Were the Gospel Writers Biased?

miniscribeHow can we trust the Gospel writers? Weren’t they biased about Jesus?  Weren’t they Christians who were just trying to get everyone else to believe what they believed?

This topic recently came up during my jail ministry.  I gave my best answer to the inmate who asked, and later thought it might make a good topic for my blog.  If the inmate had the question, then certainly others might as well.

What the objection seems to be suggesting is that by getting our ideas about the life and teaching of Jesus from the four Gospels, we might be getting a biased view since the writers were themselves Christian.  Wouldn’t a more accurate view come from an unbiased witness?

At first blush, the objection seems to make sense.  However, as we examine it a little closer it presents some problems to itself.

The first obvious problem with the objection is that it implies something that is not necessarily true.  That is, we cannot throw out someone’s testimony simply because they believe it to be true.  Information obtained from someone who believes the data to be correct does not in itself taint the information.

Think of the chaos that would follow if we began to view the world around us with this prejudice.  How would life be if we began to suspect any data when it was made by someone who believes the data to be true?  For example, if you are driving down the road and see a “Bridge Out” sign, would you disregard the sign and continue traveling because the people who put up the sign “had been biased” by their understanding of road conditions?  Would you disregard road maps because the company that designed them had been influenced by what they believed to be true about highways?  What about the doctor who wants to put a cast on your arm because he was influenced by what he saw on your x-ray?

It is quite obvious that we live our lives being very dependent upon those who provide data to us all because they have first hand knowledge of the truth.  It defies reasoning, therefore, to disregard the Gospel accounts based on the fact that the writers believed they were writing the truth.  In fact, that is the very thing we should be seeking.

Furthermore, a problem that this assertion presents to itself is that if we are going to consistently follow its own logic, then we must disregard this very objection of the Gospels, if the person making it believes it to be true!

It should also be pointed out that all four Gospel authors had indicated that they did not always believe.  Though they had followed Jesus, they apparently struggled with unbelief (see Matt 17:19-20).  This unbelief eventually became belief after they had post-mortem encounters with Jesus following His crucifixion.  Therefore, we should recognize that the Gospel writers had at one time been skeptical of Jesus, but had eventually changed their skepticism.  This would seem to suggest that any “bias” they had for or against Jesus was an open-minded one.  We should be encouraged by this attitude.

While it is true that the Gospel writers wrote with the hope of convincing their readers to believe in Jesus (John 20:31), this does not necessarily mean that their motivation was dubious.  The Christian movement did not make any of the Apostles rich.  As well, history teaches us that nearly all of them died violent deaths because of their testimony.  Therefore, though they were biased in favor of Jesus, their motives for writing could not have been fueled by wealth and comfort.  Rather, it would appear that they were inspired to write because they believed what they were writing was true.

To be biased by a belief in truth is an admirable trait.



Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, amateur filmmaker, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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