My History Teacher Says ‘The Gospels Are Unreliable’

Tom Roberts

History lessons teach us how to weigh up sources, digging into the details to discover what happened in the past. With things outside of living memory, the surviving sources are the only way we can know about the past.

Whether it’s World War One, the Tudors or Ancient Egypt, the approach is the same. Your history teacher guides you in handling these sources, helping you ask the right questions: is it from an eyewitness? Was it written long after the event? How does it compare with other sources from the time? Do we have any reason to doubt the reliability of the author?

But sometimes all this seems to go out the window. When it comes to talking about Jesus, your otherwise rigorous history teacher dismisses the Gospels in a moment. They say they can’t be trusted, they’re unreliable sources that tell us little about what really happened. If you have a teacher like this, you’ll know it can be frustrating, and difficult to challenge. What do you say?

Here are some questions to ask that might cause your teacher to think again about this issue, or at least make them justify their position. For more practical tips on talking to teachers read ‘Engaging Well With Teachers’.

How did you conclude that the Gospels are not reliable sources?

This question invites your teacher to give reasons for their view. Often you will find that they have not ever properly weighed up the Gospels as serious historical sources. But hopefully they will give some reasons, which can lead to a good discussion…

My History Teacher Says ‘The Gospels Are Unreliable’