To be honest, if someone hasn’t heard the biblical account of the life of Jesus Christ before, it can sound quite fantastic! Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, performed miracles no one had seen before, died a horrific martyr’s death, was raised back to life three days later, and then ascended back into heaven until He returns to Earth again.
But as fantastic as this sounds, there is still enough evidence to reasonably believe it’s all true. An unreasonable faith believes in something in spite of the evidence; a blind faith believes in something without any evidence; and reasonable faith believes in something because of the evidence.
The Bible gives us eyewitness testimony about the life of Jesus which we can matter-of-factly evaluate.
In a modern-day court of law, eyewitness testimony is evaluated on…
- …the determination that the witnesses were actually present.
- …the ability to corroborate their testimony.
- …the consistency of their testimony over time.
- …any biases they have that would cause them to exaggerate or misrepresent their testimony.
Let’s consider the testimony of the four Gospel writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
(1) Were The Eyewitnesses Present?
- Luke is considered a credible historian, even by modern standards. He wrote the book of Acts following the ascension of Jesus into Heaven. Because he did not mention three major events in Jewish history (the Jewish uprising, the Roman siege of Jerusalem in response to that uprising, and the Roman destruction of the temple), we can determine that Acts was written before 61 AD.
- Luke wrote the Gospel that bears his name before he wrote Acts. The Apostle Paul referenced portions of Luke’s Gospel in letters we can date by Paul’s Roman imprisonment, which means Luke was written prior to 53-57 AD.
- Luke uses the Gospel of Mark as one of his references, which means Mark was probably written in 45-50 AD, just 10-15 years after the events of Christ’s life.
- Mark was closely associated with the Apostle Peter, who was most assuredly Mark’s “source” in writing his Gospel, and Peter was one of the original twelve apostles called by Jesus.
- Matthew and John were both apostles of Jesus, living and working closely with Jesus for over three years.
(2) Is Their Testimony Corroborated?
- Archeological finds continually demonstrate the accuracy of the people, titles, places and details the Gospel writers mention.
- Outside—or extra-biblical—sources like Josephus (a Jewish historian who wanted to preserve the purity of Judaism), Tacitus (a Roman historian), and Mara Bar-Serapion (a Syrian historian)—all who wrote between 40-70 AD—affirm things like where Jesus lived, the miracles He performed, the manner of His death, His resurrection, and the changed lives of people who believed in Jesus Christ.
- In addition, Paul wrote of the “five hundred of the brothers” who were also eyewitnesses to the resurrected Christ (1 Corinthians 15:3-8).
(3) Has Their Testimony Remain Unchanged Over Time?
- The history and accuracy of the scribes had already been demonstrated in the preservation and transmission of the Old Testament over a period of 1400 years.
- These same scribal techniques were not only used in the transmission of the New Testament, but in subsequent years the Masoretic scribes became even more meticulous in the techniques they used.
- The “chain of custody” of evidence can be absolutely traced from the Gospel authors, to their students, and to the writings of the Church Fathers.
- In fact into the third-century AD, the writings of the Church Fathers contain so many direct quotations from the New Testament, that we can almost completely reconstruct the New Testament from their writings.
(4) Is Their Testimony Unbiased?
- These eyewitnesses didn’t gain anything financially by their testimony. In fact, many of them lost or gave up all their possessions to tell others about Jesus.
- They didn’t gain political power or influence that could save their own lives. All of the original apostles (except John) died a gruesome martyrs’ death.
- In short, they had nothing to gain by making up and reporting a false story about Jesus.
All of these points make it reasonable to believe the evidence presented in the Bible about Jesus Christ is true. Check out this video where I elaborate a little more on each of these points—
If you live in the Cedar Springs area and don’t have a home church, I would love for you to visit with us Easter Sunday morning at 10:30am. We’ll be examining the evidence for Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Click here to get more details.