(1) The earliest Christians were meticulous in preserving the tradition of Jesus’ words and life.
(2) The Gospel writers were close to the eyewitnesses and pursued the facts about Jesus. (3) There are indications that these authors were honest reporters.
(4) The overall composite of Jesus as presented in the four Gospels is essentially the same.^21
Far from not being able to distinguish which teachings concerning Jesus are historical, the data strongly favors the New Testament Gospels.
3.NT canon decided early
Third, another major problem with the Gnostic thesis is the contention that the New Testament canon was in a state of flux until the late second century, allowing a variety of Gospels to circulate without any indication as to which ones were more authoritative. Pagels’ brief and undifferentiated treatment is quite simplistic in that
18 Joseph A. Fitzmyer, “The Gnostic Gospels According to Pagels,” America, February 16, 1980, p. 123.
19 Cf. Drane, Introducing the NT, chapter 11. Guthrie presents detailed overviews of the present critical discussions (pp. 43–53 [Matthew], pp. 81–84 [Mark], pp. 113–125 [Luke], pp. 252–283 [John]). See Habermas, Ancient Evidence for the Life of Jesus, p. 63 (and endnotes) for a lengthy list of some contemporary scholars who accept the traditional authors.
20 Besides historians Michael Grant and A.N. Sherwin-White, whose views on the historical value of the Gospels we have studied in chapter 3, see R.T. France, The Evidence for Jesus(Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1986), chapter 3, especially pp. 121–125; Blomberg, Historical Reliability, p. 161; Drane, Introducing the NT, chapter 12.
21 A.M. Hunter, Bible and Gospels, pp. 32–37.
gives virtually no indication of earlier developments.^22 Accordingly, critiques of her thesis have abounded.^23