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Can We Trust the Gospels? Paperback – 8 Jun 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 202 pages
  • Publisher: Crossway Books (8 Jun. 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1581348665
  • ISBN-13: 978-1581348668
  • Product Dimensions: 21.5 x 14.2 x 1.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,138,762 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Mr. J. Hastings on 8 Sept. 2009
Format: Paperback
Anyone who has read Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" should read this book which gives the alternative view. The key chapter is Chapter 2, which explains how comparison of Gospel manuscripts and text-criticism supports rather than weakens the view that we do know what the original Gospels actually contained.

The main body of the book discusses the questions that have to be asked about the Gospels: who were the authors and what were their sources? did early Christian oral tradition pass down the truth about Jesus accurately? are they historically accurate and supported by secular history and archaeology? what about Jesus' miracles? did the Gospel writers invent sayings of Jesus that fitted their own Christian agendas?

Roberts concludes that we can trust the Gospels as giving historically accurate information about what Jesus did and said. This is a very good introduction for the interested layperson, whether Christian, anti-Christian or agnostic. It provides a useful counter-balance to the attacks on the reliability of the Gospels which tend to receive media publicity.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 33 reviews
66 of 71 people found the following review helpful
Conservative Harvard Perspective on Gospels 22 Jun. 2007
By B. D. Weimer - Published on
Format: Paperback
Mark Roberts received his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard University. Since he is fairly conservative theologically, you might expect this book to represent a disavowal of his Harvard training. The truth is more interesting.

Dr. Roberts does distance himself from some of the secular and skeptical assumptions of his professors at Harvard. But he puts the tools of critical scholarship to use in a manner the public is not accustomed to seeing -- demonstrating the reliability of the four traditional Gospels.

Dr. Roberts' scholarship is subordinate to his fluid, plain-language dissection of common doubts about the Gospels. In many cases, he dispatches modern skeptics with amazing brevity. For example, in about two pages, he pretty much demolishes Bart Ehrman's popular book Misquoting Jesus. Roberts quickly shows the contradiction at the heart of Ehrman's book. Ehrman argues that intentional scribal modifications have rendered the original Gospels unknowable, producing numerous disparities in the thousands of ancient Gospel manuscripts. But, in the process of explaining how these changes were introduced, Ehrman produces convincing arguments for the language of the original texts. Thus, while attempting to highlight modern discrepancies, Ehrman inadvertantly shows that the multitude of manuscripts enables the modern critic to work back fairly easily to reconstruct the original texts.

Roberts presents these types of arguments in such a calm and clear manner that it makes you wonder why the traditionalists have had so many difficulties responding to modern skeptics. Where have these traditional arguments been hiding all this time? Apparently they have been lying dormant ... in the New Testament program at Harvard University!
49 of 53 people found the following review helpful
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love New Testament Studies 14 Aug. 2007
By C. Price - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was drawn to this book because one of its endorsers compared it to F.F. Bruce's invaluable The New Testament Documents, Are they Reliable. Published decades ago and now in its sixth edition, The New Testament Documents is a masterpiece of condensing a wealth of scholarly knowledge into a readable guide for the layman. Mark Roberts' Can We Trust the Gospels is a different kind of book. Although Roberts has respectable academic credentials and writes with extensive knowledge, his approach is more pastoral. The fusion of academic knowledge and pastoral insight makes this a different kind of book than most apologetics works. It is not an extended argument for the most conservative positions possible about the Gospels. Although arguments for conservative positions are present, they are not the unique focus of the book.

Can We Trust the Gospels is really a collection of FAQs as one might find on a website (which Roberts states is intentional). It addresses the usual issues, but not necessarily in the usual way. The traditional case is made adequately in each chapter, though other recent treatments offer more thorough defenses of the varied topics. This does not detract from Robert's book because it is clear that he did not intend to make extended arguments for each position. He regularly refers his readers to lengthier and more scholarly discussions. What this book offers is more of the broad strokes of good arguments, which is likely all that many of his readers desire, and something more. Roberts often explains why the existence of questions about issues such as authorship and dating and contradictions should not damage Christian belief. For example, although Roberts' gives "good reasons" for accepting traditional authorship of Matthew and John, he concedes that "we can't be certain." Rather than end there, however, he proceeds to explain why--from the more established evidence--we can trust the Gospels despite that lack of certainty. This approach is characteristic.

Indeed, an alternative title could have been, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love New Testament Studies." Rather than simply argue for the earliest possible date of the Gospels, Roberts spends more time explaining why the gap between Jesus and the Gospels does not diminish the latter's accuracy given the nature of oral tradition and available sources. Rather than argue each apparent Gospel contradiction in detail, Roberts provides some helpful broad guidelines in dealing with them. This includes, in Robert's opinion, understanding the literary intentions of the authors. For example, Roberts discusses Mark's reference to digging through a roof and Luke's reference to removing tiles to get through a roof and notes that they are telling the same story but that Luke has made the story more understandable for his more gentile audience who would have found the concept of digging through roofs somewhat odd. Roberts seeks to reassure his readers with the knowledge that alteration of such details are not really a problem and served to make the truth more, not less, understandable.

