Legal Analysis Of The Four Gospels As Valid Eyewitness Testimony

The basis of this essay is to demonstrate by legal methods that the four canonical Gospels of the New Testament are both historically accurate, and reliable evidence that would be recognized by any court in America as credible and truthful testimony. This certainty was proven 155 years ago by one of the world’s greatest legal authorities, Dr. Simon Greenleaf, one of the founders of Harvard Law School. Dr. Greenleaf’s primary work of legal scholarship is known as a “Treatise on the Laws of Evidence,” which remains as one of the most important legal textbooks in American law.

This article demonstrates that the findings of Simon Greenleaf in 1864 concerning the four Gospels, is still proven as reliable evidence today by our current legal standards set forth by the Federal Rules of Evidence for the United States of America.

According to some modern liberal scholars, the four Gospels of the New Testament are not written by eyewitnesses. The hypothesis of this assertion is based upon the idea that the Gospels were written decades after the events by men who were not present when the events described in these texts took place.

When Were The Gospels Written?

The problem with this posit is that there is absolutely no evidence anywhere that these claims are true. In every determination of truth in documentation which claims eyewitness testimony, it is the text itself that is the primary evidence that is used to determine its authenticity, not the opinions of persons in opposition, two thousand years after the fact.

The Four Gospels Meet The Requirements For Valid Legal Evidence

According to current and past legal standards for evidence, “the testimony of the evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, as recorded in the four canonical gospels, would stand as credible, factual evidence in a court of law.”[1]

Today, atheists and critics of the four Gospels, have established standards for religious-based sources that is higher that those required for secular questions.[2] Co-founder of the Harvard School Of Law, Simon Greenleaf argued then, and this remains true today, “the burden of disproving evidence lies squarely on the shoulders of the objector.“[3] Greenleaf argued that the reader of any texts of a historical source should be approached with “a mind free from all pride of opinion, not hostile to the truth sought for, willing to pursue the inquiry, and impartially to weigh the arguments and evidence, and to acquiesce in the judgment of right reason.”[4]

Contrary to modern critics who state that the methods Greenleaf used in 1864 in determining whether the testimony of the four Gospels can be classified as legal and viable eyewitness testimony, professor of Law, Nancy J. Kippenhan, writes that Greenleaf’s conclusions are a foundational work that is still cited by those who approach Christian apologetics on the basis of evidence.[5,6]

Despite the modern view that miracles are in conflict with naturalism, and the idea that any any text of a religious nature cannot be factual or evidentiary, the testimony presented by the four Gospel writers meets every requirement for valid testimony.[7]

Young people are indoctrinated today into Darwinian theory and taught that there is a wall of separation between the natural and supernatural that cannot be crossed. Students accept the words and opinions of their professors without question, and do not often question whether naturalism can fully explain the universe and human existence on earth.

How God Created The Universe: Science And The Bible In Symmetry

Since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species in 1859, many generations have been indoctrinated into the idea that the testimony of the four Gospel writers cannot be true.[8] Simon Greenleaf’s Treatise in examination of their testimony, upsets this modern thought and presents legal and logical facts that define the events described  in these New Testament narratives as absolutely reliable.[9] For the genuine intellectual who seeks truth regardless of where the evidence leads, Greenleaf’s Testimony of the Evangelists provides an honest and concise discourse to prove that the supernatural can be a part of valid testimony.

In Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, the court noted that “[S]ince the scientific revolution of the 16th an[d] 17th centuries, science has been limited to the search for natural causes to explain natural phenomena. . . . In deliberately omitting theological or “ultimate” explanations for the existence or characteristics of the natural world, science does not consider issues of “meaning” and “purpose” in the world.”[10]

Science today is defined today by the naturalistic definition which states that it is the only method that allows us to know what ultimately exists in the world.[11] In conflict with scientific thought is the evidence that leads us into the primacy of facts that are the end result of a search for evidence. The primary goal of any study is to follow the facts to the natural conclusions they bring us to.[12]

Simon Greenleaf in his publication of Testimony of the Evangelists, finds that the canonical Gospels are credible evidence, in spite of their supernatural implications. This is due primarily to the massive evidence which we have today to validate the narratives in these texts.

Today we understand that there are 24,593 extant New Testament manuscript copies of these ancient texts that have been under critical examination for 1,800 years.[13] Noted New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce describes the evidence for the New Testament as superior to any other ancient event in the history of the world. There are nearly complete manuscript copies of the entire New Testament dated between 175-225 A.D. If we have manuscript copies of the New Testament that have survived time and decay from 175, it is certain that the original autographs were written early in the first century. Only one secular Roman manuscript has survived for Tacitus that proves the early Roman Emperors. [14]

See the evidence that documents the writing of the synoptic Gospels by 44 A.D.

