Sunday, December 15, 2013

P10/11 Discovering the Identity of Jesus - 8 reasons why the Gospel records are historically reliable

Matthew 16:15 "He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”

Note to the reader: These next several posts are designed to present a cultural, historical and theological study of Jesus Christ and the facts behind the crucifixion.  In yesterday's post we considered how Jesus' crucifixion fits within the Old Testament Prophecies. Today we will consider 8 reasons for the historical reliability of the Gospel records. 

Note to reader: For those readers who want access to ancient historical documents that corroborate the Four Gospel accounts, please see my post at:

8 reasons why the Gospel records and crucifixion narratives are historically reliable

1. The Gospel records have statements about Jesus’ life and crucifixion that reflect both the thought worlds of Old Testament Jewish though of the time and First Century Christianity.[1]

2. With all four being written from an eye-witness point of view (Matthew, Mark (dictating from Peter; Luke dictating from Paul and the Apostle John), the various distinctions and ordering of events reflect with what is currently known about typically multiple witness testimonies in court cases today.

3. The dating of the Gospels within 30-50 of the crucifixion leaves a reasonable enough amount of time for an eyewitness to recount everything in detail (especially eye-witnesses who followed Jesus’ teaching like Matthew, Mark with Peter, Luke with Paul and John). Documents written earlier than the gospels (1 Corinthians 15 in 53 A.D and Philippians 2 preserving a hymn going back to 35 A.D) corroborate what is written in the Gospels[2]

4. Key events in secular history such as Herod’s murder of firstborn infants; The census by Quirinius of Palestine and the whole world; Pilate’s rule over Judea and the eclipse of the sun during the crucifixion acts as fix markers in rooting the historicity of the gospels[3]

5. From the writings of Josephus (Jewish Historian of Rome; Tactius (Roman Historian); The philosopher Marus; Thallus and Philo, we find out that Jesus was a wise man, who taught throughout the region of Judea, performing miracles, crucified during the reign of Pontius Pilate and raised from the dead according to the Apostle Paul.[4]

6. Consider the events and people surrounding the crucifixion that would had made it impossible to substitute another body in place of Jesus on the cross:

a). Thursday night 10 p.m – 500 soldiers come to arrest Jesus and escort Him to his trial

b). He is condemned by the Jewish high court through the night and escorted by the same band of soldiers to Pilate’s hall early Friday morning

c). Before going to Pilate He is flogged and badly beaten under the supervision of about 100 soldiers

d). They escort him to Pilate between 7 a.m-8 a.m before thousands of people, again under heavy guard

e). From there to the place of crucifixion Jesus (along with two other thieves crucified on his left and right) where escorted to the place of crucifixion.  Jesus and each of the thieves would had had a special company of six soldiers plus a centurion guard placed in charge of the crucifixion, so as to ensure that no friends of the crucified criminal could rescue them.

f). Six hours later Jesus dies AT 3 P.M.  Joseph of Arimethea takes his body down from the cross, all the while being escorted by two Roman guards to the tomb. The tomb is sealed and guarded by Roman Soldiers.  Three days later the resurrection of Jesus Christ from dead occurred. No other satisfactory explanation of the events of the empty tomb has been able to stand up under scrutiny except the Biblical one: that Jesus Christ physically and bodily raised from the dead.  Whenever we consider such factors as the change in the disciples from fearful to fervently dying for their faith; the fact that the disciples had no occasion to go steal the body; that crucifixion would had rendered Jesus unable to "sneak out of the tomb"; the response of Jesus' enemies and other details points to one conclusion: that Jesus Christ was crucified, buried and raised according to the scriptures! (1 Corinthians 15:1-4)

7). We have over 5600 Greek Manuscripts that among themselves show the records of Jesus life to be preserved

8). External evidence shows the following profile of Jesus: He was a miracle worker, who died by crucifixion, was raised to life and was worshipped as God.  This thumbnail sketch of Jesus in the annals of history parallels with what we see of Him in the Gospel accounts, hence equating Him with the Gospel’s portrait of Jesus that Christians worship today.


1. What does it do for you to know that people who would had been unsympathetic towards Christianity or the Gospels account for the events of the crucifixion and the facts of the Gospels?

2. If Jesus really did die on the cross (as we have just seen, this event did happen) then what or how does this change your view of God and salvation?

[1] N.T Wright. Jesus and the Victory of God
[2] This point is brought out in Lee Stroebel’s “The Case for Christ” during his interview with renouned scholar Edwin Yamahuchi
[3] N.T Wright. Jesus and the Victory of God
[4] Lee Stroebel’s “The Case for Christ”

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