Mark Tabata (Evangelist)
(Unless otherwise noted, all italicized quotations are from Lee Strobel, The Case For Christ: A Journalist’s Personal Investigation Of The Evidence For Jesus, 20-46 (Kindle Edition, Interview With Dr. Craig Blomberg); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan)
Opening Discussion Questions
1. Dan Brown wrote an intriguing book that claims the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (also known as the canonical Gospels) were four of at least eighty books that talk about Jesus from the ancient world. These books claim that the Jesus in the canonical Gospels was radically different from the Jesus that is described in these books. Why should we trust the canonical Gospels?
2. Some people believe that we should believe in Jesus and the Bible without proof. They claim that “faith” is opposed to “reason.” What do you think about this?
3. What difference does it make who wrote the canonical Gospels?
Are The Gospels Anonymous?
“He sat back and continued. “It’s important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the gospels are anonymous.”
Are the Gospels anonymous?
For a document to be “genuine,” it means that it was written by the author to whom it is attributed. Many believe that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are actually anonymous. As such, many claim that they were written by forgers decades or centuries after the time of Christ. What evidence is there that the Gospels are genuine?
The superscript on the Gospels has reference to the “titles” placed above the Gospels in the Greek manuscripts. For example, the superscript on the Gospel of Matthew reads, “The Gospel According To Matthew.” The superscript on the Gospels is as old as the Greek manuscripts themselves!
“The first and perhaps biggest problem for the theory of the anonymous Gospels is this: no anonymous copies of Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John have ever been found. They do not exist. As far as we know, they never have. Instead, as New Testament scholar Simon Gathercole has demonstrated, the ancient manuscripts are unanimous in attributing these books to the apostles and their companions….Notice three things about this evidence. First, there is a striking absence of any anonymous Gospel manuscripts. That is because they don’t exist. Not even one. The reason this is so significant is that one of the most basic rules in the study of New Testament manuscripts (a practice known as textual criticism) is that you go back to the earliest and best Greek copies to see what they actually say. Not what you wish they said, but what they actually say. When it comes to the titles of the Gospels, not only the earliest and best manuscripts, but all of the ancient manuscripts—without exception, in every language—attribute the four Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. 14 Second, notice that there is some variation in the form of the titles (for example, some of the later manuscripts omit the word “Gospel”). However, as New Testament scholar Michael Bird notes, there is “absolute uniformity” in the authors to whom each of the books is attributed. 15 One reason this is so important is because some scholars will claim that the Greek manuscripts support the idea that the titles of the Gospels were added later….Third—and this is important—notice also that the titles are present in the most ancient copies of each Gospel we possess, including the earliest fragments, known as papyri (from the papyrus leaves of which they were made). For example, the earliest Greek manuscript of the Gospel of Matthew contains the title “The Gospel according to Matthew” (Greek euangelion kata Matthaion) (Papyrus 4). Likewise, the oldest Greek copy of the beginning of the Gospel of Mark starts with the title “The Gospel according to Mark” (Greek euangelion kata Markon)….Finally, the earliest manuscript of the Gospel of John that exists is only a tiny fragment of the Gospel. Fortunately, however, the first page is preserved, and it reads: “The Gospel according to John” (Greek euangelion kata Iōannēn) (Papyrus 66). In short, the earliest and best copies of the four Gospels are unanimously attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. There is absolutely no manuscript evidence—and thus no actual historical evidence—to support the claim that “originally” the Gospels had no titles.” (Brant Pitre, The Case ForJesus: The Biblical And Historical Evidence For Christ, 16-18 (Kindle Edition); New York; Image)
Please consider Pitre’s chart at the end of this document for consideration.
Blomberg provides testimony from the early church that confirms the traditional authorship of the Gospels. Consider some of the following testimony from the church fathers:
“The same authority of the apostolic churches will afford defense of the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage. I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew—while that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was. For men usually ascribe Luke’s form of the Gospel to Paul.” (Tertullian (c. 207, W), 3.350)
“It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principal winds. Now, the church is scattered throughout all the world, and the “pillar and ground” of the church is the Gospel. Therefore, it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and renewing men afresh.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.428.)
