If you are a student of the New Testament you will often hear the terms: “Primary and Secondary Sources,” used in reference to Biblical Criticism. In order to verify the veracity of the New Testament, some scholars use these two sources in their evaluation of whether or not we can rely upon the texts which describe Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.
If we believe the New Testament is what it claims to be: a historical record of eyewitness testimony from the men who saw and heard Jesus, this is our Primary Source to prove reliability. If the New Testament is our Primary Source, we do not require any secondary, secular, or non-biblical sources, to confirm the texts of the New Testament. Can we prove the Bible by the Bible?
- The evidence of the 24,593 extant manuscript copies for the New Testament.
- The Old Testament scriptures which confirm Jesus as the Messiah.
- The written testimony of the men who saw and heard Jesus.
- The command of Jesus to write a record of all they had seen and send it to the world.
- The testimony of Paul who saw Jesus on the Road to Damascus and believed.
- Paul’s missionary journeys to Asia Minor, recorded in Acts.
- Paul’s subsequent letters that confirm Jesus’ claim to be God, miracles as evidence, crucifixion and resurrection.
- The secular records of the Romans and Jews who describe Jesus in Jerusalem during the same period that the New Testament places Him there.
People who do not believe the extant record of New Testament manuscript evidence is proof that Jesus said and did all that these documents describe, seek to use outside, or secondary sources to diminish the authority of the New Testament.
- The assertion that the writers of the New Testament were not eyewitnesses who wrote these texts immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- The assertion that the texts we find in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, borrowed from unknown documents: Critics refer to the material only found in Matthew and Luke as the “double tradition,” also known as Q. Text that is distinctively located in Matthew is described as the M tradition. Text found uniquely in Luke is described as the L tradition. See, “The Synoptic Problem.”
- The assertion that the four Gospels are a fictional romance-type novel, as Pervo and MacDonald assert.
It is my opinion, and the opinions of many other Christian scholars, that the New Testament is sufficient, exculpatory evidence to impeach fraud, historical in nature, and written by men who saw Jesus or dictated their eyewitness testimony to scribes who recorded their testimony. For these reasons we do not require secondary sources—which have as their basis—the idea that the extant manuscripts for the New Testament are not truthful, accurate, or reliable.
These false assertions exist only in the minds of atheist and progressive scholars who seek to impugn the reliability of the New Testament. If the New Testament was unable to prove its historical eyewitness foundation, we might need to look for other secondary sources. As the New Testament also relies upon a substantial part of the Old Testament for its citations to events Jesus is described as fulfilling from the Old Testament prophets, this becomes a reliable secondary source to verify the New Testament.
Primary Source Evidence For Confirmation Of The New Testament
The Primary Source for the New Testament is the extant manuscript evidence itself. Today we have the largest, earliest, surviving manuscript evidence to validate the texts of the New Testament, of any event in antiquity. Several years ago I compiled a list of 24,593 manuscript copies that exist for the New Testament.
Fortunately for our generation, we have surviving manuscript copies of nearly the entire New Testament that are dated as early as 175 A.D.[A] The existence of manuscript copies from 175 A.D. demands that the original autographs must have been written early in the first century. The reason we do not have these original autographs is due to the survivability of papyrus under the brutal conditions that existed in antiquity.[B] What we do have today is 24,593 surviving manuscript copies of the original autographs that fully validate the events described in the New Testament, as sworn by the writers of the four Gospels.
“And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe.”[C]
There is credible evidence in the historical record to prove that the synoptic Gospels were written early in the first century—beginning immediately after Jesus ascended back to heaven.
The very words of Jesus Himself state that He expected these men to write a testimony of what they had seen and heard, and that Jesus would send the Holy Spirit to remind them of these things so they could accurately write.[D] Jesus commanded these men to take their testimony to the entire world.
This would not be possible unless there was a written testimony that was sent out by courier to the churches in Asia Minor, and then dispatched to the rest of the world. Jesus told the Apostle John: “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last,” and, “What you see, write in a book and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia: to Ephesus, to Smyrna, to Pergamos, to Thyatira, to Sardis, to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”
In John 9:4, Jesus told the disciples, “We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned to us by the one who sent us.” It is clear that Jesus did not want these men to delay. They must quickly carry out the tasks God assigned to them, by writing on papyrus the things they had seen and heard and send them out to every nation.
The reason is clear: God wanted the whole world to know that salvation was available to everyone. God had kept His promise to send the world a Savior, and He desired that every person would have a chance to hear and be saved. Jesus wanted the people who were alive at that time, in every distant land of the world, to also have the opportunity to receive Jesus and obtain salvation. The idea that the Gospels would not be written for decades, or that Jesus did not intend that the Apostles would write a testimony about Him and send it to the world, is preposterous.
Critics of the New Testament seek to assert that the four Gospels were written late in the first century, long after the eyewitnesses had perished, but never provide evidence to prove this hypothesis. In every book, article, and comment written by liberal scholars, you will not find any valid evidence to prove a late-date writing for the synoptic Gospels. All of these statements in books and articles are merely the opinion of these liberal scholars.
It is possible to prove a very early writing of the synoptic Gospels by empirical evidence
When we compare the shear number and early date for the New Testament documents that have survived time and decay, with every other extant manuscript evidence for both secular and religious events of antiquity, there is not one that is even close to the Primary Source evidence we have for the New Testament.
When we compare the actual texts of these manuscript copies we find that our Modern New Testament matches these manuscript copies, in every fundamental and important event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. The textual variants that are asserted by critical scholars, are nothing more that variations of words that mean the same thing.
