I am surprised at how little Christians know about the Gospels. Yes they know the stories and can recognize some of the parables but when it comes to what the Gospels are and why they are reliable, many are ignorant. Here are five things you should know about the Gospels.
- The Gospels are a form of ancient biography. Not everyone accepts this but ever since Richard Burridge’s What Are the Gospels? there has been a general consensus that they are ancient biographies. This does not mean that they are not historical. Ancient biographers were very interested in history (just as ancient historians were very interested in biographies).
- The Gospels were written quite soon after the events. There is a difference of opinion of whether the Gospels were written 50-60s AD or 70-80s AD. But even the later date puts the Gospels much closer than many other biographies of the people they describe.
- The Gospels in the New Testament were the only gospels written in the first century. Some people suggest that there were dozens of gospels of similar value to choose from. All the other gospels were from the second to the fourth centuries.
- The use of sources by the Gospel-writers do not make them any less inspired. Most New Testament scholars believe that Mark was written first and that Matthew/Luke used Mark and a source known as Q as well as their own traditions. This use of sources is completely compatible with the doctrine of inspiration.
- The Gospels are anonymous within the texts themselves. That is, nowhere in the body of the texts do the Gospels reveal the author. Having said that, the traditions of the authors is very early and the authors are not those one would expect to be made up. There is good reason to believe that the traditional authors wrote those Gospels.