Over the past four decades I have heard many criticisms of the New Testament. Arguments about the reliability of the narratives of Jesus, denials of His miracles, claims that the text was made up. The primary reason that I have never believed these claims is due to the evidence of the New Testament Text itself.
If any person simply reads what has been written and seriously studies the text for themselves, they will see that all of the claims about its fabrications and myths are not true. Most people are intelligent enough to see whether something that is written is a lie or the person is telling the truth. It is not hard to tell if the story of Jesus in the New Testament is genuine or a fabrication. This is possible because we have four versions of the same story.
I will show you just one of the the hundreds of examples that I have found myself that demonstrate from the text, that what is written in the four Gospels about Jesus is true.
One of the claims of critics is that Mark was written first and then Matthew and Luke copied his narrative into their own version. Allow me to show you from the texts that this is not true. Remember that when four people are at the scene of an event and see the same things, they do not remember the same details in the same order, or in the same way. One of the signs that written testimony is true and not made up is when we see these subtle differences in the text, while reading the same story.
Mark 9, Matthew 17, and Luke 9, each contain the same story about Peter, James, and John being taken by Jesus up to a mountain.
Let us compare what each writer wrote and see for ourselves whether Matthew and Luke copied from Mark. Critics call this objection, “The Marcan Priority.” Differences in the three texts are indicated by the
Mark 9:1-10 Jesus went on to say, “I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God arrive in great power!” Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white, far
whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “ Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”
Matthew 16:28 –Matthew 17:1-9 And I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Son of Man coming in his Kingdom.” Six days later Jesus took Peter and the
two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground. Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus. As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”
Luke 9:28-36 About
eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem. Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them. Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen.
As you can see with your own eyes, the text is describing the same events, but each of the three use a unique way of describing what they saw. Although there are words that match exactly, there are also several places where each man said things the others did not.
Many years ago I undertook a study in the procedures that the FBI uses in order to detect fraud in written testimony. One of the characteristics that reveals genuine testimony is the differences in one testimony from another that shows a particular person remembered or included descriptions that the others did not. In written testimony where the witnesses get together before they are questioned, they agree on precisely what they will say and their word match nearly exactly.
In the case of these three individual Gospel narratives, we see that not only did Matthew, Mark, and Luke describe the same primary character, Jesus, they also tell the same story; Jesus claimed to be God, performed miracles to prove His claim, fulfilled the necessary prophecies predicted by the Old Testament, was crucified, and risen on the third day. While telling these same important details, they also do this with unique and distinct words and descriptions that are different from the other writers.
It is clear to any intelligent person who reads these three accounts that they are seeing the same events, but they did not copy each other. Anyone who believes this assertion from a critic, without investigating it for themselves, has been deceived.
The Four Gospels of Jesus Christ are written by four different men, with four different sets of descriptions about the same primary events. This is empirical evidence that has existed in these surviving narratives for the past 2,000 years and has never been impeached. Although there are different words and different descriptions used to describe the same events, these differences are evidence of genuine testimony made by individuals who saw these things and recounted them from their own memories, not copied from other writers.
If you study the entire text of the four Gospel for yourself and ignore the commentaries of critics who make claims to the contrary, you will see that these critics are lying. The texts of the four Gospel are separate, distinct and reliable written records of true events that took place.
One further piece of evidence that I will leave with you in this brief article is from 2 Peter 1:16-21.
In this text, Peter describes the events that I detailed above from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, where Peter, James, and John were taken up on the mountain and saw with their own eyes—Jesus transformed before them into a view of how He will look when He returns to earth the second time—to set up His righteous kingdom on earth.
Peter said that this experience on that mountain where He saw Jesus transformed into this future glory, and heard the voice of the Father speak from heaven, forever changed his view of who Jesus is. Peter said that this experience also confirmed to Him that all the prophets had written about the Messiah, was written for Jesus and that He fulfilled all their words.
2 Peter 1:16-21 For we were not making up clever stories when we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. We saw his majestic splendor with our own eyes when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice from the majestic glory of God said to him, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy.” We ourselves heard that voice from heaven when we were with him on the holy mountain.Because of that experience, we have even greater confidence in the message proclaimed by the prophets. You must pay close attention to what they wrote, for their words are like a lamp shining in a dark place—until the Day dawns, and Christ the Morning Star shines in your hearts. Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God.
Here we see that Peter is affirming that all the Old Testament prophets wrote about the coming Messiah, was fulfilled by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. These prophets did not make up their predictions, they were imparted this information by God, so that they could write and we could see that Jesus is the only true Messiah.
Categories: Agnostics and Skeptics, Defending the Gospel, Exegesis and Hermeneutics, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Marcan Priority, Messianic Prophecies, Messianic Prophecy Bible, New Testament Criticism, Principles of Biblical Interpretation, Prophecies Fulfilled by Jesus, Reliability of the New Testament, Robert Clifton Robinson, Salvation through Jesus, The Four Gospels