Book review: The Historical Reliability of the Gospels

by Craig Blomberg

★★★★

In an era when it’s trendy to question everything written in the Bible, here’s a scholarly exception. Blomberg is a conservative who isn’t content to found his faith on faith alone. After a run-down of the latest methods of Biblical analysis, he tackles  three primary “problems” for scholarly believers:

[1] Miracles, and the problem of credibility. This may be Blomberg’s weakest argument, where he is reduced to concluding that if the resurrection really happened, then surely none of the other stories are that incredible!

[2] Contradictions within the three Synoptic Gospels. Perfect harmonization is an unreasonable expectation, and even if errors do exist (Blomberg does not admit to any, but confesses the possibility) then that may explain some of the apparent contradictions.

[3] The problem of John’s Gospel. What are we to make of this maverick writing? It seems to argue against the Synoptics at every turn, and repeatedly insists upon eyewitness testimony. Blomberg’s take (which I’m oversimplifying) is basically, “Let John be John;” the apparent contradictions are not severe enough to discredit either John or the Synoptics.

Blomberg then discusses the Jesus tradition outside the Gospels. What do the remaining books in the New Testament say about Jesus? What do the extra-canonical writings say? What do non-Christians say? He concludes that they reinforce the Gospel story.

So are the Gospels reliable history? Some Christians would affirm this merely because their doctrine of the inspiration of scripture requires them to, but Blomberg believes the Gospel story can stand on its own. He finds it neither a slam-dunk for or against historical reliability, but rather a topic deserving of serious scholarship, and certainly not a barrier to conservative Christian faith.

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