Two Very Different Books on the Reliability of the Gospels

I can’t imagine two books about Jesus more different from one another.

In contrast to Ehrman, Pitre’s book is a breath of fresh air. The goal of his book is to defend the notion that Jesus claimed to be God. And he accomplishes this goal by laying a strong foundation for the reliability and trustworthiness of the Gospels as eyewitness sources for the life of Jesus.

 

I have just finished reading Bart Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels: How the Earliest Christians Remembered, Changed, and Invented Their Stories of the Savior (HarperOne, 2016), and Brian Pitre’s The Case for Jesus: The Biblical and Historical Evidence for Christ(Image, 2016).

And I can’t imagine two books about Jesus more different from one another.

Not surprisingly, in his new volume (released again right before Easter!) Ehrman continues his life-long campaign to attack the reliability of the canonical gospels and to raise doubts about their authorship and origins.  Time and time again he asserts that the gospels were late, anonymous productions, written by authors with no connections to the historical Jesus.  I will be offer a full review of Ehrman’s book at a later point.

In contrast to Ehrman, Pitre’s book is a breath of fresh air. The goal of his book is to defend the notion that Jesus claimed to be God. And he accomplishes this goal by laying a strong foundation for the reliability and trustworthiness of the Gospels as eyewitness sources for the life of Jesus.

Pitre tackles the authorship of the canonical gospels by making two simple observations: (a) The Gospel titles support the traditional authorship of the canonical gospels, and (b) the testimony of the church fathers supports the traditional authorship of the canonical gospels.

These are not new observations, but Pitre presents them in a manner that reminds the reader how important (and compelling) they are.

As for the titles, Pitre points out the obvious (but for Ehrman, problematic) fact that “there is a striking absence of any anonymous Gospel manuscripts. That is because they don’t exist. Not even one” (17). On the contrary, our earliest gospel manuscripts contain the titles that attribute these books to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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