How the Gospel of Luke came to be

While this video by NonStampCollector—a videomaker previously unknown to me—may strike you as a visual comic, it really is a serious attempt to show and explain the differences between two of the canonical gospels: Mark (the first to be written) and Luke (an altered copy of the stories in Mark). Based on sources like Bart Ehrman, Dale Martin, and James Tabor, the video shows someone trying to persuade “Luke” (who of course didn’t write the eponymous gospel), to change the events of Mark to help sell the Gospels in Rome. These changes included sanitizing the role of Romans in Jesus’s crucifixion and putting more blame on the Jews. At many points in the video the discrepancies between Mark and Luke are highlighted.

This is one of NonStampCollector’s many videos deconstructing and also dispelling the Bible and the tenets of Christianity and Judaism. As the maker writes about this video (my emphasis):

. . . to pre-empt the what I predict is the most obvious surface-level objection: I know who the author of Luke is purported to be, generally, and the purpose for his writing his gospel given at its beginning (and in the beginning of Acts). I’m not attempting to assert a fact claim along the lines of that the author of Luke was simply a random rogue copyist of Mark. That’s just a plot device, like satirists often use. I don’t for a second think that the gospel of Luke arose out of a copyist’s desire to simply alter bits and pieces of the text of Mark. What I’m attempting to portray, satirically, is the dissonance between what historians can tell us about the way the gospels were authored, copied, miscopied, and deliberately changed by individuals that we of course can’t know or identify, and the view held by many modern Christians: that each and every verse of each and every gospel is actual historical truth. Far from it: we can identify the agenda and motivations behind obviously deliberate changes that have for thousands of years been passed off as unquestionably true.

This is really Biblical analysis worth watching. Thanks to readers Rob and Aneris for calling this to my attention. Aneris noted the following:

To brighten your day in the less sunny Chicago (welcome “back”), I’d like to make you aware of a humorous Bible Study. The animation short is on the Gospel of Luke (versus Mark) and unmistakably NonStampCollector, who celebrates his comeback. His crude, yet iconic style is a bit of a classic in the atheist scene on YouTube, and his return is a small event.
The older clips are still worth the watch, if you haven’t seen them (for example the Bible Quiz is in a similar vein, or the hilarious Noah’s Ark [part 1 and part 2] where they discuss whether they need extra animals to host pairs of parasites).


  1. Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I loved NonStampCollector’s old videos and I am glad he’s back.

    • Neil Wolfe
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:26 am | Permalink


      I’m not sure how I feel about the new “refined crappy” look of the animation. The content is fantastic though.

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:14 pm | Permalink

      Me too!

  2. Jenny Haniver
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    I haven’t yet watched the video, but I can tell from the hair on the characters in still shot that NonStampCollecter is the miscreant responsible for “touching up” the Jesus fresco in Spain, which has reportedly done wonders for the tourist trade in the town, and the author of this touch-up is now demanding royalties for the effort. Why not?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

      This does not bode well for future ‘restorations’ of the Old Masters!

  3. GBJames
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:21 am | Permalink


  4. JohnH
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    I have read and would recommend a few books by Elaine Pagels. She does an excellent job of putting the gospels into their historical niches and has some well reasoned ideas about how and why and by whom they were written and modified and developed to fit a narrative. The books include The Gnostic Gospels, The Origin of Satan (developed as a specific evil demon mainly by the early Christians to fit the narrative they were selling), Revelations, and her recent autobiography.

    • JohnH
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      Oh, almost forgot, good post!

    • Liz
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      Ehrman, Bart. (2005) Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why. (Harper One)
      Ehrman, Bart. (2005) Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew (Oxford University Press)
      Martin, Dale. (2012) New Testament History and Literature. (Yale University Press)
      Tabor, James. (2012) Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity (Simon and Schuster)

      I was just looking at the sources for the video. These all look great also.

      This is one I read in high school and referenced a lot in my endeavors in college:
      Maccoby, Hyam. The Mythmaker: Paul and the Invention of Christianity. New York:
      Barnes & Noble Inc., 1986.

