When someone writes a letter or other document and this text is preserved throughout 2,000 years of history, we have the ability to analyze what is being said for its integrity. Many people do not realize that written statements are much easier to analyze for fraud than spoken testimony. The FBI must frequently analyze written testimony to determine whether or not the statements are factually correct. By proper analysis of the text it is possible to determine whether the narratives about Jesus are true or contrived.
The surviving manuscripts of the New Testament present us with written statements which can be analyzed for truthfulness. Because these texts have survived for nearly 2,000 years and are found in such great numbers, we know that the statements are not recent forgeries, and have come from the period of history where their accounts are alleged to have originated from.
The text of the New Testament was not written as a single book or story, but most often, in the form of letters of communication between persons such as Paul, Peter, John, and Luke. When we analyze the letters of Paul for truthful content, we are able to determine, by what is said, whether these are genuine and truthful accounts or contrived and embellished narratives.
History provides us with a timeline which helps in determining when these letters of the New Testament were written. We know when Paul was beheaded at Rome, by these records. It is therefore possible to accurately place the dates for Paul’s letters, before his death and determine when he wrote these communications.
Evidence From The Historical Records
In Paul’s letter to Timothy, chapter 5, verse 18, he quotes from Luke’s gospel.
Paul: For the Scripture says, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain,” and, “The laborer is worthy of his wages.” ~1 Timothy 5:18
When we examine Luke’s gospel we find that Paul was referencing a quote by Luke in his letter he wrote to Timothy. This means that Luke’s gospel must have already been written by the time that Paul wrote 1 Timothy.
Luke: And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages. Do not go from house to house. ~Luke 10:7
Eusebius wrote that Paul was beheaded under Caesar Nero, who was assassinated in 68 A.D.
After Paul’s fifth missionary journey ended in 67 A.D., Eusebius states that Paul was beheaded by the Romans under Emperor Nero. This date was near May or June of 68 A.D., Nero forced his private secretary, Epaphroditos, to kill him on June 9th of the 68 A.D.
Since Paul died by 68 A.D. and he wrote text that came from Luke’s Gospel, it is certain that Luke penned these words before 68 A.D. It is highly probable that Luke wrote his gospel near the same writing of Matthew’s Gospel in 60 A.D.
These facts of history are empirical evidence that Luke’s Gospel was already written while Paul was still alive..
By this corroboration from the historical record, we learn that Luke’s Gospel is certified as written before 68 A.D., when Paul was killed. Confirmation of these facts are made by a letter from Eusebius.
After defending himself the Apostle was again set on the ministry of preaching…coming a second time to the same city [Paul] suffered martyrdom under Nero. During this imprisonment he wrote the second Epistle to Timothy. (Eccl Hist. 2.22.2)
We also have the record of the Romans which validates Nero’s death in 68 A.D., a secondary confirmation that when Paul is writing his epistle to Timothy, quoting Luke’s gospel from chapter 10, this text had to be written before Paul was executed in 68 A.D. This is corroboration that Luke’s Gospel was also likely written by 60 A.D.
The majority of New Testament scholars today believe that Paul’s epistles are written from A.D. 48-60. When we examine Paul’s outline for the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, we see that it matches the same timeline as the four Gospels.
The four Gospels are reliable as they were written very near the time of the events they describe. These facts are supported by historical evidence and impeach the theory that the narratives of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection were written at much later dates.
When we look at the totality of evidence for the accounts of Jesus in Jerusalem during the time the four Gospels place Him there, validated by secular records of the Romans and Jews, supported by a thorough examination of the form and structure of the text as absolutely authentic accounts, we have a record for Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection that is reliable.
Analyzing The Text
Before he was called Paul, the ancient world knew him as Saul, a preeminent leader of the anti-Christian movement in Jerusalem (Acts 9:1-2; Galatians 1:13-14).
Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 2 and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. ~Acts 9:1-2
For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it. 14 And I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries in my own nation, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. ~Galatians 1:13-14
While Saul was on the road to Damascus with letters giving him authority to arrest and condemn those who followed Christ, he met the risen Jesus.
