Were the Gospel authors successfully honest in their Gospel reports?
Rather than inventing Jesus-biography, were the authors of the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John (as editors/redactors) successfully honest in their Gospel reports? Did they genuinely aim for truth, and strive to accurately report on Jesus's life and deeds? Did they rarely or never invent Jesus biography? Rather than inventing legends, were their works genuine attempts to get the history of Jesus right?
- William Lane Craig: “No modern scholar thinks of the gospels as bald-faced lies, the result of a massive conspiracy. The only place you find such conspiracy theories of history is in sensationalist, popular literature or former propaganda from behind the Iron Curtain.” [Reasonable Faith 3rd ed (Crossway, 2008), 373.]
- See also Allison and Keener quotes on the Gospel authors intending their works to be read as history.
The Gospels are Greco-Roman bios
The Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography, particularly those of the Early Roman Empire (which might be considered a sub-genre). These are information-based biographies, and best match works like Suetonius’ Lives of the Caesars.
This page analyzes 5 arguments:
- Ancient bios and letters predominated.
- Gospels internally match ancient bios.
- Gospels are honest historical accounts of Jesus’ life.
- Gospel authors strove to relay only witness testimony.
- Gospel Jesus-bio content is early/sourced.
Gospel claims are all inherited/sourced
The Gospels consistently relay material they received in writing their reports; it came from sources rather than originating with them.
This page anaylses 7 arguments:
- Gospels spew provably early stories (e.g. AD 30-40).
- Gospels claim to be non-fiction (non-myth).
- E.g. Gospel Jesus-bio was passed down orally.
- 1st church's Jesus-bio is a subset of witness testimony.
- The Gospels are honest
- The Gospels got witness-approval or close on Jesus-bio.
- In general, Christians relayed Jesus-bio (rather than creating it).
- Examples of used witnesses abound (E.g. we have clear examples from each gospel, and we can ostensibly identify sources, like Peter, Mary, Salome, Lk 1's teachers.
- Examples of written sources used abound (E.g. Q, the pre-Markan Passion narrative etc.)
This affects our question about whether the Gospels reported honestly because if the authors were consistently using sources for the information they convented, then—on the safe assumption that they trusted their sources—it is almost trivial that they were thereby relaying information honestly.
- Craig Keener: “In this respect, the Gospels resemble biographies of Plutarch, who emphasized themes in his sources still relevant for his own day but rarely imposed his own era’s issues into sources that lacked them.” [Christobiography (Eerdmans 2019), 329.]
Gospel authors strove to know true Jesus-bio
The Gospel authors put in serious effort to learn and then pass down in their gospels all and only true Jesus-biography.
A full page will analyze 4 arguments:
- The Gospels claimed to investigate (e.g. in Lk 1:1).
- The Gospel authors travelled to gather info.
- Historians critically examined claims/sources.
- Gospels strove to relay only witness-based testimony.
This helps establish that the Gospel authors were truly honest in their reports because it reveals that they were willing to put in work and sacrifices to get things right. That attitude mitigates against hypothesis which say they turned around after all this work and deliberately reporting things wrongly.
In general, Gospel traditions are not lies/legends
Whether or not the Gospel stories originated before the Gospels themselves were, when they did form, they were formed in honesty; they are not fabrications.
This page analyzes 3 branches of evidences…
- The Gospels lack time-place absurdities.
- The Gospels spew confirmed non-legendary content.
- Christian Jesus-bio was honest.
This helps support the claim that the Gospels were honest because they either used sources or they did not. If they did not, then we have a direct inference to their being non-legendary (honesty). And if they did use sources, then we have an indirect inference to their being honest, insofar as the author obviously refrained from inventing material when he could have. He stuck with sources.