Some Christian apologists when trying to describe the Gospels to the Muslims, claim that the Gospels are much like the Hadiths, and the Hadith-Rejectors too hold the same opinion as the Christians in this matter and deem Ahadith barrations to be unreliable, in that the Gospels were written-collected by men, and are based on the sayings-teachings of Jesus (‘Eesa Maseeh alayhissalaam) just as the Hadiths are with the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam).
Now indeed there are some similarities between the two, but the similarities all come to an end after what we have already posted above, because there are also many differences between the two, and these differences are very important.
The main difference between the Hadiths and the Gospels is that in regards to the Hadiths, we know who actually collected the Hadiths, and we know who passed them on, and we know who actually made the original statement that was passed on. So for example person A said something, then person B heard it and he decided to pass it on and tell other persons C-D-E, and then they passed it on to others and so forth. Basically throughout the chain of transmission of the hadith, we know who is who, we know who is passing the story, and we know from where the original story came from, there is a complete line of transmission.
This is very crucial, because it means the reports are not anonymous, the reports are coming from people we know, names and persons we can identify, we know where they lived, when they were born, when they died and so forth. Again this is very important because if you know the person, you also know if they’re reliable or unreliable, for example someone who is reporting the Hadith, a person in the chain, could have been known as a liar, as someone unreliable, someone who would make things up, and therefore we know if he is passing or narrating a Hadith that we can question the authenticity. Vice versa the person narrating the Hadith can also be known as a truthful person, someone reliable etc, and therefore we know the Hadith he passing is reliant, or it’s highly likely that it is reliant.
In the case of the Gospels, we have none of this, we literally don’t know who was passing the stories, they’re all anonymous. Even the supposed collectors Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John, were not Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John! The Gospel accounts are all anonymous accounts written-collected by persons-authors we don’t actually know, and they are narrating stories-incidents from people we don’t know either, the entire chain of transmission in the Gospels is unknown and anonymous.
Basically in the Gospel account we have the source as Jesus, and then we have person A-B-C-D-E passing on the stories-teachings of Jesus, but we have no idea who these sources A-B-C-D-E are, whether they’re reliable people and so forth, we literally know nothing about them. The only person who we can say with some confidence who we know about was Paul, and yet he barely wrote anything about the life-sayings-teachings of Jesus, and oddly enough in his own writings we can see that he was at odds with the actual disciples of Jesus and their beliefs, in fact he abolished the Law and taught exactly the opposite of Jesus’ teachings.
So when it comes to the Gospel of Mark, and we read all these stories and sayings of Jesus (‘Eesa alayhissalaam), we are reading accounts that have been passed by people we don’t know, and they were collected in a book called Mark by an author we don’t know either, though there is much speculation about who the exact author is. On the other hand when it comes to the Hadiths, when we read a story about the Prophet Muhammad (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam), we know exactly who passed on the story and who narrated it, we have a complete line of transmission of the people who heard the saying, and who passed the saying, and who it got passed to, and we know whether these people are sound people or not.
All of this is obviously crucial, let us give an example, let’s say you heard a news story, and it’s a very big news story but there is no source, you’re not likely going to believe it are you? Especially in this day and age when there are all kind of sources-websites on the internet that sometimes report some very crazy stories, which you then find out are false, but most times you yourself know to doubt and not believe certain news stories coming from certain organizations-websites because you know they’re not reliable. And you’re also aware of organizations-websites-persons that are reliable, and so you can trust what they’re saying because you know who they are etc. So it’s very important to know your source, if you don’t know your source then as you can see you have some big issues.
Now take the same simple logic and apply it to the Gospels and Hadiths (for some strange reason people often don’t like to use this simple logic, acting like we’re dealing with some other realm), it’s important to know our sources, who we’re dealing with, who’s passing on the story, whether the person passing is it is a reliable person, or an unreliable person.
In conclusion, the Hadiths are a far more reliable and trustworthy collection of sayings-teachings than the Gospels, to put it simple, in news terms, nobody would ever accept the Gospel as a source of information because it has no sources, all of its sources comes from anonymous sources, basically people we don’t know, and that my friends is not a proper source of information you can get anything from, let alone the actual teachings of God.
There is no appropriate comparison between the Muslim’s authentic Hadith and the Christian Gospels when it comes to their authenticity. Let no Muslim be fooled by this. The only similarity that one can point out between the two is that they both speak about the lives of a certain individual. I would say that the major difference between the two is the reliability of their preservation. Muslims don’t believe that those who transmitted or collected the Hadith were inspired by God like how Christians believe for their Gospel authors. And hence there can be errors and mistakes in Hadith and we don’t rule out that. And also there are ways to solve this problem and this is in no way a threat to the reliability that we have in authentic Hadith as a whole (isnad and matn). But for the Christian Gospels we should expect to not find any errors since those who transmitted them are supposed to be directly ‘inspired’ by God. But sadly we have numerous errors in Gospels and in Bible as a whole.
Related Reading: Difference between Ahadith Narrations & Historical Reports