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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, Senior Editor, Acton Institute; co-author, How to Argue Like Jesus
"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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Top Customer Reviews
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!
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.
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.