Are the Gospels historical?
Is the Bible a myth, full of fairy stories? Did the events recorded there really happen? Does it even matter? Join an historian who once disliked the Christian message but now writes to defend it to explore these big questions and more. A fascinating and engaging conversation recorded in the heart of Melbourne.
Our Guest: Dr. Michael Bird. Mike grew up in Brisbane before joining the Army where he served in a variety of roles. It was in this time that he became a Christian and then left the Army to pursue theological qualifications. Mike has taught in theological colleges in Scotland and Brisbane before joining the faculty at Ridley College in 2013. Michael has written and edited over fifteen books including ‘The Gospel of the Lord: how the early church wrote the story of Jesus’. Twitter: mbird12
This Bigger Questions episode is a re-edit and re-release of Episode 2 (recorded under the show's former title, hence the absence of episode number).
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Bigger Questions asked in the conversation
It’s great you can join us today Mike. In your recent book you write that growing up everything you ever knew about Christianity was from Ned Flanders on the Simpsons. Was that an attractive picture to you at the time?
You mention that as a teenager you were presented with three options about Jesus. He was either a liar, a lunatic or the Lord. What convinced you to consider him as ‘Lord’?
Origin of Gospels
What we make of Jesus depends a lot on whether we can trust what is written in the Gospels. You have a new book coming out, The Gospel of the Lord: how the early church wrote the story of Jesus, which outlines the origins of the Gospels. So, give us the scoop, tell us the story behind the story. How did we get the four Gospels we now have?
It is common to use CS Lewis’ characterisations ‘Liar’, ‘Lunatic’ and ‘Lord’ as the options facing us when assessing Jesus. But there is another option, ‘legend’ - the Gospels are simply fairy stories that have been invented. World famous atheist Richard Dawkins in his ‘God Delusion’ claims that ‘the Gospels are ancient fiction’. How do you react to claims like that?
The Bible's Answer
We have a couple of passages relevant to our discussion today. The first is from the book of John - often criticised for not being historical, John 21:24-25
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true. 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
Who is this disciple?
The prologue to Luke’s Gospel, Luke 1:1-4
Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.
Many would suggest on the basis of this that Luke is intending to write something historical that we can trust. Does Luke intend to write accurate history?
‘Michael, you spoke of people writing things down, but do we know how these people wrote things down? I mean they didn’t have notebooks like us, they had a scroll of some sort, could they could carry that around and write on it?
The Big Question
So Mike, today we’ve thought about the Gospels. In your view, Myth or Truth? Are the Gospels historical?
So given this. How should we respond? If you’re listening to this now, what next?