Apologetics – Why Trust the Gospel Accounts? 04-25-09


  • For nearly two thousand years the Christian has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings.
  • Here rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental health, and contentment!
  • We need to be ready to defend the faith, we must be equipped to demonstrate that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin.


  • Many critics have attacked the reliability of the biblical documents.
  • There seems to be a constant barrage of accusations that have no historical foundation or that have now been outdated by archaeological discoveries and research.

Three Tests:

  • Bibliographical- An examination of the textual transmission by which documents reach us.
  • Internal- Criteria that apply inside the document under consideration (Content and Composition)
  • External tests- Criteria outside the document (Archeology, Art, History and Literature)

1. The Bibliographical Test

  • Bible has stronger manuscript support than any other work of classical history – including Homer, Plato, Aristotle, Caesar, and Tacitus
  • If a person discards the Bible as unreliable in this sense, then he or she must discard almost all the literature of antiquity.
  • Over 20,000 copies of the NT manuscripts are in existence today.  The book that Homer wrote entitled Iliad has 643 manuscripts and is 2nd in manuscript authority after the NT.
  • The application of the bibliographical test to the NT assures us that it has more manuscript authority than any piece of literature from antiquity.
  • After 100 years of intensive NT textual criticism, one can conclude that an authentic NT has been established.

2. The Internal Evidence

  • The criteria is expressed by a series of questions which historians typically ask of ancient documents:
  • Was the author in a position to know what he or she is writing about?
  • Does the text claim to be an eyewitness account, or based on an eyewitness account?  Or is it based on hearsay?
  • Luke uses eyewitness sources Luke 1:1-4
  • John is an eyewitness in John 19:35
  • Other sources:
    • Irenaeus, II Peter 1:16, I John 1:1-3, Acts 2:22
  • Does the document in question contain specific and especially irrelevant material?
    • John 20:1-8- detailed account
  • Does the document contain self-damaging material?
    • Resurrection- Women at the tomb
    • Disciples portrayed in bad light
    • Jesus’ cry on the cross
  • Is the document reasonably self-consistent?
    • Gospels- coherence of truth
  • Is there evidence of legendary accretion in the document?\
    • Dating the Gospels with Acts:
    • No mention of the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, Nero’s persecution of Christians in the mid-60’s, martyrdom of Paul and Peter, and record of people and event in the Roman Empire has time and time again been substantiated by archeology

2. External Evidence

  • Would the authors of the document have a motive for fabricating what they wrote?
  • Are there any other sources which confirm material in the document and/or which substantiate the genuiness of the document?
  • Does archeology support or go against material in the document?
    • While there have always been archeologists who claim that their findings are in tension with some aspect of the biblical account of things, time and time again these findings have been reversed in favor of the biblical account.
    • Examples: Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, Kiafus the High Priest


  • P- Poetics
  • E- Eye-witness
  • A- Archeology
  • R- Recant
  • L- Legends


  • Poetics, Aristotle 343 BC, 5 manuscripts, 1400 year gap
  • Besides the Bible, other such documents of antiquity which are widely accepted as historically valid, and accurate, and which are substantiated on the authority of many fewer manuscripts, as well as much wider gaps of time between original writings and their duplicates are never so challenged as the Bible.


  • Much of the New Testament is written in first-person, which means that the author is claiming to be an eye-witness to the events that are detailed within its pages.  Beyond claiming to be eye-witness accounts, the New Testament stands the test in proving its first-person validity, because it includes irrelevant and self-damaging material.  It contains minor discrepancies that do not distort the coherence of the sequence of events, and consistency of characters.


  • Archeology continues to support both New and Old Testament literature.   Chariot wheels found on the floor of the dead sea, inscriptions in the Sinai region detailing the pilgrimage of the Jewish people in their exodus from Egypt, the graves of both Pontius Pilate and Kiafus the high priest, as well as bone boxes of the crucified having pierced hands and feet; all confirming Biblical accounts of both people and places, as well as the details of a crucifixion.


  • Each and every disciple who faced persecution, and or prosecution by authorities of the day, both Jewish and Roman, must have had multiple opportunities to recant, in order to save themselves from death.  It would have taken only one coward; one confession, for the entire “scheme” to come undone.  And if any such confession were to have been made, it would have been widely publicized, and the body of Jesus would have been located and publicly displayed.  But instead, the disciples held firmly to the claims of Christ’s resurrection, even in the face of death.


  • The Gospel was written in such a short time after the resurrection that there was no time for legendary accretion.  Citing the absence of mention of such events as the martyrdom of Paul (AD 64) and Peter (AD 65) in Luke’s accounts in the Book of Acts, and acknowledging Luke’s reputation as an expert historian, we must conclude that the Acts and the Gospels were written prior to such monumental events

Deity of Christ-Trilemma

  • The outrageous claims of Christ to be God totally “blow out of the water” the regular response offered by scoffers who just regard Jesus as some great moral man or a prophet who said a lot of deep and profound things.

CS Lewis

  • “..people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’  That is the one thing we must not say.  A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher.  He would either be a lunatic, on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell.  You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse…You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.  But let us not come up with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher.  He has not left that open to us.  He did not intend to.”

Was He a Liar?

  • If, while Jesus made his allegations, he was indeed conscience that he was not God, subsequently he was deceitful and intentionally deceiving his followers.
  • Fraud- taught honesty
  • Demon- claimed to hold other’s eternal fate=
  • Appallingly wicked- can’t back up his claims
  • Fool- his claims led to his crucifiction

Was He a Lunatic?

  • In Jesus we don’t observe the abnormalities and imbalance that usually go along with being deranged.
  • With his poise and composure, it would certainly be amazing if he were insane.
  • He spoke some of the most profound sayings ever recorded.
  • Clark H. Pinnock asks:
    • “Was he deluded about his greatness, a paranoid, an unintentional deceiver, a schizophrenic?  Again, the skill and depth of his teachings support the case only for his total mental soundness.  If only we were as sane as he!”

Was He Lord?

  • The only other alternative is that he was the Christ, the Son of God, as he claimed.
  • The evidence is clearly in favor of Jesus as Lord.  Some people, however, reject this clear evidence because of moral implications involved.  They don’t want to face up to the responsibility or implications of calling him Lord.



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