Is the New Testament Reliable?
During my recent talk at the University of British Columbia on “Who Is Jesus?” I promised a short bibliography for those interested in questions raised about the reliability of the New Testament by the “Jesus Seminar,” The Da Vinci Code, Prof. Elaine Pagels, and others on the popular religious landscape. There is much confusion among even educated people today–sometimes especially among educated people today–about whether the New Testament, and the gospels in particular, render a trustworthy historical portrait of Jesus (quite apart from the question of whether or not we should regard the Bible as Holy Scripture, of course).
As a professional historian myself, who has studied not only the Bible but also the history of Biblical studies, I understand why people hold various views on these matters. Historical argument is never an open-and-shut case, but is always a matter of weighing evidence and argument for the most likely explanation. But after thirty years of academic historical study, I have come to this simple conclusion: There sure are a lot of good reasons to trust Matthew, Mark, Luke and John–and Paul–when they say that Jesus said this or did that. So I do.
I offer the following recommendations with assistance from Prof. Larry Hurtado of the University of Edinburgh, Prof. Robert Yarbrough of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and Prof. Robert Derrenbacker of Regent College. Please note that each of these books is written at a popularly-accessible level by accomplished scholars:
Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2006).
Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity, 1987).
Darrell L. Bock, The Missing Gospels: Unearthing the Truth Behind Alternative Christianities (Nashville: Nelson 2006).
Craig Evans, Fabricating Jesus: How Modern Scholars Distort the Gospels (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2006).
Charles Hill, The Johannine Corpus in the Early Church (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006).
Lee M. McDonald and James M. Sanders, eds., The Canon Debate (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002).
Ben Witherington III, What Have They Done with Jesus? Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History–Why We Can Trust the Bible (San Francisco: Harper, 2006).
N. T. Wright, Judas and the Gospel of Jesus: Have We Missed the Truth about Christianity? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2006).