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My question is: are the arguments used against the historical legitimacy of the Gospels, particularly Luke and the timeline/events surrounding the birth of Christ relatively recent, or have they been around since the beginning? Are there any works around from the first couple of centuries AD that make any such claim?

I ask this because occasionally I will come across an argument against the legitimacy of the Bible from a historical perspective. Recently I came across a detailed article (sorry, I can't find it now, but there are ones similar in Richard Dawkins and other sites) which discussed how Luke's description of the census, traveling to Bethlehem, etc. defies historical evidence.

I got to thinking: Suppose Luke's (or Matthew's, Mark's, John's) account was just a story made up for the audience of the day as it is often portrayed today. If so, rebutting Christianity should have been a simple matter for the scholars of the time who had either lived through these historical events or had first or second-hand knowledge of them. After all, why wait 2000 years to bring up arguments which were even more valid back then? If the census timeline and other significant events were totally wrong, everyone back then should have known, even a hundred years later? Since Christianity had so many enemies early on, you would think Jewish or Greek scholars of the time would have had a field day ripping apart the Gospels and Epistles in order to make believers look particularly foolish.

If someone began to claim some yokel who died 40 years ago was divine and performed miracles at Woodstock in 1970, a whole lot of people would still be alive to debunk the year at least (1969), if not the yokel. 1500 years from now, nobody may know that exact year of Woodstock, but we certainly do now.

An argument I might make is the absence of such material is highly unlikely if the Gospels were historically inaccurate. It is difficult for me to believe any movement, particularly one as radical as Christianity, could have gotten off the ground like it did without a solid historical basis.

However, if there IS material making such claims from that period, it would at least lend an air of credibility to the argument against the Gospels.

Does anyone know of any? TIA

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    Good question. My current guess is that the closest thing to what you are looking for would be "alternative histories;" namely, the Gnostic Gospels (Gospel of Thomas, Peter, etc.) – Alex Strasser Dec 18 '18 at 22:43
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    @kmccarty - Bingo. I would say your reasoning is spot on. I would strongly recommend the book "Jesus and the Eyewitnesses" by Richard Bauckham to confirm your view. An easier read is "The Case for Jesus" by Brant Pitre. He is Catholic, I am Evangelical Protestant - trust me, its a terrifically good book. – Andrew Shanks Dec 21 '18 at 10:33

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