My name is Matthew. I’m a speaker and author with Josh McDowell Ministry. After you watch this video, feel free to leave a comment here or via my social channels, listed below. I’d love to hear from you and be a small part of your wrestling with these important questions about Jesus. I also invite you to subscribe to my channel!
Accurate Accounts? | Are the Gospels Reliable?
Today we will ask if the Gospel authors capably recorded history. Were they good candidates to tell us about the life of Jesus? Should we trust their accounts? Let’s get into it!
All four of the Gospel writers were in a good position to give us an accurate account of the life of Jesus. So far in this series I’ve shown you that Matthew and John were disciples (students) of Jesus, making them excellent sources to talk about Him. They spent more time with Jesus than almost anyone else. Mark worked closely with Peter to compose his Gospel, and Peter was a disciple of Jesus. Luke’s closest connection to Jesus was Paul. Although not one of Jesus’s twelve disciples, Paul had an experience seeing the resurrected Jesus that TRANSFORMED his life. Paul was then entrusted by the early Church to share the story of Jesus around the world. In Luke’s Gospel, and his subsequent book of Acts, his higher vocabulary and orderly style appear to be the work of a careful historian.
We might wonder if the authors were influenced by bias. Some atheists and skeptics completely dismiss the historical value of the Gospels because the authors followed Christ. But just as bias can distort a report, it also can strengthen the report. Christian belief places emphasis on truth and honesty. As disciples of Jesus, these men strove to meet that standard. And consider this: these early followers of Jesus were persecuted for their faith. They courageously faced death, asserting that their words were true.
A much more credible objection is that these authors wrote their books long after the events took place. It’s true that decades passed between the life of Jesus and when the Gospels were produced. How did these authors remember what happened decades ago? Let me show you four reasons for why the Gospels can be considered accurate records.
4 Reasons to Accept the Gospel Records as Accurate
First: We must acknowledge the oral culture the Gospel authors lived in. In their time and place, people transferred information primarily through spoken words. It was common practice for people to retain large amounts of information by rote memorization. Their brains adapted to this practice — and they were very good at it. Reality check: We find it difficult to memorize a single Scripture verse, much less chapters of the Bible. But back then, learned individuals memorized entire texts!
Second: Jesus spoke and taught in a way to enable easy memorization. New Testament scholar Craig Blomberg points out that up to 90 percent of Jesus’s words were written in poetic fashion. This doesn’t mean that His words rhymed. Rather, they had a distinct rhythm … meter … parallels. This significantly aided in people memorizing and retaining His teachings.
Third: It’s easy to remember information if you teach it regularly. As the disciples of Jesus were founders and leaders of the early Church, they would have been talking about Jesus frequently, which would have kept their memories fresh and accessible as they composed their Gospels. As they worked on their texts, then, they could test their certainty of important details with others who had been with Jesus or learned from others who had been. Likewise, having this built-in community ensured that if they started to exaggerate or give false information, others in-the-know would have corrected them.
Fourth: Although the four Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ ministry, there’s no reason to think that the disciples weren’t taking notes during their three years with Jesus. As they traveled with Jesus, the disciples would have recognized that Jesus was making history. That His words and actions were EXTRAORDINARY. These supernatural events would have seared into their brain. But it’s also reasonable to believe that written records were recorded to capture the highlights. And those records would have been accurate resources for the Gospel writers as they wrote their books.
All things considered, I believe we can trust that the authors of the Gospels responsibly and accurately recorded history. What’s your response to this? Are you willing to trust that the Gospel writers faithfully recorded Jesus’ life and teachings? Can you get behind the idea that God helped these men as they wrote their Gospel texts? Are you willing to let this objection go to see the truth of Jesus?
In video 6 we’ll discuss another object: Whether Jesus (and Christianity) is a copycat of older mythologies of resurrecting gods. I’ll see you then!