Should We Trust the Gospel Writers’ Memories?

by Ryan Leasure

People have foggy memories. Not many of us can remember conversations we had three weeks ago, let alone three years ago. If this is true, it raises obvious questions about the reliability of the Gospels. Should we trust them considering the authors didn’t write them until decades later? Wouldn’t they have forgotten large swaths of what Jesus said and did by that time?

The skeptics certainly think so. Bart Ehrman often asks how many of us can remember what the president said this last year during the State of the Union Address? What about two years ago? Or two decades ago? The point he attempts to make is that since none of us can remember what the president said a short while ago, we shouldn’t trust the Gospel writers who documented Jesus’ story decades later.

Skeptics also point to a study conducted at Emory University following the Challenger space shuttle explosion. Forty-four freshman students were interviewed immediately after the event to give details about how they heard and what they were doing at the time. Those same students were asked the same questions three years later and not one of them gave the same exact answer. The point? Our memories aren’t as reliable as we think they are.

Should Christians be concerned about poor memory, and therefore, doubt the reliability of the Gospels? I don’t believe so. In fact, let me give you five reasons why I believe the authors would have remembered the details of Jesus quite well…

Should We Trust the Gospel Writers’ Memories?