We often see the claim, ”If the New Testament is not reliable history that we can trust, then no ancient history can be trusted.” Understand when the apologist makes the claim, it is a dichotomous hyperbole where either every single fact within the New Testament (including the miracles) must be accepted as fully historical OR not a single fact is true, and therefore all histories of any sort must likewise be false.
There is no consideration for the possible alternative that some facts are historical (Pilate, Herod, even a traveling Rabbi named Jesus) and some are mythological (walking on water, clearing the temple, Slaughter of the Innocents).
There is a simple response to this claim.
Remember this joke?
A man walks up to a beautiful woman and asks, “Would you have sex with me for One million dollars?”
“Yes!” she exclaims.
“How about for $5?” the man replies.
“No way! What kind of woman do you think I am?”
“Ma’am, we’ve already established that. All we’re doing now is negotiating price.”
I feel the same way with this claim. The Christian apologist equally agrees certain documents are not historical regarding Jesus’ sayings and life—all we really are doing is haggling over method.
The Infancy Gospel of James claims Mary, Mother of Jesus, was born out of Immaculate Conception. (No male involved.) Was this historical?
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas records an incident when Jesus, as a child, was bumped by another child. Jesus, of course, miraculously struck the child dead. The parents, understandably vexed, complained to Joseph, whereupon Jesus blinded them. Is this historical?
Josephus records a star in the shape of a sword over Jerusalem before it fell. A comet that lasted a whole year. Mysterious light, a cow giving birth to a lamb, doors opening on their own, strange voices and earthquakes. Were these historical?
Joseph Smith saw Jesus; the Gospel of Philip implies Mary Magdalene was Jesus’ paramour. Historical?
See, at some point every historian—every person—reaches a point of exclaiming, “That is not true. Didn’t happen.” Like the joke…we’ve established some stories (including stories about Jesus) are not historical. All we’re doing now is haggling over method—over how to determine which stories are historical and which are myth.