Historical Reliability

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    Bauckham, Richard

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    The Eyewitnesses and the Gospel Traditions

    "Discusses the role of eyewitnesses in the transmission of Gospel traditions in the early Christian movement. Analysis of the role of eyewitness-informants in oral history, according to the book 'Story As History--History As Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History,' by Samuel Byrskog; Examination of the phenomenon of personal names in the Gospels; Recommended criteria for identifying eyewitnesses and their testimony within the Gospel traditions."-The copyright on this article belongs to SAGE Publications. The article has been posted with their permission as well as the permission of the author.
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    Best, Ernest

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    "Mark's Preservation of the Tradition", in L'Évangile selon Marc: tradition et rédaction

    "Mark appears to have had a positive respect for the material he used; this is not to say that he was attempting to write 'history', or that he possessed the journalist's ideal -- facts are sacred, comment is free -- or that he was positively attempting to preserve for the future what lay before him. We are only saying how it appears he actually did his work. It would suggest that he did not create incidents to illustrate general trends...his positive attitude to the tradition is also seen in his retention of material, as in the logia-sequences, which plays no useful part in his gospel."
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    Bird, Michael F.

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    "The Formation of the Gospels in the Setting of Early Christianity: the Jesus Tradition as Corporate Memory," Westminster Theological Journal 67.1 (2005): 113-94.

    "My concern is to situate the Gospels in relation to the early Christian communities and in connection to the Jesus tradition underlying the Gospels. If this concern is translated into questions, one may ask: (1) Do the Gospels aim to reflect or to inform the situation of the early Christian communities? (2) What model of oral tradition best accounts for the transmission of the Jesus tradition leading towards the composition of the Gospels? It is my aim to examine these two questions in order to gain a greater understanding of the relationship between the Gospels and the early Christian communities, as well as to understand the connection between the Gospels and the historical Jesus. Furthermore, the answers given may go some way towards explaining what the Gospels writers are trying to achieve." - The copyright on this article belongs to the Westminster Theological Journal. The article has been posted with their permission as well as the permission of the author.
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    Bird, Michael F.

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    “The Purpose and Preservation of the Jesus Tradition: Moderate Evidence for a Conserving Force in its Transmission.” Bulletin for Biblical Research 15.2 (2005): 161-85.

    "An important preface to historical Jesus research involves formulating a theory of the transmission of the traditions underlying the Gospels. Scholarship frequently exhibits either an inherent skepticism towards trying to uncover how this tradition was handled or else is saturated with multiple proposals concerning the means of its formation. In any event, important questions to be asked include what purpose the Jesus tradition had in early Christian circles and what factors or controls may have enabled that tradition to be effectively preserved. This study addresses such questions and, with careful qualification, contends that the Jesus tradition probably had a variety of functions in the early church and there were several reasons why the words and deeds of Jesus may have been consciously preserved." - The copyright on this article belongs to the Institute for Biblical Research. The article has been posted with their permission as well as the permission of the author.
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    Blomberg, Craig L.

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    The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

    "Can the major contours of the portraits of Jesus in the New Testament Gospels be trusted? Many critics would argue not. The Jesus Seminar became the best-known collection of such critics during the 1990s as they alleged that only 18 percent of the sayings ascribed to Jesus and 16 percent of his deeds as found in the four canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, plus the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas, bore any close relationship to what he actually said and did. At the same time, a much more representative cross-section of scholars from about 1980 to the present has inaugurated what has come to be called the Third Quest of the Historical Jesus, in which a greater optimism is emerging about how much we can know, from the Gospels, read in light of other historical cultural developments of the day. This article rapidly surveys 12 lines of evidence that, cumulatively, support the historical reliability of the Gospels, particularly the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark, and Luke)."
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    Blomberg, Craig L.

