The Reliability of the Gospels

Dear Dr. Craig,

First off, I want to thank you for all that you have done for me through your ministry and hope that your reach continues to spread. I grew up in a conservative Christian home and for the most part accepted everything that I had been taught. Then during my junior year of high school I read some Richard Dawkins, and the likes, and quickly lost my faith. About six or so months later I discovered your ministry and my life was changed! Your arguments convinced me and in no time I had gone back to my faith. I read On Guard and Reasonable Faith among other Christian authors as well. I felt that my faith was strong and I even considered changing my major to Philosophy for a short time. But now, I am saddened to say that I am slowly losing my faith in the Christian God.

Before I go into my reasons for losing my faith, I want to point out that at this point I still believe that Christ rose from the dead but if I were to give that up I would comfortably sit in a deist position, being that I consider arguments for a Gods existence to be convincing. So, the reason for my diminishing faith is that I have found that I can no longer trust the Old or New Testament. I will leave the Old Testament aside for now and focus on the new. In your books you have maintained that the earliest gospel was Mark and that it was written some 40 years after the death of Jesus, give or take a few years. You also hold that in the time between the event of Jesus' death and the writing of the Gospel of Mark that legends could not have infiltrated the original narrative because 40 years is not long enough. I find this reasoning very problematic.

I could grant you that the resurrection did happen (which I hold to) due to its attestation in multiple gospels and the Pauline epistles but that would in now way confirm any of the stories or teachings of Jesus. His whole life could have been made up by the writers, not due to them being corrupt but that these were the simply the stories they were told of Jesus that were passed on to the early Christians. My question here is how can we trust any of the stories of Jesus if they are not attested in each of the synoptic gospels?

I also find that the explanation that 4o years is too small of a window for legend to become present hard to buy into. First, within 4o years it is likely that few if any of the original eyewitnesses were alive being that the lifespan of humans then was minimal. So how could the stories be checked for accuracy if the eyewitnesses themselves were no longer around to do so? Secondly, when the eyewitnesses went to tell their story so others would follow Jesus they could not have told every single person from every town, therefore relying on the ones they told to pass on the story. It is plausible to think that if one's wife wasn't convinced by the stories of Jesus that the eyewitnesses told her husband then her husband would make up an even more miraculous story, like Jesus turning water into wine, to get her to believe. This is just one scenario of many that very likely took place leading to multiple if not the majority of Jesus' life being composed of stories that were made up to convince others.

Now as I stated earlier, I am a Christian but it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold the New Testament as authoritative concerning the matters of Jesus' life.

Best Regards,

David

 

United States


To read Dr. Graig's answer please clck HERE