It is a common objection of critics that the four Gospels are not reliable. Assertions are made that they are not written by eyewitnesses because they were written 30 or 40 years after the events they describe. Although there is no evidence to prove this claim, many people still believe it is true because they have read these claims in books and on the internet.
This article provides evidence for the events of the four Gospels, from other sources, including secular records outside the Bible.
We Don’t Need The Four Gospels To Prove Jesus
What most people don’t realizes is that there is substantial evidence in other sources for all the events that are described in the four Gospels. We can prove every important event of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, without the Gospel narratives.
When we conduct our own examination in the entire text of the New Testament, we find that 24 of 27 books from the New Testament, validate Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection by 396 citations.
If we had only the Book of Romans, we could prove that Jesus existed, was crucified for the sins of the world, according to the Old Testament scriptures, and was raised from the dead, according to the Old Testament scriptures.
Romans, The Crucifixion And The Resurrection
From the second verse of the first chapter of Romans, we have a wealth of declarations by Paul who tells us every fundamental truth about Jesus
God promised this Good News long ago through his prophets in the holy Scriptures. The Good News is about his Son. In his earthly life he was born into King David’s family line, and he was shown to be the Son of God when he was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is Jesus Christ our Lord. ~Romans 1:2-4 (NLT)
- The Old Testament prophets predicted a Messiah exactly like Jesus.
- Jesus is descended from David, a requirement of the Messiah.
- Jesus is also the Son of God, equal to God.
- Jesus was raised from the dead.
- Jesus is Lord, or Yahweh, the God who saves us.
It didn’t take very long to find valid scriptures, other than the four Gospels, that state the fundamentals of Jesus’ Gospel.
Every Person Is A Sinner, Jesus Saves Us From Our Sins
But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago. We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus. ~Romans 3:21-26 (NLT)
26 Times, Romans Validates Jesus’ Death And Resurrection
- Romans 1:4, Jesus, Son of God by the resurrection from the dead
- Romans 3:24-25, Our redemption by faith through in Jesus’ blood (death)
- Romans 4:24, Righteousness is imputed by God who raised Jesus
- Romans 4:25, Jesus was delivered (crucified) and raised
- Romans 5:6, Jesus died for the ungodly
- Romans 5:10, We are reconciled by Jesus’ death, saved by His life
- Romans 5:15-19, The gift of Jesus’ death abounds to many, justified
- Romans 6:3, Believers baptized into Jesus dead
- Romans 6:6-7, Our old nature was crucified with Jesus
- Romans 6:8, If we died with Jesus we will be raised with Jesus
- Romans 6:9, Jesus having been raised, cannot die again, death has no power
- Romans 6:10, The death Jesus died, the life He now lives
- Romans 6:11-13, Christians are dead like Christ, alive like Christ
- Romans 7:4, Believers dead to the law, married to Christ who was raised
- Romans 7:6, Dead to the law (crucified), alive (raised) to the Spirit
- Romans 8:10, Christ in us, the body dead (crucified) because of sin but alive (raised), by righteousness
- Romans 8:11, If the Spirit that raised Jesus, lives in you, you will be raised
- Romans 8:17-18, If we suffer with Christ (crucified) we will be glorified (risen) with Him.
- Romans 8:32, God did not spare His Son but crucified Him for us
- Romans 8:34, Jesus, who died, and is risen, intercedes for us
- Romans 10:6-7, Faith is contrast with Jesus’ death and resurrection
- Romans 10:9, Salvation is by confession that Jesus rose from the dead
- Romans 14:9, Jesus died and rose and lived again
- Romans 14:11, Paul quotes Isaiah 45:23, a Messianic prophecy, applies it to Jesus, a risen Savior
- Romans 14:15, Describing the death of Jesus to make reconciliation possible
- Romans 16:25-26, Paul’s allusion to the risen Messiah of prophecy to Jesus in His death and resurrection
This same principle is repeated throughout the New Testament. We can prove everything that the four Gospels state about Jesus, in Books other than the four Gospels. Even if we never had these Gospels narratives, we still have enough evidence in the other 24 books of the New Testament to prove that Jesus came to earth as God, suffered and died for our sins, and rose from the dead on the third day.
