Are the Gospels historical?
I am the host of Logos Live, a new radio show recorded in front of a live audience in the CBD of Melbourne (Australia). We are currently in the middle of a series: Myth or Truth? Where we have six experts come to talk about six big claims of Christianity. Last week I interviewed Dr. Mike Bird of Ridley Melbourne on the question, ‘Are the Gospels historical?’ It was a great discussion.
I put to him a question, ‘Myth or Truth? Are the Gospels historical?’ This was his answer. I think it was the best short summary of Gospel genre I’ve ever heard.
This is very helpful and helps us understand the nature of the history we are reading when reading the Gospels. I think this also helps overcomes some objections raised against the Gospels by some skeptics e.g. by Richard Carrier. He proposes that because the Gospels are complex pieces of rhetoric, they are not meant to be historical.
Yet Mike Bird disagrees. He proposes that the Gospels are historical through the conventions of the time and also through their specific genre. Hence the Gospels are a slightly different ‘type’ of history to other ancient ‘histories’, they are more akin to a ‘documentary drama’. They are a ‘dramatic representation of historical evidence according to historical conventions’.