Can we take what the New Testament says at face value? The gospels record some pretty remarkable events. What do we see that can supports the integrity of the narrative? Here’s a few thoughts.

The first thing to consider is the length of time between the reported events and the writing of the gospel accounts. We have a pretty good idea of when these things happened because of the historical context: Tiberius was Caesar, and Pilate was representing Rome in Judea, and numerous other historical figures come up as well. The record of the Gospels record events in history at a very specific time and place. The oldest gospel – Mark’s gospel – was written mere decades after the events it reports, and the letters of Paul the Apostle come even earlier. These all display a consistent understanding of the life, death, and literal resurrection of Christ. We must bear in mind that legend takes a long time to develop and mutate. There wasn’t enough time for the material to be distorted in this way.

Then there ‘s the record of the gospels. There’s too much in there that would – if it weren’t actually true – actually be detrimental to a young religion. The first witnesses of the resurrection were women – in a patristic society this would diminish the authority of the report; the fact that it is so mentioned gives some assurance that the writers are telling us just how it happened – even if in their cultural moment it worked against their cause. This is the mark of an honest witness.

Jesus’ cry of dereliction is likewise reported: He cries, “My God, why have You forsaken me?”. If you were trying to come up with a new religion would you put such words in the mouth of its Founder? I don’t think so.

The apostles don’t come off looking that bright. The future leaders of the church are constantly rebuked for their lack of faith, and Peter’s denial of The Lord is faithfully reported. What motive could anyone have for reporting these things unless they – again, as honest witnesses – are just reporting the facts?

Finally, we often forget that all the apostles except for John died for their faith in Christ. These people were actual witnesses of the Resurrection, and nobody dies for what they KNOW is a lie.

It becomes clear that whatever we may think about the possibility of a God who works in time, the New Testament records, warts and all, what the early church believed and what they did. When we view the Gospels as straightforward eyewitness accounts they tell us something remarkable – and life changing.

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