But is it really in tatters? Not in the least says Paul Barnett, a retired Anglican bishop and Bible scholar. This is a wonderful overview in response to the sceptics.
In a chapter on the Resurrection, the
author examines the various cases put forward against the physical
resurrection and debunks them. For example, the view that Jesus was
just a good man who died but whose memory lived on simply leaves
unexplained the immediate worship of him post-resurrection.
What about the infancy narratives? The New Atheists claim that they are fictional stories made up by the early Church. The Gospel writers, they claim, just borrowed these accounts from each other. However, when we actually examine the texts, it becomes apparent that they did not copy each other. Even their lack of agreement in exact words is reason enough to show this. In comparison with the mythical accounts of, say, Augustus Caesar, the Gospel narratives as found in Matthew and Luke, are low-key and matter of fact. While there are only these two who write directly about the Christmas story, the writings of Paul, Peter and John are entirely consistent with the virginal conception. As an aside, I note that the author, who is a Protestant scholar, believes that Jesus had siblings, a view rejected both by Catholics and Orthodox.
What about the miracles described in the Gospels? For a sceptic like David Hume, things happen in a predictable way. The evidence for miracles is never strong enough to convince the modern mind. But the miracles found in the Gospels are striking but not bizarre, in comparison to those found in the apocrypha. Besides, a consistent application of Hume's ideas would lead us to doubt historical accounts of the unusual. Rather than treating a miracle as a violation of nature, it is better to regard it as a divine interference, to which the usual processes of nature then adapt. For example, a divine interference initiated Mary's pregnancy but the usual processes of the created order then took course and Jesus was born nine months later.
The author notes that Paul's Letters are especially important because they often deal with mundane issues affecting the churches. The Letters are also the earliest Christian writings. They show that the early Christians believe what we believe. There may have been a development of doctrine, but nothing was added. When we read Galatians, it is clear that Paul is writing about the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The office of the apostles, whose prime holder is Peter, is also clearly stated. Paul takes for granted that Jesus is divine.