Does a different arrangement of the text, or different words, make these verses unreliable? Of course not. Critics of the New Testament state that variants in the ancient copies of the New Testament texts, disqualify these narratives of Jesus as reliable.
Commonality Of Text Between The Synoptic Gospels: Forensic Evidence
In the illustration above we find a graphic image that depicts the commonality of texts within the Synoptic Gospels. Critics of the New Testament use charts like this to define the need for secondary sources, or outside sources, necessary to explain the reasons for the common texts found within these three Gospel narratives.
There is adequate unanimity between the New Testament witnesses to demonstrate corroboration, but sufficient variation to eliminate collaboration.
In reality, we do not need to explain the common texts by secondary or outside sources like Q, all we need to do is allow the texts themselves to speak, and study why these Gospel narratives are similar yet different. When we examine the Synoptic Gospels it becomes clear that these men did not borrow from an outside, unknown source, they were all at the scene of the same events they describe, or these events were dictated to them as is with Luke.
When multiple persons are recounting the same event by their own recollection, they will remember slightly different details. This is quite common amongst eyewitnesses who see the same incident. Witnesses will tell similar stories with slightly different versions. Police officers who interview witnesses who were present at an accident or crime often report a similar phenomenon. People were clearly at the same event, but saw and heard slightly different things. These are not conflicts; they are a common occurrence in recording eyewitness testimony.
The fact that we see a slight variation of the same event, as recorded by Matthew Mark and Luke, gives greater credibility to the authenticity of what is written. Contrived stories almost always take special care to make certain that their testimonies match exactly, whereas genuine testimony almost always consists of similar versions of the same events, told from a slightly different perspective.
If the witnesses recall slightly different details of the events, even placing them in a different order, while telling the same story, this is evidence of truthful narratives.
An assertion by critics of the New Testament is that there are differences in the testimony of those who write about the same events. These differences and slight variations in events, or their order, are empirical proof that the narratives are true. In all genuine written testimony about true events, witnesses see and remember these events differently, although they saw the same things.
The Purpose Of Four Gospels
The reason that God gave the world four Gospels is understood by their precise construction.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke are focused primarily on the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. John’s Gospel is different, in that it is clearly written to explain the meaning of the events described by the other Gospel writers. John explains all of the things Jesus said and did in context with His power as God.
- Matthew writes to reveal Jesus as the promised King, the Messiah. He records twenty-five Hebrew prophecies from the Old Testament that are fulfilled by Jesus as the Messiah. This would be extremely important to the Jewish audience Matthew was seeking to reach.
- Mark presents Jesus to us as a servant who came to die for the sins of the world. For this reason, Mark leaves out many of the details of the other gospels in seeking to narrow the information to its basic content necessary to reach the simplest person, particularly the slave or uneducated.
- Luke writes from the perspective of a medical doctor and presents Jesus to us as a human being. Luke describes Jesus with great technical prowess, including tremendous details that are not present in the other gospels, while describing the very same events.
- John begins his Gospel of Jesus by informing us that Jesus did not have a beginning. He has always existed as the Eternal God (John 1:1). John’s genealogy of Jesus is simply, “In the beginning was the Word.” It is John’s intent to present Jesus to us as the Eternal God who came to offer salvation to the world. For this reason, he included the miracles Jesus performed to validate His claim that He is God and the only One qualified to save the world.
If we read through a portion of text that is found in three or all four of the Gospels and carefully compare exactly what each writer is saying. You will see the same narrative, but with slightly different statements that either add or omit certain details. These details do not change the story, but they do tell us that we are reading four separate accounts by four separate writers who all saw the same events.
The writers of the four Gospels claim, 134 times, that they are eyewitnesses of all they wrote. We see in the text that Jesus called these four men to be His witnesses and they were with Him during His entire three and one-half years of ministry. These men say in the text that they saw Jesus perform miracles, but didn’t believe He was God or Messiah at first. They say that it was only after they saw Jesus crucified and then alive three days later that they were convinced, by the physical evidence of His risen body, that He is God and Messiah.
- Paul: 1 Corinthians 9:1: “Am I not an apostle? Haven’t I seen Jesus our Lord with my own eyes?
- Peter: 1 Peter 1:16: “We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes.”
- John: 1 John 1:1:”We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands.”
- James, Paul, all the Apostles: 1 Corinthians 15:7: “Then Jesus was seen alive by James and later by all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him.”
- Mary Magdalene: John 20:18: “Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!”
- Peter: Acts 5:29-32: “But Peter and the apostles replied… We are witnesses of these things…”
- John: 1 John 1:2-3: “This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us. We proclaim to you what we ourselves have actually seen and heard so that you may have fellowship with us.
- Mary Magdalene: John 20:11-17
- Mary Magdalene/ Salome: Matthew 28:9-10
- Peter: Luke 24:34
- Two Disciples on the road to Emmaus: Luke 24:13-32
- Ten Apostles together at once: Luke 24:33-49
- Eleven Apostles together at once: John 20:26-30
- Seven Apostles at once: John 21:1-14
- Twelve Apostles at once: Matthew 28:16-20
- Over 500 eyewitnesses saw Jesus alive: 1 Corinthians 15:6
- James: 1 Corinthians 15:7
- Eleven Apostles: Acts 1:4-9
- Paul: Acts 9:3-6: “As Paul was approaching Damascus on this mission, a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?” “Who are you, lord?” Saul asked. And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting! 6 Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
- Mary Magdalene: Mark 16:11 :But when she told them that Jesus was alive and she had seen him, they didn’t believe her.”
