The Gospels are the main sources that contain the main facts of Jesus’ life and ministry. The question of their reliability is extremely important, especially when Christ is one of the most influential people to have walked this planet. The Gospels contain the main claims made by Christ, so it’s important to check their validity and reliable. Jesus did claim to be divine and equal to God the Father. If the Gospels are not reliable, then neither are the claims made about Christ.
Mark is dated to be the first one written and to be influenced by Peter. Matthew and Luke are synoptic, but are different eyewitness accounts. John’s account is almost completely different from the synoptic gospels because it is more theologically based on the deity of Christ. This Gospel is considered to be the latest written account of Christ’s life. Luke is considered one of the greatest historians in the ancient world, mainly due to the 84 historical facts that he records the book of Acts. His Gospel is considered to be written before the book of Acts because in Acts 1:1-2, Luke talks about his first account he wrote before he started Acts. Also, he did not mention the death of Peter, Paul, or James in the book of Acts, which places Acts even earlier. With this in mind, Luke’s Gospel is dated even earlier since Acts is written prior to AD 64 when Paul was martyred under Nero in Rome. Luke also quotes Matthew’s and Mark’s Gospels as well, which would date their Gospels earlier. Luke admits to not being an eyewitness himself, but rather compiles accounts from the earliest eyewitness accounts. These witnesses would have been Matthew and Mark, since we find synoptic features from Luke’s Gospel which are from Matthew and Mark’s Gospels. We also have to remember the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Romans. Since Luke was writing as a historian, so if he wrote his Gospel after the destruction of Jerusalem, then he would have mentioned it. The destruction of Jerusalem was like the 9-11 terrorist attacks, except on a more devastating level. This would date the synoptic Gospels earlier than 70 AD based on what we fined in the Gospel of Luke.
Are they contradictory?
Some will attack these accounts as being contradictory, but when we examine the text with concise thinking and context of the perspective of each witness, then they will be shown to be written accounts from different eyewitnesses. These slight differences actually show more reliability to these eyewitness accounts because if they were made up, you would expect to find virtually the same exact details. If this were the case, then we would find the gospels to be exact copies with just different names. It’s actually a necessity to have different perspectives because that shows how each eyewitness perceived the events. Also, these differences are not contradictory as well. Every eyewitness will not agree completely say the same thing on the small details, but rather will agree the same way upon the major facts. Every Gospel writes about the crucifixion and the resurrection which shows them to be accurate accounts on the more important details. Slight difference of details about the genealogy of Christ do not undermine his existence or the reliability of these four unique eyewitness accounts. Many of these discrepancies is what is found in any historical and eyewitness accounts, so it does not undermine the minimal facts recorded in the gospels.
The Gospels also contain embarrassing details that add on to their historical reliability. The first, is when the gospel accounts records the woman as the first eyewitnesses of the risen Christ. This would have been embarrassing to the men (who were also the writers) because women’s testimony didn’t count in first century Israel. If your number one witnesses were women in this time period, then your account would not be a taken seriously and would be ridiculed. Today, we have better standards of witnesses then the sexism in the first century. Another embarrassing detail recorded in the gospels would be when the disciples deny Christ when he is taken in. Peter denies him along with the rest of the disciples. If you were making up this story, then you would not have abandoned the man that you were making out to be divine. This detail shows that the Gospel accounts most likely didn’t make up the messiah story, which will be discussed in opposing theories to the resurrection hypothesis. A final embarrassing detail, would be the fact that their messiah was crucified, which is something a first century Jew would not make up, not to mention many first century Jews. The messiah that most were expected, was to be one that over throws the Roman Empire. Of course, the gospels record that Christ died by the Roman Empire. First Century Jews would not make a crucified Messiah story because it would contradict their beliefs. The Gospels prove to be reliable with these embarrassing details that you would not make up in first century Israel.
