The Gospels also reveal many details of the social life of the time which can be confirmed from Josephus. They indicate, as he does, the relative prosperity of the fishing communities on the Sea of Galilee, with their family partnerships served by employees, the role of the Pharisees as roving guardians of orthodoxy, and the undercurrent of hostility against all non-Jews. No tears were shed for the Syrian landowners ruined by the destruction of their herds of pigs at Gadara (Mark 5:13-17). There is the overwhelming influence of the Temple represented by the constant round of journeys to and from Jerusalem to keep the feasts there. Local disasters like the fall of the tower of Siloam (Luke 13:4) are chronicled as though they were well-known facts. On the other hand, no tradition originating after the fall of Jerusalem in 70 would have recorded the position of Pilate's judgment seat (John 19:13), for the whole area in which the drama took place would have been buried under mounds of blackened debris. As for Jesus himself, we cannot agree with critics who reject the possibility of reconstructing the outlines of his personality and work. Even without the additional information derived from the Gospel of Thomas and Jesus' sayings recorded in sources other than the Gospels (that is, agrapha), and the comparison provided by the beliefs of the Dead Sea Covenanters, one would accept the view of C. H. Dodd, "The Synoptic writers give us a body of [his] sayings so coherent, and withal so distinctive in style, manner and content, that no reasonable critic could doubt that whatever reservations he might have about individual Sayings, we find reflected here the thought of a single, unique Teacher."

from pages 55-56, The Rise of Christianity