1. Legendary material represents late fiction, and as such will not tend to be corroborated, either internally or externally, since the claims it makes are not based in reality.
2. The New Testament accounts are corroborated, both internally and externally. **
Result: The New Testament accounts are not legend.
** Support **
– The gospels are internally corroborated by the fact that they display undesigned coincidences. This means that the gospel writers unintentionally create, through their various accounts, unanswered questions about the events. Only by comparing the separate accounts can we fill in the holes and answer these questions. This is a characteristic feature of independent eyewitness testimony. For this to be found in fictional accounts would be likely only if the authors were intentionally conspiring together to tell a subtle lie. This possibility has already been refuted in the previous post on conspiracy theories. Since the apostles were not conspirators, this is strong evidence that we have reliable independent eyewitness testimony. One of many examples of this is as follows:
Question: Matthew 8:16
Why did they wait until evening to bring those who needed healing?
Answer: Mark 1:21, Luke 4:31
Because it was the Sabbath.
For many more examples with detailed explanation, please read Cold Case Christianity by J. Warner Wallace, specifically dealt with on pp. 183-191.
-The gospels reference names (both of people and places) with incredible precision and accuracy. If the gospels represented late legend, then they would have been written by people with an inaccurate and incomplete knowledge of the details and background specifics of the time and place. We do find this kind of sketchy, vague reporting in late forgeries like the Gnostic gospels. However, with the New Testament, names are gotten right for the time and place, and very specific, little-known place names are referenced with accuracy. This is strong indication that the writers were really present in the time and place they claim.
For more on this, read Cold Case Christianity pp. 191-195.
– Secular historians and ancient non-believing writers corroborate some of the facts of the New Testament narrative. Josephus, the Jewish historian, records that Jesus lived and was crucified by Pilate, and that his followers reported his resurrection afterward. Thallus, a Samaritan historian, attempts to explain the darkness during the Crucifixion as an eclipse of the sun. Tacitus, a Roman senator, recorded that Jesus lived and was crucified under Pilate, and that a “superstition” emerged around him afterward. Mara Bar-Serapion, a Syrian philosopher, references the fact that that Jesus lived and was the King of the Jews, and that he was executed by them. Phlegon, also an unbelieving historian, reluctantly admitted that Jesus lived and had supernatural powers to predict the future. Even the Jewish Talmud, which is thought to contain sayings that date back to the time of Christ, admits, again, from a hostile perspective, the fact that Christ lived, had “magical powers”, and was executed for religious reasons. Together, these provide a powerful collective corroboration for the core of the New Testament, making it extremely unlikely that these events were late forgeries and/or legends.
For the details on all these quotes, read Cold Case Christianity, pp.195-201.
– Archaeological finds corroborate the New Testament. One of many examples of this is the Pool of Bethesda. For some time, liberal critics denied the existence of this biblical place because it had not been found in Jerusalem. In 1888, however, the pool was found, proving the biblical reference to be accurate. Since this is only one of many examples, please check the aforementioned book, pp. 201-205 for more details.