If you want a less combative and more pastoral, though informed, book about the accuracy of the Gospels, you will like this book. It is also suitable for the student taking a secular religion or New Testament class who will face just these kinds of questions or the Christian who finds himself or herself discussing these issues with a more skeptical acquaintance. But when dealing with more informed or determined opponents, check the footnotes and dig deeper.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
A Blogger's Breadth, A Scholar's Depth and a Pastor's Heart in One Important Book 23 Jun. 2007
By Tod Bolsinger - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With the scholarly skills honed by earning a PhD from Harvard, and the connection to thousands of readers each day in his award-winning blog, Mark Roberts is uniquely qualified to address the issues that are currently being batted about the airwaves and bestseller lists questioning the credibility of the New Testament Gospels. But what makes this book most helpful (besides its pithy brevity!) is that Dr. Roberts writes for the pew and the pub more than the academy. This book is written for the lay reader who is interested in more than attention grabbing sound bites, but doesn't have the time to master the original languages (like Roberts has.) He also writes in a style that address biblical critics questions without (thankfully!) resorting to ridicule and hype. It is a model of good, edifying scholarship that is useful in the real world.

Roberts reinforces the confidence that a Christian can rightly have when reading the accounts of the life of Jesus and he dispels a number of long-discredited criticisms that have been making a comeback. An excellent resource for pastors who want to equip their members with facts, straightforward analysis and helpful illustrations for truly trusting the biblical gospels.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Roberts Fires Both Barrels 4 Sept. 2007
By Corey Layne Wilkins - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While I was anticipating some wussified, Harvard, upper-academia pot shot at the Synoptic Gospels strung out in a multi-plex of footnote mania, what I got was quite the opposite. Roberts takes the complex and makes it readable and understandable to a lay guy like me that just wants to know if Dan Brown is a blow hard?! After seeing the Dead Sea Scrolls in Seattle last Winter, I wanted to read more about the canonization of the Holy Bible. This book lays it all out there in a cool FAQ format that coherently dovetails each chapter into the next. He leaves no stone unturned and articulates his thoughts and points with brevity, wit, and oftentimes humorous personal stories. He's Harvard turned Fuller (odd combo?) and one of my new favorite, contemporary minds. This book is a well-thought out, short read that will paint you a convincing picture of the Gospels and their formation. For the Christian, atheist, agnostic, scholar, or simple lay guy like me; this one is worth the time and scholarship. Thanks, Mark! Sorry...Dr. Mark.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Thoughtful Articulation of the Gospel's Veracity 20 Nov. 2007
By Erik Raymond - Published on
Format: Paperback
Recently I have been reading a lot on bibliology, it has been a steady and refreshing diet. The guys whom I have been reading tend to be guys who think and articulate things like I would, or at least how I try to. So when I picked up a book from Mark Roberts, a professor at Fuller Seminary I figured that I was meandering a bit out of my familiar neighborhood.

Mark Roberts is the senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church and he blogs at [...] This book is a `blook' that is, it is a series of articles that appeared on his blog and were of such a quality that Crossway approached him about publishing the series as a book.

Roberts received his Ph.D. in New Testament from Harvard and this book is written from the perspective of a guy who was reared in this system. However, there is a substantial difference, Roberts is actually arguing for the veracity of Scripture!

From the beginning Roberts lets us know that he is writing the book to himself or a guy like himself from 30 years ago. For some reason I did not make the connection that this guy, to whom the book was written, was not me (perhaps a little insight as to why I have walked through Harvard Square countless times but never been invited in for a class). As a result of this my presuppositional apologetical antennae were on high alert from the outset. Roberts continued to demonstrate the historical and literary veracticy of the Scriptures through logic, consistency, and historical standards. I just wanted him to pitch his tent in 2 Timothy 3.16-17 and go for it. I was reminded at the conclusion of the book that, while he agrees with me on these things, he was not going to do this in this book, for the scope of it was to interact with the Harvard-type guy in a readable, respectable, and consistent way.

So from this perspective it is a great book. As I sat in a Starbucks swigging down my Venti Red-Eye I came to enjoy the work and care that Roberts put into this book.

For example, his tone is apologetic in anticipating many of the common objections levied at the Gospels. He writes the following chapters:

Can We Know What the Original Gospel Manuscripts Really Said?

Did the Evangelists Know Jesus Personally?

What Sources did the Gospel Writers Use?

Are There Contradictions in the Gospels?

Do Miracles Undermine the Reliability of the Gospels?

Overall, as I mentioned, I did enjoy this book and I think Roberts did a good job. I actually have a couple of people in mind that I may send a copy for Christmas.
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