- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Inter-Varsity Press (Jun. 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0851107745
- ISBN-13: 978-0851107745
- Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 2.5 cm
- Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,077,421 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
The Historical Reliability of the Gospels Paperback – Jun 1987
Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought
Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.
To get the free app, enter your e-mail address or mobile phone number.
About the Author
Craig L. Blomberg is Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Denver Seminary. He is the author of numerous books, including 'Jesus and the Gospels', 'From Pentecost to Patmos', 'The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel', 'Interpreting the Parables', 'Neither Poverty Nor Riches', 'Contagious Holiness' and commentaries on Matthew and 1 Corinthians. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?
Top Customer Reviews
Blomberg describes and discusses the various methods by which scholars have studied the Gospels as historical documents. He discusses the specific problems of the Synoptic Gospels, the Gospel of John and of Miracles. He also looks at references to Jesus in early Greek, Roman and Jewish sources, and discusses the apocryphal gospels and the Nag Hammadi documents. Finally, there is an appendix critiquing the books of Bart Ehrman.
I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the question suggested by its title. However, you will have to treat it as a textbook and, if you would like to read something at a more popular level, I suggest FF Bruce, "The New Testament Documents: are they reliable?"
What follows is a work which summarises the scholarship of others. Blomberg begins by looking at the general methods for the historical study of the gospels. These include harmonisation, redaction criticism and form criticism. Here, I felt Blomberg was fairly even-handed and gave praise to each methodology where due and criticism where it was deserved. Though he does not explain until the end of the book why he failed to look at textual criticism.
He demonstrates that he is not afraid to tackle potentially thorny issues head-on as from here he launches straight into the issue of miracles. He lays out various objections that one may have to believing the miracle stories of the gospels and then sets about his task of trying to show why they may be considered reasonable.
From here, he then widens his viewpoint to look at contradictions between the Synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark & Luke). This is a little more reasonable than the previous section, particularly when one takes into account redaction criticism. The main argument is that if you accept that the gospels do not necessarily contain verbatim testimonies then to say "Jesus said x" may still be an honest and reliable account of the message he conveyed.
Moving on from the Synoptics, he goes on to look at the specific case of the gospel of John.Read more ›
It is informative, well thought out and objective. I thoroughly reccomend it.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
This book was a refreshing alternative to that previous one. It was well written and captivated my interest. I could not believe how much I used my yellow highlighter. This author has a good writing style and I have since purchased a couple of other books by him (on their way, Amazon!)
He took a thorough approach (used for his doctoral thesis, I believe) and has cited numerous other sources, which gives the reader other options for purchasing books with similar or alternate views. He effectively invalidated what numerous Nay Sayers have posited about the validity of the historical gospels, or lack thereof.
He addresses concerns over the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) and how they interrelate, as well as how they relate to the gospel of John. The author addresses miracles and many other issues.
I came away from reading the book, with a new feeling of faith. I could see how the historical gospels could in fact, be truthful and still are applicable in today's age. I feel that I better understand the methods used by those Nay Sayers, who have drawn their own interpretations and precisely why their conclusions are not accurate.
Chapter two deals with new critical methods that scholars have used to understand the literary composition of the Gospels. Personally I feel this chapter is sort of a dry read, but tremendously informative. Blomberg analyses the strengths and weaknesses of form, redaction, literary, and midrash criticism. Blomberg goes on to make a great piont/argument that I wish to highlight here. Granting that Mark's Gospel was the first one written in about 70 C.E., how can we know during the 40 year period between Jesus' death and the first Gospel composition that the oral Jesus tradition wasn't corrupted, and, consequently, infected with corrupted tradition of Jesus sayings, stories and deeds?
Forty years isn't that long, comparatively speaking.
"Eyewitnesses of Jesus' ministry, including hostile ones, could easily have refuted and discredited the Christian claims during this period if they were in any way mistaken" (p 53)
Eyewitness testimony of Jesus' life and ministry could produce accurate information, witnesses are not limited to apostles since every single character (person) in the Gospels in a potential eyewitness to the life of Jesus.
If "Q" dating to about the 50's was a real document, that gets us even close to the person of Jesus than does a literary work 40 years removed from the event.
Just as the students of ancient Jewish rabbis would take and carry notes of their master's teachings, so would have the disciples of Jesus when passing on oral tradition by means of preaching from door to door and from house to house.
In conjunction with point 5, while the disciples passed along oral tradition, they could have also corrected any phony stories that were circulating at the time. This applies not only for the 40 period of no literary tradition, but all the way up to the end of the first century culminating in John's death. That's a period of 70 years, which, for the large part, had eyewitnesses supporting the Jesus tradition.
The last point which I wish to highlight (though there are many more) is the study of A. B. Lord on oral tradition. Lord studied a Yugoslavian folk singer who would recite `epic stories' of 100,000 words in length, but, amazingly, he would recite the whole story with anywhere between 90 to 60% accuracy. And when the singer would get a part of the story wrong, those familiar with the epic would correct the singer. In a similar manner, those reciting the Jesus tradition were be very able to produce accurate accounts of Jesus' sayings and deeds.
