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Can We Trust the Gospels?: Investigating the Reliability of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John Paperback – June 8, 2007
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"Can We Trust the Gospels? is quite simply the best effort I have ever read by a serious scholar to communicate what scholars know about the Gospels and why that should indeed encourage us to trust them and thus to trust Jesus Christ."
—Hugh Hewitt, nationally syndicated radio talk show host; Professor of Law, Chapman University
"There is a crisis of confidence about the Gospels, fueled by sensational claims about supposedly new Gnostic Gospels with a 'revised standard' view of Jesus. As Mark Roberts makes clear, the earliest and best evidence we have for the real Jesus is the canonical Gospels, not the much later Gnostic ones."
—Ben Witherington III, Professor of New Testament, Asbury Theological Seminary, author of What Have They Done with Jesus?
"This book not only makes a compelling case for trusting the Gospels, it illuminates the creative ways in which God worked to bring us His Word. Roberts's brilliant little book deserves to be widely read by both skeptics and believers."
—Joe Carter, Editor, The Gospel Coalition; contributor, NIV Lifehacks Bible
"What F. F. Bruce did for my generation of students, Mark Roberts has done for the current generation. Any student who asks me if our Gospels are reliable will be given this book, and then I'll buy another copy for the next student!"
—Scot McKnight, Karl A. Olsson Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies, North Park University
About the Author
Mark D. Roberts (PhD, Harvard University) is a pastor, author, retreat leader, speaker, and blogger. He is the senior director and scholar in residence for Laity Lodge, a multifaceted ministry in the Hill Country of Texas. He was previously the senior pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church in Irvine, California. Mark also serves on the editorial board of Worship Leader magazine, where he publishes articles and reviews, including his regular column Lyrical Poetry. Mark and his wife, Linda, have two children.
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As a former atheist of 25 years, obsessed with picking apart the bible with every opportunity, my recent conversion Ive been slowly undoing the intellectual damage I have self-inflicted. I admit, two years ago I wouldve been quoting gnostic gospels and Da Vinci Code as a credible assault against Christianity, but after my conversion a bit of distrust in the gospels remained. I picked up this book looking for bias confirmation in my faith, admittedly. That being said, Im open minded enough to know when Im reading conjecture and fabricated nonsense which I half-expected with this book. I was pleasantly surprised, because not only did I finish this book with a deeper understanding of the historical accuracy of the gospels, but now have thrown some extra kindling in the "fire" that is my faith in God.
I highly suggest the lay-person read this book, its a quick, interesting and easy read yet filled with enough facts and knowledge to arm any christian against the intellectual assaults of the secular skeptics.
Roberts delves through the basics of the Gospels, such as the manuscripts and whether or not we can find the original wording; when the Gospels were written and who wrote them; the reliability of oral tradition in the second temple period; archeology and whether or not it cushions the Gospel's reliability; and the discrepancies between the Gospels.
Roberts' book is very insightful for individuals who know very little about the Gospels. He lays down his points very thoughtfully and makes concepts easy to grasp. He seems to come across very objective and even comes to conclusions that some conservatives might not wholly agree with( an example would be that the words attributed to Jesus were not verbatim but were paraphrased). This by itself demonstrates that Roberts is genuinely attempting to follow the evidence where it leads.
Other things that make this book unique are the examples and stories from Roberts' life that illuminate the concept he's trying to get across. Many times reading books on the Gospels can become so tedious that it becomes difficult to grasp the information. However, Roberts' writing makes you feel accommodated to, and provides a more comfortable way to learn the material.
Overall, Roberts has done a great job in writing this book. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the Gospels who might be new to NT studies.
I'm keeping this one with me in case I need to read through it again or in case someone I know is interested!!
What makes this book unusual is that Roberts was trained in the higher critical schools that doubt the veracity of the gospels, and he uses those methods to show how the four NT gospels are an acceptable and trustworthy account for the life of Jesus. There has been a great divide between higher critical Biblical scholars and traditional, orthodox ones, to the point where they do not interact with each other at all. Roberts, in using the language of the higher critical world that he studied in, is able to at least dialogue with a general population, who knows little of the back and forth debates and has picked up the information in a second hand matter. This book started as a blog series for Roberts, so in its 200 pages, its writing style takes on the familiar `jotty', FAQ style that is common online, yet it is informed by Roberts years of study in ancient history, manuscripts and theology.
This book is primarily for people who have doubts about the trustworthiness of the gospels. Roberts apologetic, is to attempt to remove obstacles to faith, in this case doubts about the historical validity of the four gospels. What permeates his writing is a sense of reasonableness, that what he presents is based on the best sort of reason. He cannot, for no person can, make the case of absolute certainty. You cannot do that with history. But as a believer and in this case most importantly, a pastor, he wants to remove objections to faith, so that individuals can come to faith with one less objection.
He assumes the reader is not at all deeply familiar with much, other than there are four gospels in the Bible that they have doubts over. As such, his writing on historical, archeological, and cultural evidences for the veracity of the gospels is strong. His explanation of strength of the oral tradition is particularly strong in relating to our non oral culture just how different and effective the transmission of teaching by word of mouth was in that culture.
This is a most effective, and accessible presentation of the facts for the historical reliability of the gospels. In an era buffeted by the popular fiction like the da Vinci Code, popular news stories and the unbending world of modern academia, this little book could be a welcome relief for those concerned and troubled with doubts of the gospels.