Unbelievable? Is There Enough Evidence Beyond the Gospels to Make Their Testimony Reliable?

Christianity.com | 8/11/2017 | Staff
During an interview on Unbelievable? with Justin Brierley, a caller asked about corroboration and wanted to know if there was enough evidence beyond the Gospels to verify the reliability of their testimony. I began by helping him understand the nature of evidential corroboration and the limited information typically offered by such evidence. Every piece of corroborative evidence typically addresses (and verifies) only a “touchpoint”, a small aspect of the testimony from which we infer the “reasonability” of the larger account. Corroborative evidence is always limited; it only addresses a small aspect of the event under consideration. Even with these limits, however, the Gospels are still well corroborated. I’ve written a chapter about this in my book, Cold-Case Christianity, but here is a brief summary of the evidence “beyond the Gospels”:

Ancient “Reluctant Admissions”

Authors - Historians - Antiquity - Jesus - Followers

Non-Christian authors and historians from antiquity mentioned Jesus or His followers repeatedly, even as they denied His Deity or the claims of His supporters. While these ancient sources were hostile to the claims of the New Testament, they reluctantly confirmed key elements of the Gospel narrative.

Even when examining the a modest, redacted version of Josephus’ ancient account, it’s clear that this Jewish historian reluctantly affirmed the following: Jesus lived in Palestine, was a wise man and a teacher, worked amazing deeds, was accused by the Jews, crucified under Pilate and had followers called Christians.

Thallus - Aspect - Gospel - Narratives - Repeat

While Thallus appeared to deny the supernatural aspect of the gospel narratives, he did reluctantly repeat and affirm the following: Jesus lived, was crucified, and there was an earthquake and darkness at the point of his crucifixion.

Cornelius Tacitus (known for his analysis and examination of historical documents and among the most trusted of ancient historians) described Nero’s response to the great fire in Rome and reluctantly affirmed the following: Jesus lived in Judea, was crucified under...
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