We also have substantial evidence in the other books of the New Testament that document that Jesus was seen alive by more than 500 eyewitnesses after He rose from the dead, over a period of 40 days.
Let me now remind you, dear brothers and sisters, of the Good News I preached to you before. You welcomed it then, and you still stand firm in it. It is this Good News that saves you if you continue to believe the message I told you—unless, of course, you believed something that was never true in the first place. I passed on to you what was most important and what had also been passed on to me. Christ died for our sins, just as the Scriptures said. He was buried, and he was raised from the dead on the third day, just as the Scriptures said. He was seen by Peter and then by the Twelve. After that, he was seen by more than 500 of his followers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died. Then he was seen by James and later by all the apostles. Last of all, as though I had been born at the wrong time, I also saw him. ~1 Corinthians 15:1-8 (NLT)
If we had nothing but the Book of 1 Corinthians 15, we have enough in the historical record of the New Testament to prove that Jesus was crucified, rose from the dead, and was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses. The entire book of 1 Corinthians has 13 citations that describe the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- 1 Corinthians 1:13–Paul crucified for you?
- 1 Corinthians 1:17-18–Cross of Christ
- 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified
- 1 Corinthians 2:2–Know Jesus Christ and Him crucified
- 1 Corinthians 2:8–Crucified Lord of glory
- 1 Corinthians 5:7–Christ Passover sacrificed for us
- 1 Corinthians 6:14–God raised up the Lord
- 1 Corinthians 6:19-20–Bought with price
- 1 Corinthians 8:11–Weak brother perish for whom Christ died?
- 1 Corinthians 10:16–Body and blood-bread and wine
- 1 Corinthians 11:23-29–Received/delivered: body/blood
- 1 Corinthians 15:1-8–Creedal material on death and resurrection that Paul received
- 1 Corinthians 15 – Resurrection–the importance of the resurrection
Jesus’ Death And Resurrection In the New Testament
There are 199 places in the four Gospels where Jesus’ death and resurrection are described. If we disregard the Gospels, we still have 197 places in the other 20 books of the New Testament which fully validated Jesus’ death and resurrection: See All 396 Verses In The New Testament
- Matthew: 30
- Mark: 37
- Luke: 32
- John: 100
- Acts: 40
- Romans: 26
- 1 Corinthians: 14
- 2 Corinthians 11
- Galatians: 14
- Ephesians 6
- Philippians 5
- Colossians 8
- 1 Thessalonians 9
- 2 Thessalonians 2
- 1 Timothy 2
- 2 Timothy 4
- Hebrews 17
- James 2
- 1 Peter 11
- 2 Peter 1
- 1 John 9
- 2 John 1
- Jude 1
- Revelation 14
A Second Assertion By Critics States That There Are No Citations For Jesus Outside The New Testament
For many years a great number of people have maintained that there is no record of Jesus, outside of the Bible. For this reason, some have concluded that He is merely a myth or legend.
From the non biblical record of history, we can reconstruct the entire life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The majority of these texts speak of Jesus in derogatory or non-complementary terms. None of these texts are seeking to prove the existence of Jesus nor validate Him as a genuine person of history. In fact, by their non complementary, and often scathing remarks, these writers of antiquity have preserved for us a substantial and conclusive chronicle of the same events that are a part of the New Testament narrative.
From this substantial list, we can accurately conclude that Jesus is a genuine person of history and that His presence on earth, as described in the pages of the New Testament, are also accurate.
