Questioning the gospels can only mean one thing – questioning the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are the four books of the Bible that provide everything we need to know about Jesus. The ancient texts are believed to be written by eyewitnesses or people who spoke during with one of the men during the first century. Christianity rises or falls on the historical accuracy of key gospel events: Jesus’ words and deeds, his death on the cross, and his resurrection.
The word gospel is an old English word meaning good news. The gospels can be summed up as historical narrative motivation by theological concerns. Their intention is to identify accurate historical material about Jesus and also explain and interpret these salvation bringing events. The gospels were written by evangelists, who are proclaimers of good news, announcing the good news of Jesus Christ and asking people to believe in him.
The proof of the gospels lies within the four books – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Their relationship with Jesus portrays different perspectives. What are the different views?
- Matthew presents Jesus as the Jewish Messiah – the fulfillment of Old Testament hopes.
- Mark portrays him as the suffering Son of God – who offers himself as a sacrifice for sins.
- Luke’s Jesus is the Savior for all people – who brings salvation to all nations and people groups.
- John’s Jesus is the eternal Son of God – the self-revelation of God the Father.
The four gospels provide us with a deeper understanding of who Jesus is and what he did. Instead of one opinion, we’re able to get a much more well-rounded perception of identity. Moreover, the four different gospel accounts display how God keeps his own word. When it comes to his most important revelation, that Jesus is the Messiah, God didn’t give us one account from an isolated individual. Then God teaches us about the richness of Jesus’ life through the multiple prophet witnesses. The prophetic witnesses of the gospels uphold the truth that God is speaking himself. Ultimately, the consistent documentation provides a verifiable history – that is not secluded to the privacy of one individual.
Another important element to remember is that the four gospels do not contradict each other. For Christians, this is a very big deal. Think about it – in a court room, how often are testimonies opposing? The gospels go beyond generic statements and describe numerous parts of Jesus’ life, with each point providing a different vantage point. Yet, everyone rejoices in the name of Jesus.
Many people consider the gospels as biographies and because they are accounts, that creates an ambiguous nature. Most scholars refer to the gospels as teachings that are written to increase the faith of readers. The titles of the gospels were added in the second century and could be designated as the authority behind the finished gospel, or the one who wrote one of the main sources of the gospel.
If it’s real, many question when was it written? Historians believe:
- The first gospel, Mark, was written almost 40 years after Jesus completed his public ministry. The early followers of Jesus were expecting the second coming in their life time – this is seen in Acts 1:11 and Thess. 1:10.
- Matthew was written in the 80s, in the first major church outside of Jerusalem, Antioch in Syria. There the believers were first called Christians – you can see this in Acts 11:26.
- Luke was written in the mid-80s in Greece or Syria, by someone who was a skilled writer and very educated; however, they were not an eyewitness of Jesus’ ministry. Religious historians believe the writer could have been a Jewish convert before becoming a Christian.
- John was written in the 90s – most likely in Ephesus and has editing by other people as late as 110 AD. It appears to be primarily based on an independent source.
Searching for the true Bible history will always be news. The investigation for proof of validity for the gospels will never end or not yield any answers or questions.
The gospels receive most of the textual criticism with the identification and removal of transcription errors in the texts of the manuscripts. Ancient scribes made errors or potentially edits – many believe some of this includes non-authentic additions. To better analyze and determine the validity of the text, some modern textual critics have identified sections as additions of material centuries after the gospel was written. These items are called interpolations. Nonetheless, these inconsistencies have created a furry of misconceptions. One widely referred to example is the number of Bible verses in the New Testament that are present in the King James version (KJV) but are absent from the modern Bible translations.
After all of that, what do you think? Are the gospels real? Is there ‘hard’ proof that gospels are valid? We’ll never know. Historians and theologians can search for all of the proof out there, but there will always be a counter argument (or discussion) to their reasoning – and you know, that’s life. Christians must evaluate all of the pieces and identify their own beliefs based on the research. The ambiguity that lies within the constant discussion keeps the gospels at the top of conversations and provides a bigger platform for appreciation as well.
What can we do as Christians? We can continue to educate ourselves. We can continue to read our Bibles and reread the gospels. We can continue to open our minds and identify where various interpolations exist. To answer the question, yes, we have proof that the gospels are true. But, there are so many elements to the arguments of the people who do not agree.