The Archaeological claims in the gospels have been shown to be accurate as well. To demonstrate this, here are some examples of these claims. First, Pontius Pilate has been established as the governor who controlled Jerusalem under the reign of Tiberius Caesar. The evidence for this is discovery of his name on a piece of limestone discovered in 1961. This piece of limestone discovered had Pontius Pilates name and years of reign. The gospel accounts share this archaeological detail that was affirmed by this discovery. Another archaeological fact, was the punishment under the Roman Empire, which is death by Crucifixion. All the Gospels record this as to how their Lord died, and described the details of this punishment as well. Josephus writes about this as well, along with the Roman historians who write about this punishment. This is another archeological detail that the gospel accounts get right. A final archaeological fact that the Gospel of John records is the pool of Bethesda. After the destruction of Jerusalem, this pool of Bethesda did not exist to the visible eye. This seemed to indicate for a while that the Gospel of John was inaccurate about this detail. In 1888, archeologists found the remains of this pool that John had talked about in John 5:1-9. This also could be used to show that the Gospel of John could easily have been written before the Destruction of Jerusalem. It’s very likely that the Gospel of John is written before AD 70 because of this accurate description of the pool of Bethesda.
These are the shortest arguments that can be made to show the reliability of the Gospel’s as eyewitness account, which will add on to the evidence for the resurrection. The Gospels are early, accurate, and meet historical criteria that are used to investigate historical claims. Cold Case Christianity is a great book that goes into detail on these arguments for the reliability of the Gospels. Two other great books would be The Historical Jesus by Gary Habermas, and the updated version of Evidence that Demands a Verdict by both Josh and Sean McDowell. Overall, The Gospels are reliable historical sources concerning the life of Jesus based on the evidence.
Geisler , Norman L. and Frank Turek. I Don't Have Enough Faith To Be An Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Book.
McDowell, Josh and Sean McDowell. Evidence That Demands A Verdict: Life-Changing Truth For A Skeptical World. Nashville: HarperCollins Christian Publishing, 2017. Book.
Wallace, James Warner. Cold Case Christianity. Colorado Springs: David C Cook, 2013. Book.
The soul is the immaterial substance that uses the body through consciousness, intentionality, free will, reasoning which our all faculties of the soul. Each person has their own unique soul that has the capacity of for each person’s unique body. The body would be the physical aspect of our humanity which help makes up our complete being. One analogy to represent the relationship between the soul and body would be that the soul is like the musician that plays his instrument which would be the function of the body. Our soul is essentially our mind, will, and emotions which our things that cannot be physically demonstrated to exist as their own things. If these things were physical, then they would not actually exist but rather be illusory. Free will is impossible on physicalism because all our physical acts would be determined by prior physical acts independent from us. Emotions would be activated not by mental states, but rather states of our physical brain which could occur independent of experience. Our mental states (which is part of our mind) would be activated by brain states, so would not be their own thing or substance.
The law of identity states that something is what it is not. This means that something is its own thing and not something else. Something will have its own substance and properties which are only identical to itself. An apple is a fruit that is red and has its own type of flavor. Obviously, a lemon is not the same thing as an apple because it is yellow and has a high acidic level which makes it more sour. Based on this law, the body would be a different thing and the soul would be its own thing. The soul by definition would be immaterial and would be conscious and the body by definition is physical and not conscious. The soul has its own properties and its own substance. The body has its own properties and its own substance. The soul is distinct from the body and the body is distinct from the soul (Lorenz:1; Moreland:35-38).
There are two types of soul/body dualism's and the one you choose to believe will affect your worldview. The first is property dualism which holds the proposition that a human being is one material substance that has both physical and mental properties, with the mental properties arising from the brain (Moreland 37). This is a type of dualism that tries to explain mental states by prior physical brain states, but it fails to account for mental states being their own thing. This type of dualism starts to beg the question when it tries to explain mental states by physical properties. It’s an inconsistent view that in all reality implicitly states that our mental states are really illusory because they are just physical states that our brain is in.
The type of dualism that I hold to and is the type of dualism that I am proposing that the Bible holds to, is substance dualism. Substance Dualism is the proposition that a human person has both a brain that is a physical thing with physical properties and a mind or soul that is a mental substance and has mental properties (Moreland 37). This holds to a more consistent definition of dualism holding to that the body and soul are distinct entities that come up together to make the complete nature of human beings. This is the view that will hopefully be shown to be the most biblical interpretation concerning the soul/body dilemma (Lorenz:1; Moreland:35-38).
