Gospels as historical source


My History professor just talked for about an hour in discrediting the validity of the Gospels. No one was able to defend against his arguments. He said:

*“The oldest manuscripts of the bible are only 1000 years old.”

“The four gospel writers were not eyewitnesses and they do not claim to be.”

“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not sign their names and therefore we cannot confirm the authorship of the Gospels.”

“The gospels contain different information and therefore contradict one another.”*

Can you help me to trust again that the Gospels are not fabricated?


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Eyewitnesses to what?

I don’t think this is unique to the Gospel writers.

Such as?


He is making a claim, ask him to prove it.


[quote="tritcher1988, post:1, topic:323120"]
My History professor just talked for about an hour in discrediting the validity of the Gospels. No one was able to defend against his arguments. He said:

"The oldest manuscripts of the bible are only 1000 years old."

False. Many NT copies or fragments are from the II and III century and we have several fragments from the I century itself (albeit small ones)

True we lost 'the originals' but that goes for most of historical documents.

There are over 5000 NT copies and fragments and many of them (I reckon ca. 20 %) are from early centuries.

There are more copied and fragments of the NT than of ANY other ancient document in the world!!! And we have copies and fragments within 1-2 centuries... which is unique!

Many of them as I said come very close to the original documents! Even wikipedia states that.

For many documents regarding Rome and Greece we have accounts written centuries after the facts (while most scholar place the gospels between AD 60 and 80 for the synoptics and about AD 90-100 for John) and the most recent copies of documents about Greece and Rome are FEW ( at best dozens... let alone thousands) and often they date several centureis after they were written.

"The four gospel writers were not eyewitnesses and they

do not claim to be."

Sort of... bu so what? They are people who relied on eyewitnesses and wrote when many eyewitnesses were still alive.

I mean many books today are written by Journalists who do research and interview witnesses... should we dismiss them a priori? I think no.

Moreover, in the past authorship was different than these days.

The 'Gospel according to X', meant the gospel in the ORAL TRADITION of X: i.e. it means that it was written down what the eyewitnesses and preachers told.

In the case of Luke and Mark, Paul and Peter are the main sources.

Were the four evangelists authors in the EXACT sense we mean today? Maybe, maybe not. Many made use of scribes to write down accounts.

This does not mean the Gospels are false... this is understanding how people wrote in the middle east at that time.

"Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not sign their names and therefore we cannot confirm the authorship of the Gospels."

True but we have extra biblical writers (the church Fathers) who as soon as the II century testify the authorship of the Gospels.

Also, John aside, all the 'authors' are not really 'eminent' people. They were disciples of Peter (Mark) and Paul (luke) and Matthew was an apostle but an ex publican ( a Jewish Roman collaborator who helped with tax collecting) hence not the most 'renowned' apostle...

False Gospels like the Gospel of Peter or Gospel of James carry 'important names' to try to pass as true gospels, but they are not as they were written later and church fathers knew that.

"The gospels contain different information and therefore contradict one another."


Not exactly. There are DIFFERENCES, but if you read articles in news papers today that also happens.

The problem would arrive if there were NO differences... Differences means that true eyewitnesses were interviewed and not that they sat down just inventing the same story together.

Also all the so called 'contradictions' are not contradictions at all, just a different way of saying the same thing.

For example, different evangelists mention different women coming to the tomb... but that is not strange. Johns mentions Magdalene and implies others.

The point is: you go somewhere, and when you recall and event there you will rarely mention everyone. You might mention just ONE person even.

You (let's call you Mary) go to a pub and meet your friend Jenny there,

Then you tell your friend Matt: Oh yesterday I went to the pub and Jenny was there.

ok. Jenny says to Peter: I was in the pub and Mary, John, Carla, and Frida were there.

Frida will tell her dad: yesterday I went to the pub and saw loads of people!

Ok are you or Jenny or Frida lying? Is there a contraddiction?

Of course not!

They are just telling the same story but in a different way,, telling the details they tought were relevant.

Can you help me to trust again that the Gospels are not fabricated?

I hope my explanation above is helping.

Also check: ehrmanproject.com/index

also check: FF Bruce: The New Testament Documents - Are They Reliable?

Blomberg: The historical reliability of the gospel

they cover all of the subjexts above.


You’re going to need to be more specific than that – or, at least, he will! What does he mean by ‘valid’? That they are intended to be history books? The Catholic Church doesn’t make that claim.

No one was able to defend against his arguments.

(It’s important, I think, to note the difference between “we couldn’t defend against his arguments” and “his arguments are true”. :wink: )

“The oldest manuscripts of the bible are only 1000 years old.”

He’s either deliberately trying to mislead you, or he’s woefully ignorant on the subject of ancient manuscripts. Ask him whether the majority of documents purporting to be 2000 years old (or older) exist in their originals, or if the majority of these documents are transcriptions of earlier copies. Does this lead us to ask the question of whether the transcriptions are accurate? Of course – but there are scientific, quantifiable means to determine the quality of a manuscript, based on a variety of criteria.

[quote]"The four gospel writers were not eyewitnesses and they

do not claim to be."

No, but tradition holds that they were ‘ghost-writers’ for eyewitnesses; they listened to the eyewitness accounts and wrote them down.

“Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did not sign their names and therefore we cannot confirm the authorship of the Gospels.”

And who in the world ever established this as a criterion? With this unreasonable rule, we’d eliminate 99% of the world’s documents as authentic, whether they’re attempting to be historical records or otherwise! Moreover, presuming that he knows that most documents of antiquity are transcriptions, what’s his purpose here? Once you transcribe a document, the notion of a ‘signature’ becomes meaningless!

