In J. Warner Wallace’s Cold-Case Christianity, chapter 5, he leverages the work of two experts on the New Testament. He cites Dan Wallace on textual transmission, and Craig Blomberg on textual criticism. Let’s take a look at an article written by Craig Blomberg which presents 10 reasons why the gospels are reliable. (H/T Chris S.)
Here are points 4 and 5:
Fourth, ancient Jews and Greeks meticulously cultivated the art of memorization, committing complex oral traditions to memory. Even before the Gospels or any other written sources about Jesus were compiled, Jesus’ followers were carefully passing on accounts of His teachings and mighty works by word of mouth. This kept the historical events alive until the time they were written down.
Fifth, the ancient memorization and transference of sacred tradition allowed for some freedoms in retelling the stories. Guardians of the tradition could abbreviate, paraphrase, prioritize, and provide commentary on the subject matter as long as they were true to the gist or meaning of the accounts they passed on. This goes a long way to explaining both the similarities and the differences among the four Gospels. All four authors were true to the gist of Jesus’ life, yet they exercised reasonable freedom to shape the accounts in ways they saw fit.
Take a look if you want a quick overview of reasons why we should give the gospels the benefit of the doubt unless they prove faulty in one or more areas.