Why should we trust the gospel biographies of Jesus? What evidence do we have to corroborate the view that these documents are indeed based on the testimony of eyewitnesses? Moreover, do we have any reason to understand these witnesses as credible and reliable sources?
One particularly frequent objection which one encounters from our atheist detractors is the claim that there is no solid evidence that the gospels were written by its claimed authors. The gospel biographies concerning Jesus, we are told, were originally anonymous — that is to say, they had no name attached to them and the authors to which they are attributed were appended only decades (or perhaps even centuries) later. This is, of course, a curious claim since we lack possession of the original authographs but rely on literally thousands of meticulously transcribed manuscripts, in addition to Scripture quotations from early church writers. Did the gospels originally have the names of their pertinent authors attached to them? The bottom line is that we have no hard evidence either way. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have any evidence as to who wrote them!
One of the best and most rewarding books for those who might be interested in this important question is Richard Bauckham’s groundbreaking work, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. In the book, Richard Bauckham constructs a compelling cumulative argument that the gospels are indeed based on credible eywitness testimony. The book is somewhat academic in nature, but rewards diligant study.
For those without the time to read a 500 page academic book, Peter Williams (of Tyndale House, Cambridge) has an excellent hour-long video summary of a few of the most compelling arguments. Be sure to check this out — you won’t regret it!
Free CrossExamined.org Resource
Get the first chapter of "Stealing From God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case" in PDF.