Next chapter (3) deals with the issue of miracles. It's probably one of the more interesting sections in the book. He deals with the other "miracles" in the apocryphal books as well as the ones in other Greek and Roman sources. He shows why the miracles that are sometimes erroneously said to be "parallels" to the synoptics truly aren't and gives good reasons to reject their actually taking place. He uses and cites many of the arguments for miracles by William Lane Craig and other fairly well known apologists. So, if you're familiar with those arguments you may find this chapter redundant; but for those who haven't read or seen those arguments, it'd be a welcoming chapter. Of course, out of all the miracles the big miracle of them all is the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. He defends the resurrection adequately in my opinion, often times drawing heavily from N.T. Wright while defending the physical, fleshly resurrection of Jesus.
Chapter 4 focuses on the so called contradictions of the Synoptics. This chapter is specifically why I recommend that before anyone reads this book, they read the Gospels thoroughly, preferably more than once if possible. If you don't, you'll be lost in this chapter for sure [or, at least in large part]. He touches on the claims that the Synoptics have conflicting theologies, chronological problems, omissions, composite speeches, differences in names and numbers, and on much more issues. He concludes that the reason why so many people believe the Synoptics are contradictory is because they "have never seriously interacted with the types of solutions proposed" in his book and in other writings." (195) The last point is very true. Many critics of the Bible, but specifically of the Gospels, simply dismiss the possibility of harmonization as "special pleading", which is unfair because it robs the Evangelists of their integrity.
The problems in the Gospel of John is what Chapter 5 interacts with. John is usually viewed separately and distinct from the Synoptics because it's simply just different from them not only in style, but in content as well. However, as Blomberg rightfully points out, critics usually don't point out the similarities between John and the Synoptics even though they are "much more complementary than is normally admitted." (203) In this chapter, Blomberg deals with the discrepancies between the Synoptics and John as it pertains to Jesus' death, theologies, passover, chronological issues, and other problems that are often pointed out. In the end, he concludes that many scholars are just too fast to simply castigate the Gospel of John than give in to the better solutions out there for harmonization of the Gospels. Again, he points out there sometimes scholars don't spend that much time looking into the issues as they probably ought to.
Chapter 6 and the Jesus-Tradition outside the Gospels. In this chapter Blomberg surveys Graeco-Roman sources (that is, historians such as Julius Africanus, Pliny the Younger, etc), Jewish sources including Rabbinic traditions, which not coincidentally had much to say about Jesus, Josephus, and extra-biblical Christian traditions (Epistle of Barnabas and Shepherd of Hermas). Blomberg also briefly surveys the Apostolic Fathers, specifically Ignatius, 1 Clement and Polycarp. He also covers the Apocryphon of James, Gospel of Philip, Gospel of truth and other less known, but relevant gospels. Finally, he surveys the rest of the New Testament for what can be said of the Jesus Tradition. Blomberg concludes by saying that "the external evidence for the Gospel traditions reinforces the confidence in their historical reliability, which the internal evidence has been building in previous chapters." (295)
All in all, it's a great book. This work is highly documented as Blomberg cites over 100 sources that can be found in his bibliography. The amount of citations are not just there for show. These citations demonstrate how strong a case can be made for the historical reliability of the Gospels, as even some critics are forced to admit. The volume also includes an authors index and a Scriptures index for easy referencing.
He then undertakes a study of the historicity of the Gospel stories, and turns in the most compelling scholarly argument I have ever read for the historical reliability of the resurrection narratives. So far, so good. Five stars up to this point.
Unfortunately, it is in his assessment of Gospel historicity that he goes astray. Blomberg argues repeatedly for the "camcorder exactness" of the Gospel stories. If the Gospels say it, that's exactly the way it happened, and any discrepancies from one story to the next are merely "apparent" discrepancies, which can be ironed out with enough imagination. As one who has made a career of evaluating and presenting testimony, I find that discrepancies in testimony don't equate to falsehood, and that it is neither necessary nor wise to pretend that there are no discrepancies in testimony.
Blomberg appears to begin with the conclusion of historical accuracy and to sift the evidence for arguments supporting his conclusion. That's not the way you do it. You work the evidence to form conclusions; you don't form the evidence to fit conclusions. You begin with no firmly fixed preconceptions. You collect your evidence, form a hypothesis that explains the evidence, collect more evidence, modify your hypothesis, collect more evidence, modify your hypothesis, and keep doing that until your are satisfied that your conclusions are valid. Only after you have arrived at your conclusions in an unbiased fashion, do you then argue for your conclusions. When you argue for your conclusions, you don't defend the indefensible. Trying to defend too much weakens your argument as a whole. Blomberg tries to defend too much. Example: Blomberg acknowledges that even the majority of conservative scholars find it unlikely that John wrote the Gospel of John. After making the concession, he then argues vehemently for John's authorship of the Gospel. The Gospel never claims it was written by John, and authorship by John is not necessary to a finding of historical accuracy. Why, then, defend John's authorship so staunchly? Blomberg's zeal in defending questionable conclusions casts doubt on the sound conclusions he presents.