“Matthew put together the oracles [of the Lord] in the Hebrew language, and each one interpreted them as best he could.” (Papias (c. 120, E), 1.155, as quoted by Eusebius.)
“Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.414)
“The Gospel according to Matthew was written to the Jews. For they laid particular stress upon the fact that Christ is of the seed of David. Matthew also, who had a still greater desire [to prove this], took particular pains to afford them convincing proof that Christ is of the seed of David. Therefore, Matthew begins with His genealogy.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.573)
“Having become the interpreter of Peter, Mark wrote down accurately whatever he remembered. However, he did not relate the sayings or deeds of Christ in exact order. For he neither heard the Lord nor accompanied Him. But afterwards, as I said, he accompanied Peter. Now, Peter accommodated his instructions to the necessities [of his hearers], but with no intention of giving a regular narrative of the Lord’s sayings. Accordingly, Mark made no mistake in thus writing some things as he remembered them. For one thing, he took special care not to omit anything he had heard, and not to put anything fictitious into the statements.” (Papias (c. 120, E), 1.155, as quoted by Eusebius)
“After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, also handed down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.414)
“Mark, the interpreter and follower of Peter, begins his Gospel narrative in this manner.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.425)
“Mark was the follower of Peter. Peter publicly preached the gospel at Rome before some of Caesar’s equestrian knights, and adduced many testimonies to Christ. In order that thereby they might be able to commit to memory what was spoken by Peter, Mark wrote entirely what is called the Gospel according to Mark.” (Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.573)
“Such a ray of godliness shone forth on the minds of Peter’s hearers, that they were not satisfied with a single hearing or with the unwritten teaching of the divine proclamation. So, with all manner of entreaties, they pleaded with Mark, to whom the Gospel is ascribed (he being the companion of Peter) to leave in writing a record of the teaching that had been delivered to them verbally. And they did not let the man alone until they had prevailed upon him. And so to them, we owe the Scripture called the “Gospel of Mark.” On learning what had been done, through the revelation of the Spirit, it is said that the apostle was delighted with the enthusiasm of the men and approved the composition for reading in the churches. Clement gives the narrative in the sixth book of the Sketches.” (Eusebius, citing Clement of Alexandria (c. 195, E), 2.579)
“Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded the Gospel in a book.” (Irenaeus (c. 180, E/ W), 1.414)
“The third book of the Gospel is that according to Luke. . . . Now, he himself did not see the Lord in the flesh. And he, according as he was able to accomplish it, began his narrative with the birth of John. . . . Moreover, the Acts of all the apostles are comprised by Luke in one book . . . because these different events took place when he was personally present. The principle on which he wrote was to write only of what fell under his own notice. And he shows this clearly by the omission of the martyrdom of Peter, and also of the journey of Paul, when Paul went from the city of Rome to Spain.” (Muratorian Fragment (c. 200, W), 5.603)
“The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow-disciples and bishops entreated him, he said, “Fast now with me for the space of three days, and let us recount to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us.” On the same night, it was revealed to Andrew, one of the apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name—as they called them to mind.” (Muratorian Fragment (c. 200, W), 5.603)
“For the apostles, in the memoirs composed by them, which are called Gospels, have thus delivered unto us what was enjoined upon them.” (Justin Martyr)
Early Enemies Of Christianity
It is also worth noting that the evidence of the early sects of Christianity (such as the Gnostics), and of the earliest enemies of the Christian faith, acknowledge that the Gospels were genuine.
