Why the Ancient Christian Record About Jesus Is the Most Reliable

When we examine ancient history in an attempt to understand the nature of Jesus, we discover there are three separate witness accounts we have to consider. First, of course, are the eyewitness accounts of the New Testament writers. But in addition to these, there are hostile gentile eyewitness accounts of the Greek world and hostile Jewish accounts of antiquity . How are we supposed to know which group we can trust? Why should anyone believe the ancient Christian record about Jesus is the most reliable? Let’s examine each group of witnesses using the four part template I employ to evaluate eyewitnesses in my cold-case investigations . We’ll begin by reviewing what the three witness groups say about the nature of Jesus: The three accounts are amazingly similar as they record the same basic testimony about the life and death of Jesus. But there are a few distinct differences between the three witness accounts from antiquity. I’ve highlighted or colored the differences to make them easier to discuss. First, you’ll notice the hostile gentile witnesses are silent on a few important points (there is no mention of the prophecies predicting Jesus, the triumphal entry into Jerusalem, Judas Iscariot, the beating prior to the crucifixion, or the resurrection or ascension). But this does not necessarily mean there is a contradiction with the Jewish witnesses or the Biblical account. It may simply mean ancient Gentile writers assumed their readers knew these issues, were themselves focused on other issues, or did not carefully guard the entire record (and as a result, some have now been lost). In addition to this, you’ll note there are some dramatic differences between the Jewish account and the Gentile and Biblical record. The difference here is not in terms of the historical details of the story of Jesus, but is instead in the explanations for these details. The Jewish record affirms Jesus was said to be born of a virgin but denies this claim, arguing Jesus’ parents simply covered up the truth about Jesus’ true father. The Jewish record affirms Jesus had supernatural powers, but attributes these powers to demonic forces. Finally, the Jewish record also affirms there was an empty tomb (and Jesus’ followers claimed he was resurrected and ascended into heaven), but they deny this was true, and claim Jesus’ grave was later found in the garden next to the tomb. So while the narrative of the life of Jesus closely parallels the Biblical account, there are a number of alternative explanations offered.

Published by Intentional Faith

Devoted to a Faith that Thinks

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