Yves has a great deal of interest in the New Testament, especially the canonical gospels. She values the serious study of historical texts.
Not All Scholars Are Reliable Sources of Truth
Misunderstanding and misrepresentations abound regarding Jesus of Nazareth. Many individuals have chosen to create their own version of who Jesus was and is. Some believe Jesus is the Messiah; some say he was a prophet; some suggest he was a mere man who married and had children with Mary Magdalene; some say he was crazy and illiterate; a few others say he never even existed. In truth, we cannot create our own version of Jesus anymore than we can create our own version of one another. You are who you are; I am who I am; Jesus is who he was.
Anyone who is honestly interested in knowing the actual biblical Jesus must study the historical documentation about him and must then apply the same criterion (of those documents) that Bible scholars use to determine truths of 1st century Judea.
This article will list some of the criteria that serious scholars use to determine which historical texts are accurate and which are not. Any reasonably intelligent layperson has the ability to better understand all gospel texts, that is, once they commit to embracing what is factual, and by developing a critical eye for knowing what texts are authentic and which are not.
As an aside, it is worth noting that the New Testament was written in Hebrew and that Jesus spoke Aramaic.
The Synoptic Gospels
What most people do not know, or perhaps choose not to appreciate, is that the best historical evidence we have for understanding the true Jesus Christ comes from the New Testament and the Synoptic gospels comprised of Mark, Matthew and Luke.
The Synoptic gospels are highly significant because they all document similar sequences of events relating to the ministry, crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Furthermore, these manuscripts were written in the first century A.D., an extremely important fact given that many followers of Christianity, who were still alive within the time of Jesus' ministry, would have been quite familiar with the teachings of Jesus and would therefore have known whether the authors of the New Testament were documenting the events of Jesus’ life in a truthful manner.
Indeed, devout believers of Jesus would have rejected any writings that may have misrepresented him in any way. The Jewish people of ancient times took the responsibility of documenting history very, very seriously.
Thus, in lieu of the eyewitness factor, it is important to note that the gospel of Mark has been dated at approximately 60-70 A.D., and that the gospels of Matthew and Luke are dated at 80-90 A.D. The actual ministry of Jesus began during the late 20’s to the early 30’s, in the 1st century.
Thus, many of the eyewitnesses of Jesus's life would have been alive after his crucifixion; this fact is crucial! There is no question that 1st century Jewish eyewitnesses would have refuted anything that did not reflect the truth.
Eyewitness Accounts: An Important Criterion
By way of attempting to disprove the relevance of eyewitness criteria, someone asked if I could possibly remember what happened in my life 30 years ago. While I do not even remember what I ate for dinner two weeks ago, had you or I witnessed the crucifixion and resurrection of a person we loved, I dare say, we would never forget that day.
If we are going to question an event, which all good scholars do, then we must also determine if a supposition is relevant—or whether it is flawed (as in the question I was asked). We do this by asking critical questions and by delving into the standard, accepted criteria for reading gospel texts---which I will explain shortly.
The average layperson may not know that truly serious scholars have no doubt that the New Testament has the greatest wealth of authentic information regarding the ministry of Jesus Christ, more than any other "gospel" text(s) or ancient writings outside of the New Testament. However, other non-canonical gospels may be useful for exploring the historical Jesus, depending upon the authenticity of the document.
For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in caves between 1947 and 1956, contain a plethora of accurate information pertaining to the culture and various historical events of 1st century Judea. Therefore, the Dead Sea Scrolls are outstanding documents for authenticating relevant events defined in the canonical gospels. The writings of Josephus, a 1st century historian, are also significant. However, his accounts have been used, at times, by modern scholars to distort the gospels.
Archaeological findings have enhanced the New Testament's credibility. No discovery has ever disproved a biblical reference. Further, archaeology has established that Luke, who wrote about one quarter of the NT, was an especially careful historian.
— John McRay, Professor of Archeology
What are Canonical and Non-Canonical Gospels?
Canonical gospels are the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which comprise a consequential segment of the New Testament, to say the least. Extra-canonical gospels are texts found outside of the New Testament, which may also relay stories about Jesus, though usually inaccurate stories as they were not written in the 1st century. Some examples of extra-canonical writings are the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Peter, the Secret Gospel of Mark and the Gospel of Egyptians, to name a few.
