Proving the Gospels

Proving the Gospels

As an atheist from high school to college and a lot like the skeptics quoted above, I was inclined to reject the Gospels as late works of fiction. I considered them to be mythological accounts written well after all the true eyewitnesses were dead. They were late, and they were a lie.  I believed that the Gospels were penned in the second century or later and were worthless as to being an eyewitness account. A true eyewitness would have lived and written in the first century. If they were written shortly after 33 AD they would be eyewitnesses, if written near to 350 AD they would have been modified by the Council of Laodicea. This logic should provide an answer such as later in time they would be closer to the church councils and the formal establishment of the Catholic Church then there was good reason to doubt that they were true witnesses to the sufferings of Christ (1 Pet. 5: 1) or that they actually saw Jesus with their own eyes (1 John 1: 1– 3). The closer they appeared to the life and ministry of Jesus, the more seriously I can consider their claims to me more true than false.

  • The most significant Jewish historical event of the first century was the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in A.D. 70. The Jews rebelled in A.D. 66, and Titus led a Roman army, which eventually destroyed the Temple AD 70[1].  Jesus had predicted that this would occur and that is recorded in Matthew 24:1 – 3.  No Gospel account records the destruction of the Temple, even though this fact would corroborate Jesus’ prediction.  Even more confusing is no New Testament writing describes the Temple’s destruction, which certainly would have helped in establishing a theological or a historical point. A logical conclusion would be that the Gospels and the New Testament were written before A.D. 70.
  • Not only was the Jerusalem Temple destroyed, but the city of Jerusalem itself was under siege for three years prior to the Temple destruction[2]. No aspect of this three-year siege is described in any New Testament document.  The gospel writers could certainly have pointed to the anguish that resulted from the siege as a powerful point of reference for the many passages of Scripture that address the issue of suffering.  A logical conclusion would be that the Gospels and the New Testament were written before A.D. 66
  • There was another pair of significant events to the new Christian community that occurred years before the siege of Jerusalem. The apostle Paul was martyred in the city of Rome in A.D. 64, and Peter was martyred shortly afterward in A.D. 65[3].  Luke wrote extensively about Paul and Peter in the book of Acts and featured them prominently.  However, he never mentioned anything about their deaths, Paul was still alive (although under house arrest in Rome) at the end of the book of Acts. A logical conclusion would be that the Gospels and the New Testament were written before A.D. 64
  • Luke also featured another important Christian figure from history in the book of Acts. This is the brother of Jesus, James, who became the leader of the Jerusalem church and was described in a position of prominence in Acts 15.  James was martyred in the city of Jerusalem in A.D. 62[4].  Like the deaths of Paul and Peter the execution of James is absent from the biblical account even though Luke described the deaths of Stephen (Acts 7:54 – 60), and James the brother of John(Acts 12:1 -2). A logical conclusion would be that the Gospels and the New Testament were written before A.D. 62
  • Paul appeared to be fully aware of Luke’s gospel as it was common knowledge throughout the Christian community during the time frame A.D. 63 – 64. When Paul wrote his first letter to Timothy he wrote, “The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching.  For the Scripture says, ‘You shall not muzzle the ox while he is threshing’, and ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages’”. (1 Timothy 5:17 – 18).  Paul quoted two passages in Scripture one from the Old Testament and one in the New Testament.    Deuteronomy 25:4 deals with the ox and Luke 10:7 deals with the laborers wages.  Luke’s gospel was already common knowledge and accepted as Scripture by the time this letter was written to Timothy.  Some critics, such as, Bart Ehrman, argue that Paul was not actually the author of 1 Timothy and that it was written much later in history.  They have their right to believe other than what the majority of biblical theologians believe.  They recognize that the earliest leaders of the church were familiar with 1 Timothy at a very early date[5]. A logical conclusion would be that the Gospels and the New Testament were written before A.D. 64

That should be more than enough to discredit many of the claims that the Gospels were written long after Jesus was alive and could not have been from eyewitnesses. But….. non-believers just always have some kind of question about something as they grasp to find anything to discredit what they refuse to believe in. So we will continue with proving the reality of the Gospel writers in future articles.

[1] Flavius Josephus, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus: Wars of the Jews, Antiquities of the Jews, Against Apion, Autobiography, trans. William Whiston (Boston: Mobile Reference), Kindle edition, Kindle locations 7243– 7249.

[2] Barbara Levick, Vespasian, Roman Imperial Biographies (New York: Routledge, 1999).

[3] Adam Clarke, Adam Clarke’s Commentary on the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1983), commenting on Acts 28: 31.

[4] Josephus, Complete Works of Flavius Josephus, Kindle locations 28589– 28592.

[5] Kenneth Berding, Polycarp of Smyrna’s View of the Authorship of 1 and 2 Timothy, Vigiliae Christianae 54, no. 4 (1999), 349– 360. 39. F. F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), Kindle edition, Kindle location 409.

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