Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

The Three Bears of Reliability

Every generation needs to examine for itself the reliability of the Gospels. Is the depiction of Jesus accurate? Can they be trusted? Are they reliable enough for us to anchor our faith in Jesus? There are now “three bears” in this battle, three books that argue for the reliability of the Gospels, three books that bring us good news at Christmas time. I begin with Mark Roberts.
Formerly a Presbyterian pastor in California and now heading up a ministry in Texas, Mark Roberts’ book, Can We Trust the Gospels?, will become the FF Bruce book of this generation. This book is personal, it is readable, it is wide-ranging, and it is incisive. And what I like about this book is that Mark proceeds by asking the kinds of questions students ask: Did the Evangelists know Jesus personally? Are there contradictions? If they are theology, can they be history? Miracles? Archaeology? Well, this is the book I will give my students if they ask … and they will.
Two Twin City scholars, Paul Eddy at Bethel and Greg Boyd at Woodland Hills Church, offer to us the most complete book now available on the historical reliability of the Gospels: The Jesus Legend. I was taken off guard by the buzz about this book at the recent academic conference. This book does something no other book does: it focuses on those who are most skeptical of the Jesus of the Gospels and the Church (like Robert Price). It is into method, ancient witnesses, the oral tradition, and assessing the evidence. If you need a complete study, this is it.
But I can’t go on without mentioning the book of my generation. A former fellow classmate of mine and now a distinguished scholar, Craig Blomberg wrote the definitive book that led the evangelical defense of the Gospels for twenty years. The book is now updated and it remains a fine study that focuses on the historical reliability of the Gospels in the face of critical methods. I’ll admit I’ll still turn to Craig’s book first because I’m so familiar with its earlier form. It is called The Historical Reliability of the Gospels.

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posted December 24, 2007 at 9:28 am

It might be worth mentioning Dr. Blomberg’s second volume on this issue: The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel. In it, he deals with the unique issues related to the fourth gospel. He also wrote a book called Jesus and the Gospels which is part introduction to critical methods, part commentary, part biblical theology, and part defense of the gospels’ reliability. It’s a tremendous book for newcomers to gospel study and extremely accessible. (I studied under Dr. Blomberg and, as you can tell, am a bit partial to his excellent scholarship.)

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posted December 24, 2007 at 10:52 am

Do you think that Mark Roberts’ book would be useful in a discussion group forum – with University undergrads, grad students, scholars?
I’ve read all the exerpts on his blog, but have not yet decided whether or not to spring for the book itself.

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Scot McKnight

posted December 24, 2007 at 11:32 am

Definitely — short enough chps, too, so that it would not take too much time but would raise really good questions.

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Dana Ames

posted December 24, 2007 at 11:53 am

Scot, what do you think of Witherington’s contention that the “beloved disciple” was Lazarus, who wrote the book of John and the Johanine epistles?
And while I’m here, a very Merry Christmas to you & your family.

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Scot McKnight

posted December 24, 2007 at 12:00 pm

I’m not big on figuring out authors of books … it’s fine to sort it out but when a theory of interpretation is based on it I part company.

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Dana Ames

posted December 24, 2007 at 12:38 pm

I don’t think W. is trying to build any kind of theory of interpretation on this; just floating the idea based on what he sees in the text and provenance.
Anyhow, the idea intrigues me, esp. factoring in EO tradition about Mary’s death.

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Craig Blomberg

posted December 24, 2007 at 2:22 pm

Thanks, Scot, for your kind remarks. And I agree with your assessments about the other two works. Norton, who I assume is Herbst, thanks to you too. And, while everyone else is saying Merry Christmas, I’ll add mine. Oh, and Scot, you’ll be happy to hear that Fran preached a wonderful sermon on Mary at Scum of the Earth Church last night. Her main extra-biblical resource was your book on Mary!

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Patrick Dennis

posted December 24, 2007 at 5:14 pm

What about Baukham’s new book? Also I think that NT Wright’s books give some insight into this as well.

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Brad Cooper

posted December 24, 2007 at 8:15 pm

Thanks for the recommendations. Wish I had time and money to buy and read them all! ….But since I don’t, I will be buying “The Jesus Legend” this week with some of my Christmas gift money.
I need to brush up on the latest on these issues–especially with rumors that the skeptics are planning another round of attacks this next Easter.

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Doug Wilson

posted December 26, 2007 at 6:31 pm

Thanks for the great recommendations. Have the seen the recent Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ by Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski? It grabbed my attention with a list of recommendations by Martin Hengel, Howard Marshall, Craig Evans, Craig Blomberg, Richard Bauckham, Murray Harris, Darrell Bock and Larry Hurtado, among others! The authors present the case for Christ as God, using the acronym HANDS: Jesus shares the Honors due to God, he shares the Attributes of God, he shares the Names of God, he shares in the Deeds that God does, and he shares the Seat of God’s throne.

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Scot McKnight

posted December 26, 2007 at 6:58 pm

I did post a bit about that book. Yes, a good one.

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posted December 28, 2007 at 3:30 am

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[…] Are the Gospels reliable? Scot McKnight lists some books that help answer that question. […]

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