“The gospels contain different information and therefore contradict one another.”


The Gospels are accounts that were written for a variety of audiences. A Jewish audience (i.e., Matthew’s) would care about the way that OT prophecies were fulfilled; a Roman audience (i.e., Mark’s) wouldn’t. A physician (i.e., Luke) would write about details from a physician’s perspective, while other writers would not. A person writing to an audience of folks who have already read the Synoptic Gospels (i.e., John, who wrote some 30 years later) would necessarily not re-write the same story, but would reasonably be expected to provide additional perspectives to his (now more theologically-mature) audience.

‘Different information’ does not equate to ‘contradiction’.

Perhaps your professor thinks that he is debating all Christian perspectives; at best, he’s tilting at fundamentalists’ windmills. Tell him that the Catholic Church doesn’t make the claims he’s railing against… :wink:

Can you help me to trust again that the Gospels are not fabricated?


do not claim to be."

This is false. As I mentioned above the Gospels were all written with in 50 years of the events of Jesus ministry. And came from Eyewitness accounts. mark is esentially the Gospel of Peter, Luke is the Gospel of Mary and others.

The Gospels do not claim their authorship. They claim to be their testimony. They are the Gospels ACCORDING to Luke, Mark, Matthew, And John.All these men had other men who studied under them. They memorized the Gospel accounts and passed them on until one of them , very early on, wrote them down. this was very common in ancient times and considered more reliable then writing. But your Professor knows this.


How does a police detective know when a story is Fabricated? When all the witnesses tell the exact same story with no variations. This is considered evidence of Collusion. When the witnesses tell the same basic story but some of the details are remembered differently the detective knows the witnesses are most likely being honest. Think about it If you and I went on vacation and later wrote our own accounts of that vacation they would be similar but a little different. Haven’t you talked to friends or family members, remembering events you shared and realized they remember things differently then you do.

This lends to their credibility.


Hi Tritcher,

there are a couple of things to say first. The fact that your history professor would take an hour to try to convince students that the Gospels are discredited shows that this is a personal crusade of his. Many professors use their position to further their own causes. At university I ran into the same phenomena. You have to remember that he sees you as someone who he can influence to his cause. He controls the context and the subject matter and has been through all this before. Students are simply there to get good grades and are unprepared for his proselytising. Chances are he has had many years to refine his argument and your objections will be helping him to refine his argument further for the next crop of potential converts that he teaches next year.

That being said, nothing that you mention discredits the Gospels as a historical source.

  1. To say the oldest manuscripts are 1000 years old in the context of discrediting the Gospels is misleading. For a professor of History it is deceptive and unprofessional.


  1. Saying that the four attributed authors did not sign their name is not a basis to say they did not write the gospels. The gospels are not letters where it is customary to sign your name. As an aside, I would bet that your professor is not going to place any weight on the fact that all of the copies of Paul’s letters and Peter’s epistles have been signed off. To ascertain who wrote the Gospels we have to look internally and externally. In just about any other context if a culture attributed a writing to certain people and there were no good reasons to doubt it, there would not be large unsubstantiated rejection of such attribution. If you like we can discuss the evidence for the four attributed authors. I would just note that there was no early Christian infighting about who wrote the Gospels, nor was there early Christian writers who thought that the gospels were anonymous. If someone is going to make the claim of anonymity, they really need this level of evidence to be credible.

  2. The Gospels are pretty much consistent. They do differ in some minor regards but is that not to be expected? If you were to interview 100 people after a sporting event and ask for their account of the game you will get broad consensus but there will be some contradictions. That is simply a reality. I also travel a lot overseas and i keep a diary. Sometimes in very isolated areas I will keep notes and write them up afterwards on the computer. A couple of times i have misplaced my computer entries and written them up again from my notes. Then i have found my original computer entries and compared the two write-ups. I found what might be considered discrepancies even though it was from the same author. That is simply human nature. On different writings i highlight different things and combine together different happenings that i re-arrange to produce a certain theme that i have decided to concentrate on. The fact that different authors differed in minor ways is more an argument of authenticity than it is of fabrication.

Again, i am a teacher myself now. I know that when i am teaching i control the argument. It sounds like your professor is controlling the argument to further his cause. If you are not frightened it may affect your grades, perhaps you should get together with other students to write a letter to the university in complaint that he is proselytising instead if teaching history.
(Better to make it one letter from a few students, rather than many letters from each student. Otherwise they are sure to contradict eachother in some respect. :smiley: )


Ask the professor if he knows if any :original ancient document exists- they don’t. So anthing philosophical, scientific, mathematical, historical comes from a distance several hundred years after the were written. The first knowledge of Alexander the great was several hundred years after hie death. Yet no one questions that. Or a Euclid, or socrates (who never wrote anything down) . This is so bogus and a trick academics use. The truth is that there are no extant originals of any of the great ancient books. They were copies of copies which no one can be sure of who the original author was. Some added their own names to a manuscript. A common occurance in the ancient world.So tradition had to fill in those blanks in both religious and secular worlds. Homer is a great example. He never wrote a thing, but his name has been passed down as author of the Iliad and the Odyssey.
no academic would s
Dispute that. But where is their proof :real physical proof. They have none.
Don t let those academic tricks get you in a tizzy. You can use them on their suppositions and academic traditions.
Good luck!


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