I recently listened to two podcast episodes from Unbelievable? where Bart Ehrman and Richard Bauckham discuss the reliability of the Gospels, specifically in the area of eyewitness testimony. The two episodes are:
- Are the Gospels based on eyewitness testimony? Bart Ehrman vs Richard Bauckham
- Ehrman vs Bauckham Part 2: Can we trust eyewitness testimony?
I think that Bauckham does a great job of responding to Ehrman in these debates. I agree with Bauckham that in those years before the early Christian writers were citing the Gospels by the traditional authors that they did distinguish them in some way. I do not believe that they were anonymous, even if the author’s name is not in the text itself.
In terms of the accuracy of eyewitness testimony, I think Ehrman is off there as well. I do believe that there are challenges in comparing modern studies with ancient oral cultures. Not only this, I believe that the teaching of Jesus were kept, not just as the observations of people who witnessed them, but as disciples holding on to the teachers of their Master. There was more pressure to pass on the traditions accurately. I also suspect that historians do not judge non-biblical eyewitnesses with the same skepticism that Ehrman uses for the Gospels.
Have a listen to the debates and you may want to read the books written by each author as well.