- Paul: Acts 9:17
- Paul 1 Corinthians 15:8
- Paul: Acts 18:9-10
- Paul Acts 22:12-21
- Paul: Acts 23:11
- Paul: Acts 26:12-18
This is what eyewitness testimony is all about; people write what they remember, and the precise details do not always agree. This is not evidence of contradiction, because all of the added or omitted details that each witness recorded, can all be true at the same time. In a genuine contradiction, two things, or multiple things, cannot all be true at the same time.
An Example Of Commonality In Providing Individual Writers
in Matthew 26:7, a woman is described by Matthew as bringing costly fragrant oil and pouring it on Jesus’ head.
“A woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table.” ~Matthew 26:7
Luke also gives us an account of this event:
“And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil.” ~Luke 7:37
Neither Matthew nor Luke tells us who this woman was. When we read the narrative of John for this same event, we discover that the woman was Mary, sister of Martha and Lazarus.
“There they made Him a supper; and Martha served, but Lazarus was one of those who sat at the table with Him. Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil.” ~John 12:2-3
Why did John include Mary’s name, when Matthew and Luke did not? Perhaps it was because Mary’s love for Jesus was extreme. John remembered her deep devotion, an emotion he held in common with Mary.
This event was apparently engraved upon John’s memory; and when he wrote his testimony of this event—where Mary poured costly oil on Jesus’ head—John remembered who it was, while the others did not or simply omitted her name by oversight. Matthew and Luke wrote their accounts of this event about 60 A.D. John wrote his, including Mary’s name, near 90 A.D.
It is likely that John had read the texts of Matthew and Luke and remembered who this woman was. By John including Mary’s name into His Gospel, which he wrote after the others, we can understand that this is proof that all four Gospels are truthful and not contrived. We can also use this as evidence that Matthew and Luke must have written their Gospels before John.
How Forensic Examination, Proves Reliability
This might seem like a vague and unimportant difference, but for a person who is trained in forensic investigation for written testimony, this is empirical evidence of genuine testimony. By this example of John including a minor detail in adding Mary’s name, while the other Gospel writers did not, we understand that these differences in testimony validate the Gospels as genuine accounts.
People see events in past history. They write about what they saw. These documents are circulated. If the events were true, many thousands of documents are copied and further distributed. After 2,000 years we have the historical artifacts of what these men saw—the surviving 24,593 manuscript copies. Events that are myth are soon discovered as myths and they do not have 24,000 surviving manuscript copies 2,000 years later.
There are many places in the narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that retain slight differences in their descriptions. These are clear evidence of truthful testimony.
We also see this artifact of the New Testament Gospels in slight variation of words used in subsequent translations of the New Testament, which mean the same thing:
This Is Precisely What You Will See In The Text Of Matthew’s Gospel That Follows:
These variations happened over the course of history as the text was copied, commented upon, and spread throughout the world. None of these changes affect the story of Jesus or invalidates who He is or what He has done.
Then she will bring forth to you a son
Then she will bring forth a son
you will call his name
they will call his name
the children of Jerusalem
all of Jerusalem
into the Jordan
in the Jordan
throw yourself down from here
throw yourself down
What you will discover as a reader of these texts is that the slight variations are really different translations of the same text, much like our modern translations of the New Testament today. We have several translations of these same texts in the NKJV, NLT, NIV, TLB, and ESV versions.
Read the following verse of scripture from the Gospel of John and you will see that they both communicate the same meaning, but use slightly different words and arrangement of words in their sentences:
John 3:16 (NLT) “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16 (NKJV) For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
None of the alleged textual variants changes the narrative about Jesus, nor does it cause doubts about the reliability of these texts. In fact, these variations indicate a forensic piece of evidence known to us who investigate texts of antiquity for evidence of fraud. Variations in words that mean the same thing, over the course of nearly 2,000 years, yet tell exactly the same story about Jesus, indicated truthful, and reliable testimony.
If the texts of the surviving manuscript copies for the New Testament had complete changes in narrative, such as no crucifixion or resurrection, this would an omission of great concern. what we find upon investigation, is that not one of the primary events of Jesus time here on earth, has been omitted. All of the events that we find in our modern New Testament, match those of the oldest manuscript copies of the New Testament.
New Testament Verses Not Included In Modern English Translations
In most cases, where we find that a particular verse, word, or phrase is in dispute, these same verses, words, and phrases are written in other places in the New Testament. In other words, in cases where one of the four Gospels does not have these items in their texts, but they are in another Gospel, some of the translators or copyist, thought that this was an omission and simply decided to add the item to the text.
None of these additions or omissions are done for a dishonest or malicious motives, because they do not harm the text, or the narrative about Jesus. Clearly a well-meaning scribes or translators were seeking to help the reader, without realizing they were harming the text. In any case, none of these additions or omissions, alters the narrative of Jesus.
We know today by modern forensic procedures that these differences in the four Gospels; the omission or addition of certain details that one writer included or excluded, are evidence of truthful testimony. If we have four witnesses who are writing about the same event, we could expect that one witness would remember things that others did not. These are not artifacts of deceit, but authenticity.
In any case, all of these alleged interpolations are not malicious in nature, and they have no effect on the overall truthfulness or reliability of the texts. What does happen is that dishonest atheist scholars often use the existence of these added and omitted texts to try and assert that no one can trust the New Testament. This is both dishonest, and malicious in its intent.
In a majority of the following verses that were added or omitted, they are included in other places in the New Testament manuscripts. These verse are shown here to make it clear that the omission of the questionable verse does not change or diminish the narrative testimony of the writers of the New Testament.
