What's wrong with this thread (the article and the comments posted in response to it)? Why should we limit ourselves to "eyewitness testimony to the life, death and supposed resurrection of Jesus Christ"? What about eyewitness testimony related to other subjects relevant to an objective case for Christianity? Why isn't much said about eyewitness testimony outside of the gospels? How many Christians appeal to eyewitness testimony for "movie-like" or "perfect" memories? How relevant is something like observation of a "car accident" or "purse snatching" to observation of something like whether relatives of Jesus reported that He was a descendant of David, whether He gave sight to a man who seemed to be blind, or whether His tomb was empty? Why should we think that the gospels were anonymous? What about the large amount of evidence to the contrary? See, for example, Martin Hengel's The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ (Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000) and here, here, here, here, and here. Former_Fundy tells us:
"If there is genuine eyewitness testimony in Scripture, it is from individuals who had to 'make sense' of what they saw. They interpreted what they saw in accordance with their world view, which in the first century, was one in which the supernatural realm (angels, demons, God) regularly invaded the natural realm. So, their testimony is 'colored' by their world view, a world-view which is largely rejected since the Enlightenment."
But see Glenn Miller's argument to the contrary here. The large majority of people in today's world believe in "the supernatural realm", including activity by angels and demons, answers to prayer, and other occurrences which are thought to be "regular". Supernaturalists don't believe every supernatural claim. The reason why we're discussing eyewitness testimony is because the early Christians' concern for evidence was such that they structured their belief system around historical events involving verifiable evidence, including eyewitness testimony.
Former_Fundy acknowledges that he hasn't read Richard Bauckham's book on eyewitness testimony, which addresses the findings of Jan Vansina and other sources. Bauckham discusses a lot of relevant material that Former_Fundy and the people who responded to his post don't address.
"All four Gospels are anonymous in the formal sense that the author's name does not appear in the text of the work itself, only in the title (which we will discuss below). But this does not mean that they were intentionally anonymous. Many ancient works were anonymous in the same formal sense, and the name may not even appear in the surviving title of the work. For example, this is true of Lucian's Life of Demonax (Demonactos bios), which as a bios (ancient biography) is generically comparable with the Gospels. Yet Lucian speaks throughout in the first person and obviously expects his readers to know who he is. Such works would often have been circulated in the first instance among friends or acquaintances of the author who would know who the author was from the oral context in which the work was first read. Knowledge of authorship would be passed on when copies were made for other readers, and the name would be noted, with a brief title, on the outside of the scroll or on a label affixed to the scroll. In denying that the Gospels were originally anonymous, our intention is to deny that they were first presented as works without authors. The clearest case is Luke because of the dedication of the work to Theophilus (1:3), probably a patron. It is inconceivable that a work with a named dedicatee should have been anonymous. The author's name may have featured in an original title, but in any case would have been known to the dedicatee and other first readers because the author would have presented the book to the dedicatee....In the first century CE, most authors gave their books titles, but the practice was not universal....Whether or not any of these titles originate from the authors themselves, the need for titles that distinguished one Gospel from another would arise as soon as any Christian community had copies of more than one in its library and was reading more than one in its worship meetings....In the case of codices, 'labels appeared on all possible surfaces: edges, covers, and spines.' In this sense also, therefore, Gospels would not have been anonymous when they first circulated around the churches. A church receiving its first copy of one such would have received with it information, at least in oral form, about its authorship and then used its author's name when labeling the book and when reading from it in worship....no evidence exists that these Gospels were ever known by other names." (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 300-301, 303)
"Nevertheless the fact remains that it is utterly improbable that in this dark period, at a particular place or through a person or through the decision of a group or institution unknown to us, the four superscriptions of the Gospels, which had hitherto been circulating anonymously, suddenly came into being and, without leaving behind traces of earlier divergent titles, became established throughout the church. Let those who deny the great age and therefore basically the originality of the Gospel superscriptions in order to preserve their 'good' critical conscience, give a better explanation of the completely unanimous and relatively early attestation of these titles, their origin and the names of authors associated with them. Such an explanation has yet to be given, and it never will be. New Testament scholars persistently overlook basic facts and questions on the basis of old habits." (Martin Hengel, The Four Gospels And The One Gospel Of Jesus Christ [Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Trinity Press International, 2000], p. 55)