Are Greenleaf’s Conclusions For the Gospels Valid Today?

It is a valid question to ask whether the criteria that Greenleaf used in 1864, would satisfy jurists today with the same conclusions. Do the conclusions of Greenleaf for the four Gospels meet the demands of evidentiary inquiry in our present world that would be acceptable in courts of justice?

When we utilize our current Federal Rules of Evidence, and apply these to the canonical Gospels, we find that they would be judged precisely the same as Greenleaf concluded in 1864.[15] According to these rules which determine whether testimony is valid in proving facts, the narratives in the four Gospels would be admitted into the courts of justice in America today.

According to these guidelines, the four Gospels meet the necessary requirements of the “Ancient documents” hearsay exception.[16] In examination of the credibility for the witnesses as the authors of the four Gospels, the Federal Rules of Evidence also finds that these witnesses are reliable.[17] When we investigate the content and context of the testimony given by the four Gospel writers and asses the reliability and credentials of these authors, we find them to be credible witnesses, according to the Federal Rules of Evidence.[18]

In the final analysis of the four canonical Gospels, according to all the rules set forth by the Federal Rules, these testimonies would be admissible and credible in a court of law.[19] The rules and methods used by Simon Greenleaf in his analysis of the four Gospels were valid when he wrote this treatise, and they are still valid today according to our current rules of law for evidence and witnesses.

“Evidence is generally admitted for consideration unless the opposing party makes an objection, at which time the burden shifts to the opposing party to provide specific grounds for the objection and to demonstrate that the offered evidence should not be admitted.”[20]

In these matters, “The benefit of the doubt is given to the party presenting the evidence, thus erring on the side of inclusion rather than exclusion, in order to consider the greatest amount of relevant information possible in the quest for the truth of the matter.”[21]

In matters of past inquiry, as well as today, the burden rests upon the objectors. Also regarding that in all times, any evidence related to religious questions has been “unjustly presumed to be false, until it is proved to be true,”[22] rather than accepted as truth until explicitly impeached.

According To Legal Scholar Simon Greenleaf:

“[a] proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence.”[23] Such evidence is the “amount of proof, which ordinarily satisfies an unprejudiced mind, beyond any reasonable doubt.”[24] The facts attested to in the Gospels “are cognizable by the senses, [and] may be said to be proved when they are established by that kind and degree of evidence which . . . would . . . satisfy the mind and conscience of a common man.”[25]

In viewing the claims of the canonical Gospels by the same standards as other evidence, Greenleaf also noted:

[T]he narrative is more likely to be true than false; and it may be in the highest degree more likely, but still be short of absolute mathematical certainty. Yet this very probability may be so great as to satisfy the mind of the most cautious, and enforce the assent of the most reluctant and unbelieving. . . . If it is such as usually satisfies reasonable men, in matters of ordinary transaction, it is all which the greatest sceptic has a right to require; for it is by such evidence alone that our rights are determined, in the civil tribunals; and on no other evidence do they proceed, even in capital cases.[26]

Federal Rules of Evidence Applied To The Four Gospels Today

Rule 803. Hearsay Exceptions; Availability of Declarant Immaterial

The following are not excluded by the hearsay rule, even though the declarant is available as a witness:

(16) Statements in ancient documents

Statements in a document in existence twenty years or more the authenticity of which is established.[27]

Greenleaf Original Law Rule

§ 8 Every document, apparently ancient, coming from the proper repository or custody, and bearing on its face no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes to be genuine, and devolves on the opposing party the burden of proving it to be otherwise.” [27G]

Rule 901. Requirement of Authentication or Identification

(a) General provision

The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.[28]

(b) Illustrations

By way of illustration only, and not by way of limitation, the following are examples of authentication or identification conforming with the requirements of this rule:

Ancient documents or data compilation. Evidence that a document or data compilation, in any form, (A) is in such condition as to create no suspicion concerning its authenticity, (B) was in a place where it, if authentic, would likely be, and (C) has been in existence 20 years or more at the time it is offered.[29]

Rule 601. General Rule of Competency

Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided by these rules.[30]

Rule 602. Lack of Personal Knowledge

A witness may not testify to a matter unless evidence is introduced sufficient to support a finding that the witness has personal knowledge of the matter. Evidence to prove personal knowledge may, but need not, consist of the witness’ own testimony.[31]