The Sixteen Verses Not Included In Modern English Versions:
- Matthew 17:21
- Matthew 18:11
- Matthew 23:14
- Mark 7:16
- Mark 9:44
- Mark 9:46
- Mark 11:26
- Mark 15:28
- Luke 17:36
- John 5:3–4
- Acts 8:37
- Acts 15:34
- Acts 24:6–8
- Acts 28:29
- Romans 16:24
- 1 John 5:7–8
Redaction Criticism recognizes that the writers of the New Testament were not as concerned with the chronological sequence of historical events as in recording the person testimony about Jesus for the world. The reason that we find these events in different order in the synoptic Gospels, is because these men are writing their testimony according to their personal remembrance. In John chapter 14:25-26, Jesus tells these men that after He is risen and returns to heaven, He will send the Holy Spirit who will “bring to their remembrance, all the things He had said and done.”
“These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” ~John 14:25-26
One of the negative aspects of the Redaction Criticism, is the assumption of the Marcan priority. If we simply examine and study each of the four Gospels independent of each other, and compare them side by side, we discover that there are significant and marked differences in a majority of the similar events.
Although Matthew, Mark, and Luke are similar, In my analysis, these texts are not mere copies of each other.
There is adequate unanimity between these witnesses to demonstrate corroboration, but sufficient variation in their details and particular differences in the accounts to eliminate the assertion of collaboration.
This cannot be resolved by textual criticism, asserting that Matthew and Luke received their texts from Mark, or that Matthew got his text from Mark, and Luke from Matthew.
Upon careful comparison, all three synoptic Gospels are different from each other in their details, while describing the same events. These are three independent accounts.
The first three books of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are frequently referred to as the Synoptic Gospels. Described in this manner due to their similarities to each other, while different from John’s Gospel. For some critics, these similarities are so close that a great controversy and debate has ensued. The result of this disagreement is commonly referred to as The Synoptic Problem.”
It is my view that scholars themselves created this problem due to a lack of understanding in precisely what has been written. In examination of these three Gospels, we find precisely what we would expect from three independent sources: There is adequate unanimity between these Gospel witnesses to demonstrate corroboration, but sufficient variation to eliminate collaboration.
All three Gospel authors wrote independent accounts. The differences are explained by simple forensic investigation which reveals that in genuine testimony which is truthful, multiple witnesses write a majority of the same accounts, with additions and omissions separate from the others. These differences are in accordance with individual memory and independent priority. The existence of these differences in recollection are precisely what forensic experts look for in written testimony in order to confirm truthful accounts.
All that has ensued with these various theories is what could be expected when so many opinions of men creep into an analysis of God’s word, confusion. By simply reading the text of all four Gospels, no theory is necessary. There are similarities in the synoptic Gospels when the writers are recounting the actual words of Jesus, or an event that a particular Gospel writer thought was significant. Other writers either added their own details, or omitted the details other writers included because they were either not as important as other details, or not remembered at the time of writing.
If the writers had copied from each other, it is likely that we would find a nearly identical account in all the Gospels. A significant marker of individuality, while maintaining corroborating accounts, demonstrates the independent memories of each Gospel writer.
Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the three, while large sections are also found in Matthew and Luke. Analysis suggests that Matthew and Luke share over two hundred verses that are not found in Mark. These similarities are found in their subject matter, precise words, and the order of specific events. When critics find these similarities in all three of the Synoptic Gospels, they refer to these as the triple tradition. Critics refer to the material only found in Matthew and Luke as the double tradition, also known as Q. Text that is distinctively located in Matthew is described as the M tradition. Text found uniquely in Luke is described as the L tradition.
It is important to understand that even with these diverse differences in text in all three Gospels, they all share a commonality in the same narratives they are recounting. None of these differences changes the fundamental and important accounts of Jesus in coming to earth as God in the form of a man, performing miracles to prove His claim to be God, dying by crucifixion, and being raised from the dead. All four Gospel writers emphasize the importance of Jesus as the true Messiah, fulfilling all of the prophecies required for the Messiah. All four Gospels recount these same important events, defining them as credible, truthful independent narratives.
God does not restrict the individuality of persons who serve Him to write, speak, or serve in the same way that everyone else does. Those whom Jesus called to witness all that He said and did, had the freedom to write a narrative from the memory the Holy Spirit enabled them with (John 14:26). Each man wrote their accounts from the mind, personality, recollection, and abilities of each individual. These differences in memory, style of writing, additions or omissions of details, does not remove the inspiration of the text as coming from God, promised by Jesus before He went to the cross.
Secondary Source Evidence For Confirmation Of The New Testament
Because there is still a great deal of debate regarding the Synoptic Problem, the following theories are offered as ideas that scholars have proposed. It is important to understand that no one knows if any of these theories are correct. There is no person who can definitively state that any one of these ideas is the correct solution. It my opinion, as stated earlier, none of these ideas are necessary if we understand the text itself.
The Augustinian Theory:
This theory suggests that Matthew was the first Gospel that was written, followed by Mark, then Luke. This hypothesis describes the second and third Gospels as relying upon the previous Gospel(s) as their sources. Some scholars see a preservation of Matthean priority as essential due to certain statements that were voiced by some of the early church fathers. One statements originated from Augustine who said that the evangelists “have written in this order: first Matthew, then Mark, third Luke, and last John.”[2, 3]
The Griesbach Theory:
Similar to the Traditional Augustinian Theory, the Griesbach Theory also preserves a Matthean priority. Unlike the Augustinian theory, this Two-Gospel Hypothesis requires Luke as the second Gospel, followed by Mark as the third. In this theory, Luke would have used Matthew as a source, Mark would have used both Matthew and Luke as their sources. The Matthean priority obtains its support from the church fathers, stated by Clement of Alexandria who wrote that the Gospels and their genealogies found in Matthew and Luke, were written first.
