Bill asked:

My question is on the historical Jesus. How is it we have this person sent from God, yet have no record of his life after birth until his ministry began? How are we to rely on the authors of the Gospels as accurate historians when we don’t know who they are?

Patrick Coffin added:

"... Doctor McGuire we do have almost really a silence between the presentation when Jesus is a baby and the appearance in the temple when he’s twelve or thirteen. Then there’s another two decades, and it opens with his baptism. So there’s that question. What about that time gap? And also who wrote the gospels? Did Matthew, and that’s another set of questions it seems to me."

Brendan McGuire replied:

"As far as the time gap in Jesus’ early life, that can be addressed along with the other question because ... you have to put this whole problem in the context of what we know about other historical figures of similar antiquity. And the fact of the matter is that we have far better sources that are far more numerous and contemporary for the life of Jesus than we have for any other figure of remotely similar antiquity ...

Contrast it with the life of the prophet Muhammad. We have a whole tradition through the Islamic religion about the life of the prophet Muhammad ... All of the traditions all of the documentation of those sources ... it’s very, very, very late. And it opens up all kinds of questions about ways in which the prophet’s life could have been received and communicated and transmitted from one generation to another, ultimately for two or three centuries before you finally have the written sources which we possess today. Whereas with the gospels it’s manifestly a different situation. We have multiple written biographies of Jesus, that are basically contemporary with him, within a generation or two. That were written in the first century, where he lived by men who knew him and saw him or by those who talked to men who knew him and saw him. Even if you don’t believe in the divine inspiration of the gospels, it’s impossible to ignore the gospels as historical sources. They’re far, far better than any other historical biographical sources that we have for anyone else’s life in that time or even in more recent historical times."

Patrick Coffin replied:

"It is astonishing, that part of it isn’t it? Compared to the writings of Plato or Livy or Suetonius and so on. The gap between the time when they wrote and the earliest extant manuscript can’t compare with the veracity that points toward the historical reliability of the New Testament."

Source material:

Editor's note: Check out Jimmy Akin's article Did Jesus Exist?


Catholic Answers, "Church history" (San Diego: Catholic Answers, 2013)

Editor's note: This is an excerpt of the answer provided. For the complete response download the podcast.

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Show air date: September 23, 2013

Name of show: Church history

Guest comments by: Brendan McGuire

Question appeared in show: 29:29

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