Greenleaf Original Law Rule

§ 9 “In matters of public and general interest, all persons must be presumed to be conversant, on the principle that individuals are presumed to be conversant with their own affairs.” [31G]

Rule 702. Testimony by Experts

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training, or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.[32]

Greenleaf Original Law Rule

§ 22 [T]he result of careful inquiry and examination, made by a person of science, intelligence and education, concerning subjects which he was perfectly competent to investigate, and as to many of which he was peculiarly skilled.” [32G]

No Reasonable Doubt Regarding Confidence In The Witnesses

Proof beyond a reasonable doubt is synonymous with proof to a moral certainty, or subjective certitude.”[33] “‘[E]verything relating to human affairs, and depending on moral evidence, is open to some possible or imaginary doubt’ – in other words, absolute certainty is unattainable in matters relating to human affairs. Moral evidence, in this sentence, can only mean “empirical evidence offered to prove such matters—the proof introduced at trial.”[34]

Greenleaf’s Original Law Rule

§ 26 “In trials of fact, by oral testimony, the proper inquiry is not whether it is possible that the testimony may be false, but whether there is sufficient probability that it is true. . . . [And] that there is no reasonable doubt of their truth.” [34G]

Rule 102. Purpose and Construction

These rules shall be construed to secure fairness . . . and promotion of growth and development of the law of evidence to the end that the truth may be ascertained and proceedings justly determined.[35]

Greenleaf’s Original Law Rule

§ 27 “A proposition of fact is proved, when its truth is established by competent and satisfactory evidence.” [35G]

Rule 601. General Rule of Competency

Every person is competent to be a witness except as otherwise provided by these rules.[36]

Rule 603. Oath or Affirmation

Before testifying, every witness shall be required to declare that the witness will testify truthfully, by oath or affirmation administered in a form calculated to awaken the witness’ conscience and impress the witness’ mind with the duty to do so.[37]

Greenleaf’s Original Law Rule

§ 28 In the absence of circumstances which generate suspicion, every witness is to be presumed credible, until the contrary is shown; the burden of impeaching his credibility lying on the objector.” [37G]

Rule 607. Who May Impeach

The credibility of a witness may be attacked by any party, including the party calling the witness.[38]


“[W]here, when, and how the declarant made the statement, to whom the declarant made the statement, what prompted the statement, and the statement’s contents all provide indicia of reliability. [Also], the nature and character of the statement, the relationship of the parties, the declarant’s probable motivation for making the statement, and the circumstances surrounding the making of the statement [are] probative of the statement’s trustworthiness.”[39]

Greenleaf’s Original Law Rule

§ 29 “The credit due to the testimony of witnesses depends upon, firstly, their honesty; secondly, their ability; thirdly, their number and the consistency of their testimony; fourthly, the conformity of their testimony with experience; and fifthly, the coincidence of their testimony with collateral circumstances.” [39G]

The Testimony Presented By The Gospels

Regarding ancient documents as valid evidence

An objection to these documents as hearsay evidence, and their validation under the “ancient documents” exception, remain consistent: a document more than twenty years old and whose authenticity has been established is admissible.[40]

 Ancient documents may be authenticated by:

[e]vidence that a document or data compilation, in any form, (A) is in such condition as to create no suspicion concerning its authenticity, (B) was in a place where it, if authentic, would likely be, and (C) has been in existence 20 years or more at the time it is offered.[41]

There were not many questions regarding the authenticity of the four Gospels during the time of Greenleaf. Since 1864, a phenomenal amount of additional evidence has been acquired that adds greatly to the certainty of the New Testament narratives as authentic, reliable, truthful accounts of true events.[42] 

At the time that Greenleaf wrote Testimony of the Evangelists, there were  approximately 5,000 manuscripts available. Today we have 24,593 manuscripts from all over the world in 13 languages, yet all bear the same testimony about Jesus. New Testament criticism has never proven that the Gospels were written late in the first century as many liberal scholars claim. The idea the non-eyewitnesses wrote the Gospels, not the four authors named, is strictly hyperbole and conjecture. The New Testament has 134 statements that the writers saw and heard the things they are writing. There are 396 references which describe Jesus’ death and resurrection.[43]

When we examine the internal text of the New Testament we find that the documents themselves provide us with evidence of a very early date of writing.

