Sherwin-White asserts that the same standards that are commonly applied to ancient secular history can also be applied to the New Testament records, with the result that a factual account emerges. Michael Grant, another historian, likewise applies the techniques of normal historical methodology to the New Testament and also concludes that much can be known about the historical Jesus, in spite of the efforts of Bultmann, whose methodology Grant specifically rejects.^15
Here an objection is often advanced. It is sometimes claimed that the New Testament authors cannot be compared to ancient secular writers, since the latter attempted to write history, while form critics hold that the biblical authors allowed their beliefs to significantly color their recording. To this challenge and to the larger issue of the form criticism advocated by Bultmann and others, Sherwin-White and Grant provide numerous responses.
(1) There are several examples of ancient historians like Herodotus, Livy, or Tacitus whose works show similarities in several respects to that in the Gospels, including a moralizing intent “which the evangelists would have applauded,” yet they are well accepted as historical. And even though there were differences, too, this does not keep us from discovering a good amount of factual material in the Gospels.^16 (2) Literature of the sort the form critics believe the Gospels to be is not known elsewhere in ancient history. As Sherwin-White asserts, “We are not acquainted with this type of writing in ancient historiography.”^17 (3) The Gospels are quite close to the period of time that they record, while ancient histories such as those by Plutarch and Livy often describe events that took place even centuries earlier. Yet, modern historians are able to successfully delineate data even from these early periods of time.^18 (4) Ancient histories sometimes “disagree amongst themselves in the wildest possible fashion,” such as the four ancient sources for the figure of Tiberius Caesar,