When making an argument for Jesus’ reported miracles and resurrection the first place most people will turn is the Gospel accounts. These documents contain the majority of information we have on the person of Jesus though certain details can be found elsewhere. Often when citing the Gospel accounts, the skeptic will object to their use as verification of Jesus and His ministry. The claim is that in order to be a valid citation for the person of Jesus, it must come from outside the Bible, i.e., a secular source, in order to be credible. The Bible is biased and therefore we must use independent sources which are untainted by religious motivation in order to get accurate accounts of Jesus’ reported miracles and resurrection. Is the skeptic right, is it valid or reasonable to require only independent source material outside the New Testament (NT) when considering whether Jesus performed miracles or rose from the dead?
For one thing we have four independent sources of significant length, which is pretty good as far as ancient accounts for a single person goes. As biographies of Jesus, I think it could be reasonably argued that they were not likely intended to be religious texts in the same way we view them today as they are used for religious purposes. They record who Jesus was and the things He reportedly did and taught.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding of what the Bible is when demanding independent material. By preferring “independent” materials over the NT sources it overlooks that the Bible is merely a collection of independent sources. Unfortunately, there is now a tendency to look at the Bible as a single work because it is now under one cover.
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Gospels were intended religious, texts. Why are they considered religious texts? Because they contain miracles? Reference Jesus’ teachings about God? Ok, I get that. But now here’s the problem. This means, therefore, that there doesn’t exist by definition any non-religious accounts for Jesus’ life and miracles. If any account features what He taught and what He did, it counts as a religious text if “religious text” means it records Jesus performing miracles. Has the skeptic ever considered that if there were a “non-religious” secular work with as much detail as the Gospels include, they would consider it a religious text?
It just seems that this request is impossible to fulfill. There are plenty of extra-biblical accounts which ought to be adequate for anyone making this request, but since the demand for non-religious accounts persist, it would seem they are not. But why not? They don’t record Jesus’ miracles or His teachings? Are we seeing the circularity here?