"There is no evidence that the Pharisees abstained from writing their 'traditions of the fathers.' There is even less reason to suppose that an insistence on oral transmission alone characterized other Jewish groups at the time of Jesus, such as the (highly literary) Qumran community. However, again it is not true that Gerhardsson entirely neglected the role of written materials: he postulated that, just as private notebooks were in fact used by the rabbis and their pupils, so writing, as an aid to memory, could have been used in early Christian circles prior to the Gospels....In a predominantly oral society, not only do people deliberately remember but also teachers formulate their teachings so as to make them easily memorable. It has frequently been observed that Jesus' teaching in its typically Synoptic forms has many features that facilitate remembering. The aphorisms are typically terse and incisive, the narrative parables have a clear and relatively simple plot outline. Even in Greek translation, the only form in which we have them, the sayings of Jesus are recognizably poetic, especially employing parallelism, and many have posited Aramaic originals rich in alliteration, assonance, rhythm, rhyme, and wordplay. These teaching formulations were certainly not created by Jesus ad hoc, in the course of his teaching, but were carefully crafted, designed as concise encapsulations of his teaching that his hearers could take away, remember, ponder, and live by. We cannot suppose that Jesus' oral teaching consisted entirely of such sayings as these. Jesus must have preached much more discursively, but offered these aphorisms and parables as brief but thought-provoking summations of his teaching for his hearers to jot down in their mental notebooks for frequent future recall. (Obviously, therefore, it was these memorable summations that survived, and when the writers of the Synoptic Gospels wished to represent the discursive teaching of Jesus they mostly had to use collections of these sayings.) This kind of encapsulation of teaching in carefully crafted aphorisms to be remembered was the teaching style of the Jewish wisdom teacher. As Rainer Riesner puts it, 'Even the form of the sayings of Jesus included in itself an imperative to remember them.' Jesus' hearers would readily recognize this and would apply to memorable sayings the deliberate practices of committing to memory that they would know were expected....Such notebooks [as ancient rabbis used] were in quite widespread use in the ancient world (2 Tim 4:13 refers to parchment notebooks Paul carried on his travels). It seems more probable than not that early Christians used them....The eyewitnesses who remembered the events of the history of Jesus were remembering inherently very memorable events, unusual events that would have impressed themselves on the memory, events of key significance for those who remembered them, landmark or life-changing events for them in many cases, and their memories would have been reinforced and stabilized by frequent rehearsal, beginning soon after the event. They did not need to remember - and the Gospels rarely record - merely peripheral aspects of the scene or the event, the aspects of recollective memory that are least reliable....We may conclude that the memories of eyewitnesses of the history of Jesus score highly by the criteria for likely reliability that have been established by the psychological study of recollective memory....[quoting Gillian Cohen] Research has tended to emphasize the errors that occur in everyday memory functions. The picture that emerges is of an error-prone system. This emphasis is partly an artefact of research methodology. In experiments it is usually more informative to set task difficulty at a level where people make errors so that the nature of the errors and the conditions that provoke them can be identified....People do make plenty of naturally occurring errors in ordinary life situations, but, arguably, the methodology has produced a somewhat distorted view of memory efficiency. In daily life, memory successes are the norm and memory failures are the exception. People also exhibit remarkable feats of remembering faces and voices from the remote past, and foreign-language vocabulary and childhood experiences over a lifetime. As well as such examples of retention over very long periods, people can retain large amounts of information over shorter periods, as when they prepare for examinations, and sometimes, as in the case of expert knowledge, they acquire a large amount of information and retain it for an indefinitely long time. Considering how grossly it is overloaded, memory in the real world proves remarkably efficient and resilient. [end quote of Gillian Cohen]" (Richard Bauckham, Jesus And The Eyewitnesses [Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 2006], pp. 252, 282, 288, 346, 357)