Extra-canonical texts may be useful for gathering some information, but only when read within the confines of proper historical context and with an eye for respecting the "criterion for authenticity" used by Biblical scholars. (*More on 'criterion for authenticity' in later paragraphs) Consequently, one must never be eager to embrace all extra-canonical writings as "gospel truth" primarily because such texts were almost always written in the 2nd Century A.D. and beyond, and are therefore unable to claim the most important criterion---that of eyewitness accounts, unlike the canonical Gospels, written within the same generation of Jesus.
Nonetheless, some scholars, when lecturing, or in their writings, have falsely placed extra-canonical texts into the 1st century without evidence to support their claims. It is highly inappropriate to claim that 2nd or 3rd century texts have the same historical authenticity as the New Testament if historical coherence is to be met. And met it must be if we are to rightly utilize the criterion established by paleography, the study of ancient writing which includes the practice of deciphering, reading, and dating historical manuscripts, as well as respecting cultural contexts and the history of scriptoria: information relevant to the historical life and sayings of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Criteria of Authenticity
The Criteria of Authenticity is that which is used to extract relevant information from canonical gospels and extra-canonical texts.
1. Historical coherence: Historical narratives of gospels, even non-canonical gospels, should coincide with the narratives of the first century accounts of Jesus' life, which is the time when Jesus ministered, died, and was resurrected.
2. Multiple Attestations: Two or more sources are needed to attest to the sayings and actions of Jesus to assure that a single source did not devise a false narrative—much the way good journalists are required to find multiple sources with same or very similar stories before they can claim the authenticity of their journalistic pieces. It is notable that the New Testament is filled with events about Jesus' life and ministry that coincide quite well with one another.
3. Embarrassment: This allows scholars to know that the writers of the New Testament were faithful to record all the important events pertaining to Jesus’ life, particularly about his ministry, death, and resurrection (upon which the Christian message is based). Some of the events the NT authors recorded were quite embarrassing for them to write, yet they faithfully recorded the facts as they knew them, in the tradition of all Jewish scribes.
For example, it was highly embarrassing for the authors of the New Testament to record that women were the first to find Jesus' tomb empty after his death and that women were the first to hear from an angel of God that Jesus had risen from the dead. The reason for this embarrassment was due to the culture of the day, in which Jewish women were not necessarily held in high regard. However, Jesus gave women the same respect he accorded men. In any event, the apostles would much rather have written that a man had first discovered the empty tomb; however, as that was not the truth, they remained firmly dedicated to recording the facts as they occurred.
4. Semitisms: The sayings and deeds that reflect the Hebrew or Aramaic languages and 'Philistia' backgrounds, such as: topography, geography, customs, and commerce. All writings must reflect 1st century to be relevant to the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.
5. Coherence/Consistency: Any material that is consistent with all the criteria above can be judged as useful for knowing more about the life of Jesus. Otherwise, a scholarly criterion is not met. (This is considered a "catch all.")
Buyers need beware of material written by current (modern) authors who have no knowledge of historical criterion, or worse yet, who choose to ignore scholarly criteria altogether, being more inclined to write and publish just about anything that suits their fancy and their prejudices. The Dan Brown series comes to mind. Most informed individuals realize that Brown's books contain little if any factual evidence to support his claims and that they should be viewed strictly as entertainment. Dan Brown is a popular author, but he is not a Biblical scholar by any means.
Anyway, strangely enough, and despite accepted standards for establishing the reliability of various historical texts, some well educated individuals with PhD.'s are apparently fine with altering historical dates with zero evidence to support their claims. It is their books which should give one reason to pause. Proper standards remain in place for serious professors/scholars to determine which ancient writings and gospel texts meet the required authenticity test for historical accuracy and which do not. Some scholars adhere to truth-based information while others do not, incredible as this may seem.
The Gospel of Thomas is not authentic; it is an end of 2nd century text.
The Secret Gospel of Mark is a modern hoax. An analysis of the hand-writing indicates forgery.
The Gospel of Peter is dated 4th or 5th century. It describes a talking cross and is considered far-fetched.
There is no evidence that Jesus married and had a child with Mary Magdalene or anyone else.
The conclusions of the Jesus Seminar are rejected by most scholars in North America and Europe.
Jesus was not a Cynic and probably never met one, having been raised in a thoroughly Jewish village.
Matthew, Mark, Luke & John, of the New Testament, are the best sources for understanding the historical Jesus.