  1. Jesus repeatedly stated that He called 12 men to act as His witnesses. “And you are my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8
  2. Jesus told these 12 Apostles that they would tell the whole world what they had seen and heard. “And you must also testify about me because you have been with me from the beginning of my ministry.” ~John 15:27
  3. Jesus certainly intended that these men would immediately write and send their written testimony to the world, describing all they had seen and heard, because it was not possible for them to travel the entire world on foot. Jesus made it clear that the time to go was immediate, not decades later. “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations.” ~Matthew 28:19
  4. Jesus said that after He was raised from the dead, He would send the Holy Spirit to remind them all He had said and done. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” ~John 14:26
  5. Just prior to His return to heaven, Jesus instructed the Apostles to wait at Jerusalem for the arrival of the Holy Spirit who would enable them to remember and write their testimony: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” ~Acts 1:8 After the Apostles received this power, they would immediately send out their testimony to the churches in Asia Minor, as Paul was traveling to visit these churches.
  6. Jesus final instructions were to tell people about Him everywhere; starting in Jerusalem, then the local communities surrounding Israel, and finally to the ends of the earth. Once again, unless this meant that a written testimony would be recorded and sent out, obeying Jesus’ command would not be possible.
  7. Just 14 years after Jesus was raised from the dead, we see Paul beginning his first missionary journey to Asia Minor, teaching this Gospel to the churches in these areas. If there was no written narrative, it would be impossible to accurately tell others about Jesus on this journey. Paul said that he received the Gospel direct from Christ: “Dear brothers and sisters, I want you to understand that the gospel message I preach is not based on mere human reasoning. I received my message from no human source, and no one taught me. Instead, I received it by direct revelation from Jesus Christ.” ~Galatians 1:11-12
  8. Luke begins his Gospel by telling us that “Many people have set out to write accounts about the events that have been fulfilled among us. They used the eyewitness reports circulating among us from the early disciples. Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account.” ~Luke 1:1-3 Luke understood that writing an account of all that Jesus had said and done was of paramount importance. Certainly Luke wrote his Gospel early, before he wrote his second book, Acts.
  9. In Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus, he speaks of “spreading this Good News. ~Ephesians 3:7. What would be the point of spreading the Good News if it did not include distributing the Good News by written letters to all of the churches in Asia Minor?
  10. At the church of Thessalonica, Paul thanks the Christians there for receiving the Gospel of Christ as it really is, the word of God; scripture equal to the Old
    Testament: “you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” ~1 Thessalonians 2:13.
  11. In Acts 17:10-11, while at Berea, we see Paul before the Jews as they listened to him present the Gospel to them and their response: “to search the scripture to find out whether these things about Jesus were true.
  12. If there were no written testimonies about Jesus, recorded by the Apostles, stating what they had seen and heard from Jesus, and personally documenting the events of His healing miracles, raising the dead, crucifixion and resurrection, Paul would have nothing to present to the people in Asia Minor except his words. It is doubtful that without a written testimony from the men who saw Jesus crucified and risen on the third day, very few would become a believer in Jesus.
  13. When Paul and Silas went to the church at Thessalonica, they remained there for three consecutive Sabbaths (Acts 17:1-4). “He explained the prophecies and proved that the Messiah must suffer and rise from the dead. He said, “This Jesus I’m telling you about is the Messiah.” Unless there were written Gospels from the Apostles to demonstrate that these prophecies about the Messiah had been fulfilled, the people would not have believed in Jesus.
  14. 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 see that what Paul had written in 1 Timothy 5:18, came from what Luke had already written before in Luke 10:7. LukeAnd 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
  15. This dates the Gospel of Luke as written before Paul’s letter to Timothy—corroborating a very early writing for the Gospels. Luke’s Gospel was written after Matthew and Mark, as described in the first paragraph of Luke where he defines the source of his Gospel as coming from the eyewitness reports from the early disciples. ~Luke 1:1-4
  16. In 2 Peter 1:16-19, Peter recalls an event that is recorded in Matthew 17:1-6, Mark 13:26, and Luke 9:28-32. Jesus took Peter, James, and John up to a mountain and was transformed before their eyes into what He will look like when He returns to establish His kingdom on earth. Peter wrote after this event took place in 2 Peter chapter 1, meaning that the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke were already written when Peter wrote these words, as he refers back to these narratives in writing his later letter.
  17. In Luke 19:43-44, and Matthew 24:34, Jesus predicts the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 32 A.D., just before He is crucified. He states in Matthew 24:34, this will take place within one generation. A generation of judgement is described by Numbers 32:14, where the generation of those who complained against the Lord in the desert is defined as 40 years. Just 38 years later, Titus destroyed Jerusalem and left, “not one stone upon another” at the Temple, just as Jesus had predicted in Matthew 24:1-2.  The Epistle of Barnabas chapter 16.3, states that the destruction of Jerusalem happened in 70 A.D. Josephus describes 1.1 million Jews being killed at that time. This was the most important event to take place in the Jewish nation in the first century. Clearly the Gospels were written before 70 A.D., or it is certain that the writers would have written that this event took place and the words of Jesus were fulfilled.