“All the early adversaries of Christianity granted the genuineness of the New Testament books. These adversaries were men of talent and learning. By worldly interests and intense hatred of Christianity they were urged to use against it every possible weapon. The fact that they did not show its sacred books to be spurious is proof that they were not able to do so….”Testimony of Julian. The Emperor Julian composed his work against Christianity in 361. He united talent, learning, power, and persecuting zeal. If anything could have been said against the genuineness of the New Testament he would have been eager to make his attack from this side, but he did not. He bore witness to the genuineness of the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. He concedes their early date and quotes them as the genuine works of their reputed authors. He quotes Romans, Corinthians, and Galatians. His whole attack assumes the genuineness and credibility of the New Testament…”2. Testimony of Hierocles. In 303 he was president of Bithynia; a cruel persecutor, and a sarcastic writer. He concedes the genuineness, and confines his efforts to the hunting up of internal flaws and contradictions. He refers to six of the eight authors of the New Testament. 3. Testimony of Porphyry. He was the most severe and formidable adversary of the primitive church…”He wrote about 270. He was well acquainted with the New Testament. He has plain references to Matthew, Mark, John, Acts, and Galatians. There is no trace of a suspicion that the sacred books were spurious. That he would have made this point, if possible, is evident from the fact that he did attack the book of Daniel in this manner…4. “Testimony of Celsus. He flourished about 176, and about 76 years after the death of the Apostle John. What we know about his work entitled ‘The True Word’ has been preserved by Origen. More than eighty quotations, made by him from the New Testament, have been thus preserved. His whole argument proceeds upon the concessions that the books he quoted were in existence, were held in high esteem by the churches, and were genuine. Thus by a plain and independent path we can trace the New Testament back to the Apostolic Age. It is also a remarkable fact that these bitter enemies are made to bear this unwilling, but decisive, testimony.” (Harvey W. Everest, The Divine Demonstration: A Textbook Of Christian Evidence, 54-55; Nashville, TN; Gospel Advocate Company)
Section One Discussion Questions
4. What does it mean to say that a document is “genuine?” _____________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. Why does it mater whether the Gospels are anonymous? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
6. Fill in the following quotations from the “church fathers” about the genuineness of the Gospels.
• “The same authority of the _____________ churches will afford defense of the other Gospels also, which we possess equally through their means, and according to their usage. I mean the Gospels of John and Matthew—while that which Mark published may be affirmed to be Peter’s, whose interpreter Mark was. For men usually ascribe Luke’s form of the Gospel to Paul.” (Tertullian (c. 207, W), 3.350)
• “The fourth Gospel is that of John, one of the disciples. When his fellow-disciples and bishops entreated him, he said, “______ now with me for the space of three days, and let us recount to each other whatever may be revealed to each of us.” On the same night, it was revealed to _________, one of the apostles, that John should narrate all things in his own name—as ______ called them to mind.” (Muratorian Fragment (c. 200, W), 5.603)
7. Name some of the early adversaries of Christianity who acknowledged that the Gospels are genuine. ________________________________________________________________________________________________
Section Two: Questions About The Content Of The Gospels
Strobel’s investigation highlights another important area of study involving the Gospels. Specifically, why do the Gospel writers focus so much on Jesus’ ministry?
Why don’t the Gospels cover more of Jesus’ life?
Why is there so little information about Jesus’ childhood?
“When I go to the bookstore and look in the biography section, I don’t see the same kind of writing that I see in the gospels,” I said. “When somebody writes a biography these days, they thoroughly delve into the person’s life. But look at Mark—he doesn’t talk about the birth of Jesus or really anything through Jesus’ early adult years. Instead he focuses on a three-year period and spends half his gospel on the events leading up to and culminating in Jesus’ last week. How do you explain that?”
Blomberg provides excellent information regarding this: a literary reason and a theological reason.
“The literary reason is that basically, this is how people wrote biographies in the ancient world. They did not have the sense, as we do today, that it was important to give equal proportion to all periods of an individual’s life or that it was necessary to tell the story in strictly chronological order or even to quote people verbatim, as long as the essence of what they said was preserved. Ancient Greek and Hebrew didn’t even have a symbol for quotation marks. “The only purpose for which they thought history was worth recording was because there were some lessons to be learned from the characters described. Therefore the biographer wanted to dwell at length on those portions of the person’s life that were exemplary, that were illustrative, that could help other people, that gave meaning to a period of history.”