One point to consider in this theory is the difficulty it has with the Matthean priority. It is clear that Mark’s Gospel is the shortest with the majority of its text also found in Matthew and Luke. It is difficult to explain how the shortest Gospel is less than ten percent original, particularly when we understand Peter’s interpretation of these events through Mark. If Mark was truly a summary of Matthew and Luke, how do we account for the omission of important points that are observed in the other two Gospels, such as the birth of Jesus and His Sermon on the Mount?
We find further difficulties in some of the earliest quotes that support a Matthean priority, stating that it was written in the Hebrew or Aramaic dialect first. As a result, these references do not require a Matthean priority in the Greek text, that would also allow the possibility for Markan or Lukan priority. Papias said: “Matthew gathered the sayings of Jesus in the Hebrew tongue, and each person translated them as he was able.”
The Two-Source Theory:
This theory has become the most widely accepted conjecture amongst many New Testament scholars today. The reason for its popularity is that the two-source theory resolves the problems that originate with the Matthean priority, while also impeaching the problem of the double tradition. By the Two-Source Theory, priority is specified to Mark. The two-source theory states that both Matthew and Luke independently used Mark as their primary sources. Matthew reproduces most of its text from Mark, while Luke includes more than half of Mark’s text. By accessing Mark as a source, Matthew and Luke subsequently required Q as a common source.
Correctly Interpreting Q:
The letter Q is an abbreviation for the German word Quelle which means “source” or “spring.” In practice, Q may refer to different ideas. In one application, Q may be used to describe substantial first century documents. A second application may be its use to define several individual parts of diverse first century documents. Another application is in the oral tradition(s). Finally, Q is sometimes used in the double tradition material that is observed in both Matthew and Luke.
Because the Q document is an alleged document of hypothesis, there are several different conjectures in New Testament scholarship related to its criticism. I have had issues with the usage of such an idea because it cannot be validated and exists only in the hypothetical. This has become one of the primary tools used by liberal critics to prove ideas about the New Testament that are, as yet, unproven.
Amongst the conjectures for Q, is the idea that it antedates Matthew and Luke. In this regard, Q would be classified as a Sayings-Gospel. Different from the Gospels we do have, Q would not include Gospel narratives due to the existence of Q as a hypothesis and not a reality. I personally object to Q for the same reasons that I object to many of the unprovable assertions that are a part of New Testament Criticism today. These postulated ideas, give the unsuspecting layperson or student the idea that they are proven and reliable conclusions. They are not.
In debates with nearly 1,000 atheists I have heard the common claims of Q, late-dates for the writing of the Gospels, and the assertion that non-eyewitnesses wrote the text. None of these are provable, but the majority of seminary students, and people who read the books and commentary written by liberal New Testament scholars, assume they are correct and proven.
Unlike the Gospels which are a part of the New Testament, Q would not contain narrative sections because the Q material in both Matthew and Luke are sometimes placed in different contexts. Q remains a hypothesis and until there is actual evidence to prove its reality, I for one, will not accept it as fact.
The Three-Source Theory:
The least popular of the synoptic problem solutions is the Three-Source Theory. This idea is similar to the Two-Source Theory, with the exception of one important point: Markan priority and the utilization of Q are both accessed, while the Three-Source Theory also adheres to a Matthean influence on Luke. This requires Mark as the first Gospel, then Matthew, and finally Luke. In this theory, Matthew and Luke are using the prior Gospel(s) as its source along with Q. Many scholars have difficulty with this idea due to the requirement of Luke in using text from Matthew, which is viewed as doubtful. This would impeach the idea of using Q in the first place.
The Four-Source Theory:
This is a unique theory that is centered on all the elements of the Two-Source Theory. The Four-Source Theory also makes use of Matthew and Luke independently using Mark and Q, with each Gospels accessing material that was unique to themselves. The text that we find used exclusively by Matthew is called M tradition, while Luke’s text is called L tradition. Understanding that this theory is simply a form of the Two-Source Theory, this has become a preferred solution for many scholars.
Farrer Theory (Mark without Q):
The final theory is called the Farrer Theory. As with the previous ideas described in this article, the Farrer Theory gives priority to Mark’s Gospel. In this theory, Matthew is the second Gospel that was written, followed by Luke. The Farrer Theory describes Matthew accessing the text of Mark, while Luke would have made use of Mark and Matthew. This theory does not require a theoretical Q due to there being no need to explain the triple and the double traditions from outside sources. A few of the primary advocates for this view are: A. M. Farrer, Mark Goodacre, J. H. Ropes, and M. D. Goulder. Some scholars see the Farrer Theory as a solid solution the the Synoptic Problem without the requirement of any hypothetical external texts.
Other Interests In New Testament Criticism:
- Why The New Testament Is a Valid Historical Narrative
- The Four Gospels Were Not Written Anonymously
- Alleged Textual Variants Of The New Testament Do Not Change The Narrative
- The Internal Evidence Of The New Testament Proves Its Integrity And Reliability
- Why I Don’t Rely On Other Scholars For My New Testament Conclusions
- Archeological Discoveries That Confirm The New Testament Narratives Of Jesus
- How Forensic Evidence Proves The New Testament Is Historical And Reliable
- First Century Manuscript Evidence For Jesus
- It Is Very Easy To Deceive An Atheist
- Impeaching The Idea That The New Testament Is Not True
- New Testament Reliability: Eyewitnesses And Liars
- The Four Gospels Were Not Written Anonymously
- The New Testament Passes Every Literary Test of History
- The New Testament Is Intended As Historical Accounts
- Examining The New Testament For Reliability And Eyewitness Accounts
- Proving The New Testament Is A Reliable Narrative Of Jesus’ Crucifixion And Resurrection From Evidence
- Does Jesus Live In The Believer? How Jesus Communicated A Remembrance Of All He Had Done To The New Testament Writers
- Table Of Extant Greek New Testament Manuscripts
- 121 Non Biblical Sources For Jesus in the Historical Record
- How Does Criticism Of The New Testament Relate To Its Reliability?