The preceding facts allow us to determine that the Gospels of Christ must have been written very early in the first century, not later as critics assert. This means that these Gospels were written by the men who saw and heard the things they record in their Gospels. These men were eyewitnesses who have told us the truth about Jesus.

Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?

What Legal Scholar Simon Greenleaf Found Concerning The Historicity Of The Four Gospels:

The New Testament presents us with not only the largest body of surviving manuscript copes of the events it describes, written closer to the events than any other manuscripts of antiquity, they have a massive support from archeology.

One of the world’s greatest archeologists and historians is Sir William Ramsay. Notice how Dr. Ramsay describes the accuracy and detail of Luke’s historical references, without a single error.

“I began with a mind unfavorable to (the accuracy of the New Testament) but more recently I found myself brought into contact with the Book of Acts as an authority for the topography, antiquities, and society of Asia Minor. It was gradually borne upon me that in various details the narrative showed marvelous truth.”[44]

Dr. Ramsay believed, at the onset, that the accounts described in the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts were inaccurate. Over 100 years ago he undertook an expedition to Asia, to try and refute the New Testament, only to become so overwhelmed by the evidence that he became a follower of Jesus Christ.

“Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy…this author should be placed along with the very greatest historians.”[45]

Archeological Accuracy Points To Literary Accuracy

Since Luke’s description of cities, names, places, and customs are perfect in their historical accuracy, it is certain that the accounts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are also accurate and reliable.

The fact that Luke has been confirmed as a scholarly historian of specific details regarding the history of the first century, it is certain that he also recorded the specific events of Jesus’ ministry with the same precision. Luke’s integrity as a historical scholar demands that we accept, with confidence, his testimony of Jesus’ resurrection, which is the foundation of the entire Christian church.

One of the criticisms of Luke’s account of Jesus’ life is found in his description of the census that, he says, was ordered by Caesar Augustus.

And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. his census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. ~Luke 2:1-3

Because no previous archeological discovery had ever verified that such a census took place, Luke was regarded as having embellished this story. A later discovery regarding the taxes of the kingdom of the Roman government revealed that the taxpayers were enrolled every 14 years by the use of a census. Archeology has uncovered facts that verify Caesar Augustus did conduct the precise census described during the period of time Luke specified, near the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem.[46]

Further, an inscription discovered in Antioch describes Quirinius in 7 B.C., who was the governor of Syria on two occasions—7 B.C. and 6 A.D.—a fact that is confirmed by the Jewish historian Josephus.[47]

An archeological discovery in Egypt uncovered a Papyrus that specifically describes the details of this census spoken of by Luke, under Caesar Augustus:

“Because of the approaching census it is necessary that all those residing for any cause away from their homes should at once prepare to return to their own governments in order that they may complete the family registration of the enrollment and that the tilled lands may retain those belonging to them.”[48]

In his book, Archeological Confirmation of the New Testament, Dr. F. F. Bruce describes a problem that was present in Luke’s description of the Tetrarch of Abilene in Luke 3:1.

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene... ~Luke 3:1

Previously, there was no record of anyone called “Lysanias” as the tetrarch of Abilene during the time Luke specified that he was there. In recent history, an archeological discovery made in Damascus, Syria describes a person called the “Freedman of Lysanias the Tetrarch.” Scholars date this inscription between 14 A.D. and 29 A.D.[49] This is the same period of time in which Luke had written in his gospel, describing Lysanias.

An interesting discovery in 1910 by Sir William Ramsay debunked the secular record of Cicero of the Romans, who described Iconium as being in Lycaonia. Luke describes Lystra and Derbe as being in Lycaonia.

…they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. ~Acts 14:6

This secular record was erroneously held as more reliable and accurate than the Biblical record in past history. Today we know that the Bible was correct all along. This continues to be a common error that is frequently repeated today. The facts bearing witness—the Bible is always right in matters of history, and the secular record is consistently wrong. This truth has been confirmed by archeological discoveries over the entire course of human history all over the world.