Author Michael Licona, after carefully examining ancient documents written around the time of the Gospels, has confirmed Blomberg’s observations while providing some excellent modern day illustrations:
“During the age when the Gospels were written, the finest historians and biographers did not practice writing with the same commitment to precision as us moderns. They wanted to tell a story in a manner that entertained, provided moral guidance, emphasized points they regarded as important, and paint a portrait of important people. If they had to adapt some details on occasion, it was permissible. Such adapting was not intended to distort the truth but to communicate it more effectively. Modern itinerate speakers, teachers, preachers, and even professors often do this in their lectures and homilies for emphasis or to make a point more clearly. In fact, most of us have done it for similar reasons when telling a personal story. Similarly, when a photographer takes a photograph of a couple holding hands while walking through a meadow of flowers, she may edit the photo by adding a slight haze. The haze was not actually present at the time the photo was taken. Neither was the sky as blue as it appears in the edited photo. However, no one objects to those alterations, since they were done to emphasize the romantic element of that moment, which was actually present. The photo is a “true representation” in its message, even if not in every detail. True representation is the objective of many photographers. And so it was with the finest historical and biographical writers when the Gospels were written.” (Michael R. Licona, Why Are There Differences In The Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography,198-199 (Kindle Edition); New York; Oxford University Press)
“It flows out of the point I just made. Christians believe that as wonderful as Jesus’ life and teachings and miracles were, they were meaningless if it were not historically factual that Christ died and was raised from the dead and that this provided atonement, or forgiveness, of the sins of humanity. “So Mark in particular, as the writer of probably the earliest gospel, devotes roughly half his narrative to the events leading up to and including one week’s period of time and culminating in Christ’s death and resurrection. “Given the significance of the Crucifixion,” he concluded, “this makes perfect sense in ancient literature.”
Blomberg makes the excellent point that the Gospels focused on certain aspects of Jesus’ life in order to document His claims that He made about Himself. The Gospels provide remarkably detailed information of Jesus’ miracles and the events of His life so that researchers can go back and examine these facts. Christianity is inseparable from historical testimony.
“This is why religion and philosophy professor Charles Anderson is correct in declaring: It cannot be stated too strongly that Christianity is an historical religion, and that it is so intimately tied to history that if the historical credibility of its sources were to be proven false, it would at once collapse as a possible claimant for our loyalty. (AnC.CQ 55) E. M. Blaiklock, former Professor of Classics at University College, Auckland, New Zealand, adds, “Since the Christian faith is rooted in history, to disturb the history is inevitably to disturb the faith.” (BlE.MM 48)” (Josh McDowell & Bill Wilson, Evidence For The Historical Jesus: A Compelling Case For His Life And Claims, 213-218 (Kindle Edition); Eugene, Oregon; Harvest House Publishers)
Section Two Discussion Questions
1. Why is history important to Christianity? Consider Acts 26:25 and 2 Peter 1:16 in your answers. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. Biographies in the first century emphasized specific moments about a person’s life. What are some modern examples of this? Consider especially the quotation from Licona. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
3. What are the two basic reasons for what the Gospel writers chose to include in their writings about Jesus? ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Section Three: The Dating Of The Gospels And Their Reliability
One of the most often heard objections against Christianity goes something like this:
“Even if the Gospels were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, they wrote so many years after Jesus’ death that they cannot be reliable. Who remembers the exact words or events of something forty or fifty years earlier?”
There are at least two serious problems with this argument.
The first is that the Gospels began to be written within a few years of Jesus’ ministry, when the events and teachings of Jesus were still fresh in the minds of the writers.
The second problem with this argument is that even if it were true that the Gospels were written decades after Jesus died, they would still be accurate because of the oral nature of Jewish society.
Let’s look at each one of these issues.
The Dating Question
“The standard scholarly dating, even in very liberal circles, is Mark in the 70s, Matthew and Luke in the 80s, John in the 90s. But listen: that’s still within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, including hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teachings about Jesus were going around. “Consequently, these late dates for the gospels really aren’t all that late. In fact, we can make a comparison that’s very instructive.”
The dates mentioned above certainly reflect the modern day scholarly belief regarding the dating of the Gospels; but they do not take into account some very powerful archaeological evidence.
The Magdalen Papyrus
The Magdalen Papyrus is a copy of the Gospel of Matthew that dates back to within a few years of Jesus’ death.