The evidence suggests that Jesus was literate; He could read and write.
The Gospel of Mary is dated no earlier than mid-2nd century. It cannot be traced to Mary Magdalene, but the text may reflect church policy & the role of women.
Does a Bible Informed World Still Exist?
Peer review involves subjecting the author's scholarly work and research to the scrutiny of other experts in the same field to check its validity and evaluate its suitability for publication. A peer review helps the publisher decide whether a work should be published.
A+ Rating....or Not So Much?
In short, it is up to the integrity of the historian to meet these standards when he or she writes a book or publication of any kind. Alarming as it may sound and despite the establishment of peer review, nonsense still gets published. However, all professors know which articles written today have an A rating, and are therefore based on solid research, and which published articles are not properly researched and not highly rated.
Thus, it behooves the layperson, including college educated folks, to realize that scholars are people too. Some scholars have integrity while other's do not. In other words, not all "biblical historians" are entirely honest. The problem with this lack of integrity among some professors (aside from the obvious) is that misleading publications are often wildly influential among the general populace, which is a big problem for your average reader who cares about facts but who may not realize they have been misinformed. Some authors, with a doctorate, are chasing after fame (and monetary grants) and as such, are not opposed to altering a few dates and facts to make that happen.
On the other hand, some scholars have overly rigid criteria. We will explore this matter in Part II of this series.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2014 Yves
Yves (author) on June 03, 2020:
Thank you, James..... Context and critical thinking are everything.
James A Watkins from Chicago on June 03, 2020:
I enjoyed reading your most excellent article this morning. Well done!
Yves (author) on May 29, 2019:
And I thank you as well, Elijah. I looked briefly into your postulation regarding Genisis and Luke 17 20-21. I need further study to come to a conclusion, however, you have provided interesting food for thought. I appreciate your commentary on a subject that apparently interests you greatly. Thank you very much for taking the time to read my piece. It was a labor of love......something I know you understand well.
Elijah A Alexander Jr from Washington DC on May 29, 2019:
Allow me to thank you, Yves, for your seldom found truth is encouraging others how to study ancient writings. Everything you said I concur with.
I am also pleased to hear you say "The Jewish people of ancient times took the responsibility of documenting history very, very seriously" since in these days of Mystery, Babylon The Great... history and present day events are extremely distorted. One example is how many people realize every off nation and Native American relocating are prohibited b y the Constitution and our military isn't supposed to be any further off-land than our territorial waters?
There is one aspect that is most always left out of how to study of ancient Religious texts and that is "you must be born again". When we read the creation story recorded in the first three chapters of Genesis we tend to attempt to make the first chapter's story and the following two's story to be saying the same thing when they do not. In the first is the suggestion that the story reveals an evolution, is to be study as a cycle [v.14], man is a plural word of both genders who lived as ecologically and individually. Chapter two reveals a completely different creation of A man formed from a plantless dry earth, a garden planted, the man placed in it, the birds and animals formed after him that he was to name and finally he had a Help Meet woven from him that caused him to rename them both woven from man and, although he had no parents, was told to forsake them to become whole again.
To see that as what those two chapters say we can then surmise some form of a morph took place in the second story and Jesus was telling us "a rebirthing" is required for knowing truth and, per Luke 17:20-21, it will come from within ourselves.
Again, Thank you for your presentation.
Yves (author) on July 11, 2017:
How very kind you are, Paula. Quite a lot of my research comes from reading books by Craig A. Evans. He is considered one of the finest, if not the best New Testament scholar in North America. He understands ancient languages, etc. etc. In short, he is a superb scholar. Here is a link for your listening pleasure. I highly recommend that you listen. He also has a Part II.
Have a great vacation! My adorable nephews live in California. Anyway, I know everyone will be thrilled to see you!
Suzie from Carson City on July 11, 2017:
Yves....I see this is at least 3 yrs old and I am so glad to have finally stumbled upon it. I may just have to say, in terms of the topic, this could be one of your very BEST. I actually read through it, twice.
You prove your mastery of this subject matter, Yves, especially in your focus on the New Testament. My own study, which is no where near as in depth as yours, has been almost exclusive of the New Testament.
Because of "what goes on HERE (HP)" regarding any and all work done of religious or political content, I've tried to ignore reading or responding. I don't think I need to explain that to you since you have had some of the ludicrous experiences I'm referring to. It's a shame this exists but it DOES and I simply find I don't wish to deal with the drama.
