Hello, Mike, how are you?
My name is Giuseppe and I'm typing from Brazil, so I apologize for any mistake I may commit in this text. Anyway, I would like to suggest you some reasons why the gospels are good and reliable historical sources, indicating the actual existence of Jesus. There are five reasons to believe so:
1. There was insufficient time for legendary influences to expunge the hardcore of historical facts.
Sometimes people will say: "How can you know anything that happened two thousand years ago". What they failed to understand is that the crucial time gap is not the gap between the evidence and today; rather, what is important is the gap between the evidence and the events that the evidence is about. If the gap between the events and the evidence about them is short, then it doesn't matter how much both the events and the evidence have receded into the past. Good evidence doesn't become bad evidence just because the passage of time. As long as the time gap between the events and the evidence about them is short, then it's just irrelevant how long it has been since the time of the events until the present day.So the question is how close the sources for Jesus life are to the time he lived. Here the gospels are in marked contrast to the sources for greek and roman ancient history. The sources for greek and roman history are usually biased and usually removed one or two generations or even centuries from the events that they record. Yet greco-roman historians reconstruct with confidence the course of greek and roman history. By contrast, the gospels were all written down and circulated within the FIRST generation after the events, while the eye witnesses were still alive. According to professor A. N. Sherwin-White, a professional greco-roman historian, in his book "Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament", for the gospels to be legendary in their core, the rate of legendary accumulation would have to be unbelievable; more generations would be needed.
2. The gospels are not analogous to folk tales or contemporary urban legends.
Tales like those about Paul Bunyan or Pecos Bill or contemporary urban legends about Vanishing hitchhiker rarely concern actual historical individuals, and therefore are not analogous to the gospel narratives. The Gospel accounts are about real people, that actually lived and that you can read about in literature contemporaneous with the New Testament, about real events, that actually took place and about real places, that have been archaeologically excavated. Thus they're not analogous to folk tales or urban legends.
3. The Jewish transmission of sacred traditions was a highly developed and reliable.
In an oral culture, like that of first century Palestine, the ability to memorize and to retain large tracks of oral tradition was a highly prized and a highly developed skill. From the earliest age, children in the home, in the elementary school and in the synagogue, were taught to memoraize faithfully sacred tradition; the disciples would exercise similar care with the teachings of Jesus. Thus to compare the gospel narratives, as some have done, with the child's game of telephone displays a complete misunderstanding of how oral tradition work in an oral culture like firt century jewish society.
4. There were significant restraints on the embellishment of traditions about Jesus, such as the presence of eye witnesses and the apostles supervision.
Since those who would seen and heard Jesus continued to live and the tradition about Jesus remained under the supervision of the apostles, these factors would act as a natural check upon any tendencies to elaborate the facts in a direction contrary to that preserved by those who had known Jesus and were entrusted with the tradition.
5. The gospel writers have a proven track record of historical reliability.
Luke, for example, was the author of a two part work: The gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostles. These are really one work, and they are separated in our Bible simply because the church grouped together the four gospels in assembling the New Testament. Luke is the gospel writer who writes most self-consciously as a historian. In the preface to his work, dedicated to Theophilos, he writes as follows:
"Since many have undertaken to set down an orderly account of the events that havebeen fulfilled among us, just as they were handed onto us by those who from the verybeginning were eye-witnesses and servants of the word, I too decided, afterinvestigating everything carefully from the very first, to write an orderly account foryou, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the truth concerning the thingsabout which you have been instructed."
This preface to Luke's double work was written in classical greek, such as was used by greek historians. After this, Luke changes to a more common greek, but he's putting his reader on alert that he can write, if He wish to, like the learned greek historian. He speaks in his preface of his lengthy investigation into the stories He's about to tell. He assures us that it is based on eye-witnesses information and is accordingly the truth.
Waiting for reply,
Looks like someone needs to spend some time reading the archives of this blog.