“The Magdalen Papyrus includes three fragments which contain a total of 24 lines, written on both sides in the format of a codex rather than a scroll….If Thiede is correct, then P64 was copied while Matthew and the other eyewitnesses were still alive….These ancient fragments of the New Testament are one of the many pieces of evidence we have that the Gospels and epistles were written very early, by the apostles themselves, and certainly not by drunk monks in the Middle Ages.” (Chuck Missler, How We Got Our Bible, 1051-1080 (Kindle Edition); Coeur d’Alene, ID; Koinonia House)
Well, how early into the first century was the Magdalene Papyrus written? Cooper has well written:
“Our attention is drawn to the work of Dr Carsten Thiede, and his book, The Jesus Papyrus (see Bibliography). Suffice it here to say that a thorough and scientific analysis undertaken by Dr Thiede of the Gospel fragments known to scholars as the Magdalen Papyrus (named after Magdalen College Oxford, where it is kept), dates this particular copy of Matthew’s Gospel to times so close to the Resurrection, that it could easily have been copied or read by an eyewitness of our Lord’s entire ministry. To be brief, the Magdalen Papyrus was copied out between the mid-40s and AD 50. But we must also bear in mind that this particular papyrus was itself but a copy of an even earlier original, though by how many removes we cannot know.” (Bill Cooper, Old Light On The Roman Church: A Consideration In Four Parts Of Certain Neglected Areas Of Church History, 599-605 (Kindle Edition).
There is also evidence from the famous Dead Sea Scrolls the point to a very early writing of the Gospels.
“The caves at Qumran are famous for the hoard of Old Testament and other manuscripts that have been found there. But the thing which receives the least publicity (if any publicity at all) is the fact that the caves have also yielded fragments of New Testament books. This absence of publicity – this blanket denial of their identity is not to be wondered at. The fact of the matter is this, that these manuscripts were deposited in the caves at Qumran by the year AD 68 at the very latest, when Qumran and the surrounding area was overrun by the Roman 10th Legion, and according to the critics, the New Testament – especially the Gospels – had not yet been written by that time…Cave 4 at Qumran is of some interest to us here. In that cave was discovered a particular fragment known today as 4QAlpha. Though not actually a fragment of Mark’s Gospel – it was originally thought to be a medical text it does reflect the healing miracle of the blind man recorded in Mark 8:22- 26, and moreover contains the New Testament names of Caiaphas, Peter (the first time that this name has been found in an Hebrew/Aramaic document), and Aquila…Fragments of various New Testament books were themselves found in the caves of Qumran, most notably in Cave 7. One that is of particular interest is called 7Q5, and carries nothing less than a passage from Mark 6:52- 53. 3…identifying other fragments from Cave 7 as parts of the New Testament, especially fragment 7Q4 which contains 1 Timothy 3:16- 4:3….The discoveries in Cave 7 at Qumran – and the commendable diligence of O’Callaghan who identified them – proves that what the critics have been teaching all these years is wrong, misinformed and mistaken on all levels. Archaeology has never spoken plainer than it speaks right now. Copies of the New Testament books of Mark, 1 Timothy, James, Acts, Romans and 2 Peter (at least) were all in circulation by AD 68 at the very latest, and clearly years before. But what is more, they were in circulation internationally and not just locally amongst Christian groups or churches….We spoke earlier of the lack of publicity which surrounds the discovery of New Testament books – or rather their fragments – at Qumran, and their omission is pointedly displayed by Emanuel Tov, who has issued a ‘complete’ list of all the Biblical texts discovered in the Qumran caves. 22 It is indeed a prodigious and comprehensive list, except that when it comes to Cave 7 he omits all reference to the New Testament fragments which were discovered there….As we have seen, represented amongst these ‘unclassified’ fragments are the New Testament books of 1 Timothy (7Q4); Mark’s Gospel (7Q5) (7Q6, 1) (7Q7) (7Q15); James (7Q8); Acts (7Q6); Romans (7Q9); and 2 Peter (7Q10). How these can all be omitted from a list which claims to be ‘complete’ is something to be wondered at. (Bill Cooper, The Authenticity Of The New Testament: part One-The Gospels, 300-470 (Kindle Edition))
Speaking of these facts, Geisler has written:
“Jose *O’Callahan, a Spanish Jesuit paleographer, made headlines around the world in 1972 when he announced that he had translated a piece of the Gospel of Mark on a DSS fragment. This was the earliest known piece of Mark. Fragments from cave 7 had previously been dated between 50B.C. and A.D. 50 and listed under “not identified” and classified as “Biblical Texts.” O’Callahan eventually identified nine fragments….A date beforeA.D. 50 leaves no time for mythological embellishment of the records. They would have to be accepted as historical. It would also show Mark to be one of the earlier Gospels. Further, since these manuscripts are not originals but copies, it would reveal that the New Testament was “published”—copied and disseminated—during the life time of the writers. It would also reveal the existence of the New Testament canon during this early period, with pieces representing every major section of the New Testament: Gospels, Acts, and both Pauline and General Epistles.” (Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia Of Christian Apologetics, 188 (Kindle Edition); Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
The archaeological evidence suggests that the Gospels were indeed written within a few years of Jesus’ death.
