Here are a few notes on some of the arguments presented by Bauckham:-
His book sets out new arguments in favour of the ‘traditional’ view of the authorship and historicity of the four Gospels, and, in particular, that they present reliable eyewitness testimony of the life and ministry of Jesus.
Papias – The testimony of this early 2nd-century Christian should be taken seriously, as for example, when he asserts that Mark was the ‘interpreter’ of Peter
Paul – When Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15, says that the resurrection of Jesus was witnessed by a given number of people, ‘many of whom are still alive today’ this is as much as to say, ‘You don’t have to take my word for it – go and ask them’.
Oral tradition – People were very used to teaching and listening in ways that preserved the factuality of the event being narrated.
Names – historians of the time would be expected to use the testimony of eyewitnesses, and find ways of identifying these within their narratives. Accordingly, when the Gospel writers name individuals such as Cleopas (Lk 24:18) and Bartimaus (Mk 10:46), it is probably that they are thereby identifying the sources of that material.
Protection of eyewitnesses – One recent scholar has suggested that some names or other details might be withheld during the lifetime of the individual concerned in order to protect them. In the case of the raising of Lazarus, this might help to explain why the entire episode is missing from the (earlier) synoptic Gospels. We know from John 12:10 that the chief priests plotted to kill Lazarus as well as Jesus. By the time that John wrote his Gospel, the danger had passed, and the story could be told.
Mark – based on the witness of Peter.
Matthew – uses (and condenses) Mark, but supplements this material in order to give a more comprehensive account. Based on Matthew’s testimony, but probably not written by Matthew himself (unlikely that Matthew would have used Mark’s account of his own call).
Luke – also supplements Mark’s account by drawing on the testimony of a wider circle of disicples, including women.
John – It is ironic that this is the only Gospel that claims to have been written by an eyewitness, and yet it is the one to which the highest level of doubt attached. Is very precise about details of geography and chronology. It is probable that his account of the cleansing of the Temple is put in its correct chronological place, whereas Mark’s account is put, along with other material, into the last week of Jesus’ ministry because, in Mark’s ordering of the material, that is the only time that Jesus visited Jerusalem. It is likely that John knew Mark’s Gospel, which would have been well known in the Christian world. It is notable that John makes frequent reference to the miracles (signs) of Jesus, and yet only records seven – and indication that he is taking the synoptic accounts for granted. The mention of the ‘beloved disciple’ strongly suggests that he’ is to be regarded as a witness to the things recorded in that book.
Bauckham thinks that although some of the details of the various narratives and sayings may have been altered (for example, in the interests of story-telling), we can have a high level of confidence that we have the ‘gist’ of what actually happened.
James Crossley found very little to disagree with in Bauckham’s arguments. His tendency was to say that he found the arguments ‘plausible’, but would not go quite as far is Bauckham in the conclusions drawn (particularly with respect to John’s Gospel). It seemed that he realised that to do so would compel him to take seriously the ‘supernatural’ elements of the Gospels, which he clearly was not prepared to do.