There are solid reasons why we should accept the list of Gospels in our possession. The Church accepted the New Testament books almost immediately after they were written. The authors were friends of Jesus or his followers, men to whom Jesus had entrusted the leadership of the Church at its origins. The apostles Matthew and John were among Jesus’ closest followers. Mark and Luke were close friends of the apostles, and had access to their accounts of the life of Jesus.
The other authors of the New Testament were also very close to Jesus: James and Judas were half brothers of Jesus, and initially did not believe him. Peter was one of the 12 Apostles. Paul was initially a strong opponent of Christianity and a member of the ruling religious class, but ended up becoming a passionate follower of Jesus, strongly convinced of his resurrection.
The stories in the New Testament books are in line with what thousands of eyewitnesses have seen with their own eyes. When more books were written centuries later, it was not difficult for the Church to recognize them as false.
For example, the Gospel of Judas was written by a Gnostic sect around AD 130-170, long after the death of Judas. The Gospel of Thomas, written around AD 140, is another example of a counterfeit text bearing the name of one of the Apostles.
These and other Gnostic Gospels were in conflict with the teachings of Jesus hitherto known and with the Old Testament, and often contained various historical and geographical errors11.
In 367 AD, Athanasius of Alexandria officially drew up the list of the 27 books of the New Testament (the same ones we have today). In the following years, San Girolamo and Sant’Agostino circulated the same list.
For most Christians, however, such lists were unnecessary, as the Church had, to a large extent, authorized and used the same list of books since the first century AD.
Further on, the Church began to expand beyond the borders of the Greek-speaking regions, and therefore the need arose to translate the sacred texts. In addition, more and more versions of the sacred texts began to be made by the splinter sects. For these two reasons, having a definitive list became increasingly important.
The main reason why the Gospels were not written immediately after Jesus’ death and resurrection is very simple: initially, there was no apparent need for such scriptures. The life of Jesus was handed down in Jerusalem orally, and there was no need to write it down, since those who handed it down and who lived in the Jerusalem area had been eyewitnesses to it, and were therefore aware of his ministry12.
However, when the accounts of Jesus’ life crossed the borders of Jerusalem and the eyewitnesses were no longer readily accessible, the need arose to put everything in writing to educate people about the word of Jesus and his life: many scholars trace the writing of the Gospels 30-60 years after the death of Jesus.
Obviously yes. To ensure that faith has a value, it needs to be founded on facts, on reality. Here’s why: if you were to get on a plane to London, you would surely have faith in the fact that the plane has loaded up with fuel and is mechanically reliable, that the pilot is trained, and that there are no terrorists on board. It will not be thanks to your faith, however, that you will land in London. Your faith made you get on the plane, but what landed you in London was the integrity of the plane, the reliability of the pilot, and so on. P.