Gospels written decades after events


What’s the response to the claim that the Gospels probably weren’t 100% accurate because they were written decades after the events?


In those days, most people didn’t know how to read or write. Stories and histories were passed on by word of mouth, a lot more than today, and enough people knew the story and it was told often enough that they could maintain its accuracy.


I have wondered about this too, even today, when a story makes the rounds, it changes quite a bit over the course of a few hours or days, now consider the same story decades, centuries later…IDK, Id bet at least some of it is inaccurate, but we have to have faith God would correct this if it was the case.

I just cannot see God letting so many future generations have access to completely wrong information, I think he would intervene in this case, or I believe the holy spirit ensures the verses are correct and we must have faith in that.


The primary author of the Gospels was God, not men.




These were not ordinary events. The people who were there were not going to forget. God became a man… We can recall all sorts of details about far less meaningful scenarios. The Gospels come down to eye-witness accounts.

The culture, as has been noted, was extremely used to oral traditions. The whole ancient world was. The average peasant in rural Greece probably could have recited most of Homer, because he grew up singing it! It is something that we are not used to today… But for centuries, most of the big shot theologians basically had memorized all of Sacred Scripture. It was nearly a prerequisite for doing serious work.

Furthermore, some bits were possibly not intended to be completely “accurate” according to history but are rather theological interpretations of events explained by the retelling of those events.


We also live in a culture where writing is common. Much of the information we have on hand is in books, on CD, or the internet where we can look it up to verify it’s authenticity. It’s rare for us to see someone who can just repeat word for word what they have read. When we do we are truly impressed.

The culture of the Gospels though was an oral culture for the most part. It was not uncommon for students of a Rabbi to memorize the entirety of scripture and be able to spout off line after line after line. These stories were handed on and on, orally. Now one could think, yeah I’m sure that mistakes could have been made. That would preclude two things though.

  1. As mentioned above, the Holy Spirit was at work in these documents. In order to say they must have mistakes is to question the ability of God himself to preserve them, to guide them, to protect them.

  2. We don’t have any contemporary members of the original Apostles writing to decry the authenticity of them, nor any of their students. We know that the earliest writings were placed around 60 A.D. At this point there were still Apostle’s around to say: “Wait, that’s not what Jesus said.” Even at the point of 90 A.D. when others were being written, if not an Apostle at least his primary student would be around to say “Hey now, that’s not what John said! And Peter didn’t say that either!”

These weren’t normal events. Not things a man forgets. While I might not be able to tell you about my 1st plate of Spaghetti… I can tell you in intricate detail my first car wreck. It made an impression on me. How much more so would watching a man heal the sick? Rise from the dead? Do you think if tomorrow you died and a man called you forth from the tomb, that those who witnessed it would forget? I don’t.

When 911 happened I was on the fourth rung of a ladder in a Huddle House in the town of Grundy Virginia. I was wiring an exhaust fan. I had to lean over the ceiling grid to reach it. My friend was standing at the bottom of the ladder holding it for me. I remember the clothes I had on. I remember the color of wire I was twisting when the foreman came in to tell us we probably should just pack up and head home, someone had bombed the towers. I won’t forget that day. I remember the details vividly, because it made an impression. How much more so being in the presence of God?


This is evident when the Gospels are read side by side.


The Synoptics, absolutely. And then we get to the Gospel of John.


That is probably why the Gospels are really so sparse in the information they contain. Over one or 2 generations, the more mundane content drifted out into the mists of time. And the most salient events were preserved under the “breathing” of the Holy Spirit.



I can’t remember the exact class I took, but the instructor was discussing the accuracy of oral traditions. Apparently they are just as accurate, if not more accurate than written traditions. With oral traditions the actual passing down of information is part of their culture. People learn from their elders with detail and the elders put the proper emphasis where they need to go. Written traditions can sometimes be lost. People forget what was written and if a manuscript is damaged it could never be replaced. Also, when information is written and given to 50 people those 50 people will each have their own interpretation of the information, whereas oral information is explained to each generation as it’s passed down.


A generation is usually thought of as 20 years- the time period between when a man is born and he fathers a child.

With a late crucifixion date of A.D. 36, we can reasonably date the writing of Luke and Acts to A.D. 64-65 assuming Paul, Peter, and Luke were all caught up in the Roman persecutions beginning in A.D. 64.

So the synoptic Gospels were all set down in finished form within a generation of Jesus’ death.

John is the outlier. We have to accept a later date based on the writing of Eusebius- probably three generations after Jesus’ death- but written by an eye-witness.


Accuracy to historical fact isn’t the point of the Gospels. The authors were not concerned about historical accuracy.

The authors were concerned with transmitting the truths God wants us to know for the salvation of our souls.

That’s all there is to it.



There are no scientific errors, no historical errors, and no contradictions in the Bible. Any apparent errors in the Bible is due to either us misreading the passage or a translation issue.

The Gospel writers were very much concerned with historical accuracy, and without such accuracy their testimonies would be worthless.

There have been many people over the centuries and even today who have memorized large portions of Scripture, so it’s not unreasonable to think people back then could memorize large portions of Jesus’ life, especially with the help of the Holy Spirit.


The Aboriginal people of Australia who have lived there for somewhere around 40,000 to 60,000 years have had their Dreamtime stories about creation handed down to them orally since time immemorial…60 years are nothing where oral traditions are passed on


I am of the persuasion and there are many of us, who believe the NT was written before AD70. There is Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21. The modern approach is since they refer to AD70 they must therefore have been written after AD70 posthumously. If that were so why warn people to run.


You might find this shortish video interesting to the topic.

The Reliability of the Gospels by Dr Peter J. Williams



Much of it, yes. Including Matthew, Luke and then Mark.


To elaborate on this, what can be said is that they were probably not concerned with a strict chronology, that is, the order of events, like we would be today. But this would have been understood by their audience and part of the genre they were writing. And what was written about each event is historically accurate.


If they were secular writings, I would say that is a possibility. If it is divine, it is good 100%. Anyway, there were still living witnesses then who can attest for the Gospels. And hearers of the Gospels would detect changes if they mutate over time or by different preachers. Furthermore, enemies of the faith would love to destroy it by challenging its integrity if those accounts were not truthful. The fastest way to kill off any movement is to discredit it. Rome couldn’t kill it despite killing many of the believers over the centuries. And what do you do when you couldn’t beat your enemy?, Join him!:smiley:

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