The four gosples were written decades apart from each other, so there may have been copying between them, and the further you get from Christ's ascension into Heaven, the more likely the details would get garbled up.

Believe what you want, I'm not stopping you, but I wouldn't go as far as to say they are reliable.

Well, activity has certainly picked up in here. :p

My answer: Kinda.

The Gospels were not only written decades apart, there are parts of the Gospels that were added in over three hundred years later, according to Biblical scholars. What that means is that the same people that chose the canon for the Catholic Church (which led to the printing of the Christian Bible, used by Catholics and Protestants, with some minor changes, alike) looked at the Gospels (each one, scholars say, was also not written by a single author) and say, "Hey, there's something missing here."

So they added it.

This is historically and scholastically true. Kind of scary, isn't it?

So, I guess the answer to this question depends on how you mean the question.

    Is the Bible a reliable history of the life of Christ?
    Probably not.

    Is the Bible a valid source to base religion and spiritual beliefs upon?
    Sure, it's just as good as anything else.

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: To say the any sort of historical account is reliable, there is a certain amount of scrutiny that the gospels they must stand up to.

There is only one passage in the Gospels that was added hundreds of years later--it's John 7:53-8:12, the story of the woman caught in adultery (where Jesus says, "let he who is without sin cast the first stone"). However, even though this was added to the Gospel of John at a late date, the story itself dates back at least to 150 AD and probably earlier. (See Raymond Brown's book on John in the Anchor Bible Commentary for more details).

This is a more isolated portion but really part of the larger question of what is known among Christianity as the doctrine of Innerency. In essence, it asks the question "Can we trust the Bible" and to this question it traditionally answers "Yes".

For those of you not familiar with the developments in the Church over the last 150 years or so, there are two ways this question has come to be answered. The first, and the one you probably expect is the Orthodox position. The second, more recent development is the Neo-Orthodox position.

The Orthodox position states that the Bible is completely true and accurate in all of it's claims from front to back, and that it is the divinely inspired Word of God. This has been the historic stance of the Christian Faith.

The Neo-Orthodox view states that the Bible is at times accurate and at others not, and that it is a good guideline but maybe not literal or completely correct in some of its claims. Thus, in reality, you can decide what parts you like and what you don't, and whatever displeases you may be ignored as "less credible".

Now, as a person who admits to being a Christian, to me Neo-Orthodoxy isn't even an option for a viable position in the broad scope of opinions within the Christian Faith. This is because the broad gap between the Orthodox (or historic) Christian Faith and Neo-Orthodoxy. Really, Neo-orthodoxy can be used to interpret the Bible as whatever you would like to hear, which is just the opposite of what historic Christianity says. However, let me backpedal a bit and lay a basis for why I think the Orthodox view is credible.

Ultimately, everything comes down to an issue of conscious belief. This turns into a philosophical question which deals with how we justify our beliefs, which relates to whether a secular (or Christian, for that matter) epistemology is justifiable. According to my investigations, the Christian answer to the problem of Epistemology is the only one that holds any credibility. For further reading on this subject, I recommend Francis Schaeffer's Trilogy.

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