Naturally, I read this because you are the author. I'll say no more.
It is superbly done, Yves. Please know I've assimilated your message and appreciate it. By the tone of the comments, it appears your article has profoundly positive reactions. Bravo, my friend! Peace, Paula
(I am now in the process of preparing for a 2 week vacation (Montana & California--family visits) So, I'll be even less visible here than I have been. Will give you a wave when I return--Hold down the fort, as you are one of the very few capable of the task! LOL)
Yves (author) on July 11, 2017:
Well said, WBA. Thank you for lending your observations.
email@example.com from upstate, NY on July 11, 2017:
I tend to see the apparent contradictions in different Scriptures as unique views of eyewitness accounts. Sometimes the truth is found in the tension of two seemingly opposing views.
For instance the OT seems to portray a harsh, angry and unyielding God whereas the NT portrays Jesus as tenderhearted, forgiving and loving. So which view is correct? Both are. God didn't change but His methods and objectives did. In the OT God needed to show people the need for a savior. In the NT God revealed His true heart.
Yves (author) on April 22, 2017:
I think they are trying. Maybe HP is like a mini-America: Too PC, but that's life nowadays. As for the glitches, they happen from time to time. You can always contact technical support to alert them. Have a good week-end, Robert.
Robert Sacchi on April 22, 2017:
At least HP is trying. We have to give them credit for that.
Yves (author) on April 21, 2017:
HP may be having trouble, but not necessarily because my comment went to Spam. Perhaps your server has some difficulties. Personally, I wonder if Yahoo is going down. That being said, HP seems to be making a lot of changes to meet the demands of Google, is my guess. Don't know whether it will be worth it for them in the end. But what do I know.
Robert Sacchi on April 21, 2017:
It seems odd. . Today I couldn't sign in to HubPages with Facebook. I find such things troublesome. I use to post articles to Yahoo!Voices but they shut down. So troubles such as this make me worry HubPages might be having trouble.
Yves (author) on April 20, 2017:
Kind of depressing to be flagged as "possible spam." You'd think after five years, HP would know me better. Ha!
Robert Sacchi on April 20, 2017:
Thank you for the heads up on your comment to my Hub. Interesting, one of the tabs on was "Not Spam". When I pressed that then it gave me the choice to accept the comment. Then the notification came up. Thank you for commenting.
Yves (author) on April 20, 2017:
Robert, I had written a comment on your Office Party Suggestion hub. Did you not receive it? I have had that happen to me---some sort of glitch, I guess, where I don't get people's comments.
Robert Sacchi on April 19, 2017:
Yves (author) on April 18, 2017:
I agree. The slightly differing accounts make much more sense from a human perspective. Each man wrote down what he remembered seeing. The apostles were not modern day news journalists, just very honest believers.
I am glad you enjoyed the piece. I found it very interesting to write, as my research helped me to learn more.
I will pay a visit to your site soon. Look forward to it. ;)
Robert Sacchi on April 18, 2017:
I enjoyed reading this article. It is well written and brings up many good points. I would say the inconsistencies of the accounts makes them more credible. If 3 accounts of that cover as much history as the Synoptic gospels give the same exact accounts that would point to collusion between the authors. This way the Synoptic gospels appear to be indepenent accounts.
Yves (author) on March 03, 2017:
A humble heart is a wise heart. Good reminder, RTalloni. In part, my article speaks to those who fail to see the value of critical thinking. Not only did the Creator give us a heart, he also gave us a brain. Thank you for reading. I'll visit you as soon as I get over this head cold.:)
RTalloni on March 03, 2017:
This is an interesting read on critiquing the gospel texts. One of the important things I learned years ago is to let the Scriptures confirm themselves via critical examination by praying our way through patient study.
It was good to read of the importance of context and also about the honesty with which the Bible is written. It's been said that the honesty of the Bible's writers is one of its main points of validation.
You've reminded me that God's loving desire for people to trust Him is heartrending once it is grasped. Some scholarly quotes seem appropriate...
Henry: "The Lord is unwilling that any should perish. What enemies sinners are to themselves!"
