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We should remember that the statements of those who witnessed the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection are recorded posthumously for us in the historical record. There is absolutely no reason for any person to doubt the authenticity of the testimony which has been given to us concerning the events that are narrated in the text of the New Testament. For the past 2,000 years, no one has ever successfully impeached the testimony of the New Testament writers. There have been hundreds of attempts to impugn the single most significant event in the history of the world, but never a single successful impingement—due to the massive amount of evidence. The burden of proof to challenge the testimony recorded in the New Testament scriptures is on the opposing parties who make their claims that the text is not reliable.
Dr. Simon Greenleaf, co-founder of the Harvard Law School, is considered one of the world’s great minds concerning the rules for the laws for evidence. His “Treatise on the Rules for Evidence that is admissible in our courts of Law” is still in use today, and is a valuable authority for what constitutes valid evidence.
“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.”
Dr. Greenleaf makes an important point—because the New Testament accounts of Jesus’ horrible death and amazing resurrection exist today, with effectively the same text which they were originally written in—as early as 28 years after the events took place, this evidence presumes for us that the gospel accounts are reliable. The burden for proving that these documents are not accounts of the actual events, rests upon the opposing parties who allege these claims. Dr. Greenleaf continues:
“An ancient document, offered in evidence in our courts, is said to come from the proper repository, when it is found in the place where, and under the care of persons with whom, such writings might naturally and reasonably be expected to be found; for it is this custody which gives authenticity to documents found within it. If they come from such a place, and bear no evident marks of forgery, the law presumes that they are genuine, and they are permitted to be read in evidence, unless the opposing party is able successfully to impeach them.”
Unless proof can be offered which would impeach these documents, they stand as legal and historical proof that the man Jesus Christ lived, died, and was resurrected from the dead, by the testimony of the eyewitnesses who recorded these events. Because the gospels were found in the care of persons who have oversight in the Christian church, where one might naturally expect authentic documents to be found, and have remained in such care and custody for nearly 2,000 years, it is from this source that their authenticity is certain and their accounts are considered genuine. According to the professional opinion of Dr. Greenleaf who “wrote the book” on what constitutes valid evidence:
“The burden for showing them to be false and unworthy of credit, is devolved on the party who makes that objection.” -Simon Greenleaf, “The Testimony of the Evangelists.”
No critic to date has successfully impeached the four gospels in a manner that the majority of scholars would concur is reason to doubt their authenticity—or cause uncertainty that the accounts described in the New Testament narrative are anything but true and accurate testimony of the actual events which transpired in Jerusalem, concerning Jesus of Nazareth.