Are the Gospels historically reliable?

“Yes, after all…
  • Gospel stories are all witness-based

    A speech bubble from the bible has a jesus head in it, while standing witnesses with a speech bubble includes or subsumes it.

    Most of the Jesus-biographical content reported in the gospels faithfully falls within what the relevant witnesses were themselves saying and approving.

    This page analyzes 6 arguments:

    • Gospel authors got it all witness-approved or close.
    • Gospels spew witness-based stories.
    • Gospel stories are not lies/legends.
    • Gospel stories are a subset of 1st church’s.
    • The Gospels are historically reliable.
    • Pop Jesus-bio was a subset of what witnesses said.

    This is relevant because—barring special circumstances—true witness-based testimony would be generally reliable (confidence inspiring) on the relevant points.1 so the Gospel traditions we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John will be quite accurate.

    But no… [All forthcoming]

    • The Gospel stories are lies/legends.
    • Gospels only ask to be read as myth.
    1. Robert Stein: “to assume the inauthenticity of the Gospel materials, unless proven otherwise, appears to be an extreme skepticism unwarranted both in the light of the various arguments listed above [i.e. the arguments of eyewitnesses, faithfulness to traditions, etc.] and a violation of a common courtesy every witness deserves.” [ article]
  • The Gospels do not spew inaccuracies

    All things considered, there are relatively few candidate inaccuracies in the Gospels.1

    • Michael Licona: “When we bracket theological claims in the Gospels, since they are outside the reach of historians, there are only a few historical items in the Gospels that are reasonably good candidates for being incorrect: For example, Luke’s report of Augustus’ census when Quirinius was governor of Syria; the differing genealogies in Matthew and Luke and the chronologies in their infancy narratives; three instances where the name of a person in the Old Testament is stated differently in the Gospels; a few occasions where Mark may be geographically confused, references to Christians being banished from the synagogue at a premature date in John; a few minor chronological items in the Passion narratives in Mark and John; and the manner in which Judas died in Matthew and Acts. Reasonable alternatives to error have been posited for many of these. However, even if we were to judge that every last one of them are outright errors, they are minor matters and make up only a very, VERY small percentage of the content in the four Gospels” [Licona's opening statement in his 2018 debate with Bart Ehrman]

    This is relevant precisely because of the incredible amount of information contained within the Gospels. There is a super-abundance of opportunities for the Gospels to have made demonstrable errors, but instead we find a super-abundance of plausible or confirmed information.

    But so what? Plausibly…

    • Verified inaccuracies are just harder for us to discover/confirm.
    1. H. Jason: “The nearer, better known, and more everyday the historical and geographical setting of the tale, and the nearer its actors to the narrator’s personal experience, the more ‘real’ the happening of the tale will appear to the narrator” [“Concerning the ‘Historical’and the ‘Local’Legends and Their Relatives,” in Toward New Perspectives in Folklore, ed. A. Paredes and R. Bauman (University of Texas Press, 1972), 144]
“No, after all…
  • The gospels spew inaccuracies

    The gospels are rich in observed inaccuracies.

    A full page will cover these 5 arguments:

    • Miracles are prohibitively improbable/impossible.
    • The Gospels mutually disagree on Jesus-bio.
    • The Gospels spew historical absurdities.
    • The Gospels are non-historical genre.
    • The Gospels would spew inaccuracies.

    This is relevant because they do not spew a relevantly high number of accuracies; the ratio then suggests the Gospels are not usually accurate.

  • Gospel stories are not witness-based

    Three men with an eye behind them stand with a speech bubble coming out. Jesus face is on the speech bubble. On the other side a stack of books with a cross on them have a speech bubble that has Christ's face on it, but the colors are inverted to the first speech bubble.

    A full page will debate these 5 arguments:

    • Miracles don’t occur.
    • The Gospels mutually disagree on Jesus-bio.
    • The Gospels spew observed historical absurdities.
    • The Gospels spew observed lies/legends.
    • The Gospels spew observed myths (non-historical genre).

    This is relevant because they do not spew a large number of accuracies; the ratio then suggests the Gospels are not usually accurate (for whatever reason).