Like I stated earlier, the view of the soul will determine many theological views and implications concerning scripture. First, it effects theology concerning life after death and the second coming. If we have a soul, then some hold to the view that that part of our being goes to be with God in an intermediate state before the second coming of Christ. If we our essentially just our body, then we are dead until the second coming (which contradicts Scripture). The Bible affirms that we our in some sort of intermediate state before the second coming. In Luke 23: 39-43, one of the men being crucified with him says to remember him when he goes to his kingdom (implying that Jesus would go to Heaven), then Jesus replies “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” This is just one quick verse to give justification that there is some sort of state before the second coming. Jesus was implying that the man believed in him and would join him in Heaven when he died on his cross (Lorenz:1; Moreland:12-18).
Another theological implication of the soul, affects the being of man and the being of God. If we are just physical, then what is the breath of life from God? The dust in which God made man was specifically used to make man’s being. If we are just physical, then God could have just transform the dust in a person. We have to remember that God is an immaterial consciousness, just like our soul. If we do not have a soul, then what does that mean for God? Would this mean that God is a physical being? I think not, the Bible clearly indicates that God is an immaterial being (John 4:24). If God is an immaterial being, then surely he could create human beings that have an immaterial part to their being. If the Bible actually affirms that we are just physical being, then I will state that it makes a contradiction. At least, that those who hold to this view have an inconsistent point in their views. Of course, the case will be made that the Bible holds that we do have an immaterial soul and God made us this way (Lorenz:1; Moreland:12-18).
Lorenz, Hendrik. "Ancient Theories of Soul." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2009): 1. Article.
Moreland, James P. The Soul: How we know it's real and why it matters . Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014. Book.
This is a fallacy that supposedly provides the only two options of a certain situation. These are false “either” and “or” statements that only contain two options. “You’re either with me or your against me." This is a false dichotomy because it leaves out the third option. The third option is the fact that one can be neutral towards you. Sometimes these are hard to spot because of the language used in the scenarios given. One must be aware of all the options to make a rational choice about a situation. Here are some more examples of a False Dichotomy:
Either you study for the test or you will fail the class. This is an obvious false dichotomy because other assignments could boost your grade and you could pass the class that way. If the test is the class, then you are a bit done for. However, most classes are not set up this way.
Either you’re telling the truth or you’re not. This may seem like the only possible situation since you have two contradictory possibilities. The law of non-contradiction would suppose this. Another option is that you were mistaken of what your reporting. You wouldn’t be telling the truth or lying because you were mistaken in what you are being asked about.
Either science is the only way to truth or there is no way to truth. Science is a great methodology that has help the rise in technology, but it is not the only type of methodology. First, we can’t scientifically prove the first statement, so it is a statement that cannot be true. Science can’t prove that we aren’t a brain in a jar being stimulated on. Science presupposes mathematical and logical truths, so to argue to prove these scientifically is to beg the question. Moral and ethical questions cannot be proven scientifically. Science can make a poisonous substance, but cannot tell you to not expose someone to the poisonous substance. Aesthetic truths, like art and beauty can’t be proven scientifically because these are metaphysical questions that philosophy has to answer. Finally, science has its own presuppositions that cannot be justified scientifically. For example, we cannot scientifically prove the uniformity of nature, that the laws will remain a constant tomorrow, the existence of numbers, the honesty of every scientific test conducted, and so on. Science cannot be justified by science because it contains to many presuppositions. Although science is a helpful way of epistemology, it is not the only way to truth. This is a false dichotomy for these reasons.
False Dichotomies can also appear as loaded questions when you think about it. Loaded questions contain many assumptions since it’s a combination of three or more unanswered questions. “Either you’re with me or your against me” There are many unanswered questions in this false dichotomy. What is the context of the question? Who are you asking? Who’s the person asking the questions. Many times with false dichotomies, we must get the context of the situation. Use Greg Koukl’s Columbo tactic to help get the context of any situation presented. These false dilemmas must be avoided. Either you avoid this fallacy or you’re not a logical person.