One element of the biblical record that I have paid some attention to is the accuracy of, in particular, the Book of Acts. Let me review the claim I want to defend on behalf of the Gospels, which I would certainly also want to defend on behalf of Acts of the Apostles:
Well, I would argue that in the Gospels we have four books written by people who at worst were in a position to talk to those who had seen and known Jesus, and who claimed to have seen him resurrected. They may have had theological aims, but they did their work with a concern to correctly preserve the facts concerning the life, death and resurrection of Christ. There are, of course, four such records, and as such if they agree with one another that something happened, that is at least some evidence that it indeed did happen. Evidence, mind you, that we might end up having to reject, but evidence nonetheless. Of course, the idea that the Gospels represented an attempt to get things right, as opposed to being a record of some out-of-control legends, will have to be argued for, but it is a conclusion I think is supported by the evidence.
In short, I am interested in what I would call general reliability, as opposed to inerrancy. Let's look at the evidence first, and let those who are concerned about inerrancy sort it out later.
Now, what relevance is it that aspects of Bible can be shown to be factual. That which can be shown to be reliable in the New Testament is not typically the supernatural element. Luke, for instance, seems to know the titles of various officials in the cities where Paul is supposed to have gone on his missionary journeys. In this book, which was featured in the Library of Historical Apologetics site, James Smith shows that, indeed, the Maltese Shipwreck story in Acts had to have been factual, based on real a real experience of sailing and being shipwrecked.
But should these facts impress us? Chris Hallquist thinks not.
The "amazing accuracy"line of apologetics involves compiliing long lists of details of the gospels confirmed in outside sources: John the Baptist existed, the book of Acts uses terminology correctly, et cetera, finding as many examples as they can (a recent Norman Geisler book boasts 140 allegedly confirmed details). Now, there's an obvious (well, not to the apologists) point that needs to be made here: just because some details of an account are correct does not mean that the entire thing is correct. Case in point: when I read The Amityville Horror I had not trouble identifying some somewhat obscure factual points: there really was a parapsychologist named J. B. Rhine, there really are a pair of ghost hunters named Ed and Lorraine Warren. Further reading revealed that the hoax was built around a real murder case in a real house which a family named the Lutzes really moved into, only to leave a month later. The Warrens really participated in a seance at the house, and the character of Father Mancuso was based on a real priest in the Rockville Center Diocese (the name was not real, though he was one of those people whose name was "changed to protect their privacy) as per a statement in the original book). The fact that some of the details in The Amityville Horror are true did not keep its fantastic supernatural claims from being false.
Chris Hallquist, UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God, (Reasonable Press, 2008). p. 34,
But there are some problems with using this parallel. First, this is was a hoax, as Hallquist indicates on p. 28 of his book. His theory of how Christianity arose doesn't involve a hoax, it involves hallucinations and legend. So while the creators of the hoax could have put the fact and the fiction together, it has to happen rather differently through hallucination and legend.
Second, it is easy to understand how the people who wrote The Amityville Horror came by their information. Someone familiar with the world of the paranormal would know the factual information necessary to put the hoax together. And if not, a trip to the library would have given the hoaxters all the information they needed. On the other hand, I see no way that Luke could possibly have known what he knew without actually having been a companion of Paul. When we take a close look at what Luke had to know to write his book, I don't see how he could have gotten that knowledge third hand. It's not as if he could have found all the information he needed to know by going to the local library and reading the Encyclopedia Romanica. It seems evident to me that he had access to people involved in the founding of Christianity, that he was there for the missionary journeys, (and by the way those stories do include miracles). It simply boggles my mind that people like Richard Carrier and Robert Price keep putting the date of Acts into the second century. And, if you can't date Acts late, you can't date the Synoptics late, either.