Blomberg does make an excellent point that even if the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death, this would not reflect on the accuracy of these Books. Consider the following chart (from Norman Geisler, Christian Apologetics, 307; Kindle Edition; Grand Rapids, Michigan; Baker Books)
Furthermore, even if it were true that the Gospels had been written decades after Jesus’ death, this would not mean that they were unreliable in their recording. We know this because the Jews of Jesus day lived in a predominantly oral society.
What does this mean, and why is it relevant?
“Here’s the primary problem that I find in the critics’ claims: they forget what people in oral cultures could remember. You and I live in a written culture. That is to say that if we need to remember a certain truth or task, we write it down. High levels of literacy and easy access to writing materials turn all sorts of items—napkins and notepads, tabletops and palms, maybe even the margins of this book—into targets for our thoughts. The results of this cultural shift go beyond the marked-up margins of this book, however. It has resulted in what one historian has called “the dethronement of memory.”21 To recall crucial truths, we no longer rely primarily on our capacity to remember; we depend on written words supplemented by pictures….So, their culture remained an oral culture—a culture where persons received and passed on truths in oral form. Teachers used rhythm, rhyme, repetition, and alliteration to imprint instructions on their students’ minds, telling and retelling truths until the vital content could be recalled at a moment’s notice. When especially significant events occurred, communities rapidly preserved the essential content in pithy oral histories.23 Whenever discussions of teaching methods emerged among the Jewish rabbis, it is clear how highly they valued the capacity to pass on oral traditions and histories. Here’s how one first-century Jewish author described the process: “Instruction proceeds in a leisurely manner; he lingers over it and spins it out with repetitions, thus permanently imprinting the thoughts in the souls of the hearers.”24 A rabbi named Perida was said to have repeated every teaching four hundred times. If a pupil still failed to comprehend the teaching or to remember the essential content, Rabbi Perida reiterated the teaching another four hundred times.25 As a Jewish teacher with a band of disciples, Jesus would have been expected to train His followers to preserve His teachings. In such a context, John Dominic Crossan’s claim about the collective recollections of early Christians—“the oral memory of his first audiences could have retained, at best, only the striking image, the startling analogy, the forceful conjunction . . . the plot summary of a parable”—is simply false. Jesus was a first-century Jewish teacher; as such, His first followers would have learned and preserved His teachings with a high degree of accuracy.” (Timothy Paul Jones, Conspiracies And The Cross: How To Intelligently Counter The Ten Most Popular Theories That Attack The Gospel Of Jesus, 1883-1902 (Kindle Edition); Lake Mary, Florida; Front Line)
Section Three Discussion Questions
1. How many times would Rabbi Perida have his students recite a teaching? ________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. The Dead Sea Scroll fragments found in Cave 7 are dated from between what years? See quotation from Geisler. _____________________________
3. Why is the Magdalen Papyrus named such? ______________________________________________________________________________
4. List how many manuscripts of the following survive to our day, and compare with the New Testament:
– Caesar ____
– Livy ___
– Tactitus ____
– Thusydides ___
– Herodotus ____
– Demosthenes ____
– Mahabharata ___
– Homer ____
– New Testament ________
Section Four: Personal Application
1. Consider Strobel’s personal journey as he investigates Christianity. What is commendable about his investigation? Compare Jeremiah 29:13; Ezra 7:10; John 8:32; and Hebrews 11:6; . _______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. How does Strobels’ faith motivate or encourage you in your walk with the Lord? _______________________________________________________________________________________________
Section Five: Soul-Winning
Strobel and Blomberg make the case not only for the genuineness of the Gospels, but also (implicitly) for their credibility. To say that a document is “credible” means that it accurately portrays the truth. There are several reasons why we know that the Gospels are credible.