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    The Historical Reliability of John

    "Of the four New Testament Gospels, the one that least resembles the other three is the Gospel of John. While some of those most skeptical Gospel scholars dismiss all four as fairly untrustworthy, many are willing to give significant credence to the Synoptics (Matthew, Mark and Luke) but still doubt that more than a small handful of details of the fourth Gospel can be deemed historical... Not surprisingly, a considerable number of scholars during the last half-century have pioneered what came to be known as the 'new look on John,' recognizing a far greater level of historical reliability and a Jewish milieu for the deeds and teachings attributed to Jesus than the first half of the twentieth century had acknowledged. Arguably, if the next half-century gave the same kind of sustained study to the remaining questionable details, the amount of general confidence in the fourth Gospel would again grow in corresponding fashion."
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    Bruce, F.F.

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    The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

    "Does it matter whether the New Testament documents are reliable or not?...That Christianity has its roots in history is emphasised in the Church's earliest creeds, which fix the supreme revelation of God at a particular point in time, when 'Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord . . . suffered under Pontius Pilate'. This historical 'onceforallness' of Christianity, which distinguishes it from those religious and philosophical systems which are not specially related to any particular time, makes the reliability of the writings which purport to record this revelation a question of firstrate importance."
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    Craig, William L.

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    The Evidence For Jesus

    "Five reasons are presented for thinking that critics who accept the historical credibility of the gospel accounts of Jesus do not bear a special burden of proof relative to more skeptical critics. Then the historicity of a few specific aspects of Jesus' life are addressed, including his radical self-concept as the divine Son of God, his role as a miracle-worker, his trial and crucifixion, and his resurrection from the dead."
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    Ellis, E.Earle

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    Reading the Gospels as History

    "There are few if any historical or literary grounds...to suppose that the Gospel traditioners created events in Jesus' life. Assertions to this effect almost always represent a failure to understand the care and historical concern with which the Gospel traditioners transmitted the story of Jesus. If a proper historical critical method is followed, proper presuppositions observed and the practices of 1st-century religious Judaism understood, the Gospels of the NT will be found to be a reliable presentation and faithful portrait of the teachings and acts of the preresurrection mission of Jesus."
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    Gerhardsson, Birger

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    Introduction to The Reliability of the Gospel Tradition

    "Research has expended enormous effort and great ingenuity in order to enable us, if at all possible, to work out the historical truth about Jesus of Nazareth. Do our sources—and above all the first three gospels—provide us with a fairly dependable picture of Jesus: who he was, what he proclaimed, what he did, and what form his fate took?...The subject of the following presentation is...the origins of the gospel material and the history of its transmission, or, in other words, the prehistory of the written gospels (especially the Synoptics)."
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    Habermas, Gary

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    Why I Believe the New Testament is Historically Reliable

    "The credibility of Scripture is certainly a multifaceted issue. In this chapter, I will examine one specific angle-whether the New Testament is a historically reliable document. Topics such as precise textual issues, genre considerations, specific critical methodologies, scientific concerns, and the doctrine of inspiration are beyond the focus here. Instead, I will examine several areas that indicate that the New Testament speaks accurately when it makes historical claims that can be checked. I will begin by assessing some conventional areas of consideration."
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    Habermas, Gary R.

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    Recent Perspectives on the Reliability of the Gospels

    "The usual attempts to defend the historical reliability of the New Testament are often fairly general in nature...Lesser known among conservative scholars, however, are several, more recent and specific approaches that critical scholars apply to the Gospel texts. One of these approaches involves applying certain critical criteria of authenticity to particular texts, namely, to events and sayings that are reported in the four gospels. These contemporary techniques have mined many gems that indicate the historical richness of the Gospel accounts, while illuminating many aspects of Jesus’ life."
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    Keener, Craig S.

