concludes that the use of the inclusio may have been part of Porphyry’s imitation of the form of a canonical Gospel.