Debate the evidence for the alleged resurrection of Jesus with any evangelical or conservative Protestant Christian and you will usually get this claim: “The historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is as good if not better than any other event in ancient history. This is true because we have multiple eyewitness accounts of this event, found in the four Gospels of the New Testament.”
When presented with the fact that most modern New Testament scholars doubt or even reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels, the conservative Christian will usually respond: “Most modern New Testament scholars are liberals, agnostics, or atheists. They are biased against the supernatural. Therefore, conservative Christians can ignore the opinion of the majority of New Testament scholars.”
But there is a big problem with this argument. If the only scholars who doubt the eyewitness authorship of the Gospels were liberals, agnostics, and atheists, then the claim that this position is based on a bias against the supernatural might be credible. The fact is, however, that a large percentage of New Testament scholars who very much believe in the supernatural, miracles, the virgin birth, and the literal, bodily resurrection of Jesus also doubt or reject the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. Who are these scholars? Roman Catholic New Testament scholars.
So conservative Christians must ask themselves this question: If the evidence for the eyewitness/associate of eyewitness authorship of the Gospels is good, why do so many scholars who do not have a bias against the supernatural doubt or reject it? Let’s see what the Catholic Church says about the last Gospel in the New Testament, the Gospel of John:
Statement by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops:
The Gospel According to John:
Critical analysis makes it difficult to accept the idea that the gospel as it now stands was written by one person. Jn 21 seems to have been added after the gospel was completed; it exhibits a Greek style somewhat different from that of the rest of the work. The prologue (Jn 1:1–18) apparently contains an independent hymn, subsequently adapted to serve as a preface to the gospel. Within the gospel itself there are also some inconsistencies, e.g., there are two endings of Jesus’ discourse in the upper room (Jn 14:31; 18:1). To solve these problems, scholars have proposed various rearrangements that would produce a smoother order. However, most have come to the conclusion that the inconsistencies were probably produced by subsequent editing in which homogeneous materials were added to a shorter original.
Other difficulties for any theory of eyewitness authorship of the gospel in its present form are presented by its highly developed theology and by certain elements of its literary style. For instance, some of the wondrous deeds of Jesus have been worked into highly effective dramatic scenes (Jn 9); there has been a careful attempt to have these followed by discourses that explain them (Jn 5; 6); and the sayings of Jesus have been woven into long discourses of a quasi-poetic form resembling the speeches of personified Wisdom in the Old Testament.
The gospel contains many details about Jesus not found in the synoptic gospels, e.g., that Jesus engaged in a baptizing ministry (Jn 3:22) before he changed to one of preaching and signs; that Jesus’ public ministry lasted for several years (see note on Jn 2:13); that he traveled to Jerusalem for various festivals and met serious opposition long before his death (Jn 2:14–25; 5; 7–8); and that he was put to death on the day before Passover (Jn 18:28). These events are not always in chronological order because of the development and editing that took place. However, the accuracy of much of the detail of the fourth gospel constitutes a strong argument that the Johannine tradition rests upon the testimony of an eyewitness. Although tradition identified this person as John, the son of Zebedee, most modern scholars find that the evidence does not support this.
End of post.