      Thanks so much for sharing this. I’d love to read The Gnostic Gospels.

      • Posted January 26, 2019 at 2:05 pm | Permalink

        I can recommend Misquoting Jesus. Also Forged by Ehrmann id pretty good.

        • Liz
          Posted January 27, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

          Nice. Thank you.

          • JohnH
            Posted January 27, 2019 at 11:38 am | Permalink

            And thanks for all of the suggested readings.

    • Posted January 25, 2019 at 1:23 am | Permalink

      I think I’ve read about her. Is she the one who shows how each of the gospels was written at a different time and so in different contexts and with different goals?

      • JohnH
        Posted January 26, 2019 at 10:32 am | Permalink

        Sorry for replying so late – I was out of town yesterday and am recovering from rotator cuff surgery. Yes she is. The book, The Origin of Satan, does a good job of dealing with the circumstances at the time when the gospels were written.

  5. Colin
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    NonStampCollector is great, here’s one of his best on evolution:

  6. Posted January 24, 2019 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    Luke my son…

  7. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:19 pm | Permalink

    If you believe these stories belong in the fiction section of the library, then like me you have no problem with any changes they wish to make. My only complaint is – How many religions do people really need?

    • dan bertini
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 1:45 pm | Permalink

      One is too many.

  8. Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    A narrow, blinkered understanding of Luke-Acts — not surprising given the only source material is Ehrman and Tabor.

    The assertion that GLuke was written to make christianity “more appealing to a roman audience” is simplistic. Paul’s Christ Jesu religion was already in the 50’s a radical departure from judaism designed for hellenes of the Roman empire. GMark is decidedly Pauline and also for a hellene audience. GMatt, once considered written for a Jewish audience (based largely on a mistaken association with a collection of Jesus’ Logia written by Matthew in Hebrew mentioned by Papias), is now recognized as virulently anti-jewish.

    The cartoon Luke makes repeated references to “the gospel” (GMark??) as “the historically accurate account of Jesus’ life and ministry” and “the truth, what really happened”. Is this presented merely as Luke’s belief, or NSC’s also? Both GMark & GMatt are demonstrably ahistorical, and arguably written as allegory & exegesis. But it’s also doubtful that the author of Luke-Acts believed he was presenting an accurate account.

    Luke-Acts was written in the mid-late 2nd century at time when numerous rival christian sects were active, most notably the Pauline/Marcionite vs. Petrine/Rome sects.
    While the author did somewhat lessen Pilate’s role, both GMark and GMatt (the latter with its infamous ‘blood libel’) had already placed the blame squarely on the priesthood and jewish people, respectively.

    The primary purpose of Luke-Acts was to synthesize the rival Pauline & Petrine churches, where possible subsuming the former into the latter. GLuke firms up Jesus as a flesh & blood man, while Acts paints Paul as subordinate to & taking instruction from Peter.

    Acts also completely erases James and his early jewish-christian (ebionite) sect, as its existence conflicts with the orthodox and completely bogus history of the churches founding. Accounts of James’ death have been recast as that of the fictional Stephen. Jesus’ family has similarly been erased via merging or splitting of characters and manipulations of name spellings.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Matt – can you explain the “G” in GMark, GMatt, etc? Also, what does “Luke-Acts” mean? Is is just an indication of the same authorship? I assume these are common abbreviations among bible scholars but I’m unfamiliar with them and just want to make sure I understand. Thnx

      • Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

        G = Gospel, to distinguish between the authors, who are anonymous but by convention referred to as ‘Matthew’, ‘Mark’, ‘Luke’ and ‘John’. One can also italicize the document title, but that gets tedious in internet comments.

        The universal consensus is that GLuke and Acts were written by the same author. They are thus often referred to together at Luke-Acts.

    • Liz
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

      Wonderful comment.

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

      Interesting comment, and thanks for the references below!

  9. Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    A note on sources:

    NSC relies on Ehrman & Tabor, two hardline historicists who believe the gospels are at core historical and derived from a putative ‘oral tradition’ passed down from eyewitnesses and disciples. Ehrman, in particular, has become more rigid in his views in recent years. While his earlier works are still of great value, a wider reading list would offer more nuance and refreshing perspectives.