Other noted scholars such as Dr. Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, a British historian and scholar regarding Ancient Rome, wrote his doctoral thesis on the treatment of the New Testament from the point of view of Roman law and society.

Dr. Sherwin-White said this regarding the work of Dr. Ramsay’s conclusions on the Book of Acts:

“Any attempt to reject its (the New Testament’s) basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”[50]

Dr. Sherwin-White examined the records of Rome and concluded that their own history proved the narrative of the New Testament scriptures regarding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[51]

Of all four gospel writers, Luke exhibits the greatest precision in recording specific details. This has allowed for the verification of every statement Luke has made in his account of Jesus. As a result of Luke’s meticulous record and the verification of his writing as accurate and reliable, we have great confidence—as the readers of this gospel—that it is true. When a man takes the time to ensure that everything he writes is accurate, we can be certain that even events which seem unlikely to us are truthful. Because Luke is classified as a scholarly historian by accomplished experts, we can have great confidence that his accounts of Jesus’ resurrection are also truthful.

With Luke, we find that every word he recorded for us, regarding the specific events in which he was writing, are true. Integrity is a quality a person either has, or they don’t have. Luke’s integrity as a historian is unparalleled amongst the writers of the New Testament. Although all the men who penned the pages of scripture, which are in our Bible today, were men of honor, integrity, and honesty, Luke exceeds every standard of excellence.

If a man tells the truth about the smallest details, he can be relied upon when he describes magnificent details. If Luke exercised such honesty in preserving the details of his gospel, we can also trust that what he said about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is also a true account.

When we evaluate all of the men who said that Jesus rose from the dead, we see that these individuals are exceptional. The character of these writers comes through in the words they recorded. Every one of the writers of the New Testament agrees on one critical fact: Jesus rose from the dead, in fulfillment of the Hebrew scriptures. These men understood that what they were describing was the most important event that had ever taken place in the history of the world. They diligently sought to write and preserve the true details of these events so that the whole world could know and believe they are true.

In the conclusions of Greenleaf, he saw the consistency of archeological records as support for the testimony of the narratives. Greenleaf said that unless there is good reason to suspect that forgery or tampering has occurred, the substance of a document of adequate age is most likely in its original form and, therefore, trustworthy.[52] Greenleaf made his foundation from the idea that the text of the four Gospels has come to us today as it was originally written and has not been materially corrupted or falsified in every fundamental principle described for Jesus. This does not include errors in punctuation or grammar, alternative word which mean the same, or commentary added in the margins.[53]

Greenleaf maintained that the canonical Gospels have been recognized as true narratives of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus since they were first written early in the first century. They have been found in the repositories where we would expect to find them; the Christian church and have been trusted and used for nearly 2,000 years.

Because there are 24,593 extant manuscript copies of the New Testament in existence today, from various places all over the world and in multiple languages, we have the ability to cross-check these manuscripts to detect changes or forgeries in the fundamental texts. Incredibly, we find that the integrity of the basic story of Jesus; His miracles, claim to be God, crucifixion and resurrection, are all consistent in all of these surviving manuscript copies.

The New Testament is unique in that we have nearly all of the books in manuscript copies dated from 175-225 A.D. This is in comparison to other ancient texts that have produced very few copies that are five to ten centuries after the events took place. In spite of this great duration of time, these other manuscripts are considered absolutely reliable, while those of the New Testament are frequently doubted coming to us just 100 years from the time the events took place.