Gill: " 'O that my people had hearkened unto me,….' This might have been expected from them, as they were His professing people; and it would have been to their advantage if they had hearkened to Him, as well as it would have been well pleasing to Him; ... to hearken to him is not only to hearken to what he commands, but to what he approves of; it is the good and acceptable will of God that men should hearken to the declarations of his will in the law, and to the declarations of his grace in the Gospel; and indeed it is the voice of Christ, … which they were to hearken to and obey, that is here meant...'Christ was faithful as a Son over His house–whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.' "
If we begin simply, with a humble heart before God, and earnestly seek Him according to His Word, we can enjoy seeing His faithfulness to His Word as He gives us understanding, faith, and abundant life in Jesus. What He says to the heart that is humble toward Him is as true as what He says about the heart of stone.
Yves (author) on January 26, 2017:
"Rather, historians expend energy trying to reconcile these accounts." So true, Hxprof, not to mention highly unfortunate, if not distressing. It is truly awful that standard criteria seems to magically disappear when the regular populace and some historians "research" the life of Christ.
But the fact remains, there is more evidence regarding Jesus of Nazareth than almost any man of ancient times, and yet verified information is casually dismissed.
When I hear all the fabricated nonsense that people believe about Jesus Christ, it drives me a little bonkers. That is why I wrote the piece. I am so glad you appreciate the work I put into it.;)
Hxprof on January 26, 2017:
Great piece Savy! I KNOW you put a lot of work into this.
Over the last several years, I've read a fair number of skeptics writings, including that of Bart Ehrman, who as you say rejects the accuracy of the Gospels, having now become agnostic, because of the "inconsistencies" in them.
I spent some time studying the Punic War period, during which the Carthaginian commander Hannibal took an army over the Alps to invade Italy. There are two accounts of his passage, and they vary on many details, but I've yet to hear of an historian who dismisses this documented feat because of those inconsistencies. Rather, historians expend energy trying to reconcile these accounts.
Yet when it comes to Christ, the accounts are held to a different standard. And this makes sense in light of what Christ said, "If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you" (John 15:18). The world hates Christ, and looks for every opportunity to deny him, and it's getting worse.
Yves (author) on October 14, 2014:
And thank you, Perspycacious, for your very inspiring words. Indeed, Jesus was the Master of relationships; His examples were perfect. I absolutely loved your thoughtful comment. Thank you for stopping by and reminding us of the words of Paul.
Demas W Jasper from Today's America and The World Beyond on October 14, 2014:
I appreciate your approach to this topic, and the encouragement it gives the reader to consider having sound standards for whether or not to trust what they read from others interpreting the gospel. Two people can read the same biblical texts and interpret them differently. Yet, as Paul states "All scripture is given by inspiration of God.... ." Compared to the Old Testament, the New Testament is sourced as to the authors (although there is even scholarly debate about that assertion.) Both can teach us about God's relationship to man, and man's relationship to God, and we could do much worse than to study those relationships to understand and fashion our own relationship to God. Thanks for this Hub.
Yves (author) on October 11, 2014:
Thank you, PegCole. I know what you mean. When I read some of the nonesense that is spread around about Jesus, it drives me a little crazy. Consequently, my goal here is to give people pause, to think a little harder about gospel texts and how we must keep all the biblical texts/stories in context. And yes, all the miracles and commandments are indeed beautiful, and very, very real. I appreciate your visit, and look forward to reading more of your work!
Peg Cole from North Dallas, Texas on October 11, 2014:
I very thoroughly enjoyed this article and your no-nonsense approach to the current fiction that is being portrayed as truth. I've recently begun an intense study of the Gospels, after reading James A. Watkins' book, "Jesus in the World, The First 600 Years." Not only is he a hubber, he is a true Bible scholar and in-depth researcher and his book led me back to my roots to study those familiar but long neglected texts. What a story they tell!
I'm a true believer in the Son of Man being all that the gospels declare him to be and am in awe of his miracles, his commandments and his teachings. Thank you for this engaging and excellent hub.
Yves (author) on February 03, 2014:
Hello bubbaralph. I agree that the New Testament coincides with the Old. This is where a careful examination of Jesus' words provide significant meaning, particularly with respect to Old Testament prophesies. Many people do not know what "spiritually discerned by grace" means, thus I have provided a standard formula for reading gospel texts in a way that a layperson might be able to appreciate. Thank you for stopping by to lend us a heart perspective.
bubbaralph123 on February 03, 2014:
The bible was the word of God and was spiritually given to man and can only be spiritually discerned by grace...there is no mistakes and old and new testament flow harmoniously throughout. More knowledge is found as more heart knowledge is gained....