As you read the following, remember that these are not believers in Jesus, nor are they seeking to validate Jesus as a real person. A majority of the following writings by these non-Christian sources, are visibly hostile, even hateful towards Jesus and those who follow Him. This is the entire point: By their adversarial remarks, without being aware, these non-Christian writers have preserved for us, an empirical record from history that Jesus did in fact live, die, and rose from the dead. See The Entire List Of 121 Secular Citations For Jesus From Sources Other Than The Bible
Tacitus: A Roman Senator and recorder of events from the Roman Senate, first Century. Tacitus referred to Christ, his execution under Pontius Pilate, and the existence of Christians in Rome, documented in his work, “Annals, written ca. AD 116, book 15, chapter 44.
- Tacitus describes the followers of Jesus as “Christians.”
- Jesus was Crucified by Pontius Pilate.
- Jesus was executed during the reign of Emperor Tiberius.
- Jesus’ death stopped the evil superstition of Christianity.
- Tacitus concluded that the fervency of Christians was due to their firm belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.
- Tacitus concluded that the reason that Christians were crucified was due to their founder also being crucified.
- Tacitus concluded that the reason that Christians would not deny Jesus was because they were certain He had risen from the dead.
Pliny the Younger: the writer of ten books during the first century, describing Christianity and facts concerning Jesus. The letter (Epistulae X.96) describes an account Pliny in conducting trials of suspected Christians who were accused of anonymous accusations, requesting advice from the Emperor on how they should be treated.
- The presence of Christianity in the world during the first century was so prevalent that many pagan temples had been abandoned.
- Pliny confirms the existence of Christians in the first century and their flourishing numbers, due largely to their belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
- Their was great concern that a wide-spread belief in the resurrection would cause tremendous difficulties for the government of Rome. For this reason, those who believed in Jesus were put to death if they refused to repent and deny that Jesus had risen from the dead.
- Pliny described those who believed in Jesus and His resurrection, as meeting regularly for worship.
Suetonius: Secretary to the Roman Emperor Hadrian. First Century.
- The belief of Christians that Jesus died and rose again were seen as dangerous superstitions.
- The entire reason that 5 million Christians were crucified over a 250 year period of time was due to their unwavering faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Josephus: Primary Jewish historian during the period of history when the followers of Jesus were spreading Christianity throughout Israel and the Roman Empire. First Century. The Testimonium Flavianum (meaning the testimony of Flavius Josephus) is found in Book 18, Chapter 3.
- Jesus was known as a wise teacher who was alleged to have been without sin.
- The people who believed in Him were both Jews and Gentiles.
- Jesus was executed by Pontius Pilate as he ordered Him to be crucified.
- Josephus writes that the followers of Jesus reported that He had risen from the dead.
- The allegation that people were saying that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day.
- As a result of Jesus alleged resurrection, His followers grew in number.
- The allegation that Jesus was the promised Messiah.
- The Jesus who was crucified was the brother of James.
- Many people in Israel at that time believed that Jesus was the Messiah.
- Josephus was likely the brother of Nicodemus and received testimony about Jesus from him.
- Matthew and Josephus were both alive during the same period of history. Josephus had likely read Matthew’s account of Jesus’ death and resurrection, and this is likely the source from where he received his information in writing about Jesus crucifixion and resurrection.
Jewish Talmud: Rabbi’s Judah, Akiba, and Meir are cited as writing in opposition to Jesus in the Mishna and Gemaras Talmud. Second Century.
- Jesus is described as “hanged on a tree,” which was common language of that day for describing crucifixion.
- The Talmud confirms Jesus’ crucifixion as occurring during the same period that the New Testament records these events.
- The crucifixion of Jesus took place on Passover, which is profoundly important to the Messiah’s story, since He must be killed during Passover.
- The Talmud describes Jesus as destined to be stoned forty days before they crucified Him.
- Jesus was found guilty of sorcery and apostasy when He taught doctrine that was considered misleading to the people of Israel.