[1] a. Nancy J. Kippenhan, Assistant Professor of Law, Liberty University School of Law (B.S., M.B.A., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute; J.D., magna cum laude, Widener University School of Law).
b. Simon Greenleaf, LL.D. (1783–1853) was appointed Royall professor of law in the Law School of Harvard University from 1833 until 1846, and later succeeded Justice Joseph Story as the Dane professor of law in 1846. John Henry Wigmore, Preface to SIMON GREENLEAF, A TREATISE ON THE LAW OF EVIDENCE (16th ed. Little, Brown & Co. 2001) (1842).
[2] TESTIMONY, supra note 5, §§ 3, 27, 48.
[3] Id. §§ 28, 33, 41.
[4] 9. Id. § 1.
[5] “A rational defense for the existence of God . . . [using b]oth reason and scientific evidence . . .” Louis Hoffman, Postmodernism Dictionary, POSTMODERNISM AND PSYCHOLOGY, (last visited Oct. 9, 2010).
Source: Nancy J. Kippenhan: One dramatic consequence of erecting a wall between the natural and the supernatural in academia and culture is the resulting lack of acknowledgement of the existence of morals and sin (at least from any external source), and of sin’s consequences. David Stern explains: We live in an age when many people do not know what sin is. Sin is violation of Torah, transgression of the law God gave his people in order to help them live a life which would be in their own best interests as well as holy and pleasing to God. In the so-called Age of Enlightenment, two or three centuries ago, the notion of moral relativism began to gain hold in Western societies. Under its sway people discarded the concept of sin as irrelevant. In this view there are no sins, only sickness, misfortunes, mistakes, or the outworking on one’s environmental, hereditary and biological input (western terminology) or of one’s fate or karma (eastern). Alternatively, sin is acknowledged to exist, but only as defined in one’s culture—cultural relativism thus negates the biblical concept of sin as absolute wrong. DAVID H. STERN, JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY 17-18 (1992).[8] CHARLES DARWIN, ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES BY MEANS OF NATURAL SELECTION, OR THE PRESERVATION OF FAVOURED RACES IN THE STRUGGLE FOR LIFE (Gryphon Editions 1987) (1859).
[9] Source: Nancy J. Kippenhan: One dramatic consequence of erecting a wall between the natural and the supernatural in academia and culture is the resulting lack of acknowledgement of the existence of morals and sin (at least from any external source), and of sin’s consequences. David Stern explains: We live in an age when many people do not know what sin is. Sin is violation of Torah, transgression of the law God gave his people in order to help them live a life which would be in their own best interests as well as holy and pleasing to God. In the so-called Age of Enlightenment, two or three centuries ago, the notion of moral relativism began to gain hold in Western societies. Under its sway people discarded the concept of sin as irrelevant. In this view there are no sins, only sickness, misfortunes, mistakes, or the outworking on one’s environmental, hereditary and biological input (western terminology) or of one’s fate or karma (eastern). Alternatively, sin is acknowledged to exist, but only as defined in one’s culture—cultural relativism thus negates the biblical concept of sin as absolute wrong. DAVID H. STERN, JEWISH NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARY 17-18 (1992).
[10] For example, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area Sch. Dist., 400 F. Supp. 2d 707 (M.D. Pa. 2005), Id. at 735.
[11] Q & A on Naturalism, CENTER FOR NATURALISM, http://www.centerfornaturalism. org/faqs.htm (“Science is the basis for naturalism.”).
[12] Ronald J. Allen, From the Enlightenment to Crawford to Holmes Address at the Association of American Law Schools Evidence Conference, 39 SETON HALL L. REV. 1, 4 (2009).
[13] STROBEL, supra note 11, at 81; see also Preface to IAN WILSON, JESUS: THE EVIDENCE 6-7 (1996). (This edition incorporates the “considerable number of discoveries relating to Jesus that there have been since 1984, such as the discovery of a fishing boat of his time; of the bones of the high priest Caiaphas; and of what may be the oldest known fragments of a gospel text.”).
[14] a. STROBELsupra note 11, at 82 (citing F.F. BRUCE, THE BOOKS AND THE PARCHMENTS 178 (1963)) (“There is no body of ancient literature in the world which enjoys such a wealth of good textual attestation as the New Testament.”); see also WILSONsupra note 17, at 23.
[15] Federal Rules For Evidence. (2009).
[16] Federal Rules For Evidence. 803(16); TESTIMONY, supra note 5, § 9; see infra Table 1 (comparing Greenleaf’s evidentiary principles to corresponding modern rules).
[17] Compare TESTIMONY, supra note 5, §§ 12–25, with People v. Farrell, 34 P.3d 401, 406-07 (Colo. 2001) (considering factors to assess reliability of hearsay testimony). While such reliability tests do not overcome a criminal defendant’s right to cross-examine witnesses against him, Crawford v. Washington, 541 U.S. 36 (2004), these “indicia of reliability” continue to demonstrate what it means for a witness to provide credible testimony. See also infra note 168, 174.
