The four gospels provide us with our clear picture of the living Son of God. Four men composed these books, with the Holy Spirit guiding them, and using all their skill as writers, too.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have achieved a great literary feat. The subject of their writing emerges in vivid color, and they themselves disappear.
St. Luke did not write about himself; he wrote about the Son of God. Ditto for the three other invisible word-portrait painters. When they wrote, they forgot about themselves and gave us Christ.
Luke and John, though, do each provide one sentence to explain their goal in writing, namely to give true testimony. St. Luke spells it out most clearly. He addresses us directly:
Many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the events that have been fulfilled among us, just as those who were eyewitnesses have handed them down. I decided, after investigating everything accurately anew, to write it down in an orderly sequence for you, most excellent lover of God. (Luke 1)
We have two extremely solid reasons, then, for trusting the four gospels of the New Testament as the definitive standard when it comes to information about Jesus of Nazareth.
1. If we hold the Christian faith, then it is because the Church has taught it to us. We believe that the Sacred Scriptures provide us with infallibly true teaching because the Church says that they do.
2. If we read documents with an historian’s critical eye, we recognize that the four gospels of the New Testament have a much higher level of credibility than any other source of information about Jesus of Nazareth. All the other sources—the “apocryphal gospels” and other fragments here and there—were all written generations later than Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And many of the other supposed sources of information have obvious axes to grind, whereas the canonical gospels have, as we mentioned earlier, an evident purity of intention in their presentation.
So: Talk-show hosts and other sensationalists might jump all over so-called “discoveries” that Jesus was married, or had a girlfriend, or lived to be seventy, or wore a bandana and combat boots, or was a Hindu, or preferred horseback riding to religion. But anyone who actually knows something about this just laughs. We appreciate what Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John did to give us information about the Son of God upon which we can absolutely rely.