Why the 30-year gap before the Gospels were written enhances their credibility

Jesus Christ died, rose again, and ascended into heaven around 30 AD, give or take a few years. The church he left behind was preaching, growing, and spreading within weeks, but the written gospel accounts which describe Jesus’ life and teaching for us today were not put on paper for another several decades. Our best evidence suggests the Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Matthew, and Luke) were written at the very end of the 50s AD and into the early 60s, with John following a few decades later. This leaves a striking gap of around thirty years after the events recorded by the gospel writers before they first decided to put pen to paper. Unsurprisingly, this gap has become a popular target for skeptics who argue that it represents a period during which the gospel narrative could have changed substantially, with whole new episodes or ideas–perhaps even the notions of the divinity and resurrection of Christ–drawn out of imagination rather than history.

It’s easy to understand why the disciples would not have written down their accounts initially, living as they did in a fairly localized community within a society used to oral histories. And it’s equally easy to understand why, as the disciples aged and the church spread, the need for a more lasting and portable gospel record led them to write down the accounts that form the historical core of our modern New Testament. But whatever the reason, that period before the written gospels may seem like a vulnerability; an unfortunate happenstance which can only raise questions about the reliability of the gospel narrative. In fact, though, that divinely-ordained gap ought to be embraced by Christian apologists as yet another reason to be confident in the truth of the gospel narrative.

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