- Evidence Of New Testament Reliability: Reliance Upon The Old Testament
- Truth And Lies Regarding New Testament Reliability
- The Truth Of The New Testament Is Not Defined By Opinion, Bias, Or, Doubt, But By Historical Evidence
- The Historical Records Of Jesus’ Life, Death, And Resurrection Are Unimpeachable
- How Liberal New Testament Scholars Deceive The World Today
- When A New Testament Scholar Is Not
- Jesus Authenticates The New Testament As Scripture
- The New Testament is Written by Jews, About Jews, For Jews
- Empirical Integrity of the New Testament
- Biblical Inerrancy And The Errors Of Critics
- The Reliability of the New Testament
- The Historical Record Proves That God Exists
- Old Testament Law: A Lesson In God’s Nature Not Understood Today
- Are The Old Testament Laws Applicable Today?
- The Greatest And Most Astute Scholar In History Said That Jesus Is God And Messiah
- The Historical Documentation For Jesus’ Death And Resurrection
- The Death and Resurrection of the Messiah Predicted by the Old Testament
- If You Just Read The New Testament For Yourself, You Will See That It Is True
- How Peter Knew the Birth of Jesus Church Was a Fulfillment of Prophecy
- New Testament Evidence, Jesus is “Yahweh” of the Old Testament
- Principle Differences Between Jesus And All Other Gods And Religions
- These Things Were Written: An Expositional Treatise Of The Life, Death, And Resurrection Of Jesus
- How Faith And Evidence Work Together
[A] P46 is the earliest New Testament Codex Manuscript in existence, dated at 175-225 A.D. It contains the following letters written by Paul:
- Romans 1:1–5:17
- Romans 5:17–6:14
- Romans 6:14–8:15
- Romans 8:15–11:35
- Romans 11:35–14:8
- Romans 14:9–15:11
- Romans 15:11–Hebrews 8:8
- Hebrews 8:9–9:10
- Hebrew 9:10–26
- Hebrews 9:26–1 Corinthians 2:3
- 1 Corinthians 2:3–3:5
- 1 Corinthian 3:6–2 Corinthians 9:7
- 2 Corinthian 9:7–end, Ephesians, Galatians 1:1–6:10
- Galatians 6:10–end, Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians 1:1–2:3
- 1 Thessalonians 2:3–5:5
- 1 Thessalonians 5:5, 23–28
- 1 Thessalonians 5:28–2 Thessalonians, Philemon; 1–2 Timothy, and Titus
- P45, P46, and P47, From 200 A. D. contain surviving manuscript copies from all four gospels, and Acts (P45), with 30 references to Jesus’ death and resurrection.
- P46: From 200 A.D.,Contains Roman 6:5-14, Confirming Jesus’ Crucifixion And Resurrection
[B] It is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century. Under the conditions that these original autographs were subjected to during the first century, very few papyrus documents survived more that two hundred years.
Egyptologist Kenneth Kitchen, estimated that about 99 percent of the original papyri that are dated from 3000 B.C. through the 400 B.C., have been lost to time and decay.
In the Greco-Roman world, Roman soldiers were traditionally paid three times a year. These payments were documented by pay receipts that were written on papyrus. Of the estimated 225 million pay receipts that were given to Roman soldiers during the reigns of Augustus and Diocletian, from 27 B.C., to 305 A.D., only two fragments have survived.
Source: Kitchen, Kenneth A. The Third Intermediate Period in Egypt. Warminster, U.K.: Aris & Phillips, 1986.
[C] John 19:35
[D] 1. Jesus commanded the apostles to immediately take the Gospels to the entire world: And you are my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. ~Acts 1:8
2. Jesus told the 12 Apostles that they would have the ability to remember everything they had seen and heard, after Jesus returned to heaven and He had sent them the Holy Spirit: But when the Father sends the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. ~John 14:26
 The Gospels Are Written As Ancient Fiction: The hypothesis of Richard Pervo and Dennis MacDonald who claim that the New Testament is nothing more than a fictional Greco-Roman novel.
First, the idea of Richard Pervo that the four Gospels are a romance-novel.[a] A second hypothesis by Dennis MacDonald that the text of the four Gospels are nothing more than an epic-novel.[b]
Richard Ivan Pervo was an American Biblical scholar, former Episcopalian priest, and Fellow of the Westar Institute with a Th.D. In 2001, Pervo was convicted of possessing and distributing child pornography and sentenced to prison where he continued to write and publish.
Dennis Ronald MacDonald is the John Wesley Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Claremont School of Theology in California with a PhD from Harvard. MacDonald’s primary method for determining that the four Gospels are fictional novels is called, Mimesis. This method of literary criticism looks for similarities in texts as the sole basis for determining whether two texts are fictional.