[18] TESTIMONY, supra note 5, §§ 12-14 (analysis of Matthew as author), §§ 15–17 (Mark), §§ 18–22 (Luke), §§ 23–25 (John), §§ 29–44 (examining the credibility of the authors and the reliability of their testimony); see also infra Part II.B.1-2.
[19] TESTIMONY, supra note 5, § 48.
[20] Federal Rules For Evidence. 103(a)(1); TESTIMONY, supra note 5, §§ 8–10
a.Nancy J. Kippenhan, Assistant Professor of Law, Liberty University School of Law.
b. Relevant evidence means evidence having any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable than it would be without the evidence.”); see also FED. R. EVID. 402 (“All relevant evidence is admissible . . .”); FED. R. EVID. 403 (favoring admission, but excluding evidence “if its probative value is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice”). See United States v. Dennis, 625 F.2d 782, 797 (8th Cir. 1980) (“In weighing the probative value of evidence against the dangers and considerations enumerated in Rule 403, the general rule is that the balance should be struck in favor of admission.”).
See, e.g., TESTIMONY, supra note 5, §§ 10, 28, 33.
[23] Id. § 27.
[24] Id. (emphasis added).
[25] Id. (emphasis added).
[26] Id. § 41.
[27] Federal Rules For Evidence. 803(16).
[27G]Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 41.
[28] Federal Rules For Evidence. 901(a).
[29] Federal Rules For Evidence. 901(b)(8).
[30] Federal Rules For Evidence. 601.
[31] Federal Rules For Evidence. 602.
[31G] Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 9.
[32] Federal Rules For Evidence. 702.
[32G] Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 22.
[33] Stoltie v. California, 501 F. Supp. 2d 1252, 1259 (C.D. Cal. 2007).
[34] Victor v. Nebraska, 511 U.S. 1, 13 (1994) (quoting California jury instruction using the term “moral certainty” in its instruction regarding reasonable doubt).
[34G] Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 26
[35] Federal Rules For Evidence. 102.
[35] Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 27.
[36] Federal Rules For Evidence. 601.
[37] Federal Rules For Evidence. 603.
[37G]Testimony of the Evangelists, supra note 5, § 28 (citing THOMAS STARKIE, 1 STARKIE ON EVIDENCE 514 (1842)).
[38] Federal Rules For Evidence. 607.
[39] People v. Farrell, 34 P.3d 401, 406 (Colo. 2001) (internal citations omitted).
[39G] TESTIMONY, supra note 5, § 29 (citing THOMAS STARKIE, 1 STARKIE ON EVIDENCE 480, 545 (1842)).
[40] Federal Rules For Evidence. 803(16).
[41] Federal Rules For Evidence. 901(8).
[42] WILSON, supra note 17, at 16-17.
[43] “You Are My Witnesses: The Men Who Saw Jesus,” by Robert Clifton Robinson. ASIN: B07TCCN6L8, June 18, 2019. This book documents the evidence of eyewitness testimony from the historical record and proves that the Gospels were written immediately after Jesus was resurrected and ascended back to heaven. Jesus gave explicit commands to the Apostles in Acts 1:8 to “go into all the world,” with the Gospel. Critics assert that these Gospels were written late in the first century, by non-eyewitnesses, but present no evidence to prove these assertion. The New Testament itself is self-proving in that it contains evidence that these narratives must have been written very early in the first century.
[44] William M. Ramsay, St. Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen, 1982, page
[45] William M. Ramsay, The Bearing of Recent Discovery on the Trustworthiness of the New Testament, 1915, page 222.
[46] 1.John Elder, “Prophets, Idols and Diggers.” Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960. Pages 159, 162
[47] 2.Joseph Free,. “Archaeology and Bible History.” Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, Page 285.
[48] Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Page 160
[49] 1.Elder, John. Prophets, Idols and Diggers. Indianapolis, New York: Bobbs-Merrill,1960, Pages  159, 160
2.Free, Joseph. Archaeology and Bible History. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, 1969, page 285
[49] F. F. Bruce, “Archaeological Confirmation of the New Testament.” Revelation and the Bible. Edited by Carl Henry. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1969. Page 321.
[50] Adrian Nicholas Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament, 1963, page 189
[51] Tacitus’ characterization of “Christian abominations” may have been based on the rumors in Rome that during the Eucharist rituals Christians ate the body and drank the blood of their God, interpreting the symbolic ritual as cannibalism by Christians. References: Ancient Rome by William E. Dunstan 2010 ISBN 0-7425-6833-4 page 293 and An introduction to the New Testament and the origins of Christianity by Delbert Royce Burkett 2002 ISBN 0-521-00720-8 page 485.
[52] The only questions for the trial judge are: (1) Were the documents in question what they purported to be? and (2) Do they purport to have been in existence twenty years or more?).
[53] TESTIMONY, supra note 5, § 8.

Categories: Archeological Confirmation, Defending the Gospel, Historical Validity of the New Testament, Literary authenticity of the New Testament, New Testament Criticism, Reliability of the New Testament, Robert Clifton Robinson, The Four Gospels, The Historical Jesus, The Historical Jesus

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