First, the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses. This strengthens their testimony powerfully.
“Blomberg thought for a moment, searching his mind for an appropriate analogy to drive home his point. Finally he said, “Here’s a modern parallel, from the experience of the Jewish community, that might clarify what I mean. “Some people, usually for anti-Semitic purposes, deny or downplay the horrors of the Holocaust. But it has been the Jewish scholars who’ve created museums, written books, preserved artifacts, and documented eyewitness testimony concerning the Holocaust. “Now, they have a very ideological purpose—namely, to ensure that such an atrocity never occurs again—but they have also been the most faithful and objective in their reporting of historical truth. “Christianity was likewise based on certain historical claims that God uniquely entered into space and time in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, so the very ideology that Christians were trying to promote required as careful historical work as possible.” He let his analogy sink in. Turning to face me more directly, he asked, “Do you see my point?” I nodded to indicate that I did.”
Second, the fact that there were still many eyewitnesses of Jesus when the Gospels were written is a powerful evidence of their credibility.
“But listen: that’s still within the lifetimes of various eyewitnesses of the life of Jesus, including hostile eyewitnesses who would have served as a corrective if false teachings about Jesus were going around.”
Third, the testimony of various other “gospels” from that time affirms the basic and fundamental facts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, arguing again for the credibility of these Books.
““What exactly is Q?” I asked Blomberg. “It’s nothing more than a hypothesis,” he replied, again leaning back comfortably in his chair. “With few exceptions, it’s just sayings or teachings of Jesus, which once may have formed an independent, separate document. “You see, it was a common literary genre to collect the sayings of respected teachers, sort of as we compile the top music of a singer and put it into a ‘best of’ album. Q may have been something like that. At least that’s the theory.”….“Let me ask this,” I said. “If you isolate just the material from Q, what kind of picture of Jesus do you get?” Blomberg stroked his beard and stared at the ceiling for a moment as he pondered the question. “Well, you have to keep in mind that Q was a collection of sayings, and therefore it didn’t have the narrative material that would have given us a more fully orbed picture of Jesus,” he replied, speaking slowly as he chose each word with care. “Even so, you find Jesus making some very strong claims—for instance, that he was wisdom personified and that he was the one by whom God will judge all humanity, whether they confess him or disavow him. A significant scholarly book has argued recently that if you isolate all the Q sayings, one actually gets the same kind of picture of Jesus—of someone who made audacious claims about himself—as you find in the gospels more generally.”
Once we establish that the Gospels are both genuine and credible, and that they teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, we are in a powerful position to reason with unbelievers of the truthfulness of the Christian faith.
When studying with various unbelievers, we can incorporate the following argument to demonstrate logically that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
1. If the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are genuine and credible, and if the Gospels affirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, then it is the case that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2. It is the case that the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are genuine and credible, and that they affirm that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
3. Therefore, it is the case that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
Section Four Study Questions
1. What does it mean that a document is genuine? ___________________________________________
2. What does it mean that a document is credible? _________________________________________________________
3. What are some passages of Scripture which teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? ______________________________________________________________________
4. What are some evidences that the Gospels are credible in what they report? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________
5. There are many who teach that Jesus did not exist. How can you use the information in this chapter to prove that He did? ________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
6. Many skeptics believe that Jesus existed, but was just a “good Man” and not the Son of God. From what you have learned so far in Strobel’s investigation, how can you prove that Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Try to be specific in your answers. ___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
Concluding Questions From The Book
Deliberations Questions for Reflection or Group Study
1. How have your opinions been influenced by someone’s eyewitness account of an event? What are some factors you routinely use to evaluate whether someone’s story is honest and accurate? How do you think the gospels would stand up to that kind of scrutiny?
2. Do you believe that the gospels can have a theological agenda while at the same time being trustworthy in what they report? Why or why not? Do you find Blomberg’s Holocaust analogy helpful in thinking through this issue?
3. How and why does Blomberg’s description of the early information about Jesus affect your opinion about the reliability of the gospels?