The claim (myth) goes as follows:
“The Gospels are 4 eyewitness accounts, 4 accounts written by 4 men who were witnesses to the events that took place in the life of Jesus. These 4 men decided to write 4 of their own accounts concerning the events that took place during the lifetime of Jesus, it’s basically like 4 people who witnessed a baseball game, and telling everybody about what happened during the game in their own unique way”
So let us set the record straight, to begin with, not a single one of the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. Not one of the Gospels was written in the lifetime of Jesus, the earliest known Gospel recounting the life of Jesus came 30-35 years after his ministry, this being the Gospel of Mark. The last Gospel, the Gospel of John, wasn’t written until the end of the 1st century, or the start of the 2nd century according to which scholarly position you take. So therefore the Gospels were not like 4 eyewitnesses to a baseball game recording what happened. Put it this way, the first Gospel writer wrote about the baseball game 30-35 years after it happened.
More to this point, not only were the Gospels not written by eyewitnesses, they weren’t even written by people who knew Jesus in any capacity, they aren’t even accounts that were dictated by the disciples of Jesus, or the disciples of Jesus’ disciples. Though some Christian tradition states that some of the disciples had a role in recounting the events we find in the Gospels, there is no evidence to substantiate this claim, as the Gospel writers never make that claim in their accounts, for example the Gospel of Mark never writes that I wrote this Gospel based on the disciples recounting of what happened.
The Gospels were basically written decades after Jesus, by unknown authors, we don’t know whom the authors of the Gospels were, they are anonymous writers. Not only do we not know who they are, we don’t know who their sources were, there is no chain of transmission concerning where they got their stories from.
What we do know is that stories concerning Jesus were being passed around and circulated amongst the people, and that’s how the early Gospels were basically written, based on the stories they were hearing. But in specifics, we don’t know who was passing these stories, and we don’t know from whom the Gospel writers got their specific stories.
What we also find amongst the Gospels are stories that are being changed. For instance a story found in the earlier Gospel, the Gospel of Mark, is modified and changed in the Gospel of Matthew and Luke. One example is an incident that takes place in the Gospel of Mark, Jesus asks Peter to tell him who he thinks he is, Peter responds back by calling Jesus the Messiah. The same story is posted in Matthew, yet Peter adds something else, not only is Jesus the Messiah, but the Son of the Living of God. So we can see how Matthew has modified and evolved the story for Jesus, he is now the Son of the Living God.
Another example is the baptism of Jesus with John the Baptist. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus comes to be baptized by John, yet in Matthew, when Jesus comes to get baptized, John protests and says Jesus must baptize him. So Matthew has once again changed and modified the story to make Jesus look better, or to remove something that might have seemed embarrassing, such as how could Jesus get baptized by John? So he modifies it and puts John’s protest, all of which is missing from the earlier account of Mark.
You can even find modifications concerning the criminals beside Jesus on the cross, according to Mark and Matthew, none of the criminals believe in Jesus, according to Matthew BOTH OF THEM mock Jesus. Yet in Luke, one of the criminals mocks Jesus, while the other becomes a believer who will be in paradise with Jesus. So Luke has taken the two earlier stories, and has put his own modification to portray Jesus in a better light.
What all of this shows is that the Gospel writers were not honest historians truthfully recounting what happened, rather they were actively changing the stories, and evolving the stories to portray Jesus in a better light, as well as to remove any possible embarrassing stories. These modifications show that the writers were theologically driven, and hence they are not simple historical accounts, as evangelicals would have us believe. This makes us ask the next logical question, what else did they decide to change and modify, or perhaps even leave out due to embarrassment?
All of the information I have given are basic facts accepted and taught within academia, and when I say academia, I include Christian academia and scholarship as well.
In conclusion, the 4 Gospels are not 4 eyewitness accounts, they were written decades after Jesus, by people who did not see or know him, and by people who were theologically driven in writing their accounts, i.e. they were not actual historical accounts.