MacDonald ignores the actual New Testament text itself which states it is written for the purpose of giving the reader a historical narrative of true events. These statements are supported by the entire Old Testament, written 1,450 years before, which also states that a Messiah will come to earth who will do precisely what Jesus said and did. If MacDonald was truly searching for similar texts to confirm the purpose of the New Testament, why didn’t he use the Old Testament instead of known fictional ancient texts from completely non related sources? The answer is obvious; his agenda was to impugn Jesus and cause the reader to not believe that He is God or Messiah.
The Gospels As Romance Novels
Pervo builds his entire idea upon conjecture and speculation since there is absolutely no evidence within the text of the New Testament, nor from any other religious or secular source to support this hypothesis. It is important to know that, like Ehrman, both Pervo and MacDonald expect us to believe them because they are experts, not because they have presented any evidence which validates their claims.
Pervo and MacDonald are two “experts” that many atheists will present to you as examples that the New Testament is not reliable, when the evidence of the New Testament text itself is presented as proof that these narratives are historical, reliable representations of actual eyewitnesses who are writing about genuine events.
Pervo believes that the four Gospels were written as ancient romance novels primarily because of his personal analysis of the book of Acts and its connection with Luke’s Gospel.
Pervo’s primary assertion is centered on his belief that the historical references in the Book of Acts are filled with inaccuracies. Second, that the references to the miraculous events in these texts makes them certainly fictional.
The problems with Pervo’s acute analysis is obvious. One, these errors of assumption that the Book of Acts contains historical errors in the the details it describes, is impeached by archeological evidence from other scholars. The idea that Acts is inaccurate is quite easily to impeached by a simple examination of the findings of those who have actually traveled to Asia Minor and tested whether the words of Luke are true.
Pervo Impeached By Ramsay
One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsay.
Notice how Dr. Ramsay describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, as being without a single error.
“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually born upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”[c]
Dr. Ramsay believed, at the onset, that the accounts described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago he undertook an expedition to Asia, to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.
“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[d]
Archeological Accuracy Points To Literary Accuracy
Since Luke’s description of cities, names, places, and customs are perfect in their historical accuracy, it is certain that the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also accurate and reliable.
The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded the specific events of Jesus’ ministry with the same precision. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.
One of the criticisms of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that, he says, was ordered by Caesar Augustus.
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Luke 2:1-3
Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the taxpayers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts that verify Caesar Augustus did conduct the precise census described during the period of time Luke specified, near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.[e]
Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.[f]
An archeological discovery in Egypt uncovered a Papyrus that specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Augustus:
“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”[g]
In his book, Archeological Confirmation of the New Testament, Dr. F. F. Bruce describes a problem that was present in Luke’s description of the Tetrarch of Abilene in Luke 3:1.
Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene… Luke 3:1
Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanias” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time Luke specified that he was there. In recent history, an archeological discovery made in Damascus, Syria describes a person called the “Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch.” Scholars date this inscription between 14 A.D. and 29 A.D.[h] This is the same period of time in which Luke had written in his gospel, describing Lysanias.
An interesting discovery in 1910 by Sir William Ramsay debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans, who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia.
They became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. Acts 14:6
This secular record was erroneously held as more reliable and accurate than the Biblical record in past history. Today we know that the Bible was correct all along. This continues to be a common error that is frequently repeated today. The facts bearing witness—the Bible is always right in matters of history, and the secular record is consistently wrong. This truth has been confirmed by archeological discoveries over the entire course of human history all over the world.
Other noted scholars such as Dr. Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, a British historian and scholar regarding Ancient Rome, wrote his doctoral thesis on the treatment of the New Testament from the point of view of Roman law and society.
Dr. Sherwin-White said this regarding the work of Dr. Ramsay’s conclusions on the Book of Acts:
“Any attempt to reject its (the New Testament’s) basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”[i]
Dr. Sherwin-White examined the records of Rome and concluded that their own history proved the narrative of the New Testament scriptures regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[j]
Of all four gospel writers, Luke exhibits the greatest precision in recording specific details. This has allowed for the verification of every statement Luke has made in his account of Jesus. As a result of Luke’s meticulous record and the verification of his writing as accurate and reliable, we have great confidence—as the readers of this gospel—that it is true. When a man takes the time to ensure that everything he writes is accurate, we can be certain that even events which seem unlikely to us are truthful. Because Luke is classified as a scholarly historian by accomplished experts, we can have great confidence that his accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are also truthful.
With Luke, we find that every word he recorded for us, regarding the specific events in which he was writing, are true. Integrity is a quality a person either has, or they don’t have. Luke’s integrity as a historian is unparalleled amongst the writers of the New Testament. Although all the men who penned the pages of scripture, which are in our Bible today, were men of honor, integrity, and honesty, Luke exceeds every standard of excellence.
If a man tells the truth about the smallest details, he can be relied upon when he describes magnificent details. If Luke exercised such honesty in preserving the details of his gospel, we can also trust that what he said about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is also a true account.
Contrary to the claims of modern atheist, Richard Pervo that the New Testament is nothing more than an ancient romance novel, his conclusions are easily impeached by evidence. This is a man that is often quoted as a notable Biblical Scholar with a Doctorate degree, yet all of his conclusions are inaccurate.
MacDonald’s Assertion That The Gospels Were Written As An Epic Novel
Ph.D, Dennis MacDonald, who graduated from Harvard University, presents the idea that the Gospels were written as fiction, not as historically accurate events. MacDonald states that his examination of the four Gospels has led him to conclude that in comparison to Homer’s Odyssey and Iliad, the writing style of the New Testament is very similar.
