Book Review: The Historical Reliability of the New Testament

Craig Blomberg (Distinguished Professor of New Testament at Denver Seminary) is notorious for his contributions to The Bible’s historicity. The Historical Reliability of the Gospels was his first publication on the subject, and following were The Historical Reliability of John’s Gospel, as well as Can we Still Believe the Bible? Soon thereafter, Blomberg authored his two volume introduction to the New Testament titled Jesus and the Gospels, and From Pentecost to Patmos which also has small excerpts regarding historicity issues, however, hardly scratches the surface with historicity issues being minimal. Though the notoriety of these works could stand alone, Blomberg’s most recent work The Historical Reliability of the New Testament (B&H Publishing Group) surpasses them in both length and thoroughness regarding objections to the New Testament’s reliability.

The title alone indicates the book’s separation from Blomberg’s prior works as far as material is concerned. He utilizes 14 chapters arranged into six different sections: Synoptic Gospels, Gospel of John, Acts and Paul, Non-Pauline Letters, Cannonicity/Transmission, and The Problem of Miracles. All of which unapologetically confront objections to the New Testament’s reliability as well as address the “illicit” issues that most western conservative fundamentalists would deem heretical. Even with the amount of material covered in the 816 pages, it still doesn’t cover everything Blomberg believes should be included regarding the subject, and reiterates this at several points throughout the book. Nevertheless, this book is still incredibly dense literally and figuratively, and to some that might be an immediate redflag as you read this review. This is not loaded with PhD-level diction that would lose you after the first page. Let me reassure you that Blomberg elaborates to bring those without prior knowledge up to speed so they engage. The only prior knowledge one would need to read this is a very basic understanding of the New Testament. So put down the copy of Crazy Love, because you don’t have anything to worry about.

The size of the book is by far more intimidating than it actually is. From my experience, I have assumed any book over 400-500 pages to be considered a reference, and have rarely picked up a reference with the intention of reading it cover to cover (Disclaimer: I have read every book assigned to be read for homework in every class as was written in the class schedule). I’ve always associated the amount of pages with how easy of a read a book is:

The number of pages is equivalent to the amount of information, and the more information means it is more useful as a “one stop shop” for research and study, and since it is designed to be a reference then it is likely more expensive, which means that most millenials won’t purchase it because, hey, that’s what google is for, right?! Though my lighthearted speculation is accurate, this book is the straw I’ve needed to paralyze the camel that is this presupposition. To put it bluntly, I read the forward and introduction and didn’t stop, I just kept reading.

That’s a big deal.

I’ll explain to alleviate any confusion. Typically I take a break after reading the forward and introduction, especially when they are over 31 pages combined. This was not the case for this book. I was hooked, and continued for an additional 50 pages before putting it down. The only reason I stopped was because I had time set aside specifically to spend time with my wife. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a married seminary student, it’s that me putting off plans with her to read books is a big no-no during semester. Because of school I’m required to read books more than I sleep for 30 weeks a year, so I can’t say I blame her (not to mention it was Christmas Eve…). Nevertheless, the book’s infringement on previous plans was the last thing I expected to happen, but thankful when it did.

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in the subject. If you’re hesitant because of length, trust me when I say this book is not going to do that for you. Remember, I know this because I’ve had the same presuppositions. If you don’t want to buy it because it’s too big to fit in your purse or satchel (#murse) then it is available on kindle as well. Now, those reading may be asking themselves, “Well, do I really need to buy this if he’s got all these other books on the same subject? Or do the other books go into more depth and this is just a cheaper alternative?” I cannot answer each of these questions fully because I haven’t read any of his other works regarding historicity. However, Blomberg tells the reader, “This present work gathers most of the major threads of these works together, in a completely new topical arrangement, but also moves on to numerous additional issues that the scope of my previous works prevented me from addressing at all” (p. xxiv). Based on this, I would say owning this is sufficient enough, but you’ll just have to make the decision yourself. It is only $23.17 on amazon, and you can purchase it here.

Disclaimer: I want to thank B&H Publishing Group for providing me with a review copy of this book. This did not effect my review in any way.

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