The Gospels Get It Right When It Counts—and When It Doesn’t

by Tim Barnett

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone tell me that the Gospels are unreliable. Sadly, they are usually just parroting what they have heard from their popular atheist heroes. In The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins says, “The gospels are not reliable accounts of what happened in the history of the real world. All were written long after the death of Jesus, and also after the epistles of Paul, which mentioned almost none of the alleged facts of Jesus’s life.”

The late Christopher Hitchens agreed with Dawkins. He wrote that the New Testament is “a work of crude carpentry, hammered together long after its purported events, and full of improvised attempts to make things come out right.”

In a recent talk, Dr. Timothy McGrew demolished these assertions. Specifically, McGrew outlined two ways external evidence can be used to corroborate the Bible. First, we could look at non-Christian sources to see if they corroborate major events in the gospels (e.g. Jesus’ death by Roman crucifixion). These kinds of sources do exist, but they will only take you so far. There is a limitation on what we can expect from them. For example, a non-Christian source will never admit that Jesus rose from the dead. If a non-Christian source confirmed the resurrection, then it wouldn’t be a non-Christian source. McGrew says,

There is a word for people who became persuaded that Jesus rose from the grave after His death by Roman crucifixion. That word is “Christian.”

Second, we could look at incidental details within the Gospels that reveal the writer’s knowledge and reliability in these matters…

The Gospels Get It Right When It Counts—and When It Doesn’t