MacDonald states: “Mark was “not writing a historical biography . . . but a novel, a prose anti-epic of sorts.”[k]. Macdonald also concludes that like the work of Homer, the New Testament Gospels are intended as inspiring myths.[l]
Robert McNair Price is an American theologian with a Ph.D is Systematic Theology who argues that Jesus is not a historical person, and the New Testament is not true because it cannot be confirmed by any secular sources. Robert Price, concludes that MacDonald’s work convincingly demonstrates that Homer was a “major source” for the Gospel authors, particularly Mark and Luke.
The problems that exists for both MacDonald and Price, is that they rely primarily upon personal opinions in suggesting their conclusions. This becomes a tremendous problem in that the New Testament exists today by 24,593 surviving manuscript copies, greater than any other religious or secular manuscripts in existence.
The text of these surviving documents speak for themselves. Anyone who actually studies the narratives of the New Testament can immediately see that they are not written in the style of a novel or in the manner of Homer or any other ancient narratives. The New Testament consists of 27 letters written between real persons with genuine evidence of honest conversations.
Notice the the text from 2 Corinthians chapter 1 as Paul is communicating with persons at Corinth:
“This letter is from Paul, chosen by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and from our brother Timothy. I am writing to God’s church in Corinth and to all of his holy people throughout Greece…
Our letters have been straightforward, and there is nothing written between the lines and nothing you can’t understand. I hope someday you will fully understand us, even if you don’t understand us now. Then on the day when the Lord Jesus returns, you will be proud of us in the same way we are proud of you.
Since I was so sure of your understanding and trust, I wanted to give you a double blessing by visiting you twice—first on my way to Macedonia and again when I returned from Macedonia. Then you could send me on my way to Judea.
You may be asking why I changed my plan. Do you think I make my plans carelessly? Do you think I am like people of the world who say “Yes” when they really mean “No”? As surely as God is faithful, our word to you does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” For Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not waver between “Yes” and “No.” He is the one whom Silas, Timothy, and I preached to you, and as God’s ultimate “Yes,” he always does what he says. For all of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory.
It is God who enables us, along with you, to stand firm for Christ. He has commissioned us, and he has identified us as his own by placing the Holy Spirit in our hearts as the first installment that guarantees everything he has promised us.
Now I call upon God as my witness that I am telling the truth. The reason I didn’t return to Corinth was to spare you from a severe rebuke. But that does not mean we want to dominate you by telling you how to put your faith into practice. We want to work together with you so you will be full of joy, for it is by your own faith that you stand firm. ~2 Corinthians 1:13-24
This text is classic evidence of personal letters between persons. In the body of evidence that one can draw from in ancient literature, personal letters are never contrived and then used as myths or as biographical.
The entire body of the New Testament consists of these letters, many of which, are written by Paul while in prison. They are written with a style that makes them impossible to be contrived, unthinkable as a novel.
If any person would read these texts from the New Testament for themselves, they would immediately realize these letters are nothing like other ancient novels or prose that MacDonald argues. The manner in which the entire New Testament is constructed is absolutely credible and bears no classic marks of embellishment or falsity.
The narratives of the New Testament are also unique in that they rely heavily upon the text of the Old Testament. Everything that Jesus said and did, is supported by over 400 Hebrew prophecies which Jesus clearly sought to fulfill. When we examine the timeline narrative of the New Testament, we see that Jesus never went anywhere or said anything, that He was not seeking to fulfill the texts of the Old Testament that were written for the Messiah.
The similarity in writing that is proven by actual evidence is from the text of the Old Testament which contains the 400 Messianic Prophecies that the New Testament consistently quotes from, throughout all 27 letters of the New Testament.
This evidence from the Old Testament scriptures makes it impossible that the narratives of the New Testament were written as fictional novels or after the model of Homer. Anyone who really studies the actual text of the New Testament can see this for themselves and very quickly understands that MacDonald’s hypothesis is not correct.
[a] MacDonald, Dennis R. (1983). The Legend and the Apostle: The Battle for Paul in Story and Canon. Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press. ISBN 9780664244644. OCLC 8975344.,The Acts of Andrew and the Acts of Andrew and Matthias in the city of the cannibals. Texts and translations. 33. Atlanta, GA: Scholars Press. ISBN 9781555404925. OCLC 21950803., Christianizing Homer: “The Odyssey,” Plato, and “The Acts of Andrew”. Oxford, UK & New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-508722-2. OCLC 473473966.
[b] William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page 8
[c] William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222
[d] .John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 160
[e]Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285
[f] Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
[g] 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages 159, 160 2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285
[h]F. F. Bruce, “Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament.” Revelation and the Bible. Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Page 321
[i] Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189
[j] Tacitus’ characterization of “Christian abominations” may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians. References: Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293 and An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485.
[k] Eddy, Paul Rhodes. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (p. 340). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
[l] Eddy, Paul Rhodes. The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (p. 334). Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
 Irenaeus and Origen, antecedent Augustine, also held to the same order of composition.
 Subsequent supporters of this theory include,H. G. Jameson, Hugo Grotius, John Wenham, and Basil Christopher Butler.
 Primary contributors for this theory are, J. J. Griesbach, T. R. W. Longstaff, Henry Owen, and William R. Farmer, et al. (http://www.colby.edu/rel/2gh/).
 Eusebius Ecclesiastical History 3.39.16
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Alleged Contradictions, Apologetics, Areas of Speculation, Atheists, Common errors of Atheists, Common objections by Atheists, Contradictions in the Bible, Exegesis and Hermeneutics, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Messianic Prophecies, Mitchell G. Reddish, New Testament Manuscripts, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Richard Pervo, Robert Clifton Robinson, Secondary Sources, Secular Sources for Jesus, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus, The Historical Jesus