Yves (author) on January 31, 2014:
Thank you, bethperry. I appreciate your kind comment. I know that you and I have some different views, but please know that I do respect yours. Mostly, I am thankful for the opportunity to find common ground with my fellow hubbers, especially those who are as thoughtful as you. Blessings to you as well, in this brand new year!
Yves (author) on January 22, 2014:
Hello there Nell Rose. I appreciate your comment, and especially your thumbs up on the authenticity of the gospel of Mark. Indeed, one must research most everything if one is to determine facts... such as the sulphur. I'll have to look into that one as I'd never given it any thought before. I am truly delighted that you enjoyed the hub!
Nell Rose from England on January 21, 2014:
Fascinating read savvy, I have printed out the gospel of mary etc, and find them fascinating, I am sure that they could have been used to fill up the Bible so to speak, but yes of course Mark etc were the best 'voices' to show what happened. the thing about the Bible is that we have to remember people back then could look at something and not see it as we do, for example certain miracles like the rivers turning red etc, were as we know now, sulphur leaked from under the water etc, but on the whole most of it is authentic and telling the truth, great hub!
Yves (author) on January 09, 2014:
Hello DDE. I am pleased that you got something out of the points I tried to make. It's always a pleasure to have you drop by.
Yves (author) on January 09, 2014:
Hello Frank, I read the DaVinci code as well, but at the time I didn't know if it was fiction or not, never having heard of "proper criteria." I see a plethora of this mistaken identity thing going on, so I felt compelled to write about it. I'm glad you found it interesting.
Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on January 09, 2014:
Great hub and very interesting indeed. Worth all the debate you have here and you made excellent points on this topic.
Frank Atanacio from Shelton on January 08, 2014:
very interesting hub savvy.. although I enjoyed the Davinci Code I always took it as fiction.. and it is true people have decided to create their own version of who Jesus is. But it makes for interesting reading too don't you think? thank you for sharing these views Frank
Yves (author) on January 08, 2014:
Hi Shawn. It's funny where our minds go and what we remember. Yet it is true that some "inconsistencies" have caused more than a few people to throw out the Bible, as that "flaw" does not align with their notion of American ideals. What many do not realize, however, is that Western civilization was built upon the tenets of Christianity, which is why Americans tend to have high ideals, and therefore enjoy freedom of speech, etc.,whereas in the middle east (with the exception of Israel) the standards for treating their citizens with respect are much, much lower. ...History lesson for the day. ;) I appreciate your stopping by and relaying your story. I'm overdue for paying you a visit. See you soon.
Shawn McIntyre from Orlando, FL. on January 08, 2014:
Interesting hub. I'm not big on religion myself, but I did have the chance, last time I was in England, to see one of the remaining copies of the "The Wicked Bible". Your hub made me think of that for some reason, how such a little typo caused so much trouble.
Voted up and such.
Yves (author) on January 06, 2014:
Absolutely SandCastles! There is just no way the apostles would have died such horrible deaths, had they not known that Jesus had risen again. People just don't do that. Furthermore, the apostles were reasonable men, not crazy jihadists or some such thing. One can see this clearly through the writings of Paul and certainly the authors of the Synoptic gospels. I appreciate your insight and support in this matter. I think I'm over due in paying you a visit, by the way. Nevertheless, it's lovely having you drop in.
SandCastles on January 06, 2014:
This is a very interesting and well-written hub savvydating. I like how you explain memories. Yes, we often don't remember insignificant things in our past, like what we had for supper 30 years ago, but we definitely do remember the things that shake us emotionally. And stories were passed down orally and very exactly in the time of Jesus so when critics compare these biblical oral stories to the 'telephone' of today, where messages get twisted and misconstrued, they are demonstrating faulty logic.
I find it hypocritical when people demand we question the bible while at the same time, they tell us to swallow scholarly opinions whole. People have said, "Well he's educated, he's should know" or "all scientists agree"", like they know all the scientists out there. I think that fact that the Apostles who dispersed when Jesus was taken away and who later showed such bravery later on means something. They were willing to face persecution; they we willing to die when before they just hid away. It's because Jesus rose again and they saw him and their shaky faith was fortified.