- During the trial of Jesus, no witnesses were found to testify on His behalf.
- Jesus had many disciples who followed Him. These persons were also considered dangerous by the Sanhedrin.
- The Jewish record in the Talmud shows that these leaders of Israel treated Jesus with greater scorn and disrespect than others’s who had been accused of similar crimes.
- The Talmud records that Jesus age at crucifixion was between 33 and 34 years.
- Mary, is described as the mother of Jesus.
Greek Philosopher, Celsus: Second Century.
- Derided Jesus in his writings, His origin, and those who followed Him.
- Celsus makes comments about statements that are made in the Tolodeth Yeshu.
Greek Satirist, Lucian: In the second century, many derisions against Jesus and His followers.
- Early Believers in Jesus were naive, and lacking good judgment; easily deceived by charlatans, giving large sums of money to support the cause of Jesus.
- Lucian writes that Jesus was crucified and those who believe in Him believed that they would live forever.
- Early believers worshipped Jesus as God.
- Those who believed in Jesus, studied His teaching in context with the Greek language, comparing Him to early Greek philosophers.
- Jesus’s followers believe in Him by faith.
- Jesus’ followers sold their possessions in order to gain money to care for other less fortunate believers.
- The early church, relied upon the writings of letters that were distributed to various places, for their doctrine and teaching.
- Lucian refers to Jesus as “a crucified sage.”
- Those who follow the teaching of Jesus were easily taken advantage of, because of their tender hearts.
Syrian, Mara Bar-Serapion: between the first and third century, writes from prison about the man called Jesus and His teaching.
- Asks the question: “what advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King?”
- Questioned if the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., was a direct result of their denial of Jesus.
- Alleges that the Jews were driven from their land, as a result of denying Jesus as their Messiah.
- The suggestion that Jesus was unjustly killed.
Gnostic teacher, Valentinus: From the first century. Clement of Alexandria said that Valentinus was a follower of Theudas, who was a follower of Paul, a writer of the New Testament. Gnosticism is generally regarded as contrary to the teachings of the New Testament regarding the true nature of Jesus.
- Discusses the historical reality of Jesus’ in Israel.
- Refers to Jesus as “the Son of God.
- Describes Jesus as teaching His followers about His Father.
- Is careful to deny that Jesus came as God in the flesh, which is the basis of all Gnostic doctrine.
- Calls Jesus: “the Word.”
- Speaks of Jesus death on a tree, which is an early manner of speaking to describe crucifixion.
- States that the followers of Jesus believed that His death brought salvation to those who believe.
- Writes that the followers of Jesus affirm that He was resurrected from the dead.
If we throw out the four Gospels of Christ in the New Testament completely, we still have a large body of other empirical evidence which fully validates Jesus in Jerusalem, performing miracles, claiming to be God, dying on a cross, and seen risen from the dead.
The assertions by atheists and other critics of the four Gospels, fails, not only on the assertion that the four Gospels are not reliable because they were written by non-eyewitnesses, late in the first century, but also in that we have so many other proofs in the historical record that also validate Jesus.
The facts of evidence proves that it is possible to know for certain if we can trust what is written about Jesus. The following are the resources available at this site which contain evidence to prove each of these important issues:
- When Were The Gospels Written?
- Were The Gospels Written By Eyewitnesses?
- Did The Gospel Writers Borrow From Each Other?
- Has The Text Of The New Testament Been Changed?
- Is The New Testament Filled With Errors?
- Were The Four Gospels Written Anonymously?
- The Body Of New Testament Evidence
- Are There Sources For Jesus Outside The New Testament?
- Is The New Testament A Valid Historical Narrative?
- Did Jesus Really Claim To Be God?
Categories: Jewish rejection of Jesus, Messianic Prophecies, New Testament Criticism, Reasons For Unbelief, Robert Clifton Robinson, Secular sources for Jesus, The Historical Jesus, The Jesus People, The Resurrection