“Kids in universities, drowning in an ocean of apostate philosophy. We need apologetic instruction, mental reconstruction, ignorance reduction, to halt the mass abduction. Evangelical mind has been scandalized, wisdom and truth have been vandalized by the un-evangelized. No truth in a world that is randomized. Expose the lies no matter how they’re disguised.” - Matt Morginsky (The OC Supertones)
Paul said that if Christ has not been raised from the dead that we are fools and are to be pitied more than anyone. So how can we know if Christianity is true? Is it a legend? Can we trust the writers of the New Testament? I want to discuss a few common questions that many unbelievers and believers alike have wanted answers to but have not always gotten. First of all…
Would anyone have any reason to lie about who wrote the Gospels?
Probably not. Three of them were unlikely characters: Mark and Luke were not even disciples and Matthew was an infamous, hated tax-collector. The apocryphal gospels, which were written much later, had names chosen for them to go with people of higher credibility; Phillip, Peter, Mary, James. If someone were going to make up the author of one of the four true gospels, they would have chosen someone with a little higher standing, just like the apocrypha. Also, if there had been any doubt of who wrote these gospels, the first century church would not have been unanimously convinced as to who the true authors were. The only doubts that have risen about the authors, rose long after the eyewitnesses of the first century churches were gone.
Is it possible that the Gospels developed into legends because of the time between the events and the time of their writing?
First of all, Acts was most likely written no later than A.D. 62 because the author has no knowledge of Paul having been killed yet. Since we know it is the second part of a two part volume (Luke being the first) we know Luke was written earlier. We also know that Luke used Mark as a source to confirm the accuracy of his writings, so Mark was written even sooner. If we give each of these a year or so, that puts the first written gospel, Mark, at about A.D. 60, if not in the 50’s. With Jesus having being crucified either in A.D. 30 or 33, that leaves only a 25 to 30 year gap between his death and the first written gospel. Legends do not spring up in the course of 25 to 30 years, especially when hundreds, if not thousands of eyewitnesses (many who hated Jesus) would have still been around to offer correction to these documents if they had been stretching the truth. The gospel writers named names. They dared anyone who did not believe them to verify it with other eye witnesses.
Is the history of Jesus skewed in the same way kids today play the game ‘telephone?’
Not even close. This ancient culture was an oral culture. They took great time into the memorization of documents. Some people even had the entire Old Testament memorized. The game of telephone is fun because it depends on people not speaking clearly, whispering quietly, and only getting to hear the sentence one time. To actually make this parallel to the first century, we would have to give every person the right to hear the phrase as many times as they wanted and to be able to go back to the first or second person to get the message to confirm that it was correct. Even more than this, these people would never recite the message aloud in the first place unless they were 100 percent sure they had it exactly right.
Were the disciples of Jesus lying?
If the disciples of Jesus were lying or exaggerating who Jesus was, then why would they willingly die and live lives of persecution and torture to cover for a lie that taught them to be servants in the first place? There was nothing to gain from lying, there was only something to gain if it were true. They gained no money, political power, or fame from these views. They gained ostracism and martyrdom. If anything, they would have been persuaded to lie about these things and to say the opposite of what they did.
But people today die for lots of religions and beliefs. How is that different?
Sure it’s true many people die for what they believe in today. But that is not the issue here. The issue is… were these guys willing to die for something they knew for a fact was a lie? People don’t typically die for things if they know they are false.
If we do not have the original writings (autographs) how can we trust the New Testament?
The two ancient writings that we have the most documents of are the Iliad by Homer and the New Testament. There are about 600 copies in existence of the Iliad, dating 1000 years after the original. There are more than 5,700 Greek copies of the New Testament. That is far more than any other ancient Greek or Latin document. And if you include the copies in Latin and other languages we have over 24,000, with the closest being only 1 century from the originals.
So we know who the authors are, we know they were eye witnesses and had no motive to lie, we know that the New Testament has been preserved accurately, we know these are not legends that developed over time because, frankly, there was no time for legends to develop.
Earlier we talked about how we should be pitied if we believe in a Christ that did not rise from the dead. But Paul continued by saying “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead.” So if our hope is in Christ, who did in fact rise from the dead, and we have good reason to believe it, we have a joy, a hope, a satisfaction in Christ that we must spread throughout the world.