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Master Class: Can We Trust the Gospels?


Peter J. Williams is the Principal and CEO of Tyndale House, Cambridge. He was educated at Cambridge University, where he received his MA, MPhil, and PhD in the study of ancient languages related to the Bible. After his PhD, he was on staff in the Faculty of Divinity, Cambridge University (1997–1998), and thereafter taught Hebrew and Old Testament at Cambridge University as Affiliated Lecturer in Hebrew and Aramaic and as Research Fellow in Old Testament at Tyndale House, Cambridge (1998–2003). From 2003 to 2007 he was on the faculty of the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, where he became a Senior Lecturer in New Testament and Deputy Head of the School of Divinity, History, and Philosophy. Since 2007 he has been leading Tyndale House, and he is also an Affiliated Lecturer in the Faculty of Divinity in the University of Cambridge. He is a member of the Translation Oversight Committee of the English Standard Version of the Bible. Most recently he has been assisting Dr Dirk Jongkind in Tyndale House’s production of a major edition of the Greek New Testament. 


Can We Trust the Gospels? Evidence for the Gospels' Historical Reliability. 

The Gospels―Matthew, Mark, Luke, John―are four accounts of Jesus’s life and teachings while on earth.  But should we accept them as historically accurate?  What evidence is there that the recorded events actually happened?  This session will cover the nature and content of the Gospels and discuss how to respond to critics who doubt the historical reliability of the Gospels.

This Master Class addresses the following 5 topics. 

1) What are the earliest records of Christianity?
What do the earliest non-Christian sources (Tacitus, Pliny the Younger, Josephus) tell us about the beginnings of Christianity?  This seminar will consider both the abundance and scarcity of evidence from the time of Jesus.


2) Did the Gospel writers know what they were writing about?
This session will examine the levels of knowledge of the Gospel writers and see that they were familiar with the things they wrote about. The simplest explanation for this is that they were close in time and space to the events they recorded.


3) How were Jesus’s teachings handed down?
This session will examine how Jesus’s teachings came to be recorded in the Gospels, including the languages and methods of his teaching.


4) How do sceptics explain the data?
Sceptical approaches to the Gospels often have a predictable anatomy.  This session will evaluate the method and claims of a leading sceptic, Professor Bart D. Ehrman.


5) What about contradictions?
This session will consider the objection that the Gospels cannot be trusted because they contain contradictions. It will also look at one of the biggest objections to the truth of the Gospels today.



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