If one accepts the dating of some modern scholars, the earliest canonical gospel–the Gospel of Mark–was not written until 70 AD or later.
This means there was a gap of time of about 40 years between the life of Jesus and our earliest Gospel that records his words and deeds.
What happened to the stories of Jesus during this period of time? Since such stories were largely passed down orally, can this process be trusted? Did Christians change the stories along the way? Is it reasonable to think that Christians could have even remembered the details accurately?
These are the questions raised in Jesus Before the Gospels, Bart Ehrman’s latest Easter-timed book attacking the reliability and historical integrity of the New Testament.
Prior installments in Ehrman’s “you can’t trust the Bible” series include Forged in 2011, Jesus, Interrupted in 2009, God’s Problem in 2007, and Misquoting Jesus in 2005.
Each of these books, though different in the specific topic, tells the same overall story: Ehrman, once an evangelical who attended Moody Bible Institute and Wheaton College, has now discovered, along with the consensus of modern scholarship, that the New Testament, and the Gospels in particular, do not provide a trustworthy account of the historical Jesus.
Instead, what we have (according to Ehrman) are books that are forgeries, contain contradictions, have morally-questionable teachings, and have been edited and changed throughout the centuries.
My full-length review of Ehrman’s new volume has just been published over at the Gospel Coalition website. See here.
In addition, you can listen to my hour-long interview about Ehrman’s book on the nationally-syndicated radio program, Stand to Reason with Greg Koukl. Download here.