The Historical Origins of the Gospels -- By: David Alan Black

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 18:1 (Fall 2000)
Article: The Historical Origins of the Gospels
Author: David Alan Black

The Historical Origins of the Gospels

Dedicated to the Memory of William R. Farmer, Esteemed Colleague and Friend

David Alan Black

Professor of New Testament and Greek
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587


To a biblical scholar this essay may appear very elementary, if not banal. But it is not written for biblical scholars. During the course of my teaching, a number of students asked me—and very insistently—to compose for them a brief, clear, and easily understandable summary of my beliefs regarding the historical origins of the Gospels. This matter had been causing them concern and anxiety, since it often seemed that proponents of higher criticism had been undermining the historical value of the Gospels. In answer to this request, I composed a booklet that was copied and destined for private and restricted circulation. But as my views became more widely known, a number of friends thought that what I had written for my students might prove useful for pastors and laypeople whose occupations precluded a study of books of greater length, depth, and detail. It is to meet the needs of such readers that I give this brief sketch to the public.

That such a treatment should be necessary today is obvious in light of the abuse of the historical-critical method by certain Gospel critics. Scarcely admissible philosophical and theological principles have often come to be mixed with this method. These principles have vitiated the method itself, as well as the conclusions derived. Some proponents of higher criticism have been led astray by the prejudicial views of rationalism, refusing to admit the existence of a supernatural order and the intervention of a personal God in the world through special revelation, miracles, and prophecies. Others begin with a false idea of faith, as if it had nothing to do with historical truth or were even incompatible with it. Others deny the historical value and nature of the Gospels almost a priori. Finally, others make light of or reject outright the authority of the apostles as witnesses to Christ and their task and influence in the early church, extolling rather the creative power of the “community.” These presuppositions are not only opposed to Christian doctrine, but are also devoid of scientific basis and alien to the correct principles of higher criticism.

This essay is an attempt to correct such aberrations. It seeks to renew, restore, and strengthen faith in the truth of the Gospels by providing scientific support for the church’s continuous teaching on their apostolicity and historicity, namely that t...

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