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    Assumptions in Historical-Jesus Research: Using Ancient Biographies and Disciples’ Traditioning as a Control

    "Presuppositions of one sort or another are inevitable, but one way to control our assumptions in the interest of common dialogue is to consider how we would read the Gospels if they were not texts used by a current world religion. The majority of Gospels scholars see the Gospels as ancient biographies. Although ancient biographies varied in their historiographic practice, in the early Empire biographies about figures who lived in the generation or two before the biographer included substantial historical information about the figure. This observation may be particularly relevant for biographies about sages. Schools often preserved considerable information about their founders’ teachings; ancient memory practices exceeded what is typical today, and disciples often preserved and passed on considerable information. Researchers should neither treat the Gospels more skeptically nor demand from them greater precision than we would from comparable works of their era."
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    Lea, Thomas D.

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    The Reliability of History in John's Gospel

    "Our probe will follow three steps. (1) I will present my understanding of the meaning of history in the fourth gospel and will define my use of the term 'reliable.' (2) I will survey three influential approaches to the material of the fourth gospel and will investigate how they look at history in that gospel. (3) I will examine evidence for the reliability of the history in the fourth gospel. My conclusion will not lead me to a position of firmness about historical matters comparable to the mathematical trustworthiness of the multiplication tables or to the chronological verifiability of an event in history. Nevertheless I will point out that solid evidence exists for the assertion that the historical material in the fourth gospel is reliable, trustworthy, deserving of our confidence, and inviting to our faith."
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    Mare, W. Harold

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    The Role of the Note-taking Historian and His Emphasis on the Person and Work of Christ

    "It has been observed that the New Testament writers of Scripture had the tools--tablets, paper, pen, ink, etc.--to facilitate the easy recording of the words and works of Christ. Further, it has been noted that this apostolic band had precedent for encouragement in the habit of carefully memorizing what they considered as sacred material (as the Old Testament) and the urge to record the messages of their teachers. This encouragement came from the surrounding sitz im leben, the Rabbi-disciple pattern, the Hellenistic school and the developing synagoguge schools..."
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    McRay, John

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    Archaeology and the Book of Acts

    "The winds of biblical scholarship have blown toward the Book of Acts from a largely theological direction for the past quarter of a century, providing a corrective to the pervasive concern with questions of historicity fostered by the work of W. Ramsay almost a century ago. However, the winds are changing again, and interest is once more being kindled in questions relating to the trustworthiness of Acts. These changing winds are blowing from such unlikely places as the University of Tubingen itself, whose extremely critical views were held by Ramsay prior to his sojourn in Asia Minor. For example, M. Hengel, a NT scholar at Tubingen, 'makes a bold departure from radical NT scholarship in supporting the historical integrity of the Acts of the Apostles. . . and demonstrates that Luke's account is historically reliable. . . .'"
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    Millard, Alan

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    Reading and Writing In the Time of Jesus

    "Gospel experts make statements such as 'in the earliest period there was only an oral record of the narrative and sayings of Jesus.'...[T]here was much more writing in Palestine during the Gospel period than has been commonly allowed. When Luke says that he sought out the most reliable sources while compiling his Gospel, we may suppose that he could read notes made by eyewitnesses at the time Jesus spoke. None survive; their existence is a surmise, yet the common currency of writing makes it plausible. The shared material of the Synoptic Gospels (“Q”) could well derive from a very early written text. The letters of Paul and others prove writing was current in the early decades of the Church’s existence, and the importance of written texts in the Church is evident from the number of papyrus fragments from the mid-second century onwards found in middle Egypt...Far more weight should be given to the role of writing than has been done hitherto in preserving knowledge of the words and deeds of Jesus."
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    Moreland, J.P.

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    "The Historicity of the New Testament", Chapter 5 of Scaling the Secular City

    "One of the central claims of Christianity is that Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate Son of God who died on the cross to atone for the sins of humanity and rose bodily from the dead. Our acceptance of these claims depends on whether or not the New Testament documents are reliable historical sources about Jesus. It is the purpose of this chapter to argue that it is reasonable to accept the substantial historicity of the New Testament...For our purposes, let us assume that the New Testament is a collection of twenty-seven separate historical sources which, in turn, may have written or oral sources behind them. We will make no assumption which takes the New Testament as a divinely inspired document, although I believe such a position can be defended."