I recently received an advanced reader copy of the new book by Peter J. Williams, Can We Trust the Gospels? (Crossway, 2018). Peter is the Principal of Tyndale House, a study center (mainly focused on biblical studies) out of Cambridge, England.
Although similar books have been written in the past (curiously Mark Roberts wrote a 2007 volume for Crossway with the exact same title!), this new volume has some excellent features:
– It does not presuppose prior knowledge of the Gospels, even having a chapter entitled, “What are the Four Gospels?” Thus, it would be great to give to a new Christian or a non-Christian.
– There’s an intriguing section on names we find in the Gospels and how those match the most common names we find in first-century Palestine. I’ve seen Pete deliver this material in lecture format, and I am pleased to see it made its way into the book.
– There’s a helpful chapter on the way Jesus’ teachings were recorded, including some discussion on memorization and the relationship between John and the Synoptics.
– And, of course, no book on the Gospels would be complete without a section on transmission and textual variations. This is an area of specialty for Pete, and proves to be a very useful little chapter.
Here’s a further description along with endorsements:
The Gospels―Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John―tell the story of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ while he was on earth. But how do Christians know if they are true? What evidence is there that the events actually happened? This accessible introduction to the historical and theological reliability of the four Gospels, written by New Testament scholar Peter J. Williams, presents evidence from a variety of non-Christian sources, assesses how accurately the 4 accounts reflect the cultural context of their time, compares different accounts of crucial events, and considers how these texts were handed down throughout the centuries. Written for the skeptic, the scholar, and everyone in between, this book answers common objections raised against the historicity of the Gospels in order to foster trust in God’s Word.
“The wild and unscholarly yet widely accepted assertion by Richard Dawkins that the only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the Gospels is that the Gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction deserves a measured and scholarly response. There is no one better qualified than Peter Williams to provide it, and this book is a masterly presentation of a compelling cumulative case that ‘all of history hangs on Jesus.’”
―John C. Lennox, Emeritus Professor of Mathematics, University of Oxford
“This much-needed book provides a mine of information for Christians wanting to know more about the historical background to the Gospels and offers a series of challenges to those skeptical of what we can know about Jesus. Peter Williams has distilled a mass of information and thought into this short and accessible book, and it deserves careful reading both inside and outside the church.”
―Simon Gathercole, Reader in New Testament Studies, University of Cambridge
“Despite the doctrine of biblical inerrancy, Christians today find themselves unwilling to testify to their faith, as much from confusion as from fear. To this puzzled, anxious flock, Peter Williams offers liberation in the form of a concise yet complete education. His powerful instruction manual on the reliability of the Gospels escorts the ‘faithful seeking understanding’ through a series of historically responsible explanations for questions they have and questions they never imagined. This highly detailed, accurate, and eminently readable volume―rich in charts and tables―strikes a chord so resonant, Christians and skeptics alike can profit. An up-to-date apologia and superlative guide―unbelievers, beware!”
―Clare K. Rothschild, Professor of Scripture Studies, Lewis University; author, Luke–Acts and the Rhetoric of History; Baptist Traditions and Q; and Hebrews as Pseudepigraphon; Editor, Early Christianity
“With his expert knowledge and skill, yet in a remarkably easy-to-follow way, Williams, one of the world’s leading authorities on the text of the New Testament, takes the reader through various lines of evidence supporting the historical reliability of the Gospels. This books shows why it is rational to trust the Gospels.”
―Edward Adams, Professor of New Testament Studies, King’s College London
The volume is due out November, 30, 2018. Congratulations, Pete!