Are the Gospels Reliable?
Are the New Testament gospels the true eyewitness history of Jesus Christ, or could the story have been changed through the years? Must we simply take the New Testament accounts of Jesus by faith, or is there evidence for their reliability?
The late ABC News anchor Peter Jennings was in Israel broadcasting a television special on Jesus Christ. His program, “The Search for Jesus,” explored the question of whether the Jesus of the New Testament was historically accurate.
Jennings featured opinions on the Gospel accounts from DePaul professor John Dominic Crossan, three of Crossan’s colleagues from the Jesus Seminar, and two other Bible scholars. (The Jesus Seminar is a group of scholars who debate Jesus’ recorded words and actions and then use red, pink, gray, or black beads to cast votes indicating how trustworthy they believe statements in the Gospels are.)
Some of the comments were stunning. There on national TV Dr. Crossan not only cast doubt on more than 80 percent of Jesus’ sayings but also denied Jesus’ claims to divinity, his miracles, and his resurrection. Jennings clearly was intrigued by the image of Jesus presented by Crossan.
Searching for true Bible history is always news, which is why every year Time and Newsweek go on a cover story quest for Mary, Jesus, Moses, or Abraham. Or—who knows?—maybe this year it will be “Bob: The Untold Story of the Missing 13th Disciple.”
This is entertainment, and so the investigation will never end nor yield answers, as that would eliminate future programming. Instead, those with radically different views are thrown together like an episode of Survivor, hopelessly convoluting the issue rather than bringing clarity.
But Jennings’s report did focus on one issue that ought to be given some serious thought. Crossan implied that the original accounts of Jesus were embellished by oral tradition and were not written down until after the apostles were dead. Thus they are largely unreliable and fail to give us an accurate picture of the real Jesus. How are we to know if this is really true?