As Saul journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” ~Acts 9:3-6
After this event, we see a drastic change in the life of Saul, even a change in his name to Paul. All of his efforts after that experience on the road to Damascus, were directed at reaching the Gentiles with the message of Salvation through Jesus’ death and resurrection.
But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. ~Acts 9:15
The book of Acts records three missionary journeys that took Paul throughout the Roman Empire in one of the greatest evangelistic endeavors of church history.
Near 53 A.D., Paul went to the church at Ephesus for a short time.
And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. ~Acts 18:19
Two years after his first journey to Ephesus, Paul returned and remained there for two years teaching the Christians and evangelizing those who would listen in the city (Acts 19:1-20). Acts 20 tells us the details of what Paul did during these two years at Ephesus.
And it happened, while Apollos was at Corinth, that Paul, having passed through the upper regions, came to Ephesus. ~Acts 19:1-20
Ten years later, while in prison at Rome, Paul wrote the letter we have in our New Testament, to the believers at the church at Ephesus.
For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles. ~Ephesians 3:1
Therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called. ~Ephesians 4:1
For which I am an ambassador in chains; that in it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak. ~Ephesians 6:20
From a historical perspective in seeking to validate the letters that Paul wrote, we can examine the text of Ephesians and Colossians and Philemon, and gain good insight to conclude that what we have is true and genuine.
Ephesians 6:21-22 But that you also may know my affairs and how I am doing, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, will make all things known to you; whom I have sent to you for this very purpose, that you may know our affairs, and that he may comfort your hearts.
Colossians 4:7-9 Tychicus, a beloved brother, faithful minister, and fellow servant in the Lord, will tell you all the news about me. I am sending him to you for this very purpose, that he may know your circumstances and comfort your hearts, with Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you. They will make known to you all things which are happening here.
When we analyze the text of these two different letters that were written by Paul, we see that he is addressing the incident that took place which is detailed in the letter to Philemon. The slave, Onesimus, ran away from Philemon, his master, who lived in the city of Colosse.
When Onesimus was in Rome, he met Paul and believed in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Tychicus was a pastor at the church who met at Philemon’s home in the city of Colosse. Tychicus was also in Rome for a meeting with Paul, discussing problems that were occuring in the church.
Paul wrote three letters at the same time, addressing the issue of Onesimus, to his friends, Tychicus, and Philemon, in the letters of Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.
It was also during this time, that Paul sent Onesimus back to his master, Philemon. These three letters were written near 62 A.D. Paul was in prison at Rome to determine whether he would be executed for crimes that were alleged by the Emperor.
Because we know that Eusebius wrote that Paul was beheaded under Caesar Nero, who was assassinated in 68 A.D., we know for certain that these three letters must have been written and sent and were well known, in the years before Paul’s death in 68 A.D.
This exercise in examining the internal structure of these three New Testament letters, and comparing what is written with the secular records of history which record confirming evidence, demonstrates that the New Testament narratives are both reliable and accurate.
Everything that has been written about Jesus; His life, death, and resurrection, are well documented by 25 of the 27 books of the New Testament. Jesus’ miracles, His crucifixion, and resurrection on the third day, were all predicted by the Old Testament Prophets, from 1,450-700 years before Jesus came to Jerusalem and began fulfilling all 400 of these prophecies.
You can read all about this evidence in “These Things Were Written: An Expositional Treatise Of The Life, Death, And Resurrection of Jesus.” See this book at my Amazon Author’s page, with many other books that are written to prove that Jesus is a genuine person from history who said and did what is described for Him in the pages of the New Testament.
 EUSEBIUS, Hist, Eccles. lib. ii. cap. 25
 Ibid, EUSEBIUS, Hist, Eccles.
 Suetonius, The Lives of Twelve Caesars, Life of Nero 47
Categories: Historical Validity of the New Testament, Jesus confirmed by secular sources, Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus, Reliability of the New Testament, Resurrection Proven by Secular Sources, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, The Historical Jesus, The Miracles of Jesus, The Resurrection