    Both Pagels & Maccoby have been rightly recommended above. One could pick no better starting point than Koester’s Ancient Christian Gospels. Mack’s Who Wrote The New Testament? is also quite illuminating. Either Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle or its expanded version Jesus: Neither God Nor Man will give fascinating insight into christian & jewish apocrypha that likely inspired Paul’s Christ Jesu sect. For a detailed dissection of the name games and falsehoods used to erase the first jewish-christians, see Eisenman’s several works (though Eisenman is terribly repetitive, so perhaps begin with Robert M. Price’s reviews thereof.)

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

      I almost forgot but highly recommend Dykstra’s Mark, Canonizer of Paul.

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the references. That is very useful.

      • Liz
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink


  10. rickflick
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    If Luke is largely a copy of Mark, I wonder why the Roman church didn’t pick one rather than keep them both. Clearly they’ve opened themselves up for the speculations we see here.
    I guess another question that arises is why didn’t the Church consolidate all the sources into one coherent story and avoid being called out for inconsistencies. I’d have to say Joseph Smith did a much better job – keeping the entire fabrication under his own control.

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Because they foresaw that the inconsistencies could, perversely, be used to argue for the verity of the main story. After all, if the story were made up, the fabricator would have made it consistent.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

        I think Coel’s idea – that different factions had competing preferences – is more likely.

        The ‘inconsistencies suggest verity’ argument sounds more like post hoc attempts to rationalise the situation. Usually, organisations hate disagreement, the first thing they do is try to have everybody ‘on the same page’.


    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

      I wonder why the Roman church didn’t pick one rather than keep them both.

      Because different factions each had their favourite?

      It’s worth bearing in mind that getting rid of disapproved-of texts was exactly what they did do. There are large numbers of texts that are alluded to in places, but we don’t have copies of them.

      Everything that Marcion wrote for starters (Marcion being the great heretic, with an early and heretical version of Christianity, that we know about only from a few quotes in “against heresy” texts).

      The Nag Hammadi find is a collection of heretical gnostic texts. The supposition is that a gnostic priest, one night, slipped out of the monastery and hid a cache of his favourite texts, because he knew that people were coming to seek them out and destroy them.

    • Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      Rival churches had produced & were using different gospels. Including all four was a compromise deal to unite those churches under the aegis of the now ‘catholic’ church run by the sect in Rome. The gospels of the gnostic & docetic churches were fundamentally incompatible, so they were left out and those sects declared heresies.

      • rickflick
        Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

        There’s more politics than divinity. Figures.

  11. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted January 24, 2019 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

    I found it interesting but not very entertaining. But the material is there, it’s begging for a more comedic treatment. Mitchell and Webb could do that sort of dialogue perfectly, I had them running through my head while watching.


    • rickflick
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

      Good point. I’d love to see M & W do the bible.

    • Jenny Haniver
      Posted January 24, 2019 at 8:41 pm | Permalink

      I’d not known of Mitchell and Webb. Thanks for the introduction.

      • Posted January 25, 2019 at 12:43 am | Permalink

        Jenny –

        Be sure to check out “Proof there is no God”, “Homeopathic A&E” and “The Inibriati”.


        Sent from my iPhone


      • Nicolaas Stempels
        Posted January 25, 2019 at 11:53 am | Permalink

        And they have this brilliant put down of Michael Egnor the neurosurgeon/brainsurgeon.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted January 29, 2019 at 7:29 am | Permalink

          Oh I do like that sketch.

          Unlike most sketches, in this one you can see the punch line coming a mile off; but the brain surgeon is so obnoxious that the anticipation doesn’t spoil the punch line, it enhances it.


  12. Posted January 24, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink


  13. Zetopan
    Posted January 28, 2019 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    “[in 504 CE] by the command of the Emporer Anastasius, the holy Gospels, as having been written by idiot evangelists, are [now] censured, and corrected” Victor, bishop of Tunis in Africa: Cave’s Historia

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