Questions and Answers On
The Truthfulness of the Gospel
Isn’t it possible that the gospel writers fabricated some details to make it appear that Jesus fulfilled the prophecies? For example, the prophecies say the Messiah’s bones would remain unbroken (Ex. 12:46, Ps. 34:20), so may be John invented the story about the Romans breaking the legs of the two thieves being crucified with Jesus, and not breaking his legs (Jn. 19:23). And the prophecies talk about betrayal for thirty pieces of silver, so maybe Matthew (26:15) played fast and loose with the facts and said, yeah, Judas sold out Jesus for that same amount.
1- Writing of the gospels, and their publication, did not happen in the darkness. When the gospels were being circulated, there were people still alive who had been around when these things happened and in the places where they happened. Someone among those who believed in Christ would have said to Matthew “You know it didn’t happen that way. We’re trying to communicate a life of righteousness and truth, so don’t taint it with a lie”.
2- How would Matthew and Mark, if they have fabricated the fulfillment of prophecies, willingly let themselves to be put to death for following someone who they secretly know was really not the Messiah?
3- What’s more, the Jewish community would have jumped on any opportunity to discredit the gospels by pointing out falsehoods. They would have said “We were there, and Jesus bones were broken by the Romans during his Crucifixion”. The Jewish Talmud did not ever mention that any event in the life of Jesus of Nazareth has been falsified to prove the fulfillment of any prophecy.
Did the gospel writers include any material that might be embarrassing (or did they cover it up to make themselves look good)? Did they report anything that would be uncomfortable or difficult for them to explain?
Yes, this happened a lot. For instance:
1- Mark 6:5 says that Jesus could do few miracles in Nazareth because the people there had little faith, which seems to limit Jesus’ power. Also, Jesus said in Mark 13:32 that he didn’t know the day or the hour of his return, which seems to limit his omniscience.
2- Jesus’ baptism is another example. You can explain why Jesus, who was without sin, allowed himself to be baptized, but why not make things easier by leaving it out altogether? Also, on the cross Jesus cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” It would have been in the self-interest of the writers to omit that because it raises too many questions.
3- Although Peter was one of the pillars of the early church and a prominent figure among the disciples, yet the evangelists such as Mark did not flatter him and mentioned that Jesus said about him that he was “not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Mk. 8:33). Also, the Gospels have repeatedly mentioned that the disciples did not understand Jesus’ teachings in many occasions, and that James and John had asked to be seated on the right hand and left hand of Jesus in his coming, a request that made the Lord give them an unforgettable lesson (Mk. 10:37-45).
4- The apostles who wrote the Gospels did not say that it was Peter, John or any of the apostles who first witnessed the empty tomb or meet with the risen Christ, but a group of women.
These examples confirm the truthfulness of the Gospel writers.
“Now, we already know that the Gospel writers were selective; John’s Gospel ends by saying, somewhat hyperbolically, that the whole world couldn’t contain all the information that could have been written about Jesus. So had they left some of this out, that in and of itself wouldn’t necessarily have been seen as falsifying the story. But here is the point: if they didn’t feel free to leave out stuff when it would have been convenient and helpful to do so, is it really plausible that they outright added and fabricated material with no historical basis? … I would say not.”
Some skeptics have asserted that Jesus merely maneuvered his life in a way to fulfill the prophecies. “Couldn’t he have read in Zechariah (9:9) that the Messiah would ride a donkey into Jerusalem, and then arrange to do exactly that?
For a few of the prophecies, yes, that’s certainly conceivable. But there are many others for which this just wouldn’t have been possible. For instance, how would he control the fact that the Sanhedrin offered Judas thirty pieces of silver to betray him? How could he arrange for his ancestry, or the place of his birth, or his method of execution, or that soldiers gambled for his clothing, or that his legs remained unbroken on the cross? How would hearrange to perform miracles in front of skeptics? How would he arrange for His resurrection? And how would he arrange to be born when and where he was?
Footnotes and Additional references:
1- These questions and answers are summarized from the book “The Case For Christ” which is written by Journalist and Chicago Tribune writer Lee Strobel. It is an unbiased investigative report on the life and character of Jesus Christ from the historical, literary, archeological, medical and psychological perspectives, written by a professional who discusses these aspects with specialists in these fields including Professors of Biblical studies in USA and Europe. The book was published by Zondervan, MI, in 1998, and a special edition has been published also by the Billy Graham Ministries.
2- Decision magazine (Billy Graham Ministries), Nov. 99, published an article, “11 Reasons We Can Trust The Gospels”, by Craig L. Blomberg, who was one of the specialists interviewed by the author of “The Case For Christ” in two chapters. We present here a summary of the conclusion of this article:
“We must not forget that most early Christians were converted from Judaism or paganism to Christianity in part on the basis of the compelling evidence of the life of Jesus Christ … These 11 arguments … do not prove the reliability of every verse in the Gospels. But the arguments do suggest that historic Christian belief is not merely “a leap of faith” but is reasonable. Ultimately, however, only the conviction of the Holy Spirit can move a person from intellectual belief in the Gospel’s accuracy to a commitment to Jesus as a faithful disciple.”
3- “More Than A Carpenter” is another book that discusses similar issues and includes a chapter (#4) entitled “Are the Biblical Records Reliable?” More than 8,000,000 issues of this book were printed and distributed allover the world. The author, Josh McDowell argued against Christianity and thought that Christians must be “out of their minds” before his conversion. Anyone interested may request up to three copies of this book for free by calling 1-800-222-JOSH